Sunday, October 4, 2009

Composite image to illustrate the diversity of...Image via Wikipedia
Botany is the scientific study of plant life. As a branch of biology, it is also called plant science(s), phytology, or plant biology.

Botany covers a wide range of scientific disciplines that study plants, algae, and fungi including: structure, growth, reproduction, metabolism, development, diseases, and chemical properties and evolutionary relationships between the different groups.

The study of plants and botany began with tribal lore, used to identify edible, medicinal and poisonous plants, making botany one of the oldest sciences. From this ancient interest in plants, the scope of botany has increased to include the study of over 550,000 kinds or species of living organisms.

Scope and importance of botany

As with other life forms in biology, plant life can be studied from different perspectives, from the molecular, genetic and biochemical level through organelles, cells, tissues, organs, individuals, plant populations, and communities of plants. At each of these levels a botanist might be concerned with the classification (taxonomy), structure (anatomy and morphology), or function (physiology) of plant life.

Historically, botany covers all organisms that were not considered to be animals. Some of these "plant-like" organisms include fungi (studied in mycology), bacteria and viruses (studied in microbiology), and algae (studied in phycology). Most algae, fungi, and microbes are no longer considered to be in the plant kingdom. However, attention is still given to them by botanists, and bacteria, fungi, and algae are usually covered in introductory botany courses.

The study of plants has importance for a number of reasons. Plants are a fundamental part of life on Earth. They generate the oxygen, food, fibres, fuel and medicine that allow higher life forms to exist. Plants also absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, a minor greenhouse gas that in large amounts can effect global climate. It is believed that the evolution of plants has changed the global atmosphere of the earth early in the earth's history and paleobotanists study ancient plants in the fossil record. A good understanding of plants is crucial to the future of human societies as it allows us to:

* Produce food to feed an expanding population
* Understand fundamental life processes
* Produce medicine and materials to treat diseases and other ailments
* Understand environmental changes more clearly


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