Biol. 403/L Plant
Morphology as taught by Paul Wilson
(1) To survey the major groups of land plants, (2) to study
plant life cycles and reproductive biology, (3) to learn the methods
used by comparative biologists, (4) to abstract science out of popular
botany literature, and (5) to look at a lot of beautiful plants.
BIOL 106 and 106L are prerequisites for this course. If
you feel rusty, you should re-read your 106 text concerning (1) meiosis
and fertilization, (2) plant life cycles, and (3) major groups of
plants. Although I will review quickly before extending my treatment
of these topics, having the 106 coverage fresh in your mind will make
the rest of the class much less frustrating. There's no reason to start
We will start with a book, Robin Kimmerer’s Gathering
Moss. And as the semester progresses, we will move on to articles
from the primary literature. For the book, I am asking that you abstract
this science out of the reading for each chapter. In other words,
for each chapter or group of chapters, you will write a paragraph or
so about the scientific content of the chapter. For the technical
articles, you will not write an abstract but instead write a question
or comment about the reading. Whatever the reading, each week, you should
bring something written down for me and hand it in before the discussion.
You will have to purchase a course packet that has diagrams
and brief summaries of the lectures. The life cycle diagrams
were given to me by Dennis Walker from whom I took plant morphology.
They were drawn over several years by several of his students whose names
I don’t know but who I acknowledge in their anonymity. My views
on land plants and comparative biology have been greatly influenced
by M. Mesler, D. Norris, D. Walker, E. Voss, K. Omland, and M. Donoghue,
each of whom would have a right to feel some ownership if they were to read
my lecture notes.
I have a set of videos that I’m hoping we will have time
to watch. This will usually be at the end of the day, and they don’t
go with any particular lecture. They’re pretty good.
Please take them seriously.
Some of you may want to study a textbook. I suggest
Michael Simpson’s Plant Systematics.
About half of each test will be a mixture of practical information
from the labs like identifying plants and organs, definitional and short
answer questions about the vocabulary. The other half will be
essay questions about the readings, the lectures, and systematic methodology.
Study sheets will be provided.
There will be three such exams during the semester, and there will be a cumulative
final, which will be heavy on life cycles and knowing the diversity
of land plants.
You will write a 2500 word paper. It will be reviewed. And
you will revise (probably extensively). There will be more about this later, but
basically it is an overview of an evolutionary radiation of some plants
(often a genus or family) and the variety of modes of life they have adopted.
It is said that one learns best from teaching. So, at
the end of the term, we will have a symposium in which each student
gives a talk.
Each of the four exams, the paper including its revision,
and the talk with its handout will count as 1/8th of your grade (totaling
6/8ths). An additional 1/8th will be for your abstracting of the
books and the discussion questions. The last 1/8th will be for
attendance, punctuality (be there at 1:00), and participation (this
means being prepared and actively discussing the readings). Grades will
be issued with +, no sign, or - to show fine distinctions in performance.
I won’t say now exactly what the grade cut-offs will be, but past experience
suggests that the A-/B+ line is 90%, the B-/C+ line is about 75%, and the
C-/D+ line is about 55%.
Schedule of topics (subject to change)
29 Jan - Land plant overview (handout 1). Tour greenhouse
and plant organs in lab.
31 Jan - Learn how to map characters on a phylogeny (2).
5 Feb - Lecture on bryophyte ecology (3). Discuss Kimmerer
7 Feb - Learn how to infer phylogenies (4). Discuss Kimmerer
12 Feb - Field trip to Walker Ranch (upstream from Placerita
Canyon) weather permitting; meet at van 1:00.
14 Feb - Meiosis and fertilization (5). Bryophyte reproductive
biology (6). Look at sex organs.
19 Feb - Species boundaries (7). Discuss Kimmerer pp. 62-99
21 Feb - Learn local bryophytes. Write Key (8). Discuss pp.
26 Feb - Learn local bryophytes. Discuss pp. Kimmerer 141-150,
28 Feb - Test 1 (bryophytes)
5 Mar - Pteridophyte life cycles (9). Greenhouse ferns, Lycopods,
Equisetum, Psilotum. Discuss Des Marais et al. 2003
7 Mar - Lecture on allopolyploidy in pteridophytes (10). Do
exercise with Polystichum to study hybrid inference (11).
12 March - Lecture on fern diversity. Greenhouse work (12).
Discuss Werth & Whidham 1991
14 Mar - Phenetics above the species level using chielanthoid
Saturday 17 Mar - field trip to Cold Creek to study ferns,
etc. (If weather bad, this will be on 24th instead)
19 Mar – Learn local pteridophytes. Discuss Schneider et al.
21 Mar – Scanning electron microscopy. Data in Systematics
(14). Discuss Guo et al 2003
26 Mar - no class in lieu of field trip time
28 Mar - no class in lieu of field trip time
9 April – PAPERS DUE. Review pteridophytes.
11 April – Test 2 (pteridophytes)
16 April - Lecture introducing seed life cycles. Look at gymnosperm
sex organs (15). Discuss Chaw et al. 2000
18 April - Lecture on angiosperm life cycle (16). Study slides
of lily gametophytes and seeds.
23 April - Some important families of angiosperms (17). Study
flower parts variously modified
25 April - adaptive correlation (18). Pollination and fruit
dispersal (19). Discuss Armbruster 2002
30 April –Write key to conifers of the San Gabriel Mountains.
Discuss Donaldson 1997
2 May – no class in lieu of field trip time
Saturday 5 May - field trip to San Gabriel Mts. IT MAY BE
COLD; DRESS IN LAYERS
7 May – REVISIONS OF PAPERS DUE. The analyses of clines (20)
9 May – Students give talks on major groups of plants I
14 May - Students give talks on major groups of plants II.
Then I sum up class.
16 May - Test 3 (seed plants)
21 May 12:45-2:45 - Final (=Test 4)
Biology Department Withdrawal Policy—Unrestricted
class withdrawals are permitted only until the end of the third week.
Thereafter, requests to withdraw will be honored only when a verifiable
serious and compelling reason exists and when there is no viable alternative
to withdrawal. Poor performance is not an acceptable reason for
dropping a class; in fact, you must be passing in order to withdraw.
During the last three weeks of class, withdrawals will not be approved
except when a student is withdrawing from all classes for verifiable
Cheating—Cheating on tests—for instance, by looking
at someone else's paper or looking at your notes—is completely unacceptable.
Don't do it, not even just a little bit in the spur of the moment.
Go out of your way to not be tempted and to not tempt anyone else.
Plagiarism is a form of cheating. Every sentence in your paper must be in
your own words, and each piece of factual content must come with a
reference to a scholarly publication (not a website). If you do cheat,
you will be punished as per university policy (see Catalog).
I'm open to suggestions about your topic, but you need to
clear it with me early in the semester. You should get cracking on
this if for no other reason than that you will probably have to interlibrary
loan some of the references. Below are some ideas as starting points. As
soon as you have selected a topic, email me, and I'll show the topic has
been taken so no one else can choose that topic.
- Hornworts: MICHAEL Z
- Riccia: DAERICK
- Jungermanniales: RITA
- Sphagnum: its variety and dominion: NANCY
- Pleurocarpous mosses
- Adaptations to arid conditions
and radiation of the Pottiaceae (Bryophyta)
- Convergence on the ephemeral life style in mosses: ADRIANA
- Cryptic species in bryophytes: CHRISTIAN
- The break up of Lycopodium
- The several kinds of Selaginella: TALIN
- Isoetes: GABE
- What is a "whiskfern"? EYERUS
- How did Equisetum get to
not be a fern?
- New-found phylogenies of the major fern groups: BRIAN
- Polystichum species and
- Solanopteris and Microgramma
- The water ferns: SUMMER
- Gnetophye and angiosperm convergence
in life cycles?
- Ephedra LISA
- How Gingko has not changed: MIKE D
- Why so many pines? GOHAR
- Pollination modes in conifers CARLY
- Dioecy versus monoecy in seed plants: ERICA
- Convergence in C4 and CAM photosynthesis: ANN
- Why are there so many composites? WYNDEE
Once you have chosen a topic, go to scholar.google.com and browse abstracts.
You may also want to read a textbook account if you are working on a
special group that shows up in textbooks. Just spend a couple of hours.
Get together a list of (say) 5 references that you'll need and indicate
if you have them or if you need to order/find them. Email me this list. Order stuff from interlibrary loan
Each of you will give a talk and make a 1-page handout that outlines the
take-home message and facts that you want others to learn. You may use the
back side of the paper for figures if you wish. The talks should be from
15-30 minutes; I am flexible on this, so that exact timing is not important,
but time yourself when you practice. You should know about how long it will
take when you stand up in front of the class. Most of you will want to present
in Powerpoint, although if you wish, you may lecture using only the board
or no visual aids (and I would respect you for it). If you are to use Powerpoint,
bring your talk on a CD or memory stick, and be sure it shows up well on
a PC (not just a Mac). Error on the side of being too dramatic and choreographed.
If you wish to change your topic from what you wrote on, fine, but clear
the new one with me. This talk and the handout are equal in credit to an
exam. Take this assignment is seriously, and you will raise your grade, which
I know a lot of you are concerned about.
Study Sheet for Test
Expect essays or short answer questions on lectures on
Be able to sketch bryophyte life cycles, labeling structures,
and identifying polidy.
There will also be some vocabulary (e.g. distinguish homology
Asterella, Targionia, Riccia
True mosses: Fissidens, Dicranum,
Syntrichia, Scleropodium, Didymodon,
Timmiella, Wissia, Grimmia, Anacolia,
Tracheophyte = vascular plant
Spermatophyte = seed plant
Angiosperm = flowering plant
sporangium (often called "capsule")
gametangium (plural gametangia)
antheridium (plural antheridia)
archegonium (plural archegonia)
meiosis, fertilization (syngamy)
gemma (plural gemmae)
leaf insertion: succubus, incubus, transverse
stem, leaf, rhizoid
perigonium (male head)
perichaetium (female head)
archegonium: venter, neck, canal cells
cladistic, phyletic, phenetic
monophyletic, paraphyletic, polyphyletic
sister group, outgroup
branch & bound
convergence, reversal, analogy
character evolution, character mapping
species concepts: biological, phylogenetic
biosystematics; alpha taxonomy
for Test 2
Expect questions on the pteridophyte life cycles, allopolyploidy
and hybrid inference, fern phylogeny, classification and phenetics, and
various types of data used in systematics.
This test is only mildly cumulative: you need to know stuff we see on the
second field trip whether it’s a bryophyte, a pteridophyte, or a seed plant,
you need to be able to know what an alpha taxonomist is.
There will questions from the readings of the technical articles.
Lycopodium, Sellaginella, Isoetes
Equisetum subg. Hippochaete, Equisteum
Salviniales: Marsilea, Salvinia, Azolla
Cyatheales: Cyathea, Dixsonia
Adiantum, Aspidotis, Cheilanthes, Pellaea, Pentagramma
Dryopteris, Polystichum, Rumohra
Polystichum dudleyi, P. munitum, P. imbricans, P. scopulinum, P. lemmonii,
P. kruckebergi, P. lonchitis, and triploid backcrosses
underground gametophytes, epigeous autotrophic ones
intragametophytic selfing, intrasporophytic selfing, intersporophytic outcrossing
sorus, indusium, sporangium, annulus
frond, blade, petiole, rachis, penna/ae
palmate, pinnate, pinatifid
phenetics, numerical taxonomy
OTU by CHR matrix
standardized data matrix
cluster diagram versus cladogram
cluster diagram, e.g., UPGMA
ordination, e.g., principle components analysis, non-metric multidimensional
homologous & homeologous chromosomes
diploid, triploid, tetraploid, hexaploid
univalent, bivalent chromosome pairing
base chromosome number
speciation by gene silencing versus ‘normal’ means
enzyme electrophoresis: allozyme, isozyme
base pair sequences
biosystematics: interfertility, cytology, ecology, biogeography
field guide, manual, flora
review, revision, monograph
SEM, sputter coater
Sheet for Test 3
There will be questions about some of the readings since test
2 and the handouts from the student talks. Study the lecture notes.
Know the species of conifers from the trip, and the genera planted around
campus. Know the families of angiosperms and the pollination syndromes.
Be able to recognize and interpret any flower, even ones you have not seen
before. Practice on flowers in the garden and greenhouse.
Spermatophyte = seed plant
Cycas, Zamia, Macrozamia
Pinus, Podocarpus, Araucaria, Sequoia,
Metasequoia, Calocedrus, Juniperus, Pseudotsuga, Abies, Sequoiadendron, Cedrus,
Taxus, Taxodium, Cupressus, Cunninghamia, Cryptomeria, Thuja
Gnetum (sorry, not in greenhouse)
Angiosperm = flowering plant (see handout on most important
Conifers of the San Gabriel Mountains
Pinus attenuata (serotinous)
Pinus contorta ssp. murrayana
What makes an identification key good or bad?
What makes a classification good or bad?
What makes a phylogeny good or bad?
mega and microstrobili, spores, gametophytes
integument, micropyle, pollination drop
pollen grain, exine, pollen tube
saccate and non-saccate pollen
pollen grain (microgametophyte)
tube cell nucleus, sperm nuclei
embryo sac (megagametophyte)
antipidal cells, synergid cells, egg cell,
in a conifer cone: scale, ovule, bract
androecium: stamen (filament, anther)
gynoecium: carpels (ovary, style, stigma)
perfect and imperfect
actinomorphic (radial), zygomorphic (bilateral)
superior, inferior ovary
The cumulative test will stress contrasting the major groups of land plants,
methods in comparative biology, and life cycles. You do not need to
review articles that you have already been tested on or incidental genera
(i.e., you need to know Lycopodium but not Isothecium). Everything
else on past study lists is fair game.
This course has three content themes:
•What systematists do and why and how.
•The major groups of land plants by gestalt.
•Life cycles and variations in C major.
The test will reflect each one.