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BIOL 409/409L/492J Nonflowering Plants


Professor: Paul Wilson


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.  There will be three such exams during the semester. The tests are mildly cumulative but definitely weighted toward material not previously on tests.


You will write a 1500-2000 word paper. Turn in two copies, one for me and one for a peer reviewer. After we review it, you will revise it, probably extensively. There will be more about this later, but basically I’m thinking it should be a translation of some technical papers into an article written for non-botanists such as would appear in a magazine like Natural History or Discovery.


Being in class on time is crucial. For much of the experience of the course, there is no make-up possible. If you're not there on time, you'll probably get left behind and will miss a whole week of instruction. Cheerful and thoughtful participation is expected. Punctual attendance and participation are a large part of your grade. I give a few points (see below) for attendance and participation because I believe that people learn stuff that they can't show on the exams or that I don't test for on the exams; I will not give these points if you are not there regardless of the excuse.


Test 1 - 15%; Test 2 - 15%; Test 3 15%; Paper 15%; Collection and site survey 15%; Questions and comments on readings 15%; Attendance and participation 10%

The grade for the lecture, lab and field studies will be the same.  Possible grades are A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, D‑, and F. Ideally, 90% would be an A-, 80% would be a B-, and 70% would be a C-, but I will probably drop these thresholds. Generally, I aim at have A’s go to people who I would think could go on to graduate or professional school, B’s for students who are doing fine as an undergraduate, and C’s for those whose work warns against going on to a master’s program.

Student Learning Objectives

(a) that you may learn the biology of the various nonflowering plants with an emphasis on local ones or when that is not possible cultivated ones.

(b) to know the various types of projects and analyses that systematists undertake, systematics being the study of diversity in the characteristics of organisms.

(c) to practice the translation between the popular scientific literature and the technical literature.

(d) to learn how to inventory a group of organisms at a site.

Academic Dishonesty

Plagiarism is the taking of someone else’s writing and presenting it as your own, for instance copying material from the www or from a published article into your paper (even a single sentence).  I require that you express everything in your papers in your own words, except (rarely) for short quotations in quotations marks with a reference cited.  Examples of cheating would be looking at someone else’s paper during a test, at your own notes, at a field guide, or letting someone else look at your paper.  All forms of plagiarism and cheating are expressly forbidden by University rules and will not be tolerated.  Anyone one who plagiarizes or cheats will receive a zero grade for that assignment or test.  In addition, a report will be filed that could be put on your permanent University record available to other universities and employers (see “Academic Dishonesty” in University catalog).


Safety This is a moderately strenuous class, with a lot of hiking.  It is not recommended if you have trouble getting around.  If you have any medical condition that might cause a problem in the field—allergies to bees, diabetes, whatever—please tell me about it in writing and tell me what precautions may be taken.  I will push the class to keep up with me when we are walking.  This is because people tend to lolly-gag, chat, and smell the roses rather more than we have time for.  You are responsible for using your own judgment as to what you are physically able to do, and if you don't think it is wise to do something, don't do it.  Please tell me promptly if there is any problem.  Then we can consult as to what to do.

Students with disabilities must register with the Center on Disabilities and complete a service agreement each semester. Staff within the Center will verify the existence of a disability based on the documentation provided and approved accommodations. Students who are approved for test taking accommodations must provide an Alternative Testing Form to their faculty member signed by a counselor in the Center on Disabilities prior to making testing arrangements. The Center on Disabilities is located in Bayramian Hall, room 110. Staff can be reached at 818-677-2684.

Land Plant Slide Show

Fern Tour Slide Show

Review for Test 3

(you only have 2 hours, 8:00-10:00 May 15th)
There will be some questions about the readings since test 2. Except for readings that were tested on in previous tests, the exam is cumulative.
Study the lecture notes throughout the course, and expect questions comparing different approaches (like phylogenetics, key writing, phenetics, species circumscription, adaptive correlations, etc)
Be able to deal with seed plant life cycles especially but also comparisons to other life cycles.
Know the phylogeny of the major groups of land plants.
Know the species of conifers from the trip (also in the hall cabinet), and the genera planted around campus

Spermatophyte = seed plant
            Cycas, Zamia, Macrozamia
      Gingko biloba
Pinus, Podocarpus, Araucaria, Sequoia, Metasequoia, Calocedrus, Juniperus, Pseudotsuga, Abies, Sequoiadendron, Cedrus, Taxus, Taxodium, Cupressus, Cunninghamia, Cryptomeria, Thuja
            Gnetum (sorry, not in greenhouse)
      ANGIOSPERM = flowering plants

California Conifers
      Abies concolor
      Calocedrus decurrens
      Cupressus macrocarpa
      Juniperus californica
      Pinus attenuata (serotinous)
      Pinus contorta ssp. murrayana
      Pinus coulteri
      Pinus jeffreyi
      Pinus lambertiana
      Pinus monophylla
      Pinus ponderosa
      Pseudotsuga macrocarpa

mega and microstrobili, spores, gametophytes
integument, micropyle, pollination drop
pollen grain, exine, pollen tube
seed dispersal
saccate and non-saccate pollen
pollen grain (microgametophyte)
tube cell nucleus, sperm nuclei
double fertilization
adaptive correlations
paired contrasts
in a conifer cone: scale, ovule, bract

embryophyte phylogeny

Review Fern Lecture Movie

Review Liverwort & Hornwort Movie

Other than the readings, this test is cumulative (so know the taxa and parts of mosses and liverworts)

Expect questions on
interactions of bryophytes with other elements of an ecosystem
pteridophyte life cycles,
allopolyploidy and hybrid inference,
fern phylogeny,
classification, phylogenetics or phenetics.
how a standard sporangium of polypodiales works
botanical nomenclature
the adaptationist’s program (e.g. applied to potato ferns)
convergent evolution


Taxa to know
            Jungermaniales: Porella, Scapania
            Metzgeriales: Pellia, Fossombronia
            Marchantiales: Marchantia, Asterella, Targionia, Riccia
            True mosses: Fissidens, Dicranum, Syntrichia, Homalothecium, Didymodon, Bryum, Funaria, Timmiella, Wissia, Grimmia, Anacolia, Orthotrichum, Hedwigia, Dendroalsia, Fabronia, Antitrichia, Scleropodium, Kindbergia, Aulacomnium, Pleuridium, Claopodium, Porotrichum
Vascular plants
      Lycopodium, Sellaginella, Isoetes
Equisetum subgenera Hippochaete, Equisteum
Salviniales: Marsilea, Salvinia, Azolla
Cyatheales: Cyathea, Dixsonia
      Adiantum, Cheilanthes, Pellaea, Pentagramma
      Blechnum, Woodwardia
      Dryopteris, Polystichum
      Polypodium, Platycerium

Polystichum dudleyi, P. munitum, P. imbricans, P. scopulinum, P. lemmonii, P. kruckebergi, P. lonchitis, and triploid backcrosses
Spermatophyte = seed plant
      Gingko biloba
      Conifers: Sequoiadendron, Sequoia, Pseudotsuga, Pinus attenuata, Pinus sabiniana

homosporous, heterosporous
underground gametophytes, epigeous autotrophic ones
microphylls, megaphylls
microspore, megaspore
microgametophyte, megagametophyte
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
distance matrix
cluster diagram (e.g. UPGAMA diagram) versus cladogram (e.g. parsimony phylogeny)
ordination, e.g., principle components analysis, non-metric multidimensional scaling
reticulate evolution
allopolyploidy, autopolyploid
diploid, triploid, tetraploid, hexaploid
univalent, bivalent chromosome pairing
base chromosome number
speciation by gene silencing versus ‘normal’ means

Big Field Trip (Already done)

Stuff to bring
1. water bottle
2. bowl, spoon, fork
3. coat—it gets cold
4. sun hat
5. clothes you don't mind soiling
6. sleeping bag
7. tent (you could share)
8. pad
9. pillow
10. towel
11. flashlight
12. hand lens
13. camera
14. plastic sandals or old shoes that you can walk in the creek in
15. whatever you need for the first 3 lunches and breakfasts

I will bring a stove, and food for the first three nights, and you can pay me back.


First field trip (already done)

From US-101, take Valley Circle (Exit 29), turn left and cross over the freeway. Go 0.8 miles to a light and turn right (this intersection might be called something like Mulholland Dr and Valmar Rd or Old Topanga Canyon Rd). Go about 1.0 miles and it merges into Mulholland Hwy. Go 3.8 miles and turn left onto Stunt Rd. Go about 1.0 mile and park next to port-a-potty.

Or, take US-101 northwest to Las Virgenes Road (N1; from the other direction known as Malibu Canyon Road), turn left (south).  Go to Mulholland Highway where there is a stop light, and turn left (east).  Go to Stunt Road, turn right (southwest), go to just past mile marker 1.00.

Old study list for test 1

Expect essays or short answer questions on lectures on
      bryophyte ecology
      bryophyte reproduction
      character mapping
      inferring phylogenies
      species boundaries
      writing keys
Be able to sketch bryophyte life cycles, labeling structures, and identifying polidy.
There will also be some vocabulary (e.g. distinguish homology from homoplasy).

            Jungermaniales: Porella
            Metzgeriales: Pellia, Fossombronia
            Marchantiales: Marchantia, Asterella, Targionia, Riccia
            True mosses: Fissidens, Dicranum, Syntrichia, Homalothecium, Didymodon, Bryum, Funaria, Timmiella, Wissia, Grimmia, Anacolia, Orthotrichum, Hedwigia, Dendroalsia, Fabronia, Antitrichia, Scleropodium
Tracheophyte = vascular plant
            Lycopodium, Sellaginella
Spermatophyte = seed plant
      Gingko biloba
      Angiosperm = flowering plant
sporangium (often called "capsule")
gametangium (plural gametangia)
antheridium (plural antheridia)
archegonium (plural archegonia)
zygote, embryo
diploid, haploid
meiosis, fertilization (syngamy)
gemma (plural gemmae)
archegoniaphore, antheridiophore
leaf insertion: succubus, incubus, transverse
complicate bilobed
capsule (sporangium)
calyptra (N)
stem, leaf, rhizoid
leptoides, hydroids
perigonium (male head)
perichaetium (female head)
archegonium: venter, neck, canal cells
monoicous, dioicous
monoecious, dioecious
apocarpous, pleurocarpous
xerophytic (xeric)
mesophytic (mesic)
cladistic, phyletic, phenetic
monophyletic, paraphyletic, polyphyletic
sister group, outgroup
branch & bound
homology, homoplasy
convergence, reversal, analogy
character evolution, character mapping
MacClade, PAUP*
species concepts:  biological, phylogenetic
biosystematics; alpha taxonomy
splitters, lumpers

Printable Syllabus

click here

Catalog Entry

BIOL 409/L/492J. Non-Flowering Plants. The diversity of mosses, ferns, conifers, etc., their phylogeny, life cycles, ecological niches, biogeography, identification, and comparative biology. For the Biology B.A., fulfills the Systematics/Comparative Biology requirement (not the Ecology/Environmental Biology requirement).

Files to Download

You will make a collection of 30 species of bryophytes. These may all come from one location. If you can’t get 30 from one location, add locations until you have 30 different species; however, you should go ahead and collect repeat specimens of the same species as they occur at your several locations. Be careful about taking notes on the microsite of each specimen and the mesosite of each location. Identify the specimens as best you can (typically to genus), and seek help where you are having difficulty. Not all specimens need to be identified, but I’ll take off points if you don’t put a name on something you ought to be able to figure out. Along with your labeled specimens, you should also turn in a spreadsheet with your data. The data from everyone’s surveys will be put together for a group project. This is a major part of the field studies portion of the class.

Excel template to enter collection data

Word doc to convert to labels

Field trips

13 Mar  Field trip to Santa Monica Mts weather permitting (otherwise switch with 20 Mar).

Big trip. Apr 3 Sequoia National Park (no showers). 4-5 San Joaquin Experimental Range. 6-7 Big Basin State Park. Drive home on the 8th.

8 May Revision of paper due. Field trip to San Gabriel Mts. We may be home late. Dress in layers.