Autumn.wmf (12088 bytes)Introduction to Organismal Biology (BIOL221) - Dr. S.G. Saupe; Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321;;

The Plant Way of Life:  Study Guide
(for the most part, ignore this study guide - this material is not directly covered for spring 2008)

GOAL: The goal of this unit is to provide an introduction to the study of plants and to develop an understanding of what it means to be a plant.

OBJECTIVES: Upon completion of this unit you should be able to:

  1. Distinguish a plant from an animal

  2. Discuss the significance of autotrophic nutrition in the plant way of life

  3. Discuss the probable evolutionary pressures for motility

  4. Discuss the consequences of being non-motile.

REQUIRED READING:  course notes

SUPPLEMENTAL REFERENCES:  Check out some of the references cited in the Plant Way of Life notes.  None of these are �required�, but they will provide useful information.  The Private Lives of Plants video series by David Attenborough, which is available in the Alcuin Library, is also excellent.

IMPORTANT TERMS/CONCEPTS: (can you use these conversationally?)

  • angiosperm
  • architectural design
  • asexual reproduction 
  • autotrophs 
  • carnivore
  • circadian rhythms
  • decomposer               
  • dendritic  
  • dispersal
  • etiolation
  • gravitropism 
  • gymnosperm
  • herbivore   
  • heterophylly
  • heterotrophs 
  • indeterminate
  • leaf mosaic
  • mechanical design
  • meristem
  • nyctinasty
  • photoperiodism
  • phototropism
  • plasmodesmata
  • pollination
  • ramet
  • sedentary
  • skototropism
  • thigmomorphogenesis


  1. Why are plants important?

  2. Compare and contrast autotrophs and heterotrophs.

  3. Discuss the consequences of being autotrophic. How have plants responded to life as autotrophs?

  4. Briefly summarize the five major consequences of sedentary, autotrophic life. How have plants responded to each?

  5. What is a positioning mechanism? Provide some examples.

  6. How do plants exploit their environment? Consider dendritic form, asexual reproduction, indeterminate growth, heterophylly, foraging and architectural design in your response.

  7. Compare and contrast animals and plants in terms of body design (i.e., architectural vs. mechanical design).

  8. Discuss some of the mechanisms by which plants sense changes in the environment. Why are these important?

  9. Identify some of the physical and biological threats to plants. How do plants protect themselves from these dangers?

  10. How do plants find a "mate" and disperse offspring?

  11. Discuss some of the problems unique to the plant way of life. In general how have plants responded to each of these problems?

  12. Think about the statement "Plants are smarter than you think!"

  13. Identify the characteristics of the plant kingdom.

  14. Autotrophs are typically non-motile and heterotrophs are typically motile.  Why did evolution favor this situation?

  15. Explain why leaves are broad and flat.

  16. Compare animals and plants in terms of nutrients (type, concentration, location).

  17. Explain why plants are not limited by size.

  18. From a botanical perspective, some corals can be considered heterotrophic plants. Explain.

  19. Explain why coral is only found in relatively shallow, clear water.

  20. Identify the specialized structures (and their function) that plants use for autotrophism.

  21. Is a carnivorous plant autotrophic?

  22. Describe some pollination vectors/mechanisms.

  23. Describe some fruit dispersal systems.

  24. Explain why plants are dendritic, but animals are not.

  25. In what way is a tree like a coral colony?

  26. In what regard do plants forage for food? Identify some foraging strategies.

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Last updated: February 01, 2008        � Copyright by SG Saupe