Spring.wmf (18300 bytes) Plant Physiology (Biology 327)  - Dr. Stephen G. Saupe;  College of St. Benedict/ St. John's University;  Biology Department; Collegeville, MN  56321; (320) 363 - 2782; (320) 363 - 3202, fax;    ssaupe@csbsju.edu

Introduction to Plant Physiology

I.  The Tree of Life

A.  Domains - Bacteria, Archaea, Eukarya
B.  Kingdoms - Eubacteria, Archaebacteria, Archaezoa, Protista, Plantae, Chromista, Fungi, Animal
C.  Cladogram - in class

II.  What is Plant?

A.  Definition - by most definitions, a plant:

  • is multicellular;
  • is non-motile
  • has eukaryotic cells
  • has cell walls comprised of cellulose
  • is autotrophic; and
  • exhibits alternation of generations - has a distinctive diploid (sporophyte) and haploid (gametophyte) phase.

B.  Examples - the Plant Kingdom includes the angiosperms (flowering plants), gymnosperms (cone-bearing plants), ferns, and bryophytes (mosses & liverworts). Recent classification systems suggest that these organisms, in addition to the red algae and green algae, should be classified in the Plant Kingdom (Plantae).

III.  What is Plant Physiology?

A.  Definitions (numerous) - Plant physiology is the study of:

  • the functions and processes occurring in plants
  • the vital processes occurring in plants
  • how plants work

B.  In essence, plant physiology is a study of the plant way of life, which include various aspects of the plant lifestyle and survival including: metabolism, water relations, mineral nutrition, development, movement, irritability (response to the environment), organization, growth, and transport processes.

C.  Plant physiology is a lab science.

D.  Plant physiology is an experimental science.

E.  Plant physiology relies heavily on chemistry and physics.

IV. Why Study Plant physiology?

    1. Food - plants are the route by which solar energy enters ecosystems
    2. Economically important products - plants produce countless products from fibers to medicines to wood.  For example, you can check out the web notes for my Plants and Human Affairs course or The Society for Economic Botany 
    3. Applications to other disciplines (i.e., agriculture, forestry, horticulture)
    4. Theoretical importance (like a mountain - it’s there!)
    5. Jobs! - see career pamphlets in file box.  Also, check out the web sites for the American Society of Plant Biologists, Botanical Society of America, American Phytopathology Society and others.
    6. It's fun & exciting (but, I guess not everyone necessarily agrees!)
    7. Botany Without Borders is a good online film that highlights the importance of plants.  It was created by Dr. K Niklas (Cornell).

V. The Literature of Plant Physiology   
    There is an incredible wealth of information about plant physiology. Never say, "nothing is known about...." unless you are positive. Chances are someone, somewhere, sometime, has studied the phenomena. I think it was Bertrand Russell who said something like, "it’s easier to make a scientific discovery than to discover if it’s already been discovered." Since, there’s so much literature available, it pays to learn a little about the types of resources that are available.  

    One reason why there is so much information is that plant physiology material is found in both the biological and chemical literature.

A.  Types of literature

  1. Primary - original reports of research; journals. Two excellent journals that are published by the American Society of Plant Biology are Plant Physiology and Plant Cell, both of which are available in the Clemens Library.  We’ll check out a copy of Plant Physiology and point out volume, number, date of publication, publisher, organization, format, etc.  

  2. Non-primary - revisions, summaries, compilations, texts. One particularly good example is Annual Review of Plant Biology.  You can also find helpful information in other volumes including the Annual Review of Phytopathology, Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics,  and Annual Review of Biophysics and Biomolecular Structure.  A new volume is published every year by Annual Reviews, Inc.  For a listing of some good textbooks and general books in plant physiology, click here

B.  Keeping track of the literature - note cards, duplicate copies of articles, reprints, computer tracking programs.

C.  Citation Format - various formats, varies with the journal/discipline. We’ll use the format adopted by Plant Physiology:

  • Format for citing a journal article: Author AB, Author BC (1977) Title of article. Plant Physiology 59: 121-125
  • Format for citing an article in a book: Author AB, Author BC, Author CD (1974) Title of article. In A Smith, B Jones, ed., Title of Book, Ed 2 Vol. 3. Publisher, City, pp. 14-19
  • Format for citing a book: Author AB (1998) Title of Book. Publisher, City.
  • Citations in text - again, many formats. We will cite references by author. Examples: Smith (1998) said that .... or, Apples grow on trees (Smith, 1998).

VI. Scientific Nomenclature
     Do you remember the proper form for citing a scientific name?  For more information about scientific nomenclature click here.  Here is the general format for scientific names:  Genus species Author citation (Family)


As an example: Quercus alba L. (Fagaceae)

VII. How Can I become a Plant Physiologist?

  1. Undergraduate Training - you should consider taking as many courses in botany and chemistry as possible, including biochemistry and physical chemistry. You can obtain entry level positions with a bachelor's degree, other positions may require graduate training. There are many excellent graduate schools - all of the Big 10 schools have good programs and there are many others (i.e., UC-Davis, Cornell, Washington University).
  2. Professional Societies - join a society. The American Society of Plant Biologists is the main organization for plant physiology.  The Botanical Society of America is another good society to consider joining. Most societies have student rates and are worth every penny. Attend their annual meetings.
  3. Read Plant Physiology, the Annual Review of Plant Biology, and other journals and books regularly to stay abreast of recent developments in the field.
  4. Careers - there are lots of career opportunities available in government and industry at both the entry and upper level. Visit our Career Resources offices for more information. Read the pamphlets in the "Careers" file in the filing cabinet. Check the course "Links" page for links to good websites with career information. Especially check the web pages for the American Society of Plant Biologists, Botanical Society of America, and American Phytopathology Society.

VIII.  Test Yourself

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Last updated:  01/08/2009     � Copyright  by SG Saupe