An Overview

We know that botany is defined as the scientific study plants. But older classifications were not very accurate and superficial characteristic features were often used to classify plants. Hence, it included a whole range of plant- like organisms such as algae, lichens, ferns, fungi, mosses along with actual plants.

But today, we know that fungi and lichens are classified under their own kingdom – Kingdom Fungi.  And similarly, algae are classified under Kingdom Protista. Multicellular algae are structurally simple when compared to plants hence, they are classified under Protista even though they have chlorophyll.

Why is Botany Important?

Botany is important to study or understand because it has many ecological and economic importance. For instance, plants are used as a source of food, fuel, and have medicinal implications. Plants are not the only organisms that can produce their own food – Cyanobacteria also perform photosynthesis and according to paleontologist, they might have been the first photosynthetic organisms to evolve on earth. Also, scientists believe that these organisms are responsible for the current oxygen levels that we have in the atmosphere.

Plants liberate oxygen into the atmosphere as a result of photosynthesis, which is needed by all living things for cellular respiration. Also, they influence the carbon cycle, water cycle, and also, prevent soil erosion.

Botanists test both the internal functions and processes within the organelles of plants, tissues and plants communities. At every level, botanists are concerned with the classification, evolution, phylogeny or function of plant life.

The most precise definition of ‘plant’ involves land plants or embryophytes that include seed plants such as pines,  flowering plants, and the free-sporing cryptogams such as mosses, ferns, club mosses, and hornworts. Embryophytes are multicellular eukaryotes whose life cycles have alternating haploid and diploid phases. The embryophytes phase of sexual haploid is called gametophyte. It nourishes the developing diploid embryo sporophytes in the tissues in the seed plants, where gametophyte is nourished by its parent sporophyte.

Plant biochemistry

Plant biochemistry can be defined as the study of chemical process used by plants. Metabolic activities such as photosynthetic Calvin cycle and Crassulacean acid metabolism constitutes a few of the diverse chemical processes. Alternatively, components like lignin and cellulose are produced and is primarily used to build body and its structure. Secondary products such as aroma compounds and resins are also produced.

Various other groups of photosynthetic eukaryotes are collectively called as algae that have special organelles such as chloroplasts. Chloroplasts are originated from cyanobacteria that produced endosymbiotic relationships with ancient plants. Cyanobacteria have chloroplasts that consists of a blue-green pigment called chlorophyll a. It absorbs light in the orange-red and blue-violet parts of the spectrum while reflecting and transmitting the green light, which gives them their characteristic green color.

Plants, climate, and environmental change

The plant responses towards the climate and environmental changes indicate how these changes affect the functions of ecosystem and productivity. For example, plant phenology can be an important proxy for temperature, and the biological impact of climate change. The analysis of fossils that resides in the sediments from eons ago allows scientists to get a glimpse into the climates of the past. Ozone depletion can expose plants to high levels of ultraviolet rays that result in lower growth rates. Moreover, knowledge of  synecology (community ecology) and taxonomy is vital to understand the impact of habitat destruction and how a species extinction might affect the overall ecosystem.

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Practise This Question

Which of the following organism excretes ammonia?