Biology 324 – Seed Plant Taxonomy

Course Description:

Topics covered in Biology 324 include primitive flowers, floral evolution, vegetative morphology, mating systems, pollination syndromes, nomenclature, variation and evolution., chromosomes, hybridization and polyploidy, chemotaxonomy, types of classifications, cladistics, and phylogeny. In the lab, 26 flowering plants families and a number of conifers are examined. The objectives of the lab are for students to be able to recognize the common plant families and to identify plants using keys.  There are usually around 50 students in two lab sections supported by two TAs. The students have two hours of lecture and three hours per week. Weekly quizzes ensure that students keep up with the material. One of the course requirements is a plant collection; fifteen different species are collected, pressed, identified, and properly labeled. The lecturer, TAs, and I mark these at the end of the term.  Two fieldtrips to the UBC Botnanical Garden have been incorporated into the course.  The first introduces students to flowering plants with emphasis on the Basal Angiosperms.  The second incorporates the Canopy Walkway.  Aspects of conservation and biodiversity.

Course Information and Artifacts:

The following are pdfs of different documents.
Syllabus and Course Information
Lab Collection List – sample
- many plants are collected for each lab, this is a list of plants and where to collect them from
TA Preparation
- the first lab
Rubric for grading projects
Portion of online quiz

Course Website:

The Biology 324 Vista site is intended as a supplement to the course.  Students can view pictures of preparations seen in lab, plants in their natural habitats, and quiz themselves. Lecture notes are posted for students to print and bring to lecture or use for review. Biology 324 participated in the UBC Vista pilot project in 2004


My primary duties are to organize and execute the labs. The lab exercises were originaly developed by Fred Ganders and are well designed and the families are presented in such a sequence to ensure that sufficient plant material can be obtained.  I have updated the labs to incorporate current taxonomies.  I organize the labs, prep TAs, oversee the teaching gardens and develop and update the Vista website component to the course.

Lab Materials:

The lab materials for this course are attained through a number of means.

Plants are collected from: Botany Departmnet greenhouse; South Campus Medicinal and Teaching Gardens; Totem Field Perennil and Food Gardens; natural and cultuviated places off- and on-campus

There are a number of demonstrations as well that are of interest to students.

Specimens for the grass, sedge and rush labs are collected during the summer and frozen (Dr. Fred Ganders assists with this).

Teaching Goals:

For the lab component I endeavour to provide the best quality and quantity of plant material. this provides students with the optimal opportunity to develop skills of observationa nd identification. Keying plants to species requires a number of skills in addition to observations. Evaluation and problem solving are important skills that students acquire.

Course Activities:

This course has a heavy lab component. Students learn how to identify plants using keys. They are responsible for a 15 specimen collection which must be fully documented.

Additional optional activities offered last year:
– Fieldtrip to UBC Farm
– Morning of gardening in the Medicinal Garden (South Campus)
– Scanning Electron Microscopy of pollen

Course Reflections:

This was the course I was initially going to withdraw from when I thought about reducing my teaching load.  Quentin Cronk convinced me to remain in and we discussed strategies for getting assistance with plant collections.  Last year I had begun a discussion with Kevin Kubeck (UBC Garden Horticulturist) about providing plant material.  We are in our first year of collaboration with the UBC Botanical Garden.