Week 4: Botany Basics

Week 4: Botany Basics

By Heather

Tonight we started off with an essay discussion from A Sand County Almanac titled “December: Home Range.”  This was quite an interesting short read.  Aldo Leopold writes about his “township” and how the “wild things” on his farm will do not divulge their whereabouts or goings on.  He further writes about the range of his banded chickadees and his compulsion to be aware of where the grouse are or have gone.  Leopold’s dog chases a rabbit and the rabbit knows exactly where it needs to go to escape the encroaching pursuer.  This leaves Leopold questioning if he or his “wild things” know his farm acreage better.  This is a perfectly understandable question he raises.  I would have to say, of course, living creatures in any area know their surroundings and territories better.  They have to survive it where we are merely onlookers.

In the last section Leopold writes, “Science knows little about home range: how big it is at various season, what food and cover it must include, when and how it is defended against trespass, and whether ownership is an individual, family or group affair.  These are the fundamentals of animal economics or ecology.  Every farm is a textbook on animal ecology; woodsmanship is the translation of the book.”

We then had a bit of housekeeping.  Ariel Paulson gave us a short presentation on how to navigate where we log our volunteer hours.  This is a very simple procedure.  So if for some reason you want to take this program but are apprehensive about the tech part of it, don’t be.  Ariel did a great job of informing us on the process.  I can’t wait to start logging some hours!

For our informative lecture Lala Kumar from the University of Missouri Extension shared much information with us on botany.  I have to say this was an incredible lecture.  I learned so much in those two hours!  I already possess great affection for plants and my house is slowly becoming a jungle besides planting an herb and vegetable garden this year with several berry bushes.  But what he taught us made me look at plants in a whole different way.  I have an overall better understanding of their biology and how they respond to certain situations.

Missouri Extension map of hardiness zones

We learned the two plant categories, the life cycle of plants and the parts of the flower.  Lala taught us about plant classification and the different taxon for each plant: Kingdom, Division, Class, Order, Family, Genus and species.  He discussed leaf type identification such as the leaf shapes, leaf attachments, leaf margins and modifications.  Leaf venation was something new to me.  Some of the types are pinnately lobed, needle-like, palmately compound and odd pinnately compound.

Germination of plants was an interesting lead into the lecture on photosynthesis.  Lala showed us which leaves are the first to start making the plant’s food, the process of photosynthesis and that light, carbon dioxide, temperature and amount of water all have an effect on how much sugar is made by the plant.

Towards the end of the lecture we went over which growing zone the Kansas City area is in.  According to the Cold-hardiness zone map we are in 6a meaning that perennial plants can handle a freeze from -5 degrees F to -10 degrees F.  An interesting point he brought up was the zone map for the first time in more than 20 years has been changed.  We now have warmer minimum temperatures than we use to.  At this point my husband realized he wasn’t crazy.  When he first bought his house he landscaped accordingly and has been having issues over the last few years with those plants which need a colder zone to thrive. 

Our Kansas City zone went from 5b to 6a. Here is a link to the Missouri Extension article I found online if you are interested in reading more.  There is also a map on the right side bar you can click on to see the Missouri state zones.  Just click the following link: 


After this class I was talking with my husband and said that even though I learned SO much tonight I still needed more.  My curiosity and wanting to better understand our natural world has kept me entranced.  I had a friend once say I would end up being a career student.  I have always felt that in order to learn ourselves and know our potential we had to keep learning.  But I know what she was referring too, yes, I will probably end up with another degree or two.

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