Biology 217

BIOL 217

Catalog Entry

Biology 217. Flora of Virginia
Three hours lecture; Three hours laboratory (4).

Prerequisites: 4 credits in Biology

A lecture and field/laboratory course focusing on identification and classification of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers of eastern North America. Emphasis on the use of dichotomous keys to identify native and naturalized plant species, distinguishing characteristics of major temperate plant families, and common ecological communities and habitats of Virginia. This course is suitable for both biology majors and non-majors.


Detailed Description of Content of the Course

Introduction to plant taxonomy, nomenclature, and classification

Traditional and phylogenetic methods of plant classification

Modern plant systematics

Evolution and diversity of organisms traditionally considered within the Plant Kingdom - Angiosperms, Gymnosperms, Seedless Vascular Plants, Bryophytes

Plant identification skills:

Plant vegetative structures and terminology

Stem and leaf morphology

Plant reproductive structures and terminology

Structure and function of flowers, inflorescences, and fruits

Pollination biology

Seed dispersal mechanisms

Creating and using dichotomous identification keys for vegetative and flowering plants

Plant collection techniques / Preparation specimens for herbarium, museum, and teaching collections

Survey of ecologically and economically important Angiosperm, Gymnosperm, and Seedless Vascular Plant families

Structure, function, and distinguishing characteristics of specialized plant groups:

Composites (Asteraceae)

Graminoids (grasses, sedges, rushes)

Seedless Vascular Plants

Trees and shrubs in winter condition – identification using bark and twig characteristics

Invasive alien plant species

Habitat requirements of regional woody and herbaceous plant species

Selected diseases affecting tree of the eastern US (e.g., chestnut blight, Dutch elm disease)

Commercial uses of local woody plants


Detailed Description of Conduct of the Course

The course will include lecture and integrated field and laboratory experiences. In addition to traditional lectures, students will be introduced to course content through small group projects, readings, class and small-group discussions, laboratory activities, videos, and field trips. Reading and communication skills will be encouraged through selected reading and discussion of primary and secondary scientific literature. Much laboratory time will be spent on field trips to local and regional natural areas and in the Radford University Greenhouse to introduce students to the diversity of plant species and habitats in the southern Appalachians and other regions of Virginia and to develop skills in plant identification and sight identification. Several independent and group laboratory projects will be required, including a plant collection to provide additional experience in use of dichotomous plant keys and preparing herbarium specimens.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

After successfully completing this course, the student will be able to:

·         Explain the major differences between traditional and phylogenetic methods of plant classification

·         Explain the components of binomial species names and authorities and the information contained within

·         Explain why scientific names change

·         Recognize and describe plant vegetative, flower, inflorescence, and fruit morphology using appropriate terminology

·         Apply plant vegetative and reproductive terminology to the identification of native and naturalized plant species

·         Construct dichotomous identification keys using plant vegetative and reproductive structures

·         Use dichotomous keys to accurately identify unknown native and naturalized woody and herbaceous plant species in summer and winter condition

·         Explain the distinguishing characteristics, evolutionary relationships, and classification of ecologically and economically important flowering plant, seed-bearing plant, and seedless vascular plant (e.g., fern) families using historical and modern approaches to classification

·         Recognize and describe morphological differences between ecologically and economically important temperate plant families

·         Recognize common trees, shrubs, herbaceous wildflowers, and ferns native to the eastern US based on distinguishing morphological characteristics

·         Recognize major non-native invasive plant species of western Virginia and describe their impacts on native species and ecosystems

·         Collect plant specimens and prepare them for use and long-term storage in herbarium, museum, and/or teaching collections

·         Describe the habitat requirements of common plant species in natural ecosystems of Virginia

·         Describe the major threats to plant biodiversity and the importance of plant conservation efforts

·         Use dissecting microscopes and hand lenses to examine plant structures in the laboratory and field


Assessment Measures

Assessment of student understanding and application of course material may include practical field and laboratory quizzes; essay, short-answer, and objective questions on written lecture exams; oral presentations; individual and small group research and collection projects; and discussions and written assignments. Other assessment measures may be used to evaluate understanding of content and skills when appropriate.


Other Course Information


Review and Approval

New Course    4/13/09    Gary Coté