BIO 337

Taxonomy of Vascular Plants


Syllabus for Spring 2008

4 credit hour (2 hours lecture + 2 hours lab)

Prerequisite:  BIO 215 (Botany) or consent of instructor




Dr. Andrew Madison

Office:  134 in White Hall

Phone:  661-5127

Email: (BUT, I prefer that you email me through BlackBoard)

Web site:


Office hours:

Monday, Wednesday, & Friday — 9:00 – 10:00 AM

Tuesday & Thursday — 9:30 – 10:30 AM


These are the hours that I am guaranteed to be in my office, excepting specially called meetings or off-campus activities.  Please note:  I may also be in WH 108 setting up for a lab.  FEEL FREE to drop by at other times.  If I am in my office or in the lab, I’ll be happy to speak with you.


Course Objectives:

The primary focus of this class is identification of native plants in west Tennessee.  Some emphasis will be placed on learning common plants native to the southeastern US, although not necessarily west Tennessee.  The lectures will be primarily oriented on general plant taxonomy and habitat associations of plants.  Some emphasis will be placed on habitat management and dealing with exotic plants.  The laboratories will be dominated with field trips, emphasizing on-site plant identification and collection.



Are You “Field Ready?”

I hope that you love the great outdoors because we will be taking numerous local and distant field trips.  We will be going on these field trips rain or shine!  (Excepting really severe weather, of course.)  Nothing can be more miserable, though, than to be ill-prepared for trampling around in brush and forests.  Here are some suggestions (NOT REQUIREMENTS) for having a comfortable time out in the field:


1) Wear long pants.  Even when it is hot, light-colored long pants should be worn, primarily to protect against ticks.  Deer ticks are very abundant in west Tennessee and they are known to carry Lyme disease (I’ve known several people in the area to develop the disease).  I usually tuck my pants into my boots and douse the lower portion of my pants with DEET to maximize tick protection.  You also will want to check yourself for ticks every time you leave the field.


2) Wear “field worthy” clothing.  This would include either clothing you don’t minding getting ripped to shreds over the semester or wearing tougher clothing.  Cabela’s® and other outdoor supply companies sell brush pants or brush guards that make walking through thorns or low brush very easy.  I have also found that an Army field jacket is a good investment (they are tough and very roomy so you can wear multiple layers, if needed). 


3) Obtain a good pair of water-proof boots.  Gore-tex® lined boots are the best and there are many types available (Gander Mountain™ has a wide variety in their local store).  I also have a pair of water-proof socks (available though Cabela’s®) which simply add another level of protection (even some water-proof boots will begin to leak over time).


4) When it is cold, dress in layers (and don’t forget your legs).  It is always much better to wear multiple layers of clothing (although it may be heavier) than to put on one really heavy coat.  If you dress in layers, you can take one or two layers off as needed if you begin to warm up after traipsing around in the woods.  Also, be sure to obtain some long underwear for your legs.  Regular long underwear can be purchased at Wal-Mart™, but Cabela’s® sells some very cold-weather varieties.  And, don’t forget a good pair of gloves, too. 


5) A good hat.  The type will largely depend on the weather.  I have a wide-brimmed floppy hat that I can store in a pocket for warmer weather and a wool cap when it is cold (and when it is REALLY cold, a balaclava). 


6) Rain suit or poncho.  We will be going on these field trips even if it is raining.  This will be a true test of your field readiness.  I actually enjoy going out in the rain, if I am properly dressed, because it seems “quieter”.  Vinyl rain suits and ponchos are really cheap and can be picked up at Wal-Mart™ or Gander Mountain™.  I picked up a “DriDucks” rain suit at Gander Mountain™ for around $16.


If you worry about having to purchase all of this, DON’T.  You don’t have to purchase ANY of it.  You can have a wonderful time in the great outdoors without having to purchase all of this equipment, but it will make your field trips more comfortable if you do. If you are concerned about the cost, these clothing items are a good investment.  Several items that I own have been used for years.


Required Textbook:

None are required, but there are several good plant identification field guides that you can purchase to assist you with this class (all of the below and others will be available in WH 108):


Harlow, William H.  1946.  Fruit Key & Twig Key to Trees & Shrubs.  Dover Publications, Inc.  Amazon Price:  $4.95


Newcomb, Lawrence.  1977.  Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide.  Little, Brown and Company.  Amazon Price: $13.59 (although for the northeastern US, it has many plants in this area and a very interesting, useful key).


Peterson, Roger Tory, and Margaret McKenny.  1996.  Peterson Field Guide Series - A Field Guide to Wildflowers: Northeastern and North-central North America.  Houghton Mifflin Company.  Amazon Price:  $12.92


Petrides, George A.  1972.  Peterson Field Guide Series – A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs:  Northeastern and north-central United States and southeastern and south-central Canada.  Houghton Mifflin Company.  Amazon Price: $12.92



You have been provided with a BlackBoard account for this class.  It is password protected and will provide access to course information and provide a medium to track progress in the course.  I will be posting grades and instigating occasional online discussions.  BlackBoard can be accessed from ANY computer with an internet connection.  This is NOT an online class, but is more properly referred to as a “web enhanced” course.  .


Method of Evaluation:



A > 90%

Exams (Lab Practicals)


B = 80–89%



C = 70–79%



D = 60–69%



F < 60%





You will be responsible to know any plant that we identify during class time, in the laboratory, or on field trips.  Every lab practical and quiz is cumulative (although, I will be constantly “dry” quizzing you on plants we observe in the field).





Quizzes —


When in the field, I can have a “pop quiz” at any time, asking you to identify a particular plant we come across.  I will hand out note cards and you will put your name and then the identification of the plant.  These will be done individually.



Lab Practicals & Exams –


At the beginning of the semester, there will be a lab practical that covers basic botanical terminology.  Lecture exams will cover management and habitat associations discussed during the course.  They will be a mixture of multiple choice and short answer questions.




I expect you to be at every weekly session and field trips.  If you know that you are going to miss a session, I expect the professional courtesy of a phone call or email informing me IN ADVANCE of your absence (non-emergency absences will NOT BE EXCUSED after the fact, even for legitimate reasons).  Legitimate and excusable absences include (but are not limited to): 1) personal illness (must be verified by a nurse/doctor excuse), 2) Union University sponsored functions (I normally receive a notice concerning your participation in these functions, but double-checking with me is always a good idea), 3) death in the family or extreme family problems, and 4) civic responsibilities (jury duty, military responsibilities, etc.). 


Attendance will be taken at the beginning of each class.  I expect you to be on time.  If you have more than 3 unexcused absences from the weekly sessions, it will result in automatic failure of the course.  It is VITALLY important that you show up ON TIME for off-campus field trips.  If you are late, you WILL be left behind!


Cheating and Plagiarism:

I encourage you to work with others in this class.  Make plant collections together, meet in the lab to review plants, go out into the field to identify plants together.  Just don’t copy from each other’s work on exams or quizzes! 


Plagiarism, intentional or unintentional, is prohibited.  Webster defines plagiarism as “the stealing and passing off of the ideas or words of another as one’s own”.  Further, the MLA Handbook states, “Plagiarism may take the form of repeating another’s sentences as your own, adopting a particularly apt phrase as your own, or even presenting someone else’s line of thinking in the development of a thesis as though it were your own.”  In other words:  do your own work. 


If you are caught cheating on lab practicals, quizzes, or exams, you will receive an automatic failing grade for this course and the incident will be reported to the Dean of Arts and Sciences for further reprobation.


Last day to drop:

If you know that excessive absences will interfere with progress in this class, you should consider taking another semester.  You can drop this course before March 4, 2008 without penalty. After this date you will receive a failing grade, even if you drop the class (except for extenuating circumstances).


General Course Outline:

















This is the first time that I have taught this course and I have NO IDEA of how long it will take me to cover the following topics, so I just place them in order here as we should cover them:


Basic botanical terminology and plant identification




     Habitat associations

     Management and Economics



     Habitat associations

     Management and Economics

Wild flowers:


     Habitat Associations

     Management and Economics



     Habitat Associations

     Management and Economics

Exotic Plants and Their Management















Field Trips:


Technically, we have lab every Saturday morning.  However, I have condensed ALL of the Saturday labs into 4 field trips:  two local just-Saturday field trips and two weekend field trips.  This schedule is subject to change and revision.


Feb 1 – In Lab Only:  Learning How to Use a Botanical Key

Feb 8 – Around Union’s Campus

Feb 15 – Around Union’s Campus

Feb 22 – Dr. Huggin’s Farm

Feb 29 – Hatchie River National Wildlife Refuge

Mar 1 – Saturday Field trip to Land Between the Lakes

Mar 7 – Mrs. Crossett’s Farm

Mar 14 – Cypress Grove Natural Area

Mar 15 – Saturday Field trip to Reelfoot Lake

Apr 4-6 – Field Trip to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and Jekyll Island, Georgia

Apr 11 – Dr. Weaver’s Farm

Apr 18-20 – Field Trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Apr 25 – Chickasaw State Park

May 2 – Natchez Trace State Park

May 9 – TBA