BIMPB12-Diversity and Identification of Plants

Module Provider: School of Biological Sciences
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Alastair Culham


Summary module description:

An introduction to the diversification and identification of land plants, with emphasis on Flowering Plants, and the collections that underpin plant taxonomy. 


The aims of this module are to develop skills in the identification of plants, to understand the basis of phylogenetic classification, to develop a working knowledge of the taxonomic hierarchy, to become familiar with the working of a herbarium. 

Assessable learning outcomes:

The students will be able to interpret reproductive and vegetative structure, to recognise the combinations of characters used to define plant families. They will be able to use keys to place an unknown plant in a named family. The students will be able to describe the principle morphological features of the principal groups of lycophytes, pteridophytes, gymnosperms and angiosperms. The underlying evidence and principles of molecular systematics, the construction of phylogenetic trees, and the interpretation of phylogeny within a taxonomic framework. The processes involved in running and managing a herbarium collection, the requirements to fulfil in making a good herbarium specimen. The students will be able to communicate plant diversity to a wide audience. 

Additional outcomes:

Familiarity with major UK plant collections. Familiarity with selected plant families. Communication of plant descriptions. Development of Web 2.0 skills.

Outline content:

The basic structure of land plants will be introduced and the terminology used in descriptive botany explained. The characteristic features and relationships of the major groups of lycophytes, pteridophytes, gymnosperms and angiosperms are presented. Morphological features are considered by reference to living and preserved material and illustrations. Recognition of the major families will be taught as a particularly useful first step in plant identification. Selected temperate and tropical plant families will be discussed in terms of their defining characteristics, their role in major plant communities, and their economic importance. The interpretation of herbarium material. Molecular data handling, phylogenetic tree construction and the interpretation of phylogenies. 

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
Lectures, laboratory practical classes and study visits.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 16 16
Practicals classes and workshops 18 18 2
External visits 8 8
Guided independent study 55 55 4
Total hours by term 97.00 97.00 6.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 60
Class test administered by School 40

Other information on summative assessment:

The first written assignment is a scrapbook of plant family identification notes with emphasis on key diagnostic features (30%).

The second written assignment is a blog reviewing current literature on the evolution and/or diversification of a plant family (30%).

Plant Identification test

The test will run during the Summer Term and include both open book and closed book elements (40%)

Formative assessment methods:

Plant identification in the glasshouses and grounds and on study visits, study of herbarium material.

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information:

Length of examination:

Requirements for a pass:

Reassessment arrangements:
Re-examination by portfolio of work and plant family identification test in September.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
1) Required text books:
2) Specialist equipment or materials:
3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
4) Printing and binding:
5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

Last updated: 3 October 2017

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