Botany Lab Help

BIO 2500 Principles of Botany - Kean University, Union, NJ


updated Aug. 10, 2003
Plant Body  Links Key Assignment

Poison Ivy
Identifying Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy  Control with chemicals Poison Ivy  Photo in Fall 
Toxicodendron radicans 
Poison Ivy Photo in spring
. . .
Vegetative characters descriptions and illustrations of plant structures Unusual and noteworthy plants Leaf types  diagrams : pinnate palmate, parallel veins;  simple, compound
Physarum On Oatmeal African violet - leaf propagation 
propagation by leaf cuttings
Bean seedling
Seedling - labels  - seedling
Sunflower Moss Bryophytes Fern - life cycle - life cycle
Lemna minor
vegetative plants
Lemna floating plants Wolffia
Wolffia - World's Smallest Flowering Plant
Salvinia - Water fern Water ferns  - Salvinia, Azolla Spanish Moss
 Tillandsia usneoides
Venus Fly Trap - Dionaea Venus Fly Trap   
Carniverous Plants
Opuntia - Prickly Pear Cactus Cacti and Succulents Mimosa - Sensitive Plant
 culture + propagation
Kalenchoe modified leaves 
Bean - seed and seedlings  Bean seed - embryo, plumule 
embryo, cotledon, seed coat
Bean seedlings
Bean  seeds
Corn - seedling development Corn grain - I2KI for starch 
and other chemicals
Corn section of grain - labels
Ash leafy branch Forsythia leafy branch Maple Branch
Sycamore Leafy Branch Catalpa  leafy branch HorseChestnut Branch
 common names - links to tree images
Trees in the Key Tree identification Dichotomous key instructions 
Trees of Eastern North American Forest by common name and family Key trees of Iowa  .
What tree is it? Key of Common Iowa Trees
Basics of tree identification

LAB Exercise 1

BIO 2500 Principles of Botany - Kean University, Union, NJ
The Plant Body
        About this site

I have selected links with images and information related closely to the observations described in your botany lab manual. Preview these resources as you prepare for the laboratory exercise and review these resources as you write your lab reports and study for tests.

I. Starting Plants for Future Observation

     Today you will start growing plants that you will investigate
in more detail in later laboratory exercises.  I could easily start
these for you, however, it is more instructive for you to start the
plants growing yourself.  This not only gives you the sense of
accomplishment (a green thumb), but lets you know how quickly the
plants develop, and provides first hand knowledge of the procedures

     Plants you will start today are:

   Physarum        (plasmodium)  -- You will study in the Cell and Fungi labs
                                                      (Exercises 2 + 9)
   Sunflower        (seeds)           -- You will study in the Stem lab (Exercise 4)
   Moss               (spores)         -- You will study in the Bryophyte lab (Exercise 10)
   Fern                 (spores)         -- You will study in the Lower Vascular lab
                                                     (Exercise 11)
   African violet  (leaf cutting)   -- You will study in the Root and Angiosperm labs
                                                    ( Exercise 3+13)

II. Plant Diversity

A variety of plants will be on display in the lab to illustrate plant diversity. In addition, we will visit the greenhouse and observe additional diversity.
  • Spanish Moss - Tillandsia usneoides
  • Duckweed -  (Lemna and Wolffia)
  • Barrel or Prickly Pear Cactus
  • Kalenchoe -
  • Geranium - culture information
  • Sensitive Plant - Mimosa pudica showing thigmonastic response
  • Ferns - -- visit lower vascular plant lab ex. 13


    III. External Plant Structure

    A. Herbaceous

  • Herbaceous Dicot - links to bean
  • Herbaceous Monocot - links to  corn
  • B. Woody Plants

    Links to images of branches of
  • Forsythia
  • Sycamore
  • Maple
  • Ash
  • IV. Variations on Plant Structure

     Observe variation in Plant Diversity (part II above) and in plants of the key (part IV below).

    V. Leaf Key

    The goal is for you to learn to use a key, and by doing so test your understanding of external plant structure. The key I prepared for you is very limited (selected woody plants of our college campus) and goes only to genus. Most of the genera mentioned in the key are illustrated with links. Note, however, that the species illustrated in a link may not be the same as the species collected on campus. However, I believe most of the illustrations will allow you to confirm the specimen to genus, and may be used in place of an herbarium specimen or tree identification book in lab for your confirmation in the homework assignment.

    Trees in the Key in your lab manual

    Most images in this key are from this website

                    Leaf Key to Selected Woody Plants of Kean College

    1. Leaves broad (a flat photosynthetic surface), persisting for one season (deciduous).
     2. Leaves opposite (2 at a node) or whorled (3 or more at node).
       3. Leaves simple.
            4. Leaves with pointed lobes.                                               Maple (Acer)
            4. Leaves not lobed.
             5. Leaves very large, whorls or 3 (at least some), leaf base
                 broad and heart-shaped, veins palmate.                  Catalpa (Catalpa) whorl leaf
             5. Leaves smaller, opposite, veins pinnate.
                 6. Leaves toothed at tip.                                     Forsythia (Forsythia)
                 6. Leaves not toothed
                   7. Leaf heart-shaped, base somewhat truncate.        Lilac (Syringa)
                   7. Leaf somewhat oval, base round or pointed,
                       pinnate veins curve toward leaf tip.    Flowering Dogwood (Cornus)
        3. Leaves compound.

            8. Pinnately compound (oddly pinnate).        Ash (Fraxinus)
            8. Palmately compound.               HorseChestnut (Aesculus)
    2.   Leaves alternate (1 leaf per node, leaves often seem to spiral around stem).
                      9. Leaves simple
                       10. Leaves neither toothed nor lobed.
                        11. Leaves pinnately veined, stiff or leathery.
                   12. Leaves large (5-8 in) and evergreen, glossy
                      above, orange-brown beneath.                  Magnolia (Magnolia)
                   12. Leaves smaller (1-4 in),
                      variable below.                           Rhododendron (Rhododendron)
                 11. Leaves palmately veined, soft, pliable.             Redbud (Cercis)
            10. Leaves toothed, lobed or both toothed and lobed.
             13. Leaves toothed, but not lobed.
                  14. Leaf blade narrow (linear).                                    Willow (Salix)
                  14. Leaf blade wider (ovate or oval).                       Cherry (Prunus)
             13. Leaves lobed, with or without teeth oak.
                 15. Palmately veined.
                   16. Lobes (3-7) deep, pointed and arranged finger-
                      like, spherical fruit spiny and woody.      Sweet Gum (Liquidambar)
                   16. Lobes large, often toothed, stipules
                      conspicuous, petiole base encloses axillary
                      buds, bark mottled, spherical fruit solid,
                      of many hairy components.        Sycamore, Plane Tree (Platanus)
                 15. Pinnately veined, lobes variable(rounded, pointed or
                   bristle tipped), fruit is acorn.                                     Oak (Quercus)
         9. Leaves compound.
            17. Leaves very large, pinnately compounded,
             oddly pinnate.                                               Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus) Ailanthus
            17. Leaves palmately compound (3 leaflets).      Golden Chain (Laburnum)
    1. Leaves narrow, long and thin, needlelike, scalelike or awl shaped,
       often persisting for several years (evergreen).
           18. Leaves elongated, narrow, thin, needlelike.
             19. Leaves attached to stem singly.
               20. Leaves flat in cross section (leaf does not spin easily when
                    rolled between finger tips).
                  21. Lower leaf surface somewhat white or silvery.
                    22. Leaves arise from branch mostly in one plane.   Hemlock (Tsuga)
                    22. Leaves arise from all sides of branch.                       Fir (Abies) Fir
                  21. Lower leaf surface somewhat yellow-green, red berries.
                                                                                                     Yew (Taxus)
               20. Leaves angular (four-sided) in crosssection  (leaf spins easily
                   when rolled between finger tips).                               Spruce (Picea)
           19. Leaves attached to stem in groups, either fascicles (short
                 spur branches) or in whorls.
                    23. Leaves (needles) evergreen and in bundles (fascicles) of 2-5.
                                                                                                           Pine (Pinus)
                    23. Leaves (needles) deciduous, in whorls of more than five.
                                                                                                         Larch (Larix)
        18. Leaves scale-like or small, prickly needles.
             24. Leaves all scale-like, branch of young growth distinctly
                   flat.                                                                       Arborvitae (Thuja)
             24. Leaves  both scale-like and prickly or awl-like, branch
             of young growth round (or at least not distinctly flat). Juniper (Juniperus)

    See also:   N. Carolina Cooperative Exension
    See also : the conifers
    See also: What tree is it? -- by leaf
    See also: Leaf Key to the Gymnosperms of the Southeastern U.S.e
        link Vegetation on the web : see  "on-line taxonomic keys"


        Assignment for Laboratory Exercise 1 External Plant Structure

    1.   Start Seedling Project.  Obtain bean seeds, pots and growing
         mix.  Later, formulate the hypothesis you will test in
         seedling project.  Then, imbibe and germinate seeds. Maintain
         the seedlings under treatment conditions and make measurements
         as directed in guidelines for seed project.

    2.   Start Plants for future observations: fern spores, moss
         spores, sunflower seeds, Physarum and leaf cutting of African

    3.   Review form and external structure of familiar herbaceous and
         woody plants. Examine the plant specimens and related
         information (wall charts, etc.) which are displayed throughout
         the laboratory as well as those on your individual table.

         Record your observations and answers to questions from the lab
         exercise in your laboratory book or your class notebook. (they should  document your studies of the living and preserved plant materials).

    4.   Review the organisms on display which illustrate biological

    5.   Review External Plant Structure

          A.  Record the structure of corn and bean seeds and seedlings
              with labeled diagrams.
          B.  Note and record variations of plant parts when examining
              specimens on display.
         C.  Record developmental sequences of bean seedlings as
                   you work your Seedling Project.

    6.   Key out (4) four different plants and submit at start of next
         lab as directed below:

         A.   Select one plant with each of the following
            1.      A plant with needle or scale-like leaves.
            2.      A plant with simple, broad leaves.
            3.      A plant with compound, broad leaves.
            4.      A plant with opposite or whorled leaves.

         B.   Present your four keyed plants in the following manner.
            1.     Tape (clear tape) or glue a representative portion of
                   each plant to a sheet of white paper. The sample should include
                   sufficient plant material so it is possible to key the specimen. In
                   most cases this means that you need a small branch
                   with several nodes bearing leaves. In a few cases additional
                   material may be needed to confirm the steps taken in the key.
            2.     Include at least two leaves (one showing the under
                   surface, one showing the upper surface) and a portion of
                   stem showing the features (e.g., nodes, buds, pith) used
                   in the key.
            3.     On each page indicate:
                 a. your name, section and date at top right of page
                 b. the characteristic the sample represents (e.g.,
                    simple, compound, opposite, needle-like) at top center
                 c. the name of the plant at bottom center
                 d. steps you followed in key to identify plant lower right
                 e. book or WWW address you used to confirm the plant
                     name you obtained from the key in the lower right

    7.   Prepare for a lab quiz ( probably at the start of the third laboratory

      A brief set of directions follows. Specific directions will be
    provided in lab together with the materials needed.

    Physarum   You will study Physarum cultures in the Cell lab
         (Exercise 2) and the Fungi lab (Exercise 9).

              Obtain a culture dish containing the plasmodium of
         Physarum, and a fresh Petri dish containing 2% agar. Cut a
         portion of the plasmodium about 1 cm2 from the culture.
         Cultures of the plasmodial slime mold, Physarum, will be
         provided growing in Petri dishes on filter paper or on 2%
         agar. If the plasmodium is growing on agar, simply cut a block
         of agar containing the yellow plasmodium by pulling the tips
         of a pair of forceps a short distance through the agar. Then
         cut the agar at right angles to the first cut in a similar
         manner. If the plasmodium is growing on filter paper, either
         cut or tear a small piece of the paper containing the yellow
              Transfer the plasmodium to the Petri dish of fresh agar
         such that the block of agar containing the plasmodium is
         sitting somewhere near the center of the dish. Sprinkle a
         small pinch of flakes of oat meal (Quaker's Oats, Mother's Oats,
         etc.) on the surface of the dish. Allow a few flakes to land
         on or near the plasmodium, but also place some flakes at a
         distance. Cover the Petri dish and tape the lid in place.
         Label the dish (your name, date, Physarum, etc.) and wrap the
         dish in clear plastic wrap to prevent the loss of humidity.
         Take the Petri dish containing the culture with you and record
         your observations.  At home or in your dorm, place the dish
         where you can observe it as the Physarum feeds and grows.  If
         the culture does seem to be drying you may remove the cover
         and add a few drops of water. Physarum does not need light,
         and unless it gets too hot or too cold not much can go wrong.

              Bring your Physarum culture with you to next week's lab,
    Exercise 2.

    Sunflower  You will study Sunflower plants in the stem lab
    (Exercise 4)

              Obtain a small plastic flower pot. Fill the pot to one
         inch below the rim with sterile growing mix (mixture of peat
         and either perlite or vermiculite and containing starter
         fertilizer). Moisten the growing mix and plant 3 or 4
         sunflower seeds. Space the seeds at equal distances on the
         surface of the moistened potting mixture. Push each seed to a
         depth of about one inch into the potting mix. Use your fingers
         to fill the holes and tamp the surface gently. Label the pot
         and place in a location where the plants can grow until they
         are needed in the stem lab. Our technician and I will help
         water the plants as needed.

    Moss  You will study Moss plants in the Bryophyte lab (Exercise

              Obtain a Petri dish containing 2% agar. Sprinkle the moss
         spores as uniformly as possible over the surface. Use a soft
         (watercolor) brush and carefully distribute moss spores onto the
         surface of the agar. Try to work in an area where there is
         little or no breeze or air current because the spores are
         tiny. Cover the dish and label. Wrap the dish in clear plastic
         wrap to prevent evaporation. The dishes will be kept at room
         temperature and illuminated until needed in the Bryophyte lab
         (Exercise 10).

    Fern  You will study your Fern plants in the Lower Vascular
    Plant lab (Exercise 11)

              Obtain a Petri dish containing 2% agar. Fern leaves with
         sori bearing sporangia containing mature spores will be
         provided. Gently rub a fertile fern leaf between your
         fingertips over the surface of the agar. Sprinkle fern spores
         uniformly over the agar surface. Cover the dish and label.
         Wrap the dish in clear plastic wrap to prevent evaporation.
         The dishes will be kept at room temperature and illuminated
         until needed in the Lower Vascular Plant lab (Exercise 11).

    African Violet  You will study African Violet plants in the
         Root and Angiosperm labs (Exercises 3 + 13)

              Saintpaulia, the African Violet, is not a violet at all,
         rather it belongs to the Gesneriad family. These plants are
         reliable flower producers and are among the most successful
         flowering house plants. To flower, African Violets need a fair
         amount of light. They also respond well to being fertilized
         and good air circulation. They do not tolerate cold and you
         should avoid overwatering or even getting water on the
              Select a plant to propagate from those available. Remove
         one healthy outer leaf by breaking (don't cut) it from the
         plant. A leaf can be removed easily if you hold it by the
         petiole and simply turn (rotate) the petiole until it breaks
         free. Place the end of the petiole in vermiculite (or perlite)
         in a pot or tray which has been moistened uniformly. Provide
         a cover such a clear plastic wrap to keep the humidity high.
         Make sure the cover does not touch the leaf. Place the leaf
         cuttings where they will be kept warm and receive adequate
         light ( avoid direct sunlight).