A required text for Botany 102, circa 1992.

The department of Plant Biology is housed in the Life Sciences Building adjacent to Briggs Hall, please see the department page for further information about this major.

This department should not be confused with the cryptically named Department of Plant Sciences. The Plant Biology program on this page tends to focus on the individual plant or parts of plants and their basic biology. Plant Sciences has courses and research more on the growth, uses, application and ecology of plants. Both have majors leading to careers using plants and plant technology.

Plants are important to humanity for food, environmental enhancement and personal enjoyment. Plants are also the foundations of healthy ecosystems from the Arctic to the tropics. As a plant biology major, you'll study the structure and function of plants as living organisms, from the cellular and molecular to the ecological level. You may customize the major to suit your own goals, and you'll learn from some of the most widely acclaimed plant biologists working today.

Majoring in Botany

Plant Biology is the scientific study of plants as organisms. It includes the disciplines of cellular and molecular plant biology and the traditional areas of botany, such as anatomy, morphology, systematics, physiology, mycology, phycology, ecology, and evolution. In addition, a minor in plant biology is offered with the same adviser.

The plant biology major consists of core courses in applied plant biology, plant anatomy, plant physiology, and plant ecology, as well as biochemistry, cell biology, and genetics. In addition, students complete a set of courses in one of the following areas: (1) general botany; (2) applied plant biology; (3) plant evolution and ecology; (4) plant genetics and breeding; and (5) plant physiology, development, and molecular biology. The major provides breadth in diverse areas of plant biology and depth in one of several areas of specialization. Independent research opportunities in plant biology are available. Consult with an adviser.


A plant biology degree is an excellent credential for a wide range of career options, including domestic and international opportunities in business, research and teaching in both governmental and private sectors. Plant biologists can work in the field, in the forest, in the laboratory, in botanical gardens or nurseries, in food or seed companies, or in pharmaceutical, energy or chemical industries, and pursue rewarding careers in the areas of biotechnology, environmental protection, farming, or agribusiness. The program is also an excellent background for students wishing to enter graduate or other professional schools, including medicine, law or journalism.


  • General Botany — This is the most eclectic emphasis as it allows the broadest selection and greatest quantities of elective coursework. It is simply the general study of plants and their biology, ecology, and everything about plants, the perfect choice for those indecisive about their career.
  • Applied Plant Biology — This emphasis focuses more on plants in the world, and working with them, good for those interested in field, forest and generally outside work, as well as those wishing to work with plants in a controlled laboratory or greenhouse setting. This major allows for a large allotment of units to further specialize in more detailed area of the applications of plant biology.
  • Plant Evolution and Ecology — Essentially this emphasis is the physical anthropology of the plant world, it specializes in the morphology of plants, how they adapted, and the environment which they are adapted for. It is a very interesting field of study, and requires at least one class from applied plant biology.
  • Plant Genetics and Breeding — This is the study of causing plant evolution, or just changing up plants to yield a better genetic structure, this field is very useful and almost always useful given its application to agriculture. The option leads to less field work and is generally applied to more controlled environments.
  • Plant Physiology, Development and Molecular Biology — this option amounts to studying plants on the basis of how they grow, develop and what things affects this, it requires a class from each of the above options. This class is the study of plant viri, and leads to being a plant medic, it is good for those who want green thumbs.

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PLB 12 - Plants and People

A brief introduction to the relationships between plant life and the lives of people.

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