Branches of botany

Botany is a natural science concerned with the study of plants. The main branches of botany (also referred to as "plant science") are commonly divided into three groups: core topics, concerned with the study of the fundamental natural phenomena and processes of plant life, the classification and description of plant diversity; applied topics which study the ways in which plants may be used for economic benefit in horticulture, agriculture and forestry; and organismic topics which focus on plant groups such as algae, mosses or flowering plants.

Core topics

Applied topics

Organismal topics


  1. ^ British Bryological Society
  2. ^ Harvey, William Henry. 1849. A Manual of the British Marine Algae... John van Voorst, London

Agrostology (from Greek ἄγρωστις, agrōstis, "type of grass"; and -λογία, -logia), sometimes graminology, is the scientific study of the grasses (the family Poaceae, or Gramineae). The grasslike species of the sedge family (Cyperaceae), the rush family (Juncaceae), and the bulrush or cattail family (Typhaceae) are often included with the true grasses in the category of graminoid, although strictly speaking these are not included within the study of agrostology. In contrast to the word graminoid, the words gramineous and graminaceous are normally used to mean "of, or relating to, the true grasses (Poaceae)".

Agrostology has importance in the maintenance of wild and grazed grasslands, agriculture (crop plants such as rice, maize, sugarcane, and wheat are grasses, and many types of animal fodder are grasses), urban and environmental horticulture, turfgrass management and sod production, ecology, and conservation.

Botanists that made important contributions to agrostology include:

Jean Bosser

Aimée Antoinette Camus

Mary Agnes Chase

Eduard Hackel

Charles Edward Hubbard

A. S. Hitchcock

Ernst Gottlieb von Steudel


Astrobotany is an applied sub-discipline of botany that is the study of plants in space environments. It is a branch of astrobiology and botany.

It has been a subject of study that plants may be grown in outer space typically in a weightless but pressurized controlled environment in specific space gardens. In the context of human spaceflight, they can be consumed as food and/or provide a refreshing atmosphere. Plants can metabolize carbon dioxide in the air to produce valuable oxygen, and can help control cabin humidity. Growing plants in space may provide a psychological benefit to human spaceflight crews.The first challenge in growing plants in space is how to get plants to grow without gravity. This runs into difficulties regarding the effects of gravity on root development, providing appropriate types of lighting, and other challenges. In particular, the nutrient supply to root as well as the nutrient biogeochemical cycles, and the microbiological interactions in soil-based substrates are particularly complex, but have been shown to make possible space farming in hypo- and micro-gravity.NASA plans to grow plants in space to help feed astronauts, and to provide psychological benefits for long-term space flight.


Bryology (from Greek bryon, a moss, a liverwort) is the branch of botany concerned with the scientific study of bryophytes (mosses, liverworts, and hornworts). Bryologists are people who have an active interest in observing, recording, classifying or researching bryophytes. The field is often studied along with lichenology due to the similar appearance and ecological niche of the two organisms, even though bryophytes and lichens are not classified in the same kingdom.


Ethnolichenology is the study of the relationship between lichens and people. Lichens have and are being used for many different purposes by human cultures across the world. The most common human use of lichens is for dye, but they have also been used for medicine, food and other purposes.

Marine algae and plants

Marine algae and plants are a diverse collection of marine life that, together with cyanobacteria, form the main primary producers at base of the ocean food chain. Marine primary producers are important because they underpin almost all marine animal life by generating most of the oxygen and food that animals need to exist. Some algae and plants are also ecosystem engineers which change the environment and provide habitats for other marine life.

Marine algae includes the largely invisible and often unicellular microalgae, which together with cyanobacteria form the ocean phytoplankton, as well as the larger, more visible and complex multicellular macroalgae commonly called seaweed. Seaweeds are found along coastal areas, living on the floor of continental shelves and washed up in intertidal zones. Some seaweeds drift with plankton in the sunlit surface waters (epipelagic zone) of the open ocean.

Back in the Silurian, some phytoplankton evolved into red, brown and green algae. These algae then invaded the land and started evolving into the land plants we know today. Later in the Cretaceous some of these land plants returned to the sea as mangroves and seagrasses. These are found along coasts in intertidal regions and in the brackish water of estuaries. In addition, some seagrasses, like seaweeds, can be found at depths up to 50 metres on both soft and hard bottoms of the continental shelf.

Marine botany

Marine botany is the study of aquatic plants and algae that live in seawater of the open ocean and the littoral zone, along shorelines of the intertidal zone, and in brackish water of estuaries.

It is a branch of marine biology and botany.


Micropaleontology (American spelling; spelled micropalaeontology in European usage) is the branch of paleontology (palaeontology) that studies microfossils, or fossils that require the use of a microscope to see the organism, its morphology and its characteristic details.


Paleobotany, also spelled as palaeobotany, is the branch of botany dealing with the recovery and identification of plant remains from geological contexts, and their use for the biological reconstruction of past environments (paleogeography), and the evolutionary history of plants, with a bearing upon the evolution of life in general. A synonym is paleophytology. It is a component of paleontology and paleobiology. The prefix palaeo- means "ancient, old", and is derived from the Greek adjective παλαιός, palaios. Paleobotany includes the study of terrestrial plant fossils, as well as the study of prehistoric marine photoautotrophs, such as photosynthetic algae, seaweeds or kelp. A closely related field is palynology, which is the study of fossilized and extant spores and pollen.

Paleobotany is important in the reconstruction of ancient ecological systems and climate, known as paleoecology and paleoclimatology respectively; and is fundamental to the study of green plant development and evolution. Paleobotany has also become important to the field of archaeology, primarily for the use of phytoliths in relative dating and in paleoethnobotany.

The emergence of paleobotany as a scientific discipline can be seen in the early 19th century, especially in the works of the German palaeontologist Ernst Friedrich von Schlotheim, the Czech (Bohemian) nobleman and scholar Kaspar Maria von Sternberg, and the French botanist Adolphe-Théodore Brongniart.


Pal(a)eoethnobotany or archaeobotany is the archaeological sub-field that studies plant remains from archaeological sites. Basing on the recovery and identification of plant remains and the ecological and cultural information available for modern plants, the major research themes are the use of wild plants, the origins of agriculture and domestication, and the co-evolution of human-plant interactions. Archaeobotany is arguably now a mature discipline, but one that is facing challenges relating to data and communication.


Paleophycology (also once known as paleoalgology) is the subdiscipline of paleobotany that deals with the study and identification of fossil algae and their evolutionary relationships and ecology.The field is very important in the science of paleolimnology as the algae leave many indicators of fossil ecosystems. Primary and most familiar are both fossil shells from diatoms and biogeochemical traces of algal pigments in lake sediments. These fossils are clues to changes in nutrient availability and ecology of lakes.

Some paleophycologists:

John P. Smol, a Canadian paleolimnologist

Stanley Awramik, an American Precambrian paleontologist

Bruno R. C. Granier, a French stratigrapher and micropaleontologist

Robert Riding, a British geologist and expert on calcareous algae and stromatolites


Palynology is literally the "study of dust" (from Greek: παλύνω, translit. palunō, "strew, sprinkle" and -logy) or of "particles that are strewn". A classic palynologist analyses particulate samples collected from the air, from water, or from deposits including sediments of any age. The condition and identification of those particles, organic and inorganic, give the palynologist clues to the life, environment, and energetic conditions that produced them.

The term is commonly used to refer to a subset of the discipline, which is defined as "the study of microscopic objects of macromolecular organic composition (i.e., compounds of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen), not capable of dissolution in hydrochloric or hydrofluoric acids".

It is the science that studies contemporary and fossil palynomorphs, including pollen, spores, orbicules, dinocysts, acritarchs, chitinozoans and scolecodonts, together with particulate organic matter (POM) and kerogen found in sedimentary rocks and sediments. Palynology does not include diatoms, foraminiferans or other organisms with siliceous or calcareous exoskeletons.


Phytochemistry is the study of phytochemicals, which are chemicals derived from plants. Those studying phytochemistry strive to describe the structures of the large number of secondary metabolic compounds found in plants, the functions of these compounds in human and plant biology, and the biosynthesis of these compounds. Plants synthesize phytochemicals for many reasons, including to protect themselves against insect attacks and plant diseases. Phytochemicals in food plants are often active in human biology, and in many cases have health benefits. The compounds found in plants are of many kinds, but most are in four major biochemical classes, the alkaloids, glycosides, polyphenols, and terpenes.

Phytochemistry can be considered sub-fields of botany or chemistry. Activities can be led in botanical gardens or in the wild with the aid of ethnobotany. The applications of the discipline can be for pharmacognosy, or the discovery of new drugs, or as an aid for plant physiology studies.


Phytosociology is the branch of science which deals with plant communities, their composition and development, and the relationships between the species within them. A phytosociological system is a system for classifying these communities.

Plant anatomy

Plant anatomy or phytotomy is the general term for the study of the internal structure of plants. Originally it included plant morphology, the description of the physical form and external structure of plants, but since the mid-20th century plant anatomy has been considered a separate field referring only to internal plant structure. Plant anatomy is now frequently investigated at the cellular level, and often involves the sectioning of tissues and microscopy.

Plant morphology

Plant morphology or phytomorphology is the study of the physical form and external structure of plants. This is usually considered distinct from plant anatomy, which is the study of the internal structure of plants, especially at the microscopic level. Plant morphology is useful in the visual identification of plants.

Plant physiology

Plant physiology is a subdiscipline of botany concerned with the functioning, or physiology, of plants. Closely related fields include plant morphology (structure of plants), plant ecology (interactions with the environment), phytochemistry (biochemistry of plants), cell biology, genetics, biophysics and molecular biology.

Fundamental processes such as photosynthesis, respiration, plant nutrition, plant hormone functions, tropisms, nastic movements, photoperiodism, photomorphogenesis, circadian rhythms, environmental stress physiology, seed germination, dormancy and stomata function and transpiration, both parts of plant water relations, are studied by plant physiologists.


Pomology (from latin pomum (fruit) + -logy) is a branch of botany that studies and cultivates fruit. The denomination fruticulture—introduced from Romance languages (from Latin fructus and cultura)—is also used.

Pomological research is mainly focused on the development, enhancement, cultivation and physiological studies of fruit trees. The goals of fruit tree improvement include enhancement of fruit quality, regulation of production periods, and reduction of production cost. One involved in the science of pomology is called a pomologist.


Synantherology is the study of the plant family Asteraceae (also called Compositae). The name of the field refers to the fused anthers possessed by members of the family, and recalls an old French name, synantherées, for the family.

Although many of the plants of the Asteraceae were described for the European community at least as long ago as Theophrastus, an organization of the family into tribes, which remained largely stable throughout the 20th century, was published in 1873 by George Bentham.In a 1970 article titled "The New Synantherology", Harold E. Robinson advocated greater attention to microstructures (studied with the compound light microscope). He was not the first, as Alexandre de Cassini and others of the 19th century split species based on fine distinctions of microstructure, a tendency which Bentham found excessive.Noted United States synantherologists include:

T. M. Barkley

V. A. Funk

D. J. Keil

R. M. King

Harold E. Robinson

J. A. Soule

T. F. Steussy

Billie Lee Turner Sr.

Weed science

Weed science is the discipline concerned with plants that may be considered weeds, their effects on human activities, and their management "a branch of applied ecology that attempts to modify the environment against natural evolutionary trends."

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