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Translations of Encyclopedia about Botany


Botany (Botanical Science)

Botany or Botanical Science is one of the branches of Biology. Botanists deal only with plants.

The typical characters of Eukariotic plants are cellulose cell-wall, their dependence on locality their and photosynthesis ability. Therefore, they can prey only upon inorganic substances, which differentiates the plants from animals and fungi.

Plants are a specific group of organisms which forms the largest biomass share of the Earth. However, some scientists see Prokariots as the greatest biomass developers, first because they are less examined and, due to their smaller size, they are less visible.

On the other hand, it is implicit that plants are a very important part of most food chains.

Oxygen, which all the animals and many micro-organisms need to breath, is also produced by plants.

To date approximately 260,000 species of plants have been identified. In large byways of rain-forests, seas and water, much higher numbers of species can be assumed. Plants vary in their shapes and sizes. There are unicellular algae as well as giant trees rising 100 meters. Plants are always composed of various tissues.

As with the animal kingdom, plants are divided into several main groups: algae, moss-plants, ferny-plants and seedlings. In this order, the cell structure of individual plants is very often more complex. The most significant difference is in their sexual propagation: algae need two well-grown generations, whereas seedlings are limited only to one generation.

Botanical science is divided into "special botany" and "general botany" disciplines. Special botany discipline sorts the plants systematically and studies the plants from their expansion and merging points of view, whilst general botany deals with structure, functions and organs of the plants. Fungi researchers, otherwise known as mycologists, have been recognised botany specialists for a long time and have established a separate science.

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The History of Botany

How old is botany? Most probably as old as mankind because plants have been part of food from the beginning. However, not each plant is edible, for which reason our ancestors had to learn to recognize individual plants. Approximately 11,000 years ago, when people ploughed the stubble for the first time, they worked to find out what their field crops need to grow well and how to manage uncultivated wild plants and yield crops. This led to the birth of cultivation.


Plant research is still a very important part of botany and related agricultural plus forestry sciences.

Basic research which did not deal with plant utilisation existed in the ancient world but disappeared until modern times, when research in this area resumed again. Great progress was based on newly developed technical devices, such as microscope, electron and microtechniques, thanks to which the dimensions that had not been introspected yet, became reachable. Research was supported but sometimes also limited by social protocols and dogmatic doctrine.

The Ancient World

From the ancient world, the Grecian Aristoteles (382 - 322 BC) is known as the first author of botanical topics. He saw them as a transitional form between inanimate nature and animals. Theophrast, his student, wrote about segregation, structure and the propagation of plants, giving birth to botany as a specific science. Some ancient scientists believed that plants absorb nutritives from the soil, but the Romans were more focused on the utility value of plants. They already discovered vegetable and fruit cultivation under glass. Dioskorides was interested in medicinal plants and diagnosed approx. 500 different species of them.

The Middle Ages

In Europe, many ancient findings disappeared in the Middle Ages. Science could have been carried on only within and in adherence to the apprentice and sacred teaching of the church. Botany focused records and topics were mainly contained of information about yield crops, such us fruit, vegetable, corn, cereals, colouring and medicinal plants.

A Different situation occurred in regions influenced by Arabian culture, such as Spain: many scholars and monks travelled there to read and plagiarise in the libraries but the information they gain never traced back, for which reason people generally believed that the same plants grew in Scandinavia as they did in Greece. This general opinion changed in late middle ages, thanks to Mother Hildegard von Bingen (1099-1179) and Albert Magn (around 1193-1280), who is recognised as a re-promoter of botany. New findings and new plants were brought together with the crusades to central Europe and inspired greater curiosity.

The Renaissance

Around the year 1440, Johannes Gutenberg (approx. 1400-1468) found a letterpress. Around the year 1500 the first microscope was developed and, in the 17th century, the microscope was used mostly by G. A. Borelli, Antony van Leeuwenhoek and Robert Hooke. Borelli (1608-1679) studied leaves, Leeuwenhoek (1630-1723) developed methods for mounts modifications, manipulating and for reading microscopic pictures. In 1667, Hooke (1635-1703) published "Micrographics", in which he summarised his observations. He also diagnosed corktissue, identifying its composition of cells.

Other scholars applied a systematic plant-diagnosis method - predominantly in the study of medicine, which was searching for medicinal plants. The most famous German botanists are Otto Brunfels (1488-1534) and Hieronymus Bock (1498-1554). Brunfels made a number of authentic sketches of local plants, in total diagnosing 800 species. Bock was visualising specifically various growth stages of plants and identified relationships between them. Both these botanists insisted on Greek antiquity models while looking for new names. Conrad Gesner (1516-1565) was also observing blossoms and berries and allocated individual plant species to specific altitude zones.

The "plant-philia" led to the establishment of botanical gardens, mostly through the following universities: Padua (1543/44), Pisa (1545), Bologna (1567), Leiden (1577), Montpellier (1593) and Heidelberg (1597). Joachim Jungius (1587-1657) tried to establish explicit definitions of scientific expressions, where Linné and Ray later applied his professional scientific terminology.

The Italian andrea Cesalpino (1519 -1603) worked out one of the most fundamental pieces of the renaissance, putting ancient Greek conclusions aside and applying his own theories based on his findings. He published his theories in the "De Plantis", a work which contains morphology, anatomy, biology, physiology, taxonomy and a terminology file.

The 17th and the 18th Centuries

Of the taxonomists, we need to highlight Carl von Linné (1707-1778) and John Ray (1627-1705). Ray established six rules used to classify plants, procedures which are still seen as general principles of taxonomy. Linné took up these principles as well. He did not diagnose only plants but also published a number of zoological, medical and generally biologically-environmental topic theses.

Physiological researches and theories on plants were already conducted the ancient times. C. Perrault (1613-1688) recognised the motion of liquids in plants and worked out the first theories of its causes. Edme Mariotte (1620-1684), Abbess of St. Martin's Cloister and, later, a Scientific Academy member identified that plants are composed of more substations than the ones which are taken from the soil. In the 18th century, it was discovered that plants evaporate water and can produce various types of acid. <does not make sense>

The 19th Century

German chemist Justus von Liebig ( 1803-1873) contributed much to the findings about vegetable nutrition. He was the first to allocate chemical methods in botany and, in 1840, he was awarded by the Academy of Science in Göttingen for determining whether plants need inorganic substances to survive.

The study of microscopy was renewed by Matthias Schleiden (1804-1881) and, based on his research of cell tissues, Schleiden formulated the cell theory in 1838, which resulted in the birth of cytology as an independent science. Two years later, Robert Brown (1773-1858) discovered the karyon. Thanks to new colouring methods, it was possible to visualise more and more structures in the cell.

In the 19th century, fundaments to the inheritance science were built. Gregor Johann Mendl (1822-1884), a monk of the Saint Augustine friary and a teacher at the Technical School in Brno, studied the inheritance and evolution of plants. After several experiments of plant hybridisation, he published Mendl's Laws in 1866, which received worthy recognition 30 years later when chromosomes were discovered.

In the 20th century, botany became less prominent with new developments in genetics and molecular biology, where individual fields such us genetics, cytology, evolution and ecology merged in the new scientific disciplines of modern Biology.

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Organs and Tissues of Plants

Whereas all the functions of unicellular plants can be carried out only by one cell, multicellular plants are functioning via still more and more individual specialised complexes. Protofyts, such as Chlamydomonar or Chlorella, are unicellular. Such algae can, to the contrary of other plants, move using their flagellum and they are dependent on their environment - on water.

The next level in the organisation is occupied by cell colonies, in which the majority of normally independent cells is located. Some cells enclose the colony round with gelatine. Individual cells in the colony are coupled together by plasmatic bridges. Volvox alga is composed of a particularly complex colony. The Volvox has flagellum too, but some of the cells inside the colony are specialised for forward motion, some for nutrition and some for alga growth.

Ulothrix zonata, a fibrous green alga, is the simplest multicellular alga and its body is composed of well-fixed cells, referred to as thallus.

Plant cells, which form the thallus, divide either in one direction (hence the tissue is born) or in various directions (the thallus is branched out). The upper cell, which only divides, is called the "top cell". The specialising cells are very rare for the thallus plants. The majority of its cells are omnipotent, which means that each cell is able to carry all the vital functions, as with the unicellular plants.

Telary thallus is composed of cell tissues which partly knit together and form structures similar to leaves and some types of red algae. With the telary thallus, cells, which divide from the top cells, divide further and form a compact set of cells. Such type of thallus is typical for brown algae and all

the higher level plants.

Specific tissue cells of the higher level plants undertake special tasks such as photosynthesis, substance deposition and stable epidermis development. Specialised cells can not be generally divided further and growth can be carried out only by meristems (dividable tissue). There are also other types of tissues: conducting tissue, primary tissue and sustainable tissue.

Organ development is superior to the specialisation of tissues inside the thallus. Organs also carry some specific functions, they are spatially limited and can be composed of various types of tissues. The typical organs of the higher level plants are roots, stem, leaves and blooms. Plants with such organs are called Kormophytes. Bryophites (moss-plants) do not have any roots and neither do the typical blooms.

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Types of Tissues

In plants there are groups of cells which take over specific tasks. This can be both metabolism reactions such as photosynthesis and functions, such as reinforcement, protection, water and other metabolism product deposition and distribution, propagation and growth.


Dividable Tissue (Meristem)

Meristem cells can divide but they are not specialised cells. They represent the growing zones of plants. Such zones are located in vegetative cones of stem and roots (top meristems) but some are also inside the stems (side meristems).

The top meristems make the plant grow. Their cells have nothing else to do than to divide, which is why they are called primary meristems. Growing, which is enabled by the primary meristems, is their primary function. Secondary meristems are, to the contrary, made, at least partly, from specialised tissues. Secondary meristems are responsible for wide growth, otherwise called thickening, which is particular for woody species.

Base Tissue (Parenchyma)

Base tissue, otherwise called parenchyma, can perform various functions where its cells conduct photosynthesis, develop special substances and close up wounds, while still being able to divide.

Parenchyma is very often permeated by intercellular spaces.

Primary Coating Tissue

The epidermis separates plants from their surroundings and protects cells located beneath it. For this reason, the epidermis has to be very stable and resistant. Its cells edge together with zero boundaries and are linked to each other. Normally, these cells do not contain any plastids but make a wax mass (Kutine) which secretes, forming another protective layer of the surface. Hircuses are formed from the epidermis as well. Leaves very often have stomata in their epidermis.

Cork, as the epidermis, protects tissues beneath it. Cork-tissues grow only on stems and, after some period of time, the cork-cells necrose and form a rhytidome, respectively peridermis.

Internal coating tissue is called endodermis, which can be, for example, found as an interface layer between the bark and the stele. This layer of tissue separates different tissue sets inside the plants.

Primary Conducting Tissues and Sustainable Tissues

Conducting tissues convey water or mineral substances from roots to leaves, or distribute the metabolism products within individual plants. The tissue, xyle,m which distributes water, is composed of elongate dead cells with punched ends, like a screen (tracheidas), or with totally dissolved cross barriers (tracheas).

Liber cells, which distribute the metabolism products, still contain their own plasma, which means they live. Sieve cells are separated by strongly perforated walls so that the plasmas of adjacent cells are bordering each other’s very closely. The cell’s content is merged together in sieved tubes while being supplied by adjacent, original cells. Both types of the primary conducting tissues joint together in vascular bundles, which permeate the plant like long tubes.

The water distributing tissue takes over the function of sustainable tissue very often. This happens thanks to solid deposits such as cellulose, wood-pulp or cork, located in the cell walls or inside the cells themselves. Primary sustainable tissues, which are made from viable cells, are called kolenchymes.

Non-living sustainable tissues are sclerenchymes.

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Not all plants have roots: originally thallus plants, such as algae and moss-plants do not have roots. Roots are typical for furry-plants and spermatophytes.

Roots fix the plants in the soil and draw in water with released plant food, conveying it towards stems. The stem sends the water further to the leaves and to the other organs, such as blossoms and blooms.

Roots make a densely branched structure, which grows until the plant lives, and extend only from their top. There are three zones of roots: a root cap, a growth zone and a root-fibres zone.

The root caps make the tops of the roots. Thanks to their mucous-cells layer, they continuously linger through the soil and make route for the roots. The layer restores adequately to the enormous mechanical load, which is carried on the root caps. New cells are born in the growth zone, which is linked to the root cap.

The growth zone is mainly composed of meristems. Sustainable root cells are, together with root cap cells, formed here while making continuing longitudinal growth.

The next root fibres zone is specific for development of long sinuses, formed from external cell layers (rhizodermis). With its structure, they are similar to hair. Thanks to this process, the surface of roots is enlarged and can take more water and more of the plant food. The root fibres and the rhizodermic cells live for a very short time only but are being replaced by new cells which form up in the growth zone. The number of such cells decreases adequately while moving towards the older parts of roots.

A transition zone to the older root sections is not strictly limited by any boundaries. The special tissue starts to develop already in the growth zone of the root top. Its external shell is called exodermis and is made primarily from bark, which circumfuses around the middle cone. The endodermis is an internal layer of the primary bark and separates the mentioned layers from each other. The endodermis is nearly fully watertight, thanks to which the endodermis controls the flow of water and plant food within the plant - the water and the plant food reaches the middle cone via patent cells. In the middle cone there are conductive bundles which interfere up to the stem and enable a transfer of released substances.

Root Thickening

With increasing age, roots become thicker, achieved due to two different meristems; a cambium, which is inside the middle cone and transfers the cells inside out and vice versa; and a pericambium, which is formed from the external shell of the middle cone. This transfers the cells outside, forming up barks and side roots while growing out a well-branched structure of main and side roots. With some plants, roots also grow at lower parts of the stems and are referred to as root stems.


Roots can perform other functions than receiving water and plant food but, while performing other duties, their forms change very often (metamorphosis): for stocks deposition reasons, the main roots change into ball roots and the stem roots into root tubers. Suction roots grow across the soil upwards until they reach an atmosphere to be able to intake oxygen. They can be found at the tropical mangrove, with its root structure in water, which contains a very small amount of oxygen. Air roots, which form the stem roots, can be found, for example, with epiphytes and climbers. They begin to branch out the moment they reach the soil, after which they start to intake water and plant food as normal roots do. Prop roots are similar but function only as mechanical supports for the plant. Root vines function also as a support but they always need to clamber some base. Other root vines, e.g. the ivy, carry out a function of sticky organs and adhere the plant to the support (pivot roots).


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