Instructor and contact information

Matt Lavin, Plant Bioscience Building 308 (office) and Lewis Hall 408 (MSU herbarium), email.
Lecture & Lab. Lewis Hall 307, Monday, 12:00-5:00 PM, optional field trips to southeast Bozeman.
Office hours. Mondays 10:00AM-12N in Lewis Hall 408 or by appointment.
Text: Manual of Montana Vascular Plants, by Peter Lesica. Required.
Course announcements are posted to Brightspace or D2L

Course learning outcomes and objectives

Students will be able to: 1) sight identify about 200 of the most common plant species in Montana; 2) interpret diagnostic characteristics of plant families, genera, and species; 3) relate botanical terminology to plant morphology so that taxonomic keys can be effectively used; 4) combine sight-identification and taxonomic keys in order to expedite plant identification of species never-before encountered; 5) ecologically distinguish plant genera or families.

Schedule of lecture-labs (each lab will be finalized by the Saturday evening before each Monday lab)

27 August: introductory lecture-lab during the noon hour.
3 September: No class on Labor Day.
10 September: Polemoniaceae, Hydrophyllaceae, Boraginaceae, Lamiaceae, and Verbenaceae.
17 September*: Salicaceae.
24 September*: Cleomaceae and Brassicaceae.
1 October*: Asteraceae.
8 October*: Artemisia and shrubby Asteraceae.
15 October*: Rosaceae.
22 October: indoor exam 1.
29 October: Amaranthaceae and Sarcobataceae.
5 November*: Elaeagnaceae andPolygonaceae.
12 November: No class on Veteran's Day.
19 November*: more Asteraceae.
26 November*: Fabaceae.
3 December*: Anacardiaceae, Apiaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Orobanchaceae, and Santalaceae.
10 December: indoor exam 2, 8:00AM -1PM. The time period identified in the Schedule of Finals Week Exams published by the Registrar. Choose either 8-10:30AM or 10:30 AM-1PM.

*lecture-lab with a quiz

Course grading policies

Final grades come from the scores of two lab exams (75 points each) and the top eight of nine lab quizzes (15 points each). The two exams (22 October and 10 December) represent 2/3 of your final score. The top eight of the nine quizzes (above dates marked by an asterisk) count 1/3 of your final score. Lab exams will include 75 specimen mounts and will be limited to 2.5 hours (2 minutes maximum per specimen). Lab quizzes will include 15 specimen mounts and be will be limited to 30 minutes per student. For each specimen, family, genus, and species for usually reported as the answer. The exams and quizzes should involve a combination of site identification and the use of taxonomic keys for identifying plant families, genera, and species. Therefore, plan on using a hand lens and Lesica's Manual of Montana Vascular Plants during all quizzes and exams. Your copy of Lesica can include any annotations made directly on the pages of that book (e.g., don’t use notes, specimens, etc. that are not part of the pages of Lesica). 

Class protocol

From 12 Noon until about 1:30 PM and between 2 and 3 PM for each Monday lecture-lab, I will go over the taxonomic and ecological features of about 15 plant species that represent the plant families and genera introduced for that day. I will make these two sessions interactive with the use of Lesica’s book, plant specimens, and hand lenses or dissection scopes. From 3-5 PM on Monday afternoons, students can study lab specimens at an individual pace, including reviewing specimens or studying those that where not covered earlier.

Field sites in Bozeman

Sites along the trail systems in southeast Bozeman will be visited during the late afternoon of certain Mondays. The particular site to be visited will be announced during the noon lecture. These field trips are optional and offered to students who are less experienced with plant species in the field. They should generally complement the indoor lecture-labs. The general sites are:

  • Gallagator Trail (riparian and wetland plants, native and introduced): plant list
  • Burke Park field sites (rangeland plants, native and introduced): plant list

Plant specimens

During this fall semester, you will identify over 30 families, 90 genera, and 200 species of native and introduced flowering plants, all common to Montana and adjacent states. Specimens are pressed and dried so that a reference collection can be made, if desired. To facilitate identification of these dried specimens, photos are available on of each species and these illustrate the habitat, habit, and diagnostic traits.

Lab items

In addition to your copy of Lesica, I strongly encourage you to have at each lecture-lab a hand lens, which can be purchased at the MSU Bookstore, Amazon, or the Herbarium Supply Company. You might also consider bringing forceps, needles, razor blades, or pocket knives for plant dissections. Tape or glue and botanical paper are suggested if you are making reference specimens. In addition to the MSU Bookstore, Bozeman’s Herbarium Supply Company has a great selection of equipment related to plant collection, identification, and specimen preservation.

Important websites

  • Flickr collection of albums for the Plant Systematics course, BIOO 435.
  • Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria. Search for images of herbarium specimens for all Montana plant species, view images, and download CSV files of selected data. This database includes all Montana specimens housed in the Montana State University Herbarium.
  • High Country Apps offers a great selection of regional plant identification apps, including Montana Grasses and Flora of the Yellowstone Region, which include many of the common species we will study during this course.
  • USDA NRCS Plants Database provides geographic, ecological, and taxonomic information for plant species. This site also provides the common and symbol (or code) name for each plant species. This site is best accessed through a Google search of scientific names because any misspellings will be corrected.
  • TreeLibA high-quality tree database for educators, students and lay persons.
  • These line drawings introduce some basic terminology used in angiosperm taxonomy: 123456