Instructor and contact information

Matt Lavin, 308 PBB (office in Plant Bioscience Building) and 408 Lewis Hall (MSU herbarium), email.
Lecture & Lab: Mondays 12:00-1:00 PM or 3:00-4:00 PM plus online
Locations: 307 Lewis Hall, which is available 11AM-5PM on Mondays. Perhaps field locations in Bozeman.
Office hours: Mondays 10AM-12N in 307 and 408 Lewis Hall and by appointment (email).
Course announcements posted to Brightspace by D2L.

Purpose of course

The Plant Systematics course provides students with a high level of hands on experience by working with specimens that represent 150-200 of the most common plant species in Montana and adjacent states. Students will work each species through dichotomous taxonomic keys with an emphasis on distilling the essential defining traits for each species, as well as for the genus and the family to which each species belongs. Students have the option of creating a reference collections of all the plant specimens provided to them such that they have that collection for future reference after the course ends.

Course learning outcomes

Students will be able to: 1) relate botanical terminology with plant morphology in order to use dichotomous taxonomic keys; 2) identify 150-200 of the most common plant species in Montana by combining sight identification with the use of dichotomous taxonomic keys; 3) use dichotomous taxonomic keys to distill the defining traits of plant families, genera, and species; 4) predict the generalized habitat of a plant species from its membership in a plant genus or family.

Prerequisites

A background in general botany including plant anatomy, morphology, physiology, and basic plant identification (e.g., as provided by BIOO 230, Identification of Seed Plants) or a high degree of interest in learning to identify plant species.

Items needed for this course

Text, required: Manual of Montana Vascular Plants, by Peter Lesica.
Hand lens (purchased at the MSU Bookstore, the Herbarium Supply Company, or at Amazon).
Forceps, needle, razor blade, or pocket knife for plant dissections.
Tape (or glue) and botanical paper (or any 8.5x11" paper) if you are making reference specimens.

Schedule of lecture-labs

Italic font not used in compliance with web accessibility

17 August: In class,Ranunculaceae and Berberidaceae will be provided and introduced; Online, dichotomous key questions will be answered for each specimen and these due by the following Monday at 10PM.
24 August: In class, specimens of Rosaceae will be provided and introduced; Online, dichotomous key questions will beansweredfor each specimen and these due by the following Monday at 10PM. An online plant identification quiz will be available from 3-10PM and these will involve specimens of Ranunculaceae and Berberidaceae from the previous week.
31 August: In class, specimens of Salicaceaewill be provided and introduced; Online, dichotomous key questions will beansweredfor each specimen and these due by Monday 14 September at 10PM. An online plant identification quiz will be available from 3-10PM and these will involve specimens of Rosaceae from the previous week.
7 September: Memorial Day, no class.
14 September: In class, specimens of Dipsacaceae and Asteraceae will be provided and introduced; Online, dichotomous key questions will beansweredfor each specimen and these due by the following Monday at 10PM. An online plant identification quiz will be available from 3-10PM and these will involve specimens of Salicaceae from 31 August.
21 September: In class, specimens of Artemisia and shrubby Asteraceae willbe provided and introduced; Online, dichotomous key questions will beansweredfor each specimen and these due by the following Monday at 10PM. An online plant identification quiz will be available from 3-10PM and these will involve specimens of Dipsacaceae and Asteraceae from the previous week.
28 September: In class, specimens of Cleomaceae and Brassicaceae will be provided and introduced; Online, dichotomous key questions will beansweredfor each specimen and these due by the following Monday at 10PM. An online plant identification quiz will be available from 3-10PM and these will involve specimens of Artemisia and shrubby Asteraceae from the previous week.
5 October: In class, specimens of Sarcobataceae and Amaranthaceae will be provided and introduced; Online, dichotomous key questions will beansweredfor each specimen and these due by the following Monday at 10PM. An online plant identification quiz will be available from 3-10PM and these will involve specimens of Brassicaceae and Cleomaceae from the previous week.
12 OctoberIn class, specimens ofElaeagnaceae andPolygonaceae willbe provided and introduced; Online, dichotomous key questions will beansweredfor each specimen and these due by the following Monday at 10PM. An online plant identification quiz will be available from 3-10PM and these will involve specimens of Sarcobataceae and Amaranthaceae from the previous week.
19 October: In class, specimens of Fabaceaewillbe provided and introduced; Online, dichotomous key questions will beansweredfor each specimen and these due by the following Monday at 10PM. An online plant identification quiz will be available from 3-10PM and these will involve specimens of Elaeagnaceae and Polygonaceae from the previous week.
26 October: In class, specimens of Anacardiaceae, Apiaceae, Euphorbiaceae, and Orobanchaceaewillbe provided and introduced; Online, dichotomous key questions will beansweredfor each specimen and these due by the following Monday at 10PM. An online plant identification quiz will be available from 3-10PM and these will involve specimens of Fabaceae from the previous week.
2 November: In class, specimens of additional Asteraceae will beprovided and introduced; Online, dichotomous key questions will beansweredfor each specimen and these due by the following Monday at 10PM. An online plant identification quiz will be available from 3-10PM and these will involve specimens of Anacardiaceae, Apiaceae, Euphorbiaceae, and Orobanchaceae from the previous week.
9 November: In class, specimens of Santalaceae and miscellaneous other plant families will be providedand introduced; Online, dichotomous key questions will beansweredfor each specimen and these due by the the following Monday at 10PM. An online plant identification quiz will be available from 3-10PM and these will involve specimens of Asteraceae from the previous week.
16 November: In class, specimens of Caryophyllaceae and succulent plant families will be provided and introduced; Online, dichotomous key questions will beansweredfor each specimen and these due by the following Monday at 10PM. An online plant identification quiz will be available from 3-10PM and these will involve specimens of Santalaceae and miscellaneous other plant families from the previous week.
23 NovemberOnline, an online plant identification quiz will be availablefrom Friday 8AM (20 Nov) through Monday 10PM (23 Nov) and these will involve specimens of Caryophyllaceae and succulent plant families from the 16 November lecture lab.

Class protocol

Every Monday from 12N-1PM (surnames beginning with A-McL) or from 3-4PM (surnames beginning with McN-Z), I will introduce a set of up-to-15 plant species that are common throughout Montana and adjacent states. I will present the taxonomic and ecological features of a subset of these species, which will represent the plant families and genera introduced for the day. WIth plant specimens, a hand lens (or dissection scope), and a copy of Lesica’s book in hand, we will go through the dichotomous keys in Lesica in a reverse and forward manner. The intent here is for you to learn how to distill the essential defining traits of species, genera, and families. The intent also is for you to create mental landmarks with each of these common plant species and use those mental landmarks to learn how to use dichotomous keys with greater ease. For the subset of the ~15 species that we do not cover in class, you will have opportunity in the lab at other times or after class to study these, in part by using the study questions on D2L designed to let you work your specimens through dichotomous keys.

Plant specimens

We will identify over 30 families, 90 genera, and 150-200 species of native and introduced flowering plants, all common to Montana and adjacent states. I will provide specimens for most if not all of these species. These will be pressed and dried and handed out to each student. Students will have the option of making a reference collection, which they can take with them for future reference after the completion of the course.

Course grading policies

The final grade will derive from the scores of 13 plant identification quizzes (20 points each) and 14 sets of dichotomous key questions (20 points each). The 13 identification quizzes and the 14 sets of dichotomous key questions are both online. Quizzes and exams will not be held in class.The identification quizzes and the sets ofdichotomous key questions are designed to have students work a plant specimen or image through dichotomous taxonomic keys in Lesica's book so that the defining characters of a species, genus, and plant family can be distilled.

Plant identification quizzes will involve identifying the family, genus, species, and habitat of each species from the preceding week. Dichotomous key questions will guide students through the dichotomous keys by answering specific questions pertaining to specimens provided during the current week. For both the identification quizzes and the sets of dichotomous key questions, students will use a hand lens (or dissection scope), a dissection tool, and their copy of Lesica's Manual of Montana Vascular Plants.

Identification quizzes and sets of dichotomous key questions have weekly due dates in order to maintain course flow and a pattern of regular study of plant specimens. The identification quiz will be available Monday afternoon from 12N-5PM and cover the plant specimens handed out during the prior week. The dichotomous key questions will be due the Monday at 12 N on the week following when specimens were provided.

Grades will be assigned from the percent of points scored out of the total 540 points, 260 from the 13 plant identification quizzes (13 X 20 = 260) and 280 from the 14 sets of dichotomous key questions (14 X 20 = 280). Grade categories will follow (no minus or plus grade categories):
A - 90-100%
B - 79-89%
C - 68-78%
D - 57-67%
F - below 57%

Course evaluation by students

The IDEA course evaluation is open and available for students for a few weeks prior to finals week each semester. Please take a moment to participate in evaluating your course. Mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, iPods, etc. can be used to access the surveys. You can complete course surveys by accessing the following link: https://montana.campuslabs.com/eval-home/. You may log in with your NetID and password or you may go through the link in D2L. You will receive a notification and email reminders to complete your course surveys but class reminders can be helpful.

Wearing face coverings (masks) in classrooms is required

Face covering means a fabric, paper, or disposable face covering that covers the nose and mouth and which does not have an exhalation valve. Face coverings are required in all indoor spaces and all enclosed or partially enclosed outdoor spaces. MSU requires all students to wear face masks or cloth face coverings in classrooms, laboratories and other similar spaces where in-person instruction occurs. MSU requires the wearing of masks in physical classrooms to help mitigate the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. The MSU community views the adoption of these practices as a mark of good citizenship and respectful care of fellow classmates, faculty, and staff. Complete details about MSU’s mask requirement can be found at https://www.montana.edu/health/coronavirus/index.html. These requirements from the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education are detailed in the MUS Healthy Fall 2020 Guidelines, Appendix B. For more information: https://www.montana.edu/health/coronavirus/prevention/index.html.

Accommodations for not wearing a face covering

Individuals whose unique and individual circumstances require an exception to the face covering requirement, as indicated by a medical professional, may request one in accordance with the campus ADA policies. Students should contact the Office of Disability Services at 994-2824 or [email protected] It is strongly recommended that students make contact prior to arriving on campus in order to provide adequate time for their request to be evaluated.

Heath-related class absences

Please evaluate your own health status regularly and refrain from attending class and other on-campus events if you are ill. Students who miss class due to illness will have plenty of opportunity to access course materials online. If you are concerned about missing a class, please contact me by email as soon as practical so that I can address your concerns. Documentation such as a "Doctor’s note" for medical excuses is NOT required. Please note that the MSU University Health Partners - as part their commitment to maintain patient confidentiality, to encourage more appropriate use of healthcare resources, and to support meaningful dialogue between instructors and students - does not provide such documentation.

Diversity statement

It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well-served by this course, that students' learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is my intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, religion, culture, perspective, and other background characteristics. Your suggestions about how to improve the value of diversity in this course are encouraged and appreciated. Please let me know ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally or for other students or student groups. In addition, in scheduling exams, I have attempted to avoid conflicts with major religious holidays. If, however, I have inadvertently scheduled an exam that creates a conflict with your religious observances, please let me know so that I can make alternative arrangements.

Inclusivity statement

I support an inclusive learning environment where diversity and individual differences are understood, respected, appreciated, and recognized as a source of strength. I expect that students, faculty, administrators and staff at MSU will respect differences and demonstrate diligence in understanding how other peoples' perspectives, behaviors, and worldviews may be different from their own. If you are a student with a disability and wish to use your approved accommodations for this course, please contact me via email and if needed we can arrange a meeting. Please have your Accommodation Notification or Blue Card available for verification of accommodations. Accommodations are approved through the Office of Disability Services located in SUB 174.

Field sites in Bozeman

A potential alternative to the lab inside 307 Lewis Hall, we may instead use sites along the trail systems in southeast Bozeman to meet up at 12N-2PM or 3-5PM to work plant species growing along the trail systems through the dichotomous keys in Lesica. Such field excursions will be announced the week before and be dependent primarily on the flowering and fruiting condition of plant species along the trails and secondarily on good weather. Unfortunately, these trails are heavily used during weekday afternoons, according to my regular inspection of Burke Park and the Gallagator Trail. We don't want to add to this congestion, so it appears that during the COVID-19 pandemic, we won't be visiting these field sites. Regardless, the two primary sites can be visited on your own time and I include a list of the plants from these two sites.

  • Gallagator Trail with mostly riparian and wetland plants: plant list
  • Burke Park ridge and west facing slopes with mostly rangeland plants: plant list

Relevant websites

  • Flickr collection of albums for the Plant Systematics course, BIOO 435.
  • Angiosperm phylogeny website has the latest in higher plant land plant classification.
  • 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.
  • Wikipedia has a comprehensive Glossary of Botanical Terms. Search Google for "botanical terms" or for a specific botanical term (e.g., acaulescent, sericeous).
  • TreeLibA high-quality tree database for educators, students and lay persons.
  • Herbarium Supply Company (located in Bozeman!) has a great selection of equipment related to plant collection, identification, and preservation of plant specimens.
  • Line illustrations of basic plant terminology: 1234