Botany is the field of basic biological science that focuses on the study and inquiry into the growth, form, structure and function, development, diversity, reproduction, evolution, and uses of plants; and their interactions within the biosphere. The term botany derives from the Latin botanicus and the Greek botane, both meaning plant or herb. The field is known also as plant science, phytology, or plant biology. Additional foci include plant physiology and metabolism, diseases, phycology and mycology, chemical properties, taxonomy and systematics, molecular biology, and paleobotany.
Botany traces its beginnings to human activity designed to identify edible, medicinal and poisonous plants. It is one of the earliest sciences.
Poor indoor air quality has been linked to health problems. This article, written by Dr. Luz Claudio*, appeared first in Environmental Health Perspectives—the...
Madagascar dry deciduous forestsLast Updated on 2015-05-28 20:11:13
WWF Terrestrial Ecoregions Collection
The Madagascar dry deciduous forests of western Madagascar are some of the world’s most species rich and most distinctive tropical dry forests. They are characterized by very high local plant and animal endemism at the species, genera and family levels. A significant fraction of these dry forests have been previously cleared, and the remaining forests are fragmented and critically threatened by uncontrolled burning and cuttining for charcoal production, grazing and agriculture. Since human settlement of this region during the Holocene, an estimated 97 percent of the island’s dry deciduous western forests have been destroyed, and those remaining are extremely localized and fragmented. This ecoregion also contains spectacular limestone karst formations, known as tsingy, and their associated forests,... More »
Southern Africa bushveldLast Updated on 2015-05-02 20:03:07
WWF Terrestrial Ecoregions Collection
The Southern Africa bushveld is an element of the vast savannas that cover much of southern Africa. There is low endemism in this ecoregion for both flora or fauna, but the charismatic large mammals and rich birdlife characteristic of African savannas are in evidence. The rugged Waterberg Mountains contain the highest levels of species richness and endemism in the region, and are noted for their reptilian endemism. Cattle ranching and urban expansion from the nearby Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging complex are the major threats to the conservation of this ecoregion. However, ecotourism has become a major land-use commitment in the bushveld and has led to the establishment of a number of small nature reserves and private game parks, which augment the conservation status of this ecoregion.
The Southern... More »
CactusLast Updated on 2015-04-08 23:49:44Cactus is a family of plants that are specially adapted to survive arid conditions, most often having leaves reduced to spines, and succulent characteristics. The scientific family name Cactaceae is applied to this group comprising 121 different genera. This plant family is concentrated in the Americas and has a surprisingly broad latitude range in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
A considerable number of cacti species are threatened, chiefly due to habitat loss to agriculture, trampling by illegal human immigration into the southwestern USA, large-scale desert solar power projects, as well as overcollecting.
The cactus family is generally considered native to the Americas. A notable exception is Mistletoe cactus, Rhipsalis baccifera, which is thought to have spread, fairly recently, from the American tropics to the subtropics and the deserts of the... More »
Cactaceae: The cactus familyLast Updated on 2015-03-06 11:23:17The Cactaceae is a family belonging to the order Caryophyllales. Cacti typically are found in dry and arid desert or semi-desert regions with high average daytime temperatures and cold nights, and high evaporation rates. Cacti range from Canada to Argentina, predominantly occurring in the warm and arid reaches of the continents of both North and South America across a wide range of different habitats like deserts, sandy coastal stretches, scrublands, dry deciduous forests, high alpine steppes and tropical rain forests (Barthlott and Hunt, 1993; Gibson and Nobel, 1986; Nyffeler, 2001). The main diversity centers are Mexico and south-west USA, central Andes, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina with Mexico being the richest and most endemic region (Boyle and Anderson, 2002; Ortega-Baes and Godínez-Alvarez, 2006). The family is... More »
Combating Hopping PestsLast Updated on 2015-02-28 18:55:12The Mormon cricket is a voracious feeder that wipes out acres of grasses and field crops in no time. When it’s young, it grows so fast that its immune system cannot keep up. ARS scientists are finding that this may be the best time to use biocontrol fungi to target the insect pest.
New Hopes for Combating Hopping Pests
For many Americans, summertime means warm, sunny days spent by the pool or exploring the country and the world. But for farmers, ranchers, scientists, and state pest control organizations in the western half of the country, summer also means a chance of infestations of hopping pests, particularly grasshoppers and Mormon crickets.
Each adult female grasshopper can lay multiple egg pods—each containing many eggs—in one summer, which could greatly increase the population the next summer, after the eggs hatch. This compounding effect could lead... More »
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