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What is Botany?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Botany is a branch of biology which involves the study of plants. Botany is one of the oldest sciences in the world, with recorded examples of botanical research and exploration dating back thousands of years. Humans interact with and use plants in a wide variety of ways, making it unsurprising that they have dedicated a great deal of energy to learning more about them, with the earliest attempts focused on finding plants which were safe to eat, while modern botany encompasses a range of activities.

There are a number of subfields within the larger field of botany, including plant taxonomy, plant pathology, phytoanatomy, plant genetics, phytochemistry, paleobotany, and ethnobotany. These fields of study range from research on plants which existed in earlier eras in the Earth's geologic history to investigations of plants which are used in traditional medicine, with the goal of learning how these plants work and how they might be applied to mainstream pharmaceuticals.

Botanists can have varying degrees of education, ranging from bachelor's degree in botany or related subjects to post-doctoral work which involves extensive research. Some botanists work in the lab, examining the structure of plants and using tools like molecular chemistry to understand the building blocks of plant life. Other botanists work in the field, looking for new species, studying plant ecology, and running experiments with living plants.

Employment in this field can be found in a number of settings, including colleges and universities, pharmaceutical companies, environmental organizations, public health agencies, and nature centers, among many others. Botanists are often involved in crop research and other agricultural topics, and they may work with people like foresters, agronomists, meteorologists, geologists, and many other science professionals in the course of their work.

Because plants play such an important role in human societies, botanists have a wealth of material to work with. In addition to being involved in the sciences, botanists are also involved in the study of social aspects of plant life, such as the use of entheogens, superstitions about specific plant species, and the history of farming.

Many colleges have programs which offer a degree in botany to students who are interested. Many of these schools have attached arboretums with living plant samples, along with research facilities which can be used by students. People who are interested in particular topics within the broad field of botany would do well to research colleges in advance so that they can find an institution which will offer training in their subject of interest, especially if it is complex or obscure.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By bythewell — On May 17, 2011

Plants are so deeply involved in all aspects of our lives, whether positive or negative. I imagine the amount of jobs in botany will increase in coming years.

One sign of this is the seed banks that many governments are now putting together, to ensure that they don't lose heirloom genetics. Also the many plants that are being investigated as biofuels. It's a fascinating subject and one well worth pursuing as a career.

By irontoenail — On May 16, 2011

Botany can also be studied with another subject like business, or even law, to open up future job possibilities.

A person who studies botany and business, for example, might be more likely to be able to move into different areas once they start working for a lab, like researching grants or supervising a team, and so on.

Being able to understand and do a wide variety of work within the lab, which is usually run like a business, can eventually lead to being promoted, as you will be able to see and work towards the bigger picture.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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