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Plant Science: An Introduction to Botany

Learn to see and appreciate the amazing plants all around you, guided by a renowned Professor of Biology.
Plant Science: An Introduction to Botany is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 150.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Top Quality Instructor I loved everything about this course, especially the excitement and silly humor from the instructor. She is the best female instructor I've had so far from the Great Courses.
Date published: 2024-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from In a Nutshell, Just Peachy in Spite of Corny Jokes Professor Klein would like the title. When I started watching this course, I was a bit disoriented as there did not seem to be a clear path from A to B to C, etc. It was like walking around a demonstration garden that has no pathways to insure that everything is visited. And Dr. Klein has a penchant for telling silly jokes that may get a better response from her students than they did from the camera. But I acclimated and found I was enjoying the lectures more and more as they were so full of fascinating plants and facts, and great photos. I’m going to admit that I started to gloss some of the more technical material – the chemistry of C3 vs. C4 photosynthesis, etc. After all, I don’t have to pass an exam. I really enjoyed what I consider to be many topical chapters which can easily stand alone and be viewed in a rather random order. That being said, if you want to approach this as a course in botany, I suggest getting the basics of Roots, Stems, Leaves, and Photosynthesis before wandering around. (I compared this course to a massive introductory botany textbook. I think Dr. Klein did a brilliant job of digesting the critical information for the general public.) If you are simply interested in plants in general, this can be viewed as a smorgasbord – pick your pleasure. My appreciation for Dr. Klein’s knowledge and teaching skills grew as the course progressed. She presented the material clearly, made useful, and often amusing analogies, and supplemented lectures with clear and comprehensible diagrams that stayed on the screen long enough to be studied. Dr. Klein also has the best relationship to the camera that I’ve seen from a TGC presenter. She always addressed the cameras and appeared to be spontaneous rather than following a teleprompter. The guidebook is excellent. It covers the salient points from the lectures, includes the essential diagrams, and suggests a few relevant books at the end of each Lecture. In the bibliography, she recommends David Attenborough’s The Private Life of Plants, and so do I.
Date published: 2023-10-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent course! I very much enjoyed this course. Catherine Kleier is an animated, enthusiastic and knowledgeable lecturer who presents an excellent introductory course to the vast field of botany. She has a particular sense of humour which apparently doesn't appeal to all reviewers, but I found her corny jokes rather endearing. I imagine she's very popular with her students at college and keeps their attention during lectures. In some respects, the course covered too much ground, and personally I would have preferred more depth on some of the basics, especially at the molecular and cellular level, at the expense of less coverage. Catherine also had to rattle through the course at a rate of knots to fit so much material into 24 lectures. I also thought that the course was very USA-centred with Catherine assuming that she had an almost exclusively US audience. This also comes across in her use of Fahrenheit and feet and inches, rather than the metric system, which is the preferred system in most of the world as well as being the units of science.
Date published: 2023-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clear and thorough Especially liked the clear description of the chemistry of photosynthesis
Date published: 2023-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great course I greatly enjoyed this course; it was an excellent introduction to this wonderful field which I am quite ignorant about. This material I learnt from this course will enhance my enjoyment and appreciation of the world around me. The professor is very knowledgeable and likable. Her explanation and clarification of every term, not just in the jargon of botany, but of many scientific concepts were very helpful. Her enthusiasm and love of her subject matter make her fun to listen to. I strongly recommend this course; it was a wonderful experience that is life enriching.
Date published: 2022-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Introduction to Botany is science well taught! Professor Kleier is animated, exciting and obviously, thoroughly knowledgeable. This course is extremely engaging ... quite frankly the best of The Great Courses I have purchased!
Date published: 2022-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Introduction to Botany Professor Catherine Kleier explained botany with verve and precision. Course was very interesting. I will recommend it to any person interested in plants.
Date published: 2022-08-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Basic Introduction with flaws The program organization is good following the evolution of plants and interweaving the physiological knowledge along the way. However, a few inaccuracies stumped my opinion and the evaluation of the course: taxol is produced by a fungus growing underneath the bark of the yew tree and not by the yew tree itself. And as per multiple research projects it's not the imitation male scent that attracts pigs and dogs to sniff out truffles. A shallow wide web of roots in desert plants conceivable maximizes the intake of water provided by short desert rains before the water evaporates and is therefore not counter-intuitive at all. These and a few other hiccups makes me wonder what inaccuracies were provided in the material I am not as familiar.
Date published: 2022-05-18
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If you look around right now, chances are you'll see a plant. It could be a succulent in a pot on your desk, grasses or shrubs just outside your door, or trees in a park across the way. Proximity to plants tends to make us happy, even if we don't notice, offering unique pleasures and satisfactions. In Plant Science: An Introduction to Botany, Dr. Catherine Kleier opens our eyes to the phenomenal and exciting world of plant life as she stresses the basic biology, function, and the amazing adaptations of plants.


Catherine Kleier

Our lives are intimately bound up in the world of plants. We are dependent on plants for the very oxygen we breathe and everything we eat come either directly or indirectly from plants.


California State Polytechnic University

Catherine Kleier is the Associate Dean of Faculty in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences at California Polytechnic State University. Prior to that, she was a Professor of Biology at Regis University in Denver, Colorado, where she taught courses on general biology, botany, and ecology. She holds a PhD in Organismic Biology, Ecology, and Evolution from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Professor Kleier was awarded a National Geographic Society/Waitt Grant in 2011 to travel to northern Chile to explore populations of a rare, giant alpine cushion plant, Azorella compacta. In 2013, she was a Visiting Fulbright Scholar in the Department of Botany at the University of Otago in New Zealand, where she investigated facilitation in the alpine cushion plant genus Raoulia. In 2014, she was elected Faculty Lecturer of the Year at Regis University, and in 2015, she was named the Colorado Professor of the Year, sponsored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Professor Kleier is also the presenter of the Great Course Plant Science: An Introduction to Botany.

By This Professor

Plant Science: An Introduction to Botany
The Botanist's Eye: Identifying the Plants around You
Plant Science: An Introduction to Botany


The Joy of Botany

01: The Joy of Botany

Although almost every child knows the difference between an elephant and a giraffe, few people of any age can name the plants they see out their window every single day. Solve this "plant blindness" by learning about the fascinating lifeforms to whom we owe so much: oxygen, food, medicine, materials-but also fascination and joy.

30 min
Plants Are like People

02: Plants Are like People

Although our biology is significantly different than that of plants, scientists are discovering more and more similarities. We share quite a bit of DNA, thrive in moderate temperatures, have a circadian rhythm of rest and activity, require water for life, and can sense our environment and respond. Some scientists suggest that plants might even have developed a type of "hearing."...

31 min
Moss Sex and Peat's Engineered Habitat

03: Moss Sex and Peat's Engineered Habitat

More than 425 million years ago, a group of plants called bryophytes developed two special adaptations that allowed them to inhabit dry land. Why are these early plants still so important today, both environmentally and commercially? And how does one of these most ancient species engineer its own habitat to the exclusion of more modern competitors?...

35 min
Fern Spores and the Vascular Conquest of Land

04: Fern Spores and the Vascular Conquest of Land

Botanists still struggle to unravel the full evolutionary history of ferns, hardy plants of staggering reproductive and colonization power. With billions of lightweight spores produced by each individual and the vasculature to transport nutrients throughout the plant, ferns are found in low-light and bright-light environments from the arctic regions to the tropics....

30 min
Roots and Symbiosis with Non-Plants

05: Roots and Symbiosis with Non-Plants

Photosynthesis might be the "star," but what takes place under the soil is just as imperative for plant survival. In fact, the root is so important that it's the first evidence of germination in the seed. Learn how roots physically support the plant, absorb water and minerals, and store carbohydrates, almost always relying on symbiosis with bacteria and fungi.

32 min
Stems Are More Than Just the In-Between

06: Stems Are More Than Just the In-Between

Learn how the pressure flow hypothesis models the movement of sugars through the plant's phloem and xylem, and what plant structures determine whether the organism will grow in height, girth, or both. And while the stem functions to support the plant's branches and leaves, in some plants the stem is also the site of photosynthesis....

30 min
The Leaf as a Biochemical Factory

07: The Leaf as a Biochemical Factory

Plants "know" when to shed their leaves or grow new ones via the same mechanism that causes the many developmental changes in our own bodies: hormones. Learn about the hormones that affect leaf growth and abscission -- and the role played by Charles Darwin in their discovery....

32 min
Photosynthesis Everyone Should Understand

08: Photosynthesis Everyone Should Understand

Green plants generate their mass-whether the mass of the smallest blade of grass or the tallest tree on Earth-by synthesizing food from carbon dioxide and water via the energy from sunlight with the help of appropriate enzymes. See how the fascinating details of photosynthesis separate the plants from the animals....

31 min
Days and Years in the Lives of Plants

09: Days and Years in the Lives of Plants

How do plants "choose" the best time to flower? Do they sense the daylight hours becoming longer in the springtime? Or do they sense the nights becoming shorter? Learn which pigments interact with sunlight to serve as chemical clocks for flowering plants and what roles are played by messenger RNA and temperature-including their part in climate change....

32 min
Advent of Seeds: Cycads and Ginkgoes

10: Advent of Seeds: Cycads and Ginkgoes

While spores have continued to provide effective reproduction through the millennia, evolution has led to several successful alternatives. In a little package of embryonic roots, stems, leaves, and nourishment, a seed offers the ability to lie dormant until conditions are right for the highest chance of survival. Learn about the unique properties of the cycads, gingkos, and gnetophytes...

29 min
Why Conifers Are Holiday Plants

11: Why Conifers Are Holiday Plants

Meet the conifers, well-adapted to snow, wind, fire, and low-nutrient soils. Learn how the unique properties of conifers allow them to claim the largest forest on Earth, the oldest living tree, and the tallest plant-with a growth rate of up to six feet per year. Conifers are also the source of one of the most prescribed cancer drugs on the market.

30 min
Secrets of Flower Power

12: Secrets of Flower Power

Flowering plants arrived relatively late in geological time, between 290 to 145 million years ago. But once here, they evolved quickly and often displaced many other types of plants. In fact, in terms of species, flowering plants are the dominant plant form on Earth today with more than 300,000 types. Learn how their unique reproductive mechanisms led to this explosion of speciat...

33 min
The Coevolution of Who Pollinates Whom

13: The Coevolution of Who Pollinates Whom

Which came first-the pollen or the pollinator? Learn about the special evolutionary relationship between specific flowers and the insects, birds, and mammals that play a necessary role in plant reproduction. The flowers' morphology, color, and quality and quantity of scent are all related to "their" animals' body shape, sense organs, method of movement, and more in this never-ending co...

31 min
The Many Forms of Fruit: Tomatoes to Peanuts

14: The Many Forms of Fruit: Tomatoes to Peanuts

If you think you know the difference between a fruit, a nut, and a fungus-think again. Learn the real difference between nuts, fruits, and seeds, and why so many foods we eat carry misleading common names. As for those beautiful and tasty fungi, you might be surprised to find out they have more in common with you than with plants!

30 min
Plant Seeds Get Around

15: Plant Seeds Get Around

The evolution of the seed was a major advantage for land plants. But unlike gymnosperms, the flowering plants produce a fruit around that seed, aiding in germination, dispersal, or both. Learn about the many fascinating ways seeds are dispersed-from animal deposition, to wind and water dispersal, to seed explosion.

30 min
Water Plants Came from Land

16: Water Plants Came from Land

Learn how seagrasses, mangroves, and other aquatic plants evolved to tolerate low light levels, anaerobic and nutrient-poor sediments, and the difficulty of getting CO2 into submerged leaves and stems. They also benefit surrounding ecosystems by keeping excess nutrients from the ocean, trapping river and ocean-floor sediments, and providing habitat and protection for animals.

30 min
Why the Tropics Have So Many Plant Species

17: Why the Tropics Have So Many Plant Species

From the shade-adapted plants living on the rainforest floor to the epiphytes in the top of the canopy-and the myriad plants and animals in between-tropical regions are the most diverse ecosystems on land. In fact, by some estimates, about 40 percent of all plants live in just the canopy of the tropical rainforest. Learn about the unique ways in which bromeliads, orchids, and lianas, a...

30 min
The Complexity of Grasses and Grasslands

18: The Complexity of Grasses and Grasslands

The grassland ecosystem-steppe, prairie, savanna, and rangeland-is found on every continent except Antarctica. Estimated to cover almost one-third of the land area of the planet, grasses developed unusual adaptations related to the location of their growth tissue and their specific mechanism of photosynthesis. Learn how these adaptations have allowed grasses to flourish and play a major role...

29 min
Shrublands of Roses and Wine

19: Shrublands of Roses and Wine

Not an herb and not a tree, shrubs' in-between status carries ecological advantages allowing them to grow almost everywhere-in the under-story of forests, above the tree line in alpine regions, and in the desert. Many are fire-adapted, some communicate through volatile organic compounds released by the leaves, and others exude chemicals from their roots that prevent other plants from growing nearb...

28 min
The Desert Bonanza of Plant Shapes

20: The Desert Bonanza of Plant Shapes

From tiny desert annuals, to 200-year-old 50-foot Saguaros, Joshua trees, and the baobab, deserts contain the largest variety of plant shapes on earth. Along with these multiple morphological adaptations to a lack of water, desert plants have also developed an alternative pathway to photosynthesis, opening their stomata at night, storing the CO2, and using it during the day with closed stoma...

32 min
How Temperate Trees Change Color and Grow

21: How Temperate Trees Change Color and Grow

Trees-the largest, oldest, and tallest organisms on planet Earth-are a wonderful example of convergent evolution, with the form showing up in hundreds of unrelated plant families. While many trees are evergreen and others are drought deciduous, temperate trees lose their leaves in the winter because the trade-off of keeping a leaf from freezing doesn't offset the photosynthetic gain. But eve...

31 min
Alpine Cold Makes Plants Do Funny Things

22: Alpine Cold Makes Plants Do Funny Things

Alpine plants face a short growing season, freezing nights almost year-round, extraordinarily high light levels on cloudless days, fierce wind, and severe lack of moisture in some locations. Learn how the unique rosette and cushion morphologies allow alpine plants to thrive in this environment-as well as provide a sheltered place for other plants to germinate-and how heliotropism aids in pol...

29 min
Bad Plants Aren't So Bad

23: Bad Plants Aren't So Bad

About 600 species of plants eat animals. Others are outfitted with poison-injecting hairs you do not want to trigger. One plant provides a home for ants-a wonderful symbiosis, but not great for the animals who stroll by and take a bite. And then there are the "everyday" poison oak, ivy, and sumac. But the real plants to fear? The invasive species that have taken over ...

30 min
Modifying the Genes of Plants

24: Modifying the Genes of Plants

Genetically modified organisms are in the news almost every day. They are lauded for solving numerous agricultural problems and reviled for their perceived "Frankenstein" nature. But what is the truth about GMOs? Learn what scientists have accomplished, what might be possible in the future, and the very real dilemmas we face in this brave new world of plant science.

40 min