Plants and fungi in the field

The focus of this class is on the diversity and importance of plants and fungi in ecosystems, and hence their importance to us humans. It is an intensive class, earning 2 college credits in 4 weeks rather than the usual 15. This means that you need to think of yourself as being enrolled for 7.5 credits during these 4 weeks. In addition to scheduled class time, you should be prepared to spend an additional 15-25 hours per week in study, the amount varying because of your different backgrounds and abilities.

The first three weeks will emphasize learning about diversity by learning to identify plants and fungi; in the last week we focus more on measuring diversity and the impact of environmental changes on ecosystem diversity.

Instructors: Mary Barkworth ( (weeks 1, 3, and 4); Brad Kropp (week 2).


The class meets from 8.40 am to noon, Monday through Thursday.

Please be on time for class. We shall be in the field on the first two Wednesdays, the third Thursday, and the fourth Tuesday. Be appropriately dressed and equipped. Equipment needed includes field notebooks, pencils, and water.


There is major assignment: a collection. It must be handed in by Friday, June 5, at 5 pm. It will be worth 30% of your grade. You should plan on spending time in the herbarium working on it.

First class day of the week: There will be small assignments given at the end of the first class day of each week that we shall record and give back to you on the third class day of the week. Their purpose is to help both you and us know whether you have understood the introductory material. With only four weeks, it is imperative that problems be clarified as soon as possible. Because of their purpose, we shall only score them out of 2 (completed - apparently with an honest attempt at good answers -2 points; turned in but apparently dashed off at the last minute or with minimal effort-1 point; not turned in - 0 points. We shall make a note on them if we see something that indicates you should ask for further clarification or assistance. Please do follow through on this.

Third class day: There will be three written assignments given to you on the third class day of the first three weeks. These will be due in on the first class day of the next week.

Fourth day of the week: There will be 1 hour test during the last hour of the fourth day of each of the first three weeks. The review tests will be on the material of the past week. Part of their function is to provide you with a taste of the kinds of questions that might appear on the final exam. They will may include some practical work - but it may be through slides and diargrams rather than actual specimens because of the time involved. Working on your collections should give you lotsof hands on experience. There will be no makeup tests unless your absence is the result of an emergency. Stay healthy.

The final exam will be given on Thursday, June 4. It will be a written exam that will require short paragraphs and sentences as well as diagrams. It will draw on material from the whole of the course.

Weighting for grades:

10% Monday assignments; 20% written assignments ; 20% weekly review tests; 30% collection; 20% final exam.

Course outline

Week 1 Introduction and Plants part 1: Angiosperms (Dr. Mary E. Barkworth)

Ecosystems, taxonomy, class focus

Flowering plants: where they came from, what enabled them to out-compete their predecessors, requirements, adaptations.

Three presentations available: Introduction, Vegetative structure; Floral structure

Week 2 Fungi (Dr. Bradley R. Kropp)

Fungi: overview of diversity, how they interact with other organisms, adaptations

Week 3 Plants part 2: Bryophytes (Dr. Mary E. Barkworth)

Mosses and liverworts: characteristics, adaptations, how they have hung on for all these years.

Week 4 Plants and fungi in ecosystems (Dr. Mary E. Barkworth)

Measuring diversity; impact of environmental changes.