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Skidmore College
Biology Department

Discover the Kingdom of Plants

Plants create both the subtle and essential basis of our lives. We mark the changes of seasons with them. We adorn our public and private spaces with them. We cultivate them for food, building material and clothing. We derive vital medicines from them. They are the basis of our food chain and the source of oxygen that we breathe.

Fungi are cryptic organisms that affect our lives in very important ways. We use them for the making of bread and the fermentation of beer and wine. They provide us with unique asortments of mushrooms and puffballs, some of which are delectable while others are deadly poisonous. They provide us with antibiotics and some of them are terrible pathogens of plants and animals.

Welcome to the world of plants and fungi. Learn more about these diverse and enthralling kingdoms. Take courses in plant biology (which includes fungi). Open your mind to these diverse kingdoms and you will enter a world of fascination and amazement. 

Some interesting facts about plants and fungi:

  • 98% of the total biomass of our planet is plant-derived!

  • The second largest commodity (i.e., tradable item) for humankind today is a plant resource. It's coffee.

  • The recent International Congress of Botany has now classified plants into three kingdoms: land plants/green algae, the brown algae and the red algae. The kingdom of fungi is believed to be more closely related to animals than plants!! Read "Nature", vol. 400, 1999, page 602 for more details.

  • To help wean Civil War soldiers off morphine (an alkaloid from Papaver, the opium poppy), 19th century physicians used heroin!

  • It took 147 biologists working in 35 labs in 17 countries to work out the DNA sequence of just one chromosome of yeast.

  • The rust fungus, Puccinia, causes billions of dollars of damage to important grain crops and you are paying for it in higher cereal costs.

  • Did you know that two of biology's greatest scientists, Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel trained as botanists?

  • Want to learn more? Take plant biology courses.

The future of botany and mycology

The future is certainly very bright for botanists and mycologists. In the November 11, 1999 issue of Nature, a major article revealed that universities truly need well-trained botanists. What are some of the goals of botany/mycology in the years to come:

  1. To help identify and safeguard various plant species from rainforests and other biomes in order to preserve biodiversity and explore potential medicinal uses of such plants.

  2. To produce plants that can better resist drought, disease, herbicides and insects. 

  3. To genetically "design" plants and fungi to make vitamins and drugs. 

  4. To learn about the rich evolutionary history of plant life using modern cellular and molecular techniques. 

  5. To increase yields of plant fibers for the textile industry and explore the increasing usage of mucilages from seaweeds in foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals. 

  6. To use plants to make a cleaner environment (bioremediation), to make biodegradable plastic and allergy-free fragrances. 

  7. To obtain higher yields of agricultural plants with higher nutritional value. 

  8. To better use fungi in fermentation processes and the production of alternative fuels. 

  9. And much, much more. 

Botany and Mycology are in their golden eras.