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Dr M’s eXtreme botany quiz

So once again a new botanical term has dawned and Dr M’s eager new MSc students (pictured above) have arrived at the University of Reading to study on the twin MSc’s: Plant Diversity and SISS.

And from the four corners of the globe they come, well to be precise from Britain, Ireland, Brazil, China, France and Saudi Arabia, not bad going though!

They were naturally welcomed onto Dr M’s signature module “Vegetation survey and assessment” with open arms and, of course, with a kick off plant ID test!

During the first session they were presented with fifteen plants and Dr M was at pains to point out that correct plant ID, though welcomed, was not the prime aim of the exercise, rather Dr M encouraged students to look carefully at the plants and write down the possible features which might be valuable for their ID.

So even if a student had no idea what the plant was (and some students have not studied much UK botany or any botany before) marks can be gained by noting ID features such as compound or simple leaves, opposite or alternate leaves, presence of tendrils, stipules and Dr M’s colleague Alastair Culham’s favourite botanical character: the scent of a plant – the secret botanical smells and aromas that give the botanical game away for those with noses to sniff as well as eyes to see!

After the test Dr M processed the results and fed them back promptly to students. These are valuable pedagogic data which provide a baseline view, both of individual students, and of the class as a whole.

This baseline can be used by students and by Dr M to evaluate individual and group progress and to set teaching and learning targets to ensure maximum learning over the coming botanical weeks and months in the lives of Dr M’s students.

Of course there is no resting on botanical laurels (and laurel is of course botanical) but rather onwards and upwards and week two of VSA sees more open arms and, of course, another test!  This time it’s a first for Dr M’s module, it’s an eXtreme botany test!

Dr M says: For those few of you who have not yet encountered the global phenomenon which is Dr M’s eXtreme botany, check it out here.

OK so eXtreme botany is eXtreme botany, but what exactly is an eXtreme botany test?

Well, it could be any number of botanically challenging things, but in this instance, rather than having a set of whole plants to ID, the eXtreme botany test involves fifteen bits and pieces of plants for students to ID; botanical delight, delectation and edification indeed!

Again students are encouraged to look carefully, learning to be botanically observant is a critical part of the skill of plant ID.

So, students are confronted by some plant part with no clue what it is, and then the real excitement builds as they peer closely at it and revel in the fun and games of trying to work out what it might be and to what it might belong!

Dr M says: Like the sound of it?

OK, here’s a selection of images of botanical bits and pieces for you to try your hand at your own piece of eXtreme botany!

Remember to click each image twice to get the best magnification and when you have had a go check the answers here.



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