A Career in Botany

What is Botany?

Botany, also known as plant biology, is the study of plants. It is a scientific discipline based on observation, experimentation, recording, classification, and the testing of hypotheses, a process called the scientific method. There are many sub-disciplines of botany, such as plant taxonomy, genetics, plant ecology, economic botany, horticulture, and plant anatomy.

What Do Botanists Do?

Botanists work all over the world both indoors and outdoors in many different jobs. One of the important things botanists do is identify new plants. Since there are over 250,000 species of flowering plants on earth, it is necessary to have a system for organizing similar plants together, while being able to distinguish one from another. Plant taxonomists collect, describe, classify, identify, and name plants.
They organize plants based on characteristics such as leaf arrangement, flower color, fruit shape, or the type of hairs on a leaf. They are grouped into families, genera, and species, and then they are each given a unique Latin name made up of the genus and species, e.g., Salvia (genus name) apiana (species name). This system of binomial nomenclature (two names) is based on one devised by Swedish scientist Carolus Linnaeus in the 18th century.
Botanists such as plant ecologists study the relationship between plants and the habitats in which they live, sometimes in an effort to study how plants relate to other organisms or to record the biodiversity of an area and the effects of climate change and development on the number of species. Botanists often collect plants to use and study as a permanent record of a particular place and time. Collected plants are dried, labeled, and stored in an herbarium for hundreds of years, where they are available for future scientists to study.
Sometimes, botanists want to study the structure of an individual plant part or the tissues and cells of a plant in order to understand how the cells and tissues function, how disease affects a plant, or what makes one plant better for breeding than another. This is the work of plant anatomists, who take small pieces of a dried or live plant and study them under a microscope.
Economic botanists study plants that are useful to people and society, whether they be used for food, fiber, dyes, medicine, or building materials. Some botanists, who like to grow fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants, work in the fields of horticulture or agriculture.

There are so many things you can do if you want to be a botanist! One of the best places to learn about a career in botany is the Botanical Society of America.