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Plant Ecology BSC305

Study Plant Ecology

  • A foundation course for further learning or working in gardening, landscape design, permaculture, environmental management, biological sciences, agriculture, etc
  • Unrestricted access for support from a team of expert and highly qualified tutors across both Australia and the UK.
  • Start any time, study from anywheree, work at your own pace.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introductory Ecology
  2. Plant Communities
  3. Plants and their Environment
  4. Plants, Soils & Climate
  5. Plant Adaptations to Extreme Environments
  6. Manipulating Plant Environments
  7. Environmental Conservation
  8. Environmental Organisations, Assessment and Funding

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Define the term ecosystem
  • Explain the importance of plants as energy producers within ecosystems
  • Explain basic ecological principles
  • Define the terms open and closed plant communities, semi-natural vegetation, dominant species, climax association.
  • Describe the effects of plant association and competition on the succession of plants
  • Describe how plant communities respond to environmental stresses.
  • Explain how the development, structure and function of an organism depends on the interaction of that organism with its environment
  • Describe the effects of a range of abiotic environmental factors on plant growth and development
  • Explain the importance of monitoring abiotic environmental factors
  • Describe plant modifications to withstand extreme environmental conditions
  • Describe the weather and climate in a particular region.
  • Relate plant distribution, growth and natural selection to soil, geography, weather and climate.
  • State how soil, geography, weather and climate affect the horticulturist’s selection of plants for any specific growing location.
  • Evaluate the use of meteorological records in relation to plant growth and development
  • Define the terms xerophyte, hydrophyte and halophyte
  • Describe the structure and function of xerophytes, hydrophytes and halophytes
  • Describe how xerophytes, hydrophytes and halophytes can be utilised in garden or landscape situations
  • Describe the significance of xeromorphy in temperate zone plants and its importance in the garden or landscape situation.
  • Evaluate the methods by which environmental conditions can be manipulated to improve the growth and development of plants
  • State the factors affecting the choice of plants for garden or landscape sites with extreme conditions
  • Assess the value of using protective structures to grow plant
  • Describe the sources and nature of pollutants and possible effects on plants
  • Describe how the environment may be affected by a range of horticultural practices
  • Explain how planning, environmental assessment and impact analysis may contribute to the conservation process
  • State the major sources of grant aide available to support environmental conservation on horticultural sites
  • Review the role of national and international organisations in the conservation of plants and gardens.


An article by our Tutors


The spores and hyphal fragments of fungi are carried long distances in the atmosphere, by wind, birds and other effects.

Water habitats often abound with chytrids (water moulds). Some ascomycetes and deutermycetes also frequent both fresh and salt water. In recent years many fungi have been discovered in polluted waterways. These fungi participate in the natural decomposition of sewage. Some of these species can cause disease in humans, if eaten.

Soil is the natural habitat for saprophytic fungi, which live on organic remains. They are also a reservoir for parasitic fungi, which infect living plants and animals.

The water moulds and downy mildews are common soil inhabitants.
Certain fungi live in symbiotic association with algae, thus forming characteristic structures such as lichen. Most lichen fungi are ascomycetes, by a few species are basidiomycetes.

Fungi that is intimately associated with roots of higher plants form mycorrhiza.

This is a specialised type of hyphal growth in which part of the mycelium either wraps itself around the tips of roots, forming a velvety white cover, or it penetrates into the outer layers of the plant.

Some fungi, which ordinarily grow on dead organic matter, can infect live plants when they are given the opportunity. Others cannot exist except as parasites of living plants. The diseases caused by fungi include:
• Club-root of cabbage
• Powdery scab of potatoes
• Potato wart
• White rusts
• Potato late blight
• Downy mildews
• Chestnut blights
• Dutch elm disease
• Oak wilt

Some fungi that inhabit the soil trap microscopic organisms such as amoeba and nematodes. Most of these predacious fungi may be deutermycetes, but some might be conidial stages of basidiomycetes.

The nematodes are trapped by networks of hyphae covered with an adhesive substance, by knob shaped outgrowths that contact the prey, or by hyphal rings that swell shut abruptly after the nematodes have entered. After an amoeba or a nematode is trapped, special hyphae grow into its body. These hyphae deplete the captured body of its protoplasm.

Many small animals, insects and millipedes eat fungi. They are thus instrumental in spore distribution. Some groups of insects cultivate fungi as a food. Notable among such insects are the ambrosia beetles, tropical leaf cutting ants and certain groups of termites. However, this is not one sided, because many fungi are parasitic to insects.


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