What is Plant Morphology

Plant morphology is a field of botanic biology, researching the form and structure of plants according either to:

– their biological function

– a pre-defined morphological system (by comparing plant features against the system)

– experimental morphology (by changing the plant’s enviroment and/or state of development)

Research in plant morphology is used in the biological fields of taxonomy and genetics. The plant morphology field of biology is very old; this is due to relative ease of comparing plant features only by eye. Today, plant morphology is being researched on the molecular level with expensive instrumentation. The goal of this discipline remains the same: To gain a systematic structure from the wide array of plants that are known today.

The first important group in plant morphology is the protophytes. These lack the morphological features of root, stem and leafs. These are plants cells that are cooperative to some extent, but not multi-cellular organisms in the strict sense.

The second group is the thallophytes. Tallophytes are defined as lacking the morphological features of root, stem and leafs. Tallophytes are multi-cellular, cooperative organisms.

The last group is the kormophytes. Kormophytes are defined by having a root, a stem and leaves. First we need to consider plant development of these in general. Herbaceous plants never get into the wooden stage of development. Every other plant form reaches the wooden stage.

Looking at the leaves one notices that they are aligned in a certain pattern around the stem. Research into this sub-field of morphology is called phyllotaxis. Secondly the leaf shape must be described. Anisophyllie is the phenomenom of differeing leaf sizes on a single sprout. Heterophyllie is the phenomenom of differing leaf shapes on the whole plant.

Then the inflorescence system must be investigated. Generally said, phyllotaxis may also apply to flowers. Other patterns, including terminal flowers may form, too. The most interesting phenomenom is metatopy however. In this case, the bud either diverges from the sprout or is above the sprout attached to the main stem. Adventitious buds and flowers sometimes form – they are often seen in places where one would not the plant expect to grow (e.g. root/stem tip). This often occurs when the plant is wounded or the enviroment drastically changes, but may also occur normally in various plants. Some plants may also build up special organs for vegetative reproduction, which can occur on the stem, root and even on the leaves.

This description of plant morphology was only a quick overview. Many more things could be said about the above three groups but these features are enough for any hobbyist to describe a plant correctly through plant morphology.