Plants and People

Winter 2020
Class Size: 25
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

botany, ecology, environmental history

This program is designed to support learning about people's relationships with plants for food, fiber, medicine, and aesthetics. We will explore the subject often known as economic botany through seminar texts, films, and lectures that examine agriculture, forestry, medical botany, and horticulture. Using a series of case studies, we will investigate the history of human relationships with specific plants, paying special attention to the socio-political and economic factors that shape those relations. In our readings, we will examine the significant roles botany has played in colonialism, imperialism, and globalization. We will consider the influence of increasingly globalized production since the scientific and industrial revolutions and the rise of capitalism. Attention will be paid to the role of botanists in shaping relations with plants. We will also investigate contemporary efforts to establish sustainable and ethical production and consumption.

Students will write a major research paper on a plant of their choosing; applying the plant biology, economic botany, and the cultural studies material of the program. Through a series of workshops, they will learn to search scientific literature, manage bibliographic data, and interpret and synthesize information, including primary sources. Through their research paper, students will synthesize scientific and cultural information about their plant, including how race, class, and gender influence human relations with the plant they choose to research. Some previous experience with botanical illustration or drawing will be valuable but is not required. Students will maintain a detailed and illustrated nature journal to hone their plant identification skills including of deciduous trees and shrubs during the dormant season. They will also learn to use a technical dichotomous key.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

botany, ecology, environmental history, forestry, medicinal botany, and natural history


Credits per quarter


Students can meet the prerequisite with Botany: Plants and People or Botany offered at Evergreen in fall 2019. Alternatively, transfer students and others can meet it with one quarter of introductory plant biology coursework that included a weekly lab.

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

$60 fee for art supplies, identification cards, and herbology workshop

Upper division science credit:

Up to 16 units of upper-division science credit may be earned in economic botany, independent research in botany, and winter twig identification.

Class Standing: Sophomore–Senior
Class Size: 25

Scheduled for: Day

Final schedule and room assignments:

First meeting:

Monday, January 6, 2020 - 10:00 am
SEM 2 E2107 - Seminar

Located in: Olympia

2019-11-26$60 student fee added