Biology (BIOL) 321

Wild Flowers (Revision 5)

BIOL 321 Course cover

Permanently closed, effective April 24, 2018.

BIOL 321 will be offered in summer 2017 but is subject to a minimum enrolment.

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study online with a nine-day supervised lab component.

Check dates and locations of supervised lab prior to registering for the course. This course is charged a lab fee.

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Science

Prerequisite: BIOL 204 and BIOL 207 (or BIOL 205) or equivalents. Permission of the course professor is required.

Faculty: Faculty of Science & Technology

Biology Studies home page

BIOL 321 is not available for challenge.

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Note: Course availability is subject to a minimum number of registrations. Students must register before May 10 each year, in order to participate in this field-oriented course.


Wild Flowers (plant taxonomy) is the study of flowering plants and some of their nonflowering relatives such as ferns and conifers. Close attention is paid to reproductive structures, identification, classification, phylogenetic relationships, and plant habitats.

Wild Flowers is a field-oriented course and students must participate in a one-week workshop held in July at the Biogeoscience Institute at Barrier Lake (70 km west of Calgary). Students are responsible for paying their own board and lodging (currently approximately $186) in addition to course tuition. Students must register in time for a June 1 start date. The course ends August 31 and students will have no option to extend. More information is listed in the workshop details.

Learning Objectives

When students have completed BIOL 321 they should be able to accomplish the following:

  1. Describe the morphology and evolutionary trends of vegetative and reproductive parts of vascular plants.
  2. Discuss various aspects of the scientific naming of plants.
  3. Prepare dichotomous keys to identify plants.
  4. Distinguish selected plant families, genera, and species from each other by using botanical keys.
  5. Collect, identify, and prepare herbarium mounts of plants.
  6. Draw floral diagrams and write floral formulae of flowering plants.
  7. Describe various processes of classification, and discuss their strengths and weaknesses.
  8. Compare different systems of classification of vascular plants.


The following topics discussed in the book by ZE Murrell constitute the outline for this course.

  • Chapter 1: Introduction to plant taxonomy
  • Chapter 2: Botanical nomenclature
  • Chapter 3: Taxonomic evidence
  • Chapter 4: Systematic methods and classification
  • Chapter 5: Floras, manuals and botanical descriptions
  • Chapter 7: Collecting and preserving plants for study
  • Chapter 8: Survey of the vascular plants
  • Chapter 16: Experimental plant systematics
  • Chapter 17: Revisions and monographs
  • In addition there will be a detailed study of selected plant families (this study will take place in the workshop).


To receive credit for BIOL 321, you must attend the entire field workshop (9 days), achieve a course composite grade of at least ā€œDā€ (50 percent), and a grade of at least 50 percent on the final examination. The weighting of the composite grade is as follows:

Activity Weighting
Field Workshop (workshop exam) 40%
Plant Collection (25 specimens) 30%
Plant Collection (Exercise, Parts I & II) 10%
Final Exam (Based on Chapters 1 to 5, 7-8 and 16 to 17 of Vascular Plant Taxonomy) 20%
Total 100%

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Moss EH 1983. Flora of Alberta, 2nd ed. Packer JG, reviser. University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

Murrell ZE 2010. Vascular Plant Taxonomy. 6th. ed. Kendall Hunt, Dubuque.

Other Materials

The course materials also include an online student manual and a magnifying hand lens.

Special Instructional Features

Approval to offer this course is dependent upon a minimum registration of ten students. Registration begins March 1, with a minimum of 10 and maximum of 16 students. The course begins June 1 and ends August 31. Extensions are not possible. The one-week field workshop will be held in July. The room and board charges for the Biogeoscience Institute are currently approximately $186 for one week. These charges will be collected by the instructor and are payable by cheque or money order and are in addition to the course registration fee. Contact the course professor for further details.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 5, March 20, 2009.

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