Biology 120 

Plants and People

Fall Semester, 2004


Instructor:  Fred Landau; Office WHI 314; 895-4752;

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:30 pm – 12:45 pm; WHI 304.


Required Text:  Levetin, Estelle and Karen MacMahon. 2003.  Plants and Society, 3rd edition. WCB McGraw-Hill. 


This course is designed to provide students who are non-biology majors with an introduction to some basic principles of plant biology, along with historical and modern applications of plants to the human experience. The course goals include developing an understanding of plants as living organisms, and the unique role of the relationship of plants to humankind.


Readings may occasionally be assigned from other books, papers, and publications.. These reading will be announced, and handouts made available.



Two exams                               40%                                                    

Final exam                                25%

Presentation                              15%

Class participation                    10%

Self-evaluation                5%

Instructor’s discretion               5%                                                


In addition to the two exams, students will have the option of doing a paper, a 15-20 minute presentation on a chosen subject relevant to the course of study, or an appropriate project. Papers must be done individually; presentations and projects may be done in groups of two, if applicable. I encourage class participation in the form of questions and discussions. I hope to occasionally include group debates on controversial subjects throughout the semester. The objective for this class is to have a fun-filled and enlightening experience in exploring our relationship with the world of plants.


Class notes can be accessed from the Bio 120 website at:

Please be advised that these class notes are made available to you as a supplement to your notes and readings, not in lieu of them.  Class attendance will be factored into your final course grade.


Course Objectives:

Upon completion of this course, students should have a comprehensive understanding of the topics included in the course syllabus presented above. Assessment of these objectives will be based on exams, completion of assignments, presentations, active class participation, and self-evaluations.

Exam Details:

No make-up exams will be given as a rule. Students with unavoidable conflicts (e.g. religious, medical, see below) must make arrangements with me well before the exam.

Academic Dishonesty:

No form of academic dishonesty is acceptable. This includes cheating on exams or plagiarizing (using as one’s own the ideas or writings of another). Violations will be met with dismissal and a failing grade for the course.

UNLV Statement of Disability:

If you have a documented disability that may require assistance, you will need to contact the Disability Resource Center for coordination of your academic accommodations. Students may contact Student Support Services in Room 137 in the Reynolds Student Services Complex, or call the office at 895-0866.

UNLV Statement on Holidays:

It shall be the responsibility of the student to notify the instructor no later than the last day of late registration of his/her intention to participate in religious holidays which do not fall on State holidays or periods of class recess. This policy shall not apply in the event that administering the exam at an alternative time would impose undue hardship on the instructor of the University, which could not reasonably have been avoided.


Course Syllabus

Fall Semester, 2004




August 31


September 2

Basic botany: plant tissues (Chapter 1,3)

September 7

Basic botany: vegetative plant organs (Chapter 3)

September 9

Basic botany: vegetative plant organs (Chapter 3)

September 14

Basic botany: reproductive plant organs – flowers, pollination, fertilization (Chapter 5)

September 16

Basic botany: reproductive plant organs – fruit, seeds, dispersal (Chapter 6)

September 21

Basic botany: Mendelian genetics – crosses and squares (Chapter 7)

September 23

Basic botany: plant nomenclature – taxonomy, collecting, and selection (Chapter 8)

September 28

Exam 1

September 30

Supermarket botany

October 5

Origins of agriculture (Chapter 11)

October 7

Grasses: cereals – wheat, maize, rice (Chapter 12)

October 12

Domestication (Chapter 11)

October 14

Secondary compounds and stimulating beverages: coffee, tea, cocoa (Chapter 16)

October 19

Herbs and spices (Chapter 17)

October 21

Medicinal plants (Chapter 19)

October 26


October 28

Psychoactive plants: opium, coca, marijuana, etc. (Chapter 20)

November 2

Exam 2

November 4

Fungi in the natural environment (Chapter 23)

November 9

Fungi: beverages and food from fungi (Chapter 24)

November 11

Fungi: harmful and benign (Chapter 25)

November 16

Materials: fiber (Chapter 18)

November 18

Materials: wood and rubber (Chapter 18)

November 23

Southwest desert plants and their uses: slideshow

November 30

Alternative and new uses – or - ecology

December 2


December 7


December 9



Note: Topics are subject to change during the semester, especially with respect to the date presented. Please keep in touch and be apprised. Please read the required materials (chapters and/or hand-outs) before the topic is to be presented.