The botanical academic equivalent of animal physiology is plant physiology, which developed historically out of a need to better understand and improve agriculture. Centuries of agricultural practices produced improved plant varieties, where early studies of physiology drew on a basic knowledge of plant growth and anatomy. Modern plant physiologists are focused on the study of plants' life processes with the goal of understanding how plants grow, develop, and reproduce.

A thorough course in plant physiology will take students through the following topics:

  • Plant cells
  • Energy and enzymes
  • Water and plant cells
  • Water balance of plants
  • Mineral nutrition
  • Solute transport
  • Photosynthesis
  • Translocation in the phloem
  • Respiration and lipid metabolism
  • Assimilation of mineral nutrients
  • Secondary metabolites and plant defense
  • Gene expression and signal transduction
  • Cell walls: structure, biogenesis, and expansion
  • Growth and development
  • Phytochrome and light control of plant development
  • Blue-light responses: stomatal movements and morphogenesis
  • Auxin: the growth hormone
  • Gibberellins: regulators of plant height and seed germination
  • Cytokinins: regulators of cell division
  • Ethylene: the gaseous hormone
  • Abscisic acid: a seed maturation and antistress signal
  • Brassinosteroids
  • The control of flowering
  • Stress physiology


One of the most highly regarded textbooks on plant physiology was written by Lincoln Taiz and Eduardo Zeiger, titled (not surprisingly) Plant Physiology. Many other good texts can be found on Google. Students interested in this area should stay up to date by reading the Journal of Plant Physiology.

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