Tropical Botany

Course content

In Tropical Botany, the students are presented to a selection of tropical plant families and species. Lectures on morphological characters of plant families provide the basis for the course, while also touching on the relevant phylogenetic relationships and covering examples of how species are used locally or on a wider scale as e.g. crops, timber, or ornamentals.

The curriculum has two parts: One is the common curriculum consisting of the lectures, while the other part is assembled individually as each student chooses plant families to study in-depth from a wide selection.

The course requires active participation as much time will be spent working with plant material, including a wealth of dried materials collected from tropical regions, but we also rely greatly on the tropical plants grown in the university greenhouse and supplement with frequent visits to the Botanical Garden.

Through a range of exercises, students become familiar with botanical terminology, morphological characters, critical thinking especially in regard to online botanical resources, and sharing their knowledge in discussions, oral presentations, and written reports.

The course is primarily addressed to students who plan to pursue a plant-related field of study in a tropical context (e.g. agriculture, biology, crop protection, forestry, plant pathology, sustainable development). Students contemplating a career within subjects related to the developing world will also find the course to be of relevance.


MSc Programme in Agriculture
MSc Programme in Environment and Development
MSc Programme in Forest and Nature Management

Learning outcome

Learning outcome

After this course, students will be able to:


  • Identify important tropical plant families through analysis of morphological characters
  • Describe a plant using the proper morphological terms
  • List the most important usages and ecological requirements [KT1] of a selection of tropical plants
  • Research characteristics, properties, and use of a plant from online resources
  • Correctly classify a species taxonomically based on systematics
  • Apply the correct scientific and English names of tropical plants



  • Gather, analyze, critically evaluate, and communicate knowledge on plants families, species, and use
  • Identify species they are not familiar with using regionally appropriate floras
  • Quickly assess a species’ potential as e.g. crop, medicinal, timber, toxic etc. based on knowledge of its family
  • Work with many aspects of tropical plants, e.g. as a researcher or advisor



  • Recommend species for evaluation e.g. as future crops or ornamentals
  • Advise about plant biodiversity and sustainable production
  • Provide an inventory of a species in an area
  • Make recommendations about protective measures regarding local flora



The core plant families and associated concepts will be reviewed in lectures with emphasis on student participation during the first 2/3 of the course. The latter 1/3 will be dedicated to independent study of the students’ chosen families and a written report. Each student will also give an oral presentation during the course. Dried and live plant material, textbooks, floras, various illustrative materials will be included. The final grade is determined from the average of the equally-weighted grades from the oral examination and the written report.


Students are welcome to use any source of in-depth botanical literature; no specific textbook is required. However, we recommend using either Christenhusz et al. or Simpson:

Christenhusz, M.J.M., Fay, M.F., Chase, M.W. 2017. Plants of the World – an Illustrated Encyclopedia of Vascular Plants. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

(This is available as a free download (limited to 365 days) from the university library!)

Simpson, M.G. 2019. Plant Systematics. 3rd Edition. Elsevier Academic Press Publications.

Bramley, G & Utteridge T. 2016. The Kew Tropical Plant Families Identification Handbook. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

(This is an excellent handbook, but does not cover as extensively as the two textbooks above)

Walter, H. & Breckle, S-W. 2002. Walter's Vegetation of the Earth: The Ecological Systems of the Geo-Biosphere. New York: Springer-Verlag

Heywood, V.H., Brummitt, R.K., Culham, A. & Seberg, O. 2007. Flowering Plant Families of the World. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Basic botany

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 30 min
Written assignment
Oral exam accounts for app. 50% and the written course assignment (prepared during the course) for app. 50% towards to the total mark. An overall assesment is made. No preparation time before the oral examination.
Without aids

No aids for the oral examination.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
One internal examiner.
Criteria for exam assessment

- of tropical plants of agronomic, forestry and horticultural importance, and the specific utilised parts of each crop, e.g. seed(s), legumes/pods, roots/tubers, grains, etc.
- of selected tropical plant families and their origin and ecology
- of the correct scientific and English names of tropical plants
Comprehends the causal connections of abiotic/biotic ecological factors in tropical regions

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 15
  • Class Instruction
  • 12
  • Preparation
  • 65
  • Theory exercises
  • 15
  • Practical exercises
  • 27
  • Project work
  • 50
  • Guidance
  • 20
  • Exam
  • 2
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 2
Study Board of Natural Resources, Environment and Animal Science
Contracting department
  • Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Marian Ørgaard   (3-7d7f7550807c757e3e7b853e747b)
Saved on the 01-03-2021

Are you BA- or KA-student?

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Courseinformation of students