Plants and Society

I.     Course Prefix/Number: BIO 109

       Course Name: Plants and Society

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course focuses on biological aspects of the plant kingdom and connections to human beings, with topics ranging from sub-cellular processes to ecological roles. Content includes structural and physiological adaptations, present and past diversity, reproduction, genetics and evolution, ecological interactions, and importance to human agriculture, medicine, general welfare and society.  Recommended: One year of high school biology.

IV.   Learning Objectives

After successfully completing this course, the student should be able to:

  1. Analyze data and observations obtained from laboratory experiments and field studies performed using scientific methods.
  2. Explain cellular and sub-cellular processes of plants.
  3. Compare and contrast the functions of the different types of plant tissues.
  4. Explain photosynthesis, growth and development, and reproduction in plants.
  5. Evaluate the role of mitosis, meiosis, DNA replication, selection, and adaptation in the evolutionary history of plants.
  6. Explain the process, mechanisms, and evidence for biological evolution.
  7. Select the correct phylogenetic group for local observed plants found during field trips in Northeastern Illinois
  8. Evaluate the important interactions between plants and different animal groups, including pollination and seed dispersal.
  9. Assess the importance of plants in diverse ecosystems and also their importance to human welfare and society.
  10. Compile a list of explicit examples of how plants have been domesticated or used by people for food, medicine, and materials, both in historical and contemporary times.


By the completion of your biology courses at Oakton, you will have gained the experience to.....

  1. Think critically – identify, define, analyze, interpret, and evaluate ideas, concepts, information, problems, solutions, and consequences. This includes the ability to compute and comprehend quantitative information and to engage in the scientific process.
  2. Communicate – communicate ideas, concepts, and information through written and oral means. Collaborate with people of diverse backgrounds and abilities.
  3. Demonstrate literacy – demonstrate the ability to read critically within content areas. Use technology to locate, evaluate, and communicate data, information, ideas, and concepts. Assess, critique, and select from a variety of information resources.
  4. Demonstrate responsibility – demonstrate an understanding of personal responsibility and ethical behavior in one’s own academic and civic life.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

Lecture Outline:

Unit I – Introduction to Plants, Structure and Function, Reproduction, and Evolution

  1. Introduction: Characteristics of Life, Scientific Method, Connections to People
  2. Cell Structure and Function
  3. Photosynthesis and Physiology
  4. Reproduction: Flowers
  5. Reproduction: Fruits and Seeds
  6. Genetics, Systematics, and Evolution
  7. Plant Diversity
  8. Plant Ecology

Unit II – Plants as a Source of Food

  1. Human Nutrition
  2. Origins of Agriculture
  3. Grasses
  4. Legumes
  5. Starchy Stable Crops
  6. Feeding a Growing Human Population

Unit III – Plants as a Source of Medicine and Materials

  1. Medicinal Plants
  2. Psychoactive Plants
  3. Poisonous and Allergy Plants
  4. Stimulating Beverages
  5. Herbs and Spices
  6. Materials: Cloth, Wood, and Paper

Unit IV – Algae, Fungi and Human Society

  1. Algae in the Natural Environment
  2. Fungi in the Natural Environment
  3. Beverages and Foods from Algae and Fungi
  4. Fungi and Impacts on Human Health

Field Study Topics (Outdoor Labs):

  1. Tree Diversity and Statistics
  2. Native Plants and Ethnobotany
  3. Pollination Ecology

VII.  Methods of Instruction

The course will be presented via three hours of lecture each week.  The course will also feature audio-visual media, class discussion, quizzes, exams, field study experiences (outdoor labs), data analysis, and plant species classification.

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

May vary depending on instructor, but students are expected to:

  • attend all lecture periods
  • participate in class discussion
  • read assigned materials as scheduled
  • take thorough notes in lecture and field study experiences
  • perform other assignments as scheduled

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

Estelle Levetin and Karen McMahon. Plants and Society (7th edition). McGraw-Hill Education, 2016. ISBN-13: 978-0-07-802303-3

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

May vary depending on instructor, but may include:

  • attendance at all class sessions
  • satisfactory classroom and laboratory participation
  • submission of all written assignments on time and in proper format
  • attainment of passing grades on examinations, quizzes, and homework assignments

XI.   Other Course Information

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.