noun: the scientific study of the physiology, structure, genetics, ecology, distribution, classification, and economic importance of plants.

Flora is essentially a fancy collective term for all the plants on earth, both vascular and non-vascular. Being a vascular plant means you have what’s called ‘conductive tissue’ so they can move water, nutrients and photosynthetically produced food or ‘photosynthates’ around Water through the xylem, food through the phloem. Being a non-vascular plant means you still move water and food around but you don’t have that same vascular system of xylem and phloem. Lichens are a dark horse, and not actually a single organism, but a symbiosis between algae and fungi, the latter of which certainly not plants either – if looks could kill…

Plants are fundamental to all life on earth. Through that old chestnut photosynthesis, they lock up carbon from the atmosphere using sunlight and water into food which trickles down the food chain as everything starts to eat each other. For this unrivalled achievement, we call those organisms that photosynthesise autotrophs, apparently thanks to a German botanist called Albert Berhard Frank who coined the term from the Greek word “trophḗ” meaning food and auto here basically meaning DIY – DIY food. Thanks Albert.

Botany is the study of plants, vegetation and all things green and a botanist as you may have guessed is the man, woman or child who makes it their business to find out what makes them tick, grow and frankly dominate so much of our planet. The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew is home to some of the largest botanical and mycological collections in the world, and continue to form what is arguably an institutional pillar for world leading botanical research and well worth a visit if you are ever in London. In 2017 Kew produced a document entitled State of The Worlds Plantswhich is an accessible, informative and captivating reflection on the global state of the plant Kingdom and very much worth a read if you wish to find out more about the staggering diversity, uses and challenges plants face.

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