Charophyceae

Charophyceae
Charophyceae
It is almost impossible not to see Spirogyra floating on the surface of a pond on a hot summer day, but most people dismiss it as pond scum. Few realize that what they are looking at is a member of the Charophyceae, a class in the phylum Chlorophyta, or green algae, and a cousin of the ancestor of the Embryophyta, or bryophytes and vascular plants.

Most Charophyceae, like Spirogyra, live in freshwater habitats, but some also occur in moist soil in terrestrial habitats. Charophyceae can live as single cells, colonies, or branched and unbranched filaments and come in a variety of shapes.

The characteristics that unite members of the class—and which link them with the embryophytes—include flagellated cells (similar to sperm cells in vascular plants), a nuclear envelope that breaks down during mitosis, mitotic spindles that persist as phragmoplasts (a type of cytoskeletal scaffolding) through cell division either by furrowing or by forming a cell plate, the presence of chlorophylls a and b and phytochrome, and the storage of starch inside plastids.

Chemotaxis

Chemotaxis
Chemotaxis
Chemotaxis is the ability of a cell to detect certain chemicals and to respond by movement, such as microbial movement toward nutrients in the environment.

Many microorganisms possess the ability to move toward a chemical environment favorable for growth. They will move toward a region that is rich in nutrients and other growth factors and away from chemical irritants that might damage them. Among the organisms that display this chemotactic behavior, none is simpler than bacteria.

Bacteria are single-celled prokaryotic microorganisms, which means that their deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is not contained within a well-defined nucleus surrounded by a nuclear membrane, as in eukaryotic (plant and animal) cells.

Chlorophyceae

Chlorophyceae
Chlorophyceae
Chlorophyceae (from the Greek word chloros, meaning “green”) make up an extremely large and important class of green algae. Members may be unicellular, colonial, or filamentous. Cells of unicellular and colonial chlorophyceans may have two or more flagella.

There are about 2,650 living species of chlorophyceans. The main features of the class (and most plants) are the use of starch as the principal food reserve and the green chloroplasts with chlorophylls a and b. In spite of plant characteristics, this algal group is not directly related to early land plants.

Chlorophyceans are almost entirely restricted to freshwater and terrestrial habitats. Some members of this class have adapted to life on snow as snow algae. Snow algae cause snow to appear red-burgundy or orange in color because of high levels of unusual carotenoid pigments within the algal cells.

Chloroplast DNA

Chloroplast DNA
Chloroplast DNA
Plants are unique among higher organisms in that they meet their energy needs through photosynthesis. The specific location for photosynthesis in plant cells is the chloroplast, which also contains a single, circular chromosome composed of DNA. Chloroplast DNA contains many of the genes necessary for proper chloroplast functioning.

A better understanding of the genes in chloroplast deoxyribonucleic acid (cpDNA) has improved the understanding of photosynthesis, and analysis of the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequence of these genes has been useful in studying the evolutionary history of plants.

Discovery of Chloroplast Genes

The work of nineteenth century Austrian botanist Gregor Mendel showed that the inheritance of genetic traits follows a predictable pattern and that the traits of offspring are determined by the traits of the parents.

Chloroplasts and Other Plastids

Chloroplasts
Chloroplasts
Plastids are highly specialized, double membrane-bound organelles found within the cells of all plants and algae. A type of plastid called the chloroplast is the cellular location of the process of photosynthesis.

Plastids exhibit remarkable diversity with respect to their development, morphology, function, and physiological and genetic regulation. Chloroplasts, a type of plastid, are arguably largely responsible for the maintenance and perpetuation of most of the major life-forms on earth through photosynthesis.

The process of photosynthesis uses visible light as an energy source to power the conversion of atmospheric carbon dioxide into organic molecules that can be used by living organisms.

Chromatin

Chromatin
Chromatin
Chromatin is an inclusive term referring to DNA and the proteins that bind to it, located in the nuclei of eukaryotic cells. The huge quantity of DNA present in each cell must be organized and highly condensed in order to fit into the discrete units of genetic material known as chromosomes. Gene expression can be regulated by the nature and extent of this DNA packaging in the chromosome, and errors in the packaging process can lead to genetic disease.

Scientists have known for many years that the hereditary information within plants and other organisms is encrypted in molecules of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that are themselves organized into discrete hereditary units called genes and that these genes are organized into larger subcellular structures called chromosomes.

James Watson and Francis Crick elucidated the basic chemical structure of the DNA molecule in 1952, and much has been learned since that time concerning its replication and expression.

Chromatography

Chromatography
Chromatography
Chromatography is a method of separating the components of a mixture over time. Chromatography has allowed for the discovery of many specialized pigments, including at least five forms of chlorophyll.

Chromatography was first described in 1850 by a German chemist, Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge. It was not until the early twentieth century, however, that Mikhail Semenovich Tsvet became the first to explain the phenomenon and methods of this analytical tool.

Chromatography and Photosynthesis

Tsvet’s chromatography of plant leaf pigments prompted scientific investigations of photosynthesis—the all-important biochemical reaction that transforms inorganic to organic energy and therefore is at the base of most life. Chromatography has revealed that many different pigments, not only green ones, are simultaneously present in leaves.

Chromosomes

Chromosomes
Chromosomes

Chromosomes contain the genetic information of cells. Replication of chromosomes assures that genetic information is correctly maintained as cells divide.

The genome of an organism is the sum total of all the genetic information of that organism. In eukaryotic cells, this information is contained in the cell’s nucleus and organelles, such as mitochondria and plastids. In prokaryotic organisms (bacteria and archaea), which have no nucleus, the genomic information resides in a region of the cell called the nucleoid.

A chromosome is a discrete unit of the genome that carries many genes, or sets of instructions for inherited traits. Genes, the blueprints of cells, are specific sequences of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that code for messenger ribonucleic acids (monas), which in turn direct the synthesis of proteins.

Chrysophytes

The Chrysophyceae, classified within the kingdom Chromista, are mostly unicellular or colonial organisms found in fresh and salt water throughout the world.

The Chrysophyceae (in some systems corresponding to the phylum Chrysophyta) are related to heterokont algae and include more than eight hundred described species that are classified in approximately one hundred genera.

They aremost closely related to the Synurophyceae and other pigmented heterokont algae, including the Bacillariophyceae (diatoms), Eustigmatophyceae, Phaeophyceae (brown algae), and Xanthophyceae (yellow-green algae), among others.

Chytrids

Chytrids
Chytrids
Chytrids are fungi in the phylum Chytridiomycota. They have motile spores and are primarily aquatic organisms.

Like all fungi, chytrids live in their food and have an absorptive mode of nutrition in which they secrete digestive enzymes and absorb the breakdown products.

Chytrids also have cell walls made of chitin, make the amino acid lysine via the amino adipic acid (AAA) pathway, and possess a ribosomal DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) sequence that places them more closely with other fungi than with any other group of organisms. The feature that sets the mapart from other fungi is the possession of a motile zoospore. All other fungi produce spores without flagella.

Characteristics

Aposteriorly oriented, whiplash-type flagellum is the feature that unites all the organisms in the division Chytridiomycota within the kingdom Fungi. As absorptive heterotrophs, they live either as saprophytes, growing on dead organic matter, or as parasites in living plants, other fungi, insects, or algae.

Circadian Rhythms

Circadian Rhythms
Circadian Rhythms

Circadian rhythms in plants are phases of growth and activity that appear in regular, approximately twenty-four-hour, cycles.

Biological activities that cycle in approximately twenty-four-hour intervals are called circadian rhythms (from the Latin circa, meaning “about” and dies, meaning “a day”). Circadian rhythms allow plants to anticipate environmental cycles and to coordinate their activities with them.

Circadian rhythms are not simply responses to changing external conditions, as they continue even when a plant is placed under constant conditions. This continuation indicates that circadian rhythms are controlled by endogenous (internal) timing mechanisms, collectively referred to as the biological clock.

Cladistics

Cladistics
Cladistics
Cladistics is a quantitative method of classification of plants that attempts to recover evolutionary relationships, based on observable characters.

Since the dawn of history, humans have classified plants. In primitive cultures classifications were by economic use, such as food, clothing, medicine, and shelter. Later the form (morphology) of a plant became important, for example, trees, shrubs, or herbs.

Carolus Linneaus considered the similarity of floral parts to be critical, and this formed the basis of his classification system. Each of these systems is said to be “artificial.” That is, the classification was solely for a human purpose and did not attempt to indicate genetic relationships between plants.

Climate and Resources

Climate and Resources
Climate and Resources
Climate is described by the average of weather conditions at a place or in a region, usually recorded as both the mean and the extremes of temperature, precipitation, and other conditions.

Resources are the factors and characteristics of the natural environment that people find useful, including climate, land, soil, water, minerals, and wild vegetation. Thus, climate itself is a resource, affecting the character of the plant life and other resources it supports.

The nature and distribution of wild vegetation are to a large degree the products of climate: the temperature, moisture, solar radiation, and other environmental conditions that characterize a region. The major global vegetation types that accompany forest, shrub, grassland, desert, rain forest, tundra, and other biomes reflect climatic controls.

Clines

Clines
Clines
A cline is one form of geographic variation in which characteristics of a species change gradually through the species’ geographic range.

Many plant and animal species have populations that differ in terms of their morphological, physiological, and biochemical characteristics. A species is generally defined as a group of organisms that have the potential to interbreed and produce fertile offspring.

A population is defined as a group of organisms which are actively interbreeding. The following example will clarify the relationship between species and populations and simultaneously introduce geographic variation.

Cloning of Plants

Plant cloning is the production of a cell, cell component, or plant that is genetically identical to the unit or individual from which it was derived.

The term“clone” is derived from the Greek word klon, meaning a slip or twig. Hence, it is an appropriate choice. Plants have been “cloned” from stem cuttings or whole-plant divisions for many centuries, perhaps dating back as far as the beginnings of agriculture.

Historical Background

In 1838 German scientists Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann presented their cell theory, which states, in part, that all life is composed of cells and that all cells arise from preexisting cells.

Coal

Coal
Coal
Coal is one of the world’s most important natural resources based on plant life. Fuel in the form of coal can be any of a variety of combustible sedimentary and metamorphic rocks containing a specified amount of fossilized plant remains.

Coal is a general term encompassing a variety of combustible sedimentary and metamorphic rocks containing altered and fossilized terrestrial plant remains in excess of 50 percent by weight, and more than 70 percent by volume.

Categories of coal differ in relative amounts of moisture, volatile matter, fixed carbon, and degree of compaction of the original carbonaceous material. Coal is therefore commonly termed a fossil fuel. This key resource is the product of the carbon from ancient plants that have undergone sedimentary and metamorphic transformation over millions of years.

Coevolution

Coevolution
Coevolution

Coevolution is the interactive evolution of two or more species that results in a mutualistic or antagonistic relationship.

When two or more different species evolve in a way that affects one another’s evolution, coevolution is taking place. This interactive type of evolution is characterized by the fact that the participant life-forms are acting as a strong selective pressure upon one another over a period of time.

The coevolution of plants and animals, whether animals are considered strictly in their plant-eating role or also as pollinators, is abundantly represented in every terrestrial ecosystem throughout the world where flora has established itself.

Community - Ecosystem Interactions

Community, ecosystem Interactions
Community, ecosystem Interactions

Ecosystems are complex organizations of living and nonliving components. They are frequently named for their dominant biotic or physical features (such as marine kelp beds or coniferous forests).

Communities are groups of species usually classified according to their most prominent members (such as grassland communities or shrub communities). The interactions between species and their ecosystems have lasting impacts on both.

In an ecological sense, a community consists of all populations residing in a particular area. Examples of communities range in scale from all the trees in a given watershed, all soil microbes on an agricultural plot, or all phytoplankton in a particular harbor to all plants, animals, and microbes in vast areas, such as the Amazon basin or the Chesapeake Bay.

Composting

Composting
Composting

Compost is a mixture of organic ingredients used for fertilizing or enriching land. Composting is the practice of making and using compost.

Composting is a way for gardeners and farmers to enrich and otherwise improve the soil while reducing the flow of household waste to landfills. Essentially the slow, natural decay of dead plants and animals, composting is a natural form of recycling in which living organisms decompose organic matter.

The decay of dead plants and animals starts when microorganisms in soil feed on dead matter, breaking it down into smaller compounds usable by plants.

Compositae

Compositae
Compositae

In number of species, the family Compositae or Asteraceae, commonly known as the sunflower family, is among the largest families of flowering plants.

The Compositae family consists of more than eleven hundred genera worldwide and possibly as many as twenty-three thousand species. Representatives of the family are found on every continent except Antarctica.

Species diversity is high in the southwestern United States and Mexico, in southern Brazil and along the South American Andes Mountain range, along the Mediterranean region, in Southwest and Central Asia, in South Africa, and in Australia.

Community Structure and Stability

Community Structure and Stability
Community Structure and Stability

An ecological community is the assemblage of species found in a given time and place. The species composition of different ecosystems and the ways in which they maintain equilibrium and react to disturbances are manifestations of the community’s stability.

The populations that form a community interact through the processes of competition, predation, parasitism, and mutualism. The structures of communities are determined, in part, by the nature and strength of these biotic factors.

Abiotic factors (physical factors such as temperature, rainfall, and soil fertility) are the other set of important influences determining community structure.

Competition

Plant competition
Plant competition

The struggle for food, space, and pollinators in order to survive can occur between individuals of different species (interspecific competition) or between individuals of the same species (intraspecific competition).

Competition is a major driving force in evolution, the process by which living organisms change over time, with better-adapted species surviving and less well-adapted species becoming extinct.

Evolution begins with mutation, changes in the nucleotide sequence of a gene or genes, resulting in the production of slightly altered genes which encode slightly different proteins.

Conifers

Forest trees
Conifers

The conifers, which are woody plants consisting mostly of evergreen trees, make up the phylum Coniferophyta, one of four phyla of gymnosperms that have living representatives. The word “conifer”means cone-bearing. Most conifers bear their reproductive structures in cones.

With 50 genera and 550 of the 700 known gymnosperm species, the phylum Coniferophyta includes the bulk of the gymnosperms. Coniferophyta is also the most widespread and, in terms of numbers of individual trees, the most abundant of the gymnospermphyla.

The abundance and economic and ecological importance of the Coniferophyta are out of all proportion to the number of species, which does not begin to compare to the 235,000 species of angiosperms (phylum Anthophyta).

Corn

Cornfield
Cornfield

The most important cereal in the Western Hemisphere, corn is used as human food (ranking third in the world), as live-stock feed, and for industrial purposes.

Corn (Zea mays) is a coarse, annual plant of the grass (Gramineae) family. It ranges in height from 3 to 15 feet and has a solid, jointed stalk, and long, narrow leaves. A stalk usually bears one to three cobs, which develop kernels of corn when fertilized. Corn no longer grows in the wild; it requires human help in removing and planting the kernels to ensure reproduction.

In the United States and Canada, “corn” is the common name for this cereal, but in Europe, “corn” refers to any of the small-seeded cereals, such as barley, wheat, and rye. “Maize” (or its translation) is the term used for Zea mays in Europe and Latin America.

Cryptomonads

Cryptomonads
Cryptomonads

The phylum Cryptophyta describes tiny, motile, unicellular organisms with two slightly unequal flagella bearing lateral hairs. Cryptomonads live mainly in marine and freshwater environments.

Some cryptomonads are alga-like, with bluegreen, red, and olive-brown photosynthetic pigments including chlorophylls a, c2, alpha-carotene, xanthophylls (alloxanthin, crocoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and monadoxanthin), and phycobiliproteins (phycoerythrin and phycocyanin).

Cryptomonads are found in a variety of moist places, such as algal blooms in the ocean or in fresh water, and on beaches. Some members are intestinal parasites in animals.

Culturally Significant Plants

Culturally Significant Plants
Culturally Significant Plants

Plants are often used as a tool for ceremonial purposes, as artistic media to express indigenous traditions, or as herbal remedies or hallucinogenics to fulfill cultural needs and expectations. Culturally significant plants grow on all continents and are used by all ethnicities.

Historically, humans have appropriated plants for numerous cultural applications. Since prehistoric times, plants have served as symbolic organisms to represent aspects of the life cycle and seasonal changes, to worship, and to make offerings to gods. Plants were incorporated into mythology and legends to show their meanings to various cultures.

Ethnobotany

American Indians are an example of a historic ethnic group which selected specific plant species for cultural uses, such as rituals and ceremonies.

Cycads and Palms

Cycads and Palms
Cycads and Palms

Members of the phylum Cycadophyta, cycads are descendants of giant, prehistoric seed-bearing, nonflowering plants that thrived when dinosaurs lived. Palms are flowering plants with primitive origins that share characteristics with cycads but are not related to them.

Cycadophyta is one of the four phyla of gymnosperms in the kingdom Plantae. At one time, cycads grew on every continent. Fossil cycads have been located in areas where no modern cycads grow, such as Antarctica and Europe, suggesting that those places once had milder temperatures.

Origins and Habitat

The oldest cycad fossils are 245 to 208 million years old, from the Triassic period. The first cycads are believed to have appeared in the Permian period 270 million years ago. Some botanists hypothesize that cycads originated as progymnosperms in the Devonian period about 408 million to 360 million years ago.

Cytoplasm

Plant cell
Plant cell

The cytoplasmis defined as all of the living matter within the plasma membrane of a cell, except for the nucleus, which is isolated from the cytoplasm by the nuclear envelope.

The cytoplasm, bounded by the plasma membrane, is composed of fluid called the cytosol in which floats a large variety of molecules and molecular assemblages, ribosomes (responsible for polypeptide synthesis), and a variety of other structures called organelles (literally meaning “little organs”).

Numerous biochemical processes occur in the cytosol, including protein synthesis (translation) and glycolysis.

Cytoskeleton

Cytoskeleton
Cytoskeleton

The cytoskeleton is a complex network of fibers that supports the interior of a cell. Cross-linked by molecular connectors into systems that support cellular membranes, it holds internal structures, such as the nucleus, in place and controls various kinds of cell movement.

Virtually all eukaryotic cells, including plant cells, have a cytoskeleton. Cytoskeletal systems extend internally from the membrane covering the cell surface to the surface of the membrane system surrounding the cell’s nucleus. There are indications that a cytoskeletal support system reinforces the interior of the nucleus as well.

The fibers of the cytoskeleton also anchor cells to external structures through linkages that extend through the surface membrane. The cytoskeletal material, rather than being fixed and unchanging, varies in makeup and structure as cells develop, move, grow, and divide.

Cytosol

Cell
Cell

Within each eukaryotic cell are a number of distinct, membrane-bounded structures, generically called organelles, including the nucleus, mitochondria, the endoplasmic reticulum, and chloroplasts (only found in plants, algae and some protists).

Each organelle is a specialized structure that performs a specific function for the cell as a whole. The rest of the cell, excluding the organelles, cell wall, and plasma membranes, is called the cytosol: the fluid mass that surrounds and provides a home for the organelles.

The cytosol is organized around a framework of fibrous molecules and protein filaments that constitute the cytoskeleton. Although the cytosol consists mostly of water, it contains many chemicals that control cell metabolism, including signal transmission and reception, cellular respiration, and protein transcription factors.

Deforestation

Deforestation
Deforestation

Deforestation is the loss of forestlands through encroachment by agriculture, industrial development, nonsustainable commercial forestry, or other human as well as natural activity.

Concerns about deforestation, particularly in tropical regions, have risen as the role that tropical forests play in moderating global climate has become better understood.

Environmental activists decried the apparent accelerating pace of deforestation in the twentieth century because of the potential loss of wildlife and plant habitat and the negative effects on biodiversity.

Dendrochronology

Dendrochronology
Dendrochronology

Dendrochronology is the science of examining and comparing growth rings in both living and aged woods to draw inferences about past events and environmental conditions.

In forested regions with seasonal climates, trees produce a growth ring to correspond with each growing season. At the beginning of the growing season, when conditions are optimum, the vascular cambium produces many files of large xylem cells that form wood.

As the conditions become less optimal, the size and number of cells produced decreases until growth stops at the end of the growing season. These seasonal differences in size and number of cells produced are usually visible to the unaided eye.