Note: This course was last offered in fall 1999!

Integrative Biology 24-6: Freshman Seminar, University of California, Berkeley

Instructor: Rudolf Schmid, 1098 LSB

Grading: Pass/Not pass

Meeting time: Thursday 9:00-10:00, room 5192 LSB

The literature on "people and plants" is widely scattered amongst several fields: botany, biology, agriculture, anthropology, history, and medicine.
        Plants are directly or indirectly vital to all forms of animal life, including humans. The study of human uses of plants has generally gone under the rubric of economic botany. Topics might include the history and production of coffee, tea, cacao (the source of cocoa and chocolate), corn, and similar crop plants. The emphasis here is often from an historical and/or especially agricultural perspective. The use of plants by indigenous peoples is generally called ethnobotany. Examples might be the use of pine or cedar by prehistoric and historic Indians of North America or the use of certain palms in housing by native Pacific Islanders. Medical botany involves the use of plants in folk medicine or modern medicine. Two examples that have received much attention in recent years are taxol derived from the yew tree Taxus brevifolia and used to treat breast cancer, and Ginkgo biloba derived from the tree of the same name and used as an apparent memory enhancer. Of course, many herbs and spices used nowadays for culinary purposes have had medical or presumed medical applications in earlier times.

The course will involve several lectures and mostly readings and discussions on topics selected by the participants. Any topic is fair game, as long as it deals substantially with a plant or with plants. Students will be required to assign several readings on a topic and to lead an informal discussion of that topic. Active participation in all the discussions will be expected of all students.

Sample references (these may or may not be relevant to actual discussions in this seminar):

Rudolf Schmid has participated in the basic biology course, where he teaches plant and funal diversity, and offers the spring course "Introduction to California plant life." He is also the long-time editor of the "Reviews and notices of publications" column of Taxon: International journal of plant taxonomy, phylogeny and evolution, the preeminent journal in the field of plant systematics.

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Last revised: Sept 2002