Plant species as plant communities

The subject of ecology deals with the inter-relationship of plant (and animal) species and their environment. Below are described some of the ecological concepts which most commonly apply to the natural environment, where human interference is minimal. It will be seen, however, that such concepts also have relevance to horticulture in spite of its more controlled environment.

Firstly, the structure, physiology and life cycle properties of a plant species should be seen as closely related to its position within a habitat, giving it a competitive advantage. Small short-lived ephemerals such as groundsel (Senecio) with its rapid seed production and low dormancy are able to achieve a speedy colonization of bare ground. The spreading perennial, bramble (Rubus) has thorns that ease its climbing habit over other plant species and a tolerance of low light conditions that assumes greater importance as tree species grow above it. Woody species such as oak (Quercus) quickly create a well-developed root system that supplies the water and minerals for their dominance of the habitat.


The area or environment where an organism or community normally lives or occurs.

A closed plant community is one that receives only minimal contact with outside organisms (and also materials). A small isolated island community in the middle of a large lake would be one example.

An open plant community is one that receives continuous exposure to other organisms (and materials) from outside, A marine shoreline community would be one example.

'Semi natural vegetation' is vegetation not planted by humans, but influenced by human actions such as grazing, logging and other types of disruption of the plant communities. The vegetation described as 'semi natural' has been able to recover to such an extent that wild species composition and ecological processes are similar to those found in an undisturbed state.

Aquatic species such as pondweed (Potamogeton spp) often have air spaces in their roots to aid oxygen and carbon dioxide diffusion.

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