Phytomorphology or plant morphology is the field of study that studies the physical form and external structure of plants. This is different from plant anatomy which studies the internal structure of plants at even the microscopic level. Plant morphology is an important tool for the visual identification of plants. The concept was given by author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1800s.
Plant morphology deals only with plant form including development and evolution of the plant. It only deals with the external form of plants and not the internal form. Plant morphology is essential to the fields to plant biology like molecular genetics, ecology, physiology, systematic and evolutionary biology.
Plant morphology emphasizes on fragmentation and categorization. Every organ in flowering plants is classified as root, stem, leaf, or homologous to any of them.
Phytomorphology represents a study of the development, structure and form of plants on the basis of similarity of plan and origin. The four areas of investigation in plant morphology are-
- Comparative: Morphologists examines the structures in many plants of same or different species and then draw comparisons while formulating ideas about similarities. Homologous structures are a result of common inherited genetic pathways in structures of different species. This aspect of plant morphology co-relates with study of plant evolution and paleobotany.
- Vegetative: This observes somatic and reproductive structures of plants. Vegetative structures include study of shoot system (stem, leaves) and the root system. This area overlaps with biodiversity and plant systematic.
- Plant morphology also studies the plant structure at various scale ranges. Smallest scales are known as ultrastructure (can be viewed with electron microscope) and cytology (studies the cells using optical microscopy). Largest scale of study is growth habit study which has the overall architecture of the plant. This area of study overlaps with study of plant anatomy. Appearance of a plant and pattern of branching differs from species to species.
- Plant morphology also studies the pattern of development. Development is the process through which the structures originate and mature with plant growth. Morphologist studies the process, causes and results. This area co-relates with plant physiology and ecology.
HOMOLOGY is the when the structure is similar between two species owing to shared ancestry and common genetics.
CONVERGENCE is when the structure is similar between two species owing to independent adaptation to various common environmental pressures.