Botany vs Horticulture: Similarities and Differences

botany vs horticulture

Interested in plants? Want to turn your green thumb into a career? The choices you have for an educational path may be daunting. With infinite terms regarding plants and learning about the care of plants, how do you know or find what you’re looking for? In this month’s Horticultural Science Online blog, we discuss the similarities and differences between botany and horticulture and what you’ll get with a NC State horticulture education.

How is botany different than horticulture?

Botany is defined as “the scientific study of plants, including their physiology, structure, genetics, ecology, distribution, classification, and economic importance”; horticulture is defined as “the art and science of garden cultivation and management.”

In both the undergraduate and graduate online programs offered by NC State’s Horticultural Science Department, horticultural science students can apply the science-based knowledge of how plants grow, what they learn in botany, directly to the utilization of plants in various horticultural applications. While students enrolled in the online certificate programs or degree program learn about garden cultivation and management, they also learn about subjects such as plant breeding and the physiology of plants, which gets deeper into the understanding of plants and their culture.

Botany is regarded as a broader, pure science in regards to living plant organisms, from the smallest bacteria to the largest trees. Horticulture, on the other hand, is an applied science under that umbrella and focuses solely on edible and ornamental plant life. While participating in the NC State Horticulture Online Programs, students are able to hone in on specific topics that interest them.

Botany and horticulture in the news: the corpse flower

This year has been a big year for horticulture news and events. Have you heard about the rare corpse flowers blooming all over the country? The titan arum, better known as the corpse flower, takes an incredible 13 years to bloom. Not only is the time it takes to grow astounding, but they are also the largest flowers in the world, and they emit a putrid smell resembling that of rotting animal when they bloom.

This year was a big year for the corpse flower, with many simultaneously blooming in the summer and early fall of 2016 around the United States. Even the NC State horticultural science department had its very own corpse flower blooming in early September. The flowers, which can grow up to 10 feet tall in size, draw large crowds looking to catch a peek—or a sniff—of the incredible rare plant.

A Master’s student in horticultural science and plant breeding, Brandon Huber grew NC State’s corpse flower; he spent nine years working on and waiting for the six-foot-tall monstrosity to bloom.

A new attention and vigor exists in the botany, and specifically the horticulture field, due to the brilliant blooming of seven corpse flowers in the United States this year. With exciting events like this, the horticulture field continues to gain interest from more and more potential students.

Check back each month to the Horticultural Science Online blog, as we take a closer look at the field and answer more questions about horticulture.