The Botany of Trees: 5 Part Webinar Series with Dr. Matt Ritter (Part 1)

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on Tuesday, April 14, 2020
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Part 1 - Introduction trees, their growth and development


First in a five part webinar series taught virtually by Dr. Ritter each Tuesday from 11am- 12:30 pm. Each lecture is an hour long followed by 30 minutes of discussion, questions and answers.  Students earn 1.0 CEU per session. Participate in one or all of the series. $20 per session for Members / $30 for Nonmembers. 

A link will be sent to participants prior to each session.


April 14th:  Introduction to trees, their growth and development
April 21st:  Trunks, branches, tree form, branching patterns, and shape, and how wood forms
April 28th:  Tree names, diversity, and why names change
May 5th:  Water in trees, photosynthesis, and respiration
May 12th:  Reproduction, flower formation, fruit, and seeds

A link will be sent to participants prior to each session.


An understanding of how trees grow, live, acquire resources, and reproduce is crucial for effectively working with trees. Those of us who study, grow, and work with trees depend on them for our livelihood, enjoyment, and intellectual fulfillment. Whether you use, exploit, conserve, or just admire trees, having a context in which to understand their relatedness is important. Trees are one of society’s most valuable resources and a solution to so many of our problems. They touch almost every aspect of human life. In these five session we will study tree biology closely, touching on all the topics below and more.

Flowering trees and conifers form wood and support branches in different ways. Leaves are not borne on all trees in the same way. Genetically determined characteristics in trees can help us identify, plant, prune and maintain them properly. If we know a tree’s biology, we can predict what to expect as it matures. All known tree species have scientific names, and most have common names. These names can change for specific and important reasons. Trees transport water through their xylem (wood) and sugar in their phloem (inner bark). Water can move three-hundred feet up to the top of the tallest trees, yet the trees don’t burn a single molecule of energy doing so. Huge quantities of sugar, made in the leaves by photosynthesis, get translocated to other parts of the tree, like the roots, and to associated organisms (mycorrhizal fungi), where it is used to fuel growth through respiration. Flowering trees and conifers reproduce in different ways. Flowers can tell us about the interactions trees have with their pollinators. Tree seeds are dispersed over great distances in the wind and in specialized fruits.

Join Dr. Ritter as he investigates all these topics during in-depth lectures and question and answer sessions. All lectures will be live and participants will have the ability to interact and have their questions answered.


 Dr. Matt Ritter grew up in rural Mendocino County, California. After earning a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from U.C. Santa Barbara, he attended U.C. San Diego for a Ph.D. in plant biology. He’s a botany professor in the Biological Sciences Department at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California, where he lives with his wife and two children. He’s the author of several books, including a new guide to California’s flora, California Plants: A Guide to our Iconic Flora ( He also wrote the funniest and best-selling guide to California’s urban forest, A Californian’s Guide to the Trees among Us (Heyday, 2011). His writing has appeared in several magazines, including a regular column on tree diversity in Pacific Horticulture. He won the Cal Poly’s Distinguished Teaching Award and the Western Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture Award for Excellence in Education. He is the California Coordinator of the American Forests Big Tree Registry, studies California’s native plants, and trees that escape cultivation, particularly Eucalyptus. He’s an avid woodworker, mason, and gardener.



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