Study plant ecology at home, to better use and manage plants in gardens or the wild. Understand how plants can be grown in different environments.

Course Code: BSC305
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
Get started!

Online Ecology Course -Home Study Training

The term "ecology” was first introduced in 1869 by a German biologist named Ernst Haeckel. The term was derived from the Greek "oikos", which means household or home, and “logos”, which means word or study. Ecology, then, is the study of plants and animals in relation to their home, or environment. The study of ecology was further advanced by Charles Darwin, with his theory of evolution and Alexander von Humboldt, who made extensive explorations in the Orinoco and Amazon River regions in South America in the nineteenth century.

Course Content

There are eight lessons in this module as follows:

  1. Introductory Ecology
  2. Plant Communities
  3. Plants and their Environment
  4. Plants, Soils & Climate
  5. Plant Adaptations to Extreme Environments
  6. Manipulating Plant Environments
  7. Environmental Conservation
  8. Environmental Organisations, Assessment and Funding

Course Aims

  • Define the term ecosystem
  • Explain the importance of plants as energy producers within ecosystems
  • Explain basic ecological principles
  • Define the terms open and closed plant communities, semi-natural vegetation, dominant species, climax association.
  • Describe the effects of plant association and competition on the succession of plants
  • Describe how plant communities respond to environmental stresses.
  • Explain how the development, structure and function of an organism depends on the interaction of that organism with its environment
  • Describe the effects of a range of abiotic environmental factors on plant growth and development
  • Explain the importance of monitoring abiotic environmental factors
  • Describe plant modifications to withstand extreme environmental conditions
  • Describe the weather and climate in a particular region. 
  • Relate plant distribution, growth and natural selection to soil, geography, weather and climate.
  • State how soil, geography, weather and climate affect the horticulturist’s selection of plants for any specific growing location.
  • Evaluate the use of meteorological records in relation to plant growth and development
  • Define the terms xerophyte, hydrophyte and halophyte
  • Describe the structure and function of xerophytes, hydrophytes and halophytes
  • Describe how xerophytes, hydrophytes and halophytes can be utilised in garden or landscape situations
  • Describe the significance of xeromorphy in temperate zone plants and its importance in the garden or landscape situation.
  • Evaluate the methods by which environmental conditions can be manipulated to improve the growth and development of plants
  • State the factors affecting the choice of plants for garden or landscape sites with extreme conditions
  • Assess the value of using protective structures to grow plant
  • Describe the sources and nature of pollutants and possible effects on plants
  • Describe how the environment may be affected by a range of horticultural practices
  • Explain how planning, environmental assessment and impact analysis may contribute to the conservation process
  • State the major sources of grant aide available to support environmental conservation on horticultural sites
  • Review the role of national and international organisations in the conservation of plants and gardens

Duration: 100 hours

Sample Extract from Course Notes:

Ecological Groups of Plants

There are several different classifications of ecological groups plants. Of these groups we will review classification based on plant requirements to moisture and salinity.



From the Greek words hydro (water) and phyton (plant). Hydrophytes are aquatic plants. They require constant moisture in which to grow. This ecological group include plants rooted in wet soil, plants partly or wholly submerged in the water, and plants floating in water or on water surface.


High water tables restrict growth of root system. Some hydrophytes develop morphological adaptations to get oxygen to root systems in wet soil that often lacks oxygen.


Submerged leaves usually lack stomata altogether. Floating leaves may have stomata on one side of leaf only.



From the Greek words xeros (dry) and phyton (plant). This term refers to plants that grow in dry and very dry conditions.


Xerophytes have different morphological and other adaptations to dry conditions especially well seen in desert plants. Some of them have very short span and manage to live their whole live from germination to maturity, flowering and producing seeds within few weeks after an occasional rainfall. These plants usually are small in size and can survive long droughts as seeds.


Some xerophytes develop extremely deep root systems (up to 100 feet or 30 metres) to reach water that might be available deeper in the ground.


Xerophytes often develop leaf modifications to minimize the transpiration. Leaves are often reduced in size and have thick cuticula or covered with epidermal hairs. In some cases leaves are so reduced in size that function of photosynthesis is reassigned to the stem, which become rich in chloroplasts.



From the Greek words meso (middle) and phyton (plant). Mesophytes are plants adapted to moderately wet conditions. This term is not often used as it refers to majority of plants. Most of plants characteristics that we consider “normal” or “usual” are typical for mesophytes.



From the Greek words halo (salt) and phyton (plant). This term refers to plants that prefer or tolerate a high amount of salt in their growing media. Many species of plants on sea beaches are halophytes.


Halophytes have adaptation mechanisms to cope with excessive amount of salt. They maintain acceptable internal salt concentration by excreting excess salts through roots or leaves or by concentrating salts in leaves that later die and drop off.


Open learning environment school -Online courses, certificates and education in biology, sustainability, ecology, marine studies, water, earth, animal, wilderness management, and environmental science.

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and edito

Bob James (Horticulturist)

Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry.
He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Maste

Marie Beerman

Marie has over 10 years in horticulture and education in both Australia and Germany. Marie has been a co author of several ebooks in recent years, including "Roses" and "Climbing Plants".
Marie's qualifications include B. Sc., M.Hort. Dip. Bus. Cert. Lds

Need Help?

Take advantage of our personalised, expert course counselling service to ensure you're making the best course choices for your situation.

I agree for ACS Distance Education to contact me and store my information until I revoke my approval. For more info, view our privacy policy.