I'm not aware of too many efforts to identify seminal papers in botany
other than Janick's book:
Janick, J. 1989. Classic Papers in Horticultural Science. Prentice Hall
It contains papers from Theophrastus to 1984 and includes an
explanatory essay for each of the 31 classics.
Gabriel, M.L. & Fogel, S.F. 1955. Great experiments in biology.
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
has excerpts from a few seminal plant studies, particularly early
I would say sections of Charles Darwin's books on plants are classics,
particularly Insectivorous Plants and The Power of Movement in Plants:
Some of the older Plant Physiology articles are appearing online. This
one seems like a classic because it shows that leaves do absorb and use
much green light in photosynthesis, despite the common misconception
that they reflect all green light:
Balegh, S.E. and Biddulph, O. 1970. The photosynthetic action spectrum
of the bean plant. Plant Physiol. 46: 1-5.
Unlike many textbooks, the Plant Physiology textbook by Salisbury and
Ross and the Plant Propagation textbook by Hartmann and Kester both
have extensive citations of the primary literature, which enables
readers to see who made key discoveries.
Temple, S. 1977. Plant-animal mutualism: Coevolution with Dodo leads
to near extinction of plant. Science 197:885-886.
has become a seminal paper in many textbooks but has been thoroughly
Hershey, D.R. 2004. The Widespread Misconception that the Tambalacoque
or Calvaria Tree Absolutely Required the Dodo Bird for its Seeds to
Germinate. Plant Science Bulletin 50(4): 105-108.
Recent reviews in various botany journals and in annual reviews might
be more worthwhile reading than classic papers.
Annals of Botany has free Botanical Briefings, which are mini-reviews:
All are interesting. Some that seem very worthwhile for a botany
teacher are "Plant Hormone Binding Sites", "How do Plants Survive
Ice?", "Salicylic Acid and Systemic Acquired Resistance to Pathogen
Attack" and "Resurrection Plants and the Secrets of Eternal Leaf".
New Phytologist has dozens of free articles, including their monthly
Some especially worthwhile Tansley reviews are "The plastic plant: root
responses to heterogeneous supplies of nutrients", "Plant and
mycorrhizal regulation of rhizodeposition" and "The physiology of
circadian rhythms in plants." Just reading the introduction to the
Tansley reviews would give a teacher some current knowledge on a wide
range of botanical topics.
Several other plant journals have free online articles:
Plant, Cell and Environment, Physiologia Plantarum and other plant
Current Opinion in Plant Biology:
Wayne's Word website is filled with interesting plant info that would
be very useful to a botany teacher:
Being aware of common plant misconceptions would be worthwhile as well:
Hershey, D.R. 2004. Avoid Misconceptions When Teaching about Plants.
There are quite a few botany course websites that would be instructive
for a novice botany teacher:
Darley's essay on Plantness is very nice:
David R. Hershey
dh321 at excite.com