There are plant biology journals that seem to concentrate on a single taxon (you know the ones I mean!) – e.g. The Plant Journal and The Plant Cell. There are others devoted to the molecular biology of plants, such as the aptly named Plant Molecular Biology, and to plant physiology, e.g. Plant Physiology. And all do good things. But for my mind the best general plant biology (in the best traditions of botany, from sub-cellular events to ecosystems via such sub-disciplines as anatomy and physiology) journal is still the Annals of Botany.
Now I might be biased – after all, it published my very first foray into science publication, I am a Handling Editor for the journal, and it hosts these blog posts in the form of a monthly column (named Plant Cuttings) – but it’s still the longest-running (founded in 1887) – and arguably the best of its kind. OK, the New Phytologist comes a close second – and contains some very good items (some of which have been showcased in this very blog over the years – e.g. ‘Soil → roots → stem → atmosphere…’) – but I still associate it with pollen diagrams, mycorrhiza and effects of ozone on plants (yes, I know it’s changed somewhat, but that is how it appeared to me in the 1970s and 1980s…). So what is the special appeal of the ‘Original Phytologist’? It’s just that its coverage is so wide and every issue has items of interest to those who like to maintain a broad appreciation of plant biology/botany.
Take, for instance, the January 2014 issue, which – for me – has at least five items of note: Chong Wei Jin et al’s review ‘An underground tale: contribution of microbial activity to plant iron acquisition via ecological processes’; and the research articles of Andrej Pavlovič et al., ‘Feeding on prey increases photosynthetic efficiency in the carnivorous sundew Drosera capensis’; Melanie Horbens et al., ‘Ontogenetic tissue modification in Malus fruit peduncles: the role of sclereids’; Katerina Koutsovoulou et al., ‘Campanulaceae: a family with small seeds that require light for germination’; and Bo Hu et al., ‘Root cortical aerenchyma inhibits radial nutrient transport in maize (Zea mays)’. All of which have stories to tell, and are informative and also educational: each contributing to the bigger picture that is an appreciation – if not yet a full understanding – of the life of the green plant. Whilst few, if any, of these articles are likely to be cited in my own papers (that is not the sort of botany my own scholarly activity covers these days), they all stand a very good chance of featuring in lectures to my undergraduates. And all of those articles are firmly in keeping with the educational remit of the journal’s owners (the Annals of Botany Company) ‘To promote the science of botany…’.
So whether you are a botanical educator or researcher (or both!), if you haven’t yet tried the journal, why not? Do read past the journal’s front matter such as the Plant Cuttings, the ContentsSnapshots and book reviews and dip into the research articles, invited reviews, etc. – you might even enjoy it. But, be warned, the Annals of Botany can be habit-forming (though not all habits are bad for you…). Happy reading!