The Plant Biology Option allows biology majors to focus their studies on plant science and to have this reflected on their transcript. There are a number of departments at UW–Madison who host plant science-based majors, including agronomy, botany, horticulture, plant pathology, and forest and wildlife ecology. While those specialized majors offer in-depth programs in their disciplines, the Plant Biology option allows students to pursue a course of study within the biology major and explore plant biology at the same time. Students in this option can fulfill their requirements with courses that emphasize various aspects of plant science, including anatomy, physiology, genetics, crop production, disease resistance, and molecular techniques in plant improvement. Students also participate in a one credit seminar called Frontiers in Plant Science taught by two faculty from plant science departments.

Who should enroll in this option? Students with broad interest in biological sciences who also want to:
  • Prepare for graduate work in a plant science field
  • Prepare for advanced study or graduate work in a natural or environmental science field
  • Concentrate their studies on the biology of plants

Courses may not double count within the major (unless specifically noted otherwise), but courses counted toward the major requirements may also be used to satisfy a university requirement and/or a college requirement. A minimum of 15 credits must be completed in the major that are not used elsewhere. Students must complete a minimum of 31 credits from Introductory Biology, Foundation, Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar (options only) and additional lab/research courses. 

Core Requirements

Mathematics and Statistics

Select one of the following:5-10
Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry I
and Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II
Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1
Select one of the following: 13-4
Calculus and Analytic Geometry 2
Introduction to Statistical Methods
Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences


General Chemistry
Select one of the following: 15-9
General Chemistry I
and General Chemistry II
Advanced General Chemistry
Organic Chemistry
CHEM 343 Introductory Organic Chemistry3
CHEM 344 Introductory Organic Chemistry Laboratory2
CHEM 345 Intermediate Organic Chemistry3


1st semester Physics; select one of the following:4-5
General Physics
General Physics
General Physics
2nd semester Physics, select one of the following:4-5
General Physics
General Physics
General Physics

Introductory Biology

Select one of the following options: 110-16
Option A:
Introductory Biology
Introductory Biology
Option B:
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics Laboratory
Cellular Biology
Cellular Biology Laboratory
Organismal Biology
Option C:
Animal Biology
Animal Biology Laboratory
General Botany
Foundational Course 2
Select one of the following:3
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics
and Cellular Biology 3
Plant Breeding and Biotechnology
Principles of Genetics
General Genetics 2
Microbial Genetics & Molecular Machines
Introduction to Biochemistry
General Biochemistry II

Intermediate/Advanced Courses

Minimum of 13 credits required and must include one approved lab course. Approved lab courses are indicated by footnote.
Select one course from categories A or B below. Select one course from categories C or D below. Select one course from category E or from an unused category above.

 A. Cellular and Subcellular Biology

AGRONOMY/​HORT  338 Plant Breeding and Biotechnology3
AGRONOMY/​BOTANY/​HORT  339 Plant Biotechnology: Principles and Techniques I 14
AGRONOMY/​BOTANY/​HORT  340 Plant Cell Culture and Genetic Engineering 14
BIOCHEM 501 Introduction to Biochemistry3
BIOCHEM 507 General Biochemistry I3
BIOCHEM 508 General Biochemistry II3-4
BIOCHEM/​BOTANY  621 Plant Biochemistry3
BOTANY/​ENTOM/​PL PATH  505 Plant-Microbe Interactions: Molecular and Ecological Aspects3
BOTANY/​GENETICS/​HORT  561 Introductory Cytogenetics2-3
GENETICS 466 Principles of Genetics3
GENETICS 467 General Genetics 13

B. Organismal Biology

BIOCORE 486 Organismal Biology Laboratory 12
BOTANY 300 Plant Anatomy 14
BOTANY 305 Plant Morphology and Evolution 14
BOTANY 330 Algae 13
BOTANY/​PL PATH  332 Fungi 14
BOTANY/​F&W ECOL  402 Dendrology 12
BOTANY 500 Plant Physiology 13-4
ENTOM/​ZOOLOGY  302 Introduction to Entomology 14
PL PATH 558 Biology of Plant Pathogens 13

C. Ecology

AGRONOMY/​BOTANY/​SOIL SCI  370 Grassland Ecology3
BOTANY/​ZOOLOGY  450 Midwestern Ecological Issues: A Case Study Approach2
BOTANY/​F&W ECOL  455 The Vegetation of Wisconsin 14
BOTANY/​F&W ECOL/​ZOOLOGY  460 General Ecology 14
BOTANY/​ENTOM/​ZOOLOGY  473 Plant-Insect Interactions3
BOTANY/​ENVIR ST/​F&W ECOL/​ZOOLOGY  651 Conservation Biology3
F&W ECOL 550 Forest Ecology3
F&W ECOL/​LAND ARC/​ZOOLOGY  565 Principles of Landscape Ecology2
MICROBIO/​AN SCI/​BOTANY  335 The Microbiome of Plants, Animals, and Humans3
PL PATH 300 Introduction to Plant Pathology 14
BOTANY/​ZOOLOGY  459 Ecological Techniques for Field Monitoring1-2

D. Evolution and Systematics

ANTHRO/​BOTANY/​ZOOLOGY  410 Evolutionary Biology3
BOTANY 400 Plant Systematics 14
BOTANY 401 Vascular Flora of Wisconsin 14
BOTANY 422 Plant Geography3
BOTANY 563 Phylogenetic Analysis of Molecular Data3
GENETICS 468 General Genetics 23

E. Applied Biology, Agriculture and Natural Resources

A A E/​AGRONOMY/​INTER-AG/​NUTR SCI  350 World Hunger and Malnutrition3
AGRONOMY 300 Cropping Systems3
AGRONOMY 302 Forage Management and Utilization3
AGRONOMY/​HORT  360 Genetically Modified Crops: Science, Regulation & Controversy2
AGRONOMY 377 Cropping Systems of the Tropics3
AGRONOMY/​HORT  501 Principles of Plant Breeding3
AMER IND/​ANTHRO/​BOTANY  474 Ethnobotany3-4
BIOLOGY/​GENETICS  522 Evolution Seminar Series-Undergraduate1
BOTANY 403 Field Collections and Identification1-4
BOTANY/​ZOOLOGY  459 Ecological Techniques for Field Monitoring1-2
DY SCI/​INTER-AG  471 Food Production Systems and Sustainability3
F&W ECOL/​HORT/​LAND ARC/​PL PATH  309 Diseases of Trees and Shrubs3
F&W ECOL 410 Principles of Silviculture3
F&W ECOL 415 Tree Physiology3
GENETICS/​HORT  550 Molecular Approaches for Potential Crop Improvement3
HORT/​LAND ARC  263 Landscape Plants I 13
HORT 370 World Vegetable Crops3
HORT 372 Colloquium in Organic Agriculture1
HORT 376 Tropical Horticultural Systems1
HORT 378 Tropical Horticultural Systems International Field Study2
HORT/​PATH-BIO  500 Molecular Biology Techniques 13
LACIS 440 Topics in Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies1-4
MED PHYS/​NTP  651 Methods for Neuroimaging Research3
PL PATH/​SOIL SCI  323 Soil Biology3
PL PATH 517 Plant Disease Resistance2-3
ZOOLOGY 500 Undergraduate Neurobiology Seminar1
BIOCORE 587 Biological Interactions3


Undergradute Plant Science Seminar (1 cr minimum)
PL PATH 375 Special Topics (Frontiers in Plant Biology)1-4

Capstone Requirement

Two credits minimum required. With advisor approval, directed study or research-based senior thesis in a biological science discipline can also count. The experience must be completed after the first year of an introductory biology sequence above. The capstone experience will normally be completed during the student’s final two or three semesters. Also, a subset of laboratory courses has been approved for capstone. The following courses, along with 682s and 692s in biological science departments (taken senior year), can be accepted as fulfilling the capstone experience.
ANAT&PHY 435 Fundamentals of Human Physiology5
BIOCORE 486 Organismal Biology Laboratory 12
BMOLCHEM 504 Human Biochemistry Laboratory3
BOTANY/​F&W ECOL  455 The Vegetation of Wisconsin4
BOTANY/​F&W ECOL/​ZOOLOGY  460 General Ecology (taken fall 2016 - summer 2020)4
BOTANY/​LAND ARC  670 Adaptive Restoration Lab2
ENVIR ST/​ZOOLOGY  511 Ecology of Fishes Lab (taken fall 2016 - summer 2020)2
F&W ECOL 599 Wildlife Research Capstone (limited access)3
MICROBIO 551 Capstone Research Project in Microbiology2
ZOOLOGY 316 Laboratory for Limnology-Conservation of Aquatic Resources2-3
ZOOLOGY 555 Laboratory in Developmental Biology3

Honors in the Major

To earn Honors in the Major, students are required to take at least 20 honors credits. In addition, students must take BIOLOGY 681 Senior Honors Thesis and BIOLOGY 682 Senior Honors Thesis when completing their thesis project; please see the Honors in Major Checklist for more information.

Sample Biology Four-Year Plan—Plant Biology Option

CHEM 103 or 1094-5CHEM 1045
Math13-5Stats/ Math3-5
COMM A or Breadth6COMM A or Breadth5-7
First Year Seminar21 
 14-17 13-17
Total Credits 27-34
CHEM 3433CHEM 3453
Stats / Math (if needed)3-5CHEM 3442
Intro Biology Course33-5Intro Biology Course33-5
Breadth Course3Breadth Course4-6
 12-16 12-16
Total Credits 24-32
Foundational or Biocore3-5Biocore or Intermediate/Advanced Plant Biology43-5
Electives5-8Plant Science Seminar1
 12-18 13-18
Total Credits 25-36
Intermediate/Advanced Plant Biology45Intermediate/Advanced Plant Biology45
Capstone or Research2-3Capstone or Research2-3
Plant Science Seminar (if needed)1Plant Science Seminar (if needed)1
 13-17 13-17
Total Credits 26-34