Botany is one of the oldest disciplines of natural science concerned with the scientific study of plants. Human knowledge about plants started building with the early people-plant interactions leading to their recognition and use as food, medicine, poison and in other applications. Its beginnings as an academic discipline can be traced back to the time when Theophrastus designed a systematic approach to studying and classifying plant species. Later on, the scope of Botany went on expanding and deepening to include the study of over 250,000 species of living plants and many other extinct forms. The expansion and proliferation of Botany can be mainly related to its importance, relevance and high potentials in human life and development. Today the botanical science is very active in research, education, applications and services to society. It is a distinctly defined and well differentiated branch of biology, also called plant science(s), or simply plant biology. Many specialization and sub-specialization areas of Botany have emerged with much relevance to modern life, wide applications and strong connection with human livelihoods. Botany promises so much and botanical literacy is being called for.
Botany once covered a wide range of scientific disciplines that studied plants, algae and fungi including their structure, growth, reproduction, metabolism, development, diseases, chemical properties and evolutionary relationships studied from different perspectives including the molecular, genetic and biochemical level through organelles, cells, tissues, organs, individuals, populations and communities. Nowadays, Botany is restricted to multicellular plants (bryophytes – mosses, liverworts and hornworts; pteridophytes – fern-allies and ferns; and gymnosperms and angiosperms), and at each level a botanist might be concerned with the classification (taxonomy), structure (anatomy and morphology) or function (physiology) of plant life. Present-day Botany is an exciting, ever-changing field, going far and wide beyond academics to the applied areas with a multitude of career opportunities.
There are many problems including global climate change, poverty and loss of forests and other wilderness areas whose solutions require knowledge of Botany. As the world's population grows, so does the need for more and better food supplies. In addition, air, soil and water pollution increases, and habitats would be lost, all of which threaten life. The search for new drugs, medicines, and useful genes continues with exploration in various parts of the world. Plant biologists more than ever are in demand to meet these challenges and help to solve these problems. This is more so in Ethiopia, an agricultural country depending on its plant resources for most of its needs.