HORT*4200 Plants, Environment and Society

course node page

NOTE: This course is cancelled for W23.
The following description is for the course offering in Winter 2022 and is subject to change. It is provided for information only. The course outline distributed to the class at the beginning of the semester describes the course content and delivery, and defines the methods and criteria to be used in establishing the final grades for the course.

The course will explore the environmental impact of plants in urban and rural landscapes and society's perception of the how those areas should be used. Emphasis will be placed on the ecology of managed landscapes and issues surrounding society's perception of management practices. The impact of public perception about the management and environmental impact of plants in urban and rural landscapes will be discussed, including the issues surrounding the use and maintenance of managed landscapes ecosystems.

The course is a writing intensive, discussion based course. Participants will be expected to arrive for class prepared for discussion. The course aims for students to apply scientific literature and methods to examine policy decisions. Students are encouraged to creatively address problems presented and utilize the skills they have learned from previous courses.


Teaching Assistant:

Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Winter

Class Schedule and Location:

Please refer to WebAdvisor for class schedule and location.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. apply scientific literature in plants and science to communicate and defend an opinion regarding societal and environmental issues.
  2. produce important factual information about a number of issues regarding plant production and maintenance and how they impact the environment and society.
  3. clearly and concisely write about societal and environmental issues using logical arguments.
  4. implement different decision making frame works to form and defend opinion regarding issues in plant production and maintenance that impact both the environment and society.
  5. determine the difference between reliable scientific information and information that is either flawed or has an inherent political motivation.
  6. select relevant scientific articles that impact decision making by policy makers and lead a discussion that ties that research and other research back to a topic.
  7. recognize the importance of understanding the strongest rational for both sides of an issue.
  8. recognize and refute different argumentative fallacies.

Lecture Content:

Topics to be covered include:
  • How plants impact the environment and sustainability
  • Carbon Sequestration, Science, Perception
  • Measuring and understanding carbon
  • Urban water deficit, water cycles in the urban environment
  • How plants impact water quality
  • Reducing water use
  • Cultural connections to plant production
  • Pesticide use and policy
  • GMO and PNT: what are they and how they are created
  • Science behind the organic movement
  • Ecological stability, benefits of urban plants
  • Invasive species/Value of Green Space
Labs & Seminars:

There are no labs or seminars scheduled for this course.

Course Assignments and Tests:

Assignment or Test Contribution to Final Mark Learning Outcomes Assessed

Online Quizzes (3)


2, 4, 8

Reading Scientific Papers

5% 2, 4, 8

Paper / Lead Discussion


1, 2, 5, 6, 8

Fact Check


1, 2, 5, 6, 8

Discussion Participation 


1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8

Short Paper 


1, 3, 6
Midterm Paper 20%

1, 2, 3, 5, 7

Presentation Video

10% 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8

Final Paper

30% 1, 2, 3, 5, 7


Final examination:

HORT*4200 does not have a final exam. Instead a final assignment will be due during finals week.

Course Resources:

Required Texts:

Not applicable

Recommended Texts:
Articles may be placed on reserve in the library at times throughout the semester (Article)
Students are expected to make use of online library resources to collect primary literature.
Lab Manual:

Not applicable

Other Resources:
CourseLink (Website)
Links to articles will be posted on CourseLink
Field Trips:

Not applicable.

Additional Costs:

Not applicable.

Course Policies:

Grading Policies:

Turning In Assignments: Assignments are to be turned in electronically through CourseLink. Assignments sent to the instructor’s @uoguelph.ca account will not be graded unless specifically authorized! All assignments should be PDF documents (others will be accepted only with pre-authorization) and the document will follow the following form for a filename: lastname_firstinitial-paper1.pdf (Lyons_E-ShortPaper), without opening the document the instructor should be able to identify the student and assignment.

Policy on Late Assignments: All assignments are due at 5pm on Friday in the week that they are listed as due in the Course Outline.  For each business day they are late, 20% will be subtracted from the mark earned on the assignment. The deadline of each day is 5pm.

Missed exams and Activities: If emergencies or medical reasons arise please contact the instructor BEFORE the activity of assignment may be made up after the exam time with proper documentation.

Course Policy on Group Work: 

Students are encouraged to use their colleagues as resources to improve their learning experience and improve the quality of their assignments. With that in mind each student is expected to do her or his own work and turn in a novel piece of work for each assignment.

Course Policy regarding use of electronic devices and recording of lectures:

In order to facilitate free and open discussion electronic recording of classes is expressly forbidden without consent of the instructor. When recordings are permitted they are solely for the use of the authorized student and may not be reproduced, or transmitted to others, without the express written consent of the instructor.

Other Course Information:

University Policies

Academic Consideration

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the academic calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration:

Academic Misconduct

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community, faculty, staff, and students  to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring.

University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection. Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the University Calenders:


The University of Guelph is committed to creating a barrier-free environment. Providing services for students is a shared responsibility among students, faculty and administrators. This relationship is based on respect of individual rights, the dignity of the individual and the University community's shared commitment to an open and supportive learning environment. Students requiring service or accommodation, whether due to an identified, ongoing disability or a short-term disability should contact the Student Accessibility Services (SAS), formerly Centre for Students with Disabilities (CSD), as soon as possible.

For more information, contact CSD at 519-824-4120 ext. 56208 or email sas@uoguelph.ca or visit the Student Accessibility Services website: http://www.uoguelph.ca/csd/.

Course Evaluation Information

Your ratings and comments are important.  Course evaluation data are used to assess and enhance the quality of teaching and student learning at the University of Guelph.  Student course ratings and comments are used as an important component in the Faculty Tenure & Promotion process, and as valuable feedback to help instructors improve their teaching effectiveness and to improve the delivery of the course.

Your responses will not affect your grade.  Course evaluation data are distributed to individual instructors after final grades have been submitted to the Registrar, following the completion of each academic semester.

Please be honest, respectful, constructive and thorough.  Instructors and review committees place great value on student course ratings and read all comments provided in course evaluations. It is helpful to provide comments on the strengths of the course, in addition to the areas for improvement.  Please refrain from personal comments unless they relate to teaching and learning.

Click here for the University of Guelph Course Evaluation System