Botany, also called plant science(s) or plant biology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. The term "botany" comes from the Ancient Greek word βοτάνη (botane) meaning "pasture", "grass", or "fodder"; βοτάνη is in turn derived from βόσκειν (boskein), "to feed" or "to graze". A person who studies plants may be called a botanist or a plant scientist. Traditionally, botany has included the study of fungi and algae, studied by mycologists, phycologists respectively, with the study of plants and these three groups of organisms remain within the sphere of interest of the International Botanical Congress. Nowadays, botanists study approximately 400,000 species of living organisms of which some 260,000 species are vascular plants and about 248,000 are flowering plants.
Botany originated in prehistory as herbalism with the efforts of early humans to identify – and later cultivate – edible, medicinal and poisonous plants, making it one of the oldest branches of science. Medieval physic gardens, often attached to monasteries, contained plants of medical importance. They were forerunners of the first botanical gardens attached to universities, founded from the 1540s onwards. One of the earliest was the Padua botanical garden. These gardens facilitated the academic study of plants. Efforts to catalogue and describe their collections were the beginnings of plant taxonomy, and led in 1753 to the binomial system of Carl Linnaeusthat remains in use to this day.
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