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More exam question commentaries: this one from Level 2 Plant Growth
by Janet Prescott - Monday, 11 November 2019, 8:18 PM

Now that the autumn is ending and minds are turning towards study for RHS exams in the long evenings, we will be posting some commentaries on exam questions every week.
The first is from level 2 Plant Growth, Unit 1 (2101) in Feb 2019.

Q1. a) State the meaning of EACH of the following terms:
i) herbaceous perennial (1 mark)
ii) evergreen tree (1 mark)
iii) half-hardy annual (1 mark)
b) Name TWO plant examples for EACH of the terms listed in a).
i) herbaceous perennial ( 2 marks)
ii) evergreen tree (2 marks)
iii) half-hardy annual (2 marks)
c) Name the term used to describe a plant which completes several life cycles in one season. (1 mark)

This question relates to the following part of the syllabus:
Outcome 1. Know the characteristics and the naming of the main groups of plants and their life cycles.
1.4 Define a range of botanical and horticultural terms relating to plant growth.
Define the botanical terms: ‘annual’, ‘ephemeral’, ‘biennial’ and ‘perennial’ and the horticultural meanings of ‘annual’, ‘biennial’ and ‘perennial’. (An example of different
meanings is that
Dipsacus fullonum (teasel) is a true biennial, Erysimum cheirii (wallflower) is used as a biennial in horticulture but is a perennial).
Define the botanical terms: ‘herbaceous’, ‘woody’, ‘evergreen’, ‘semi-evergreen’.
Define the horticultural terms: ‘tender perennial’, ‘half hardy annual’, and ‘hardy annual’. (A ‘tender perennial’ cannot survive frost; a ‘half hardy annual’ is sown under protection early in the season then planted out; a ‘hardy annual’ is sown in situ).
Define the terms ‘shrub’ and ‘tree’.
TWO plant examples should be known for EACH term.

For part a) it is important to realise that there are two parts to state the meaning of for each of the terms. So for an herbaceous perennial, you need to state that it has non-woody growth as it doesn’t have secondary thickening, and also that it completes its life cycle in over two years or growing seasons.
For part ii) the examiners’ comments suggest the following:
‘Evergreen tree retains its’ leaves over winter and has a single stem or trunk’
For part iii) ‘Half-hardy annual must be sown under protection from frost and are planted out when danger of frost has passed’. The RHS hardiness ratings are also suggested are also suggested as acceptable answers. Half-hardy has the rating of H3 which can survive temperatures of down to -5 degrees C. The other
part of the term means that the plant completes its life cycle in one year or growing season.

Full botanical names are required for full marks for part b). For any plant examples make sure you learn typical ones. For example, for a tree or shrub it is a good idea to give one that is very clearly a tree rather than one that could be defined as either a large shrub or small tree.

The examiners comments suggested the following as suitable answers:
i) Papaver orientale, Alchemilla mollis, Brunnera macrophylla.
ii) Quercus ilex, Eucalyptus gunnii, Pinus sylvestris.
iii) Tagetes patula, Begonia semperflorens, Salvia splendens.

For the herbaceous perennial the examiners’ comments state that marks weren’t awarded to candidates who gave examples of sub-shrubs or biennials. There are many plants that don’t fit neatly into categories and you will find them described differently in different text books etc. Use typical examples to leave no doubt!

For part c) the correct term is ‘ephemeral’.

This question highlights the importance of being able to define all the terms listed on the syllabus accurately and to provide suitable correctly named plant examples.