Uses of Plants: When human societies were developed the living things were traditionally divided into plants and animals. Aristotle distinguished plants and animals as which do not move and move. Much later, when Linnaeus (1707–1778) created the scientific classification, these two groups became the kingdoms Vegetabilia (later Metaphyta or Plantae) and Animalia (also called Metazoa). Since then, it has become clear that the plant kingdom as originally defined included several unrelated groups, and the fungi and several groups of algae were removed to new kingdoms.
Uses of plants:
Human beings depend upon plants and the products made from them. Plants have always provided us with basic needs such as shelter, food, warmth and tools. The use of vegetables and fruits as food is common to all cultures but plants have a wide variety of other uses too. Starchy and spicy roots are used for food and flavorings, plant fibers are woven into textiles and ropes, and trees not only give us timber, but also rubbery latexes, cork and pulp for paper. Perfume, tea, cooking oils, medical drugs etc. where obtained from plants.
Food and drink:
Starchy plants like grains, potatoes, yams and some grasses form the basis of most diets. Plants provide tea coffee and coco and refreshing vitamin fruit juices are obtained from fruits. Food an d drinks are often sweetened with sugar prepared from sugar cane or sugar beet. Wine is made from fermented grapes and beer is made from fermented grains. Foods from plants contain necessary nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Major part of the dietary fibre is found only in plants. Fruit is one of the many foods we get from plants. Other parts of plants we use for food include:
The aromatic seeds, roots and bark of some plants are dried to make some spices and added to food to enhance its flavor. The nutmeg tree provides nutmeg from its seed and mace from the flesh around the seed. Other spices include cinnamon and ginger.Most spices are still obtained from the tropics, predominantly Asia. Africa supplies the grains of paradise while tropical America furnishes vanilla, red pepper and allspice. A small number are found in the cooler temperate regions of the Old World.
Plants have been used for medicine from the initial stage for human origin. The ability to process a wide variety of chemical compounds that are used to perform important biological functions to defend against health disorders for both humans and animals. Many of these phytochemicals have beneficial effects on long-term health when consumed by humans, and can be used to effectively treat human diseases. At least 12,000 such compounds have been isolated so far which is an estimate to be less than 10% of the total.
Some plants produce chemicals, that is eaten or touched can have dramatic effects. These plants may be poisonous if taken in large doses, but in small amounts they often have valuable medicinal properties. Cinchona tree bark is used to make quinine to treat malaria. Digitalin extracted from foxgloves is used as a hear stimulant, and morphine and codeine from the opium poppy are used as painkiller.
Beauty and cosmetics are associated with human beings from their origin of life. In this plants play a vital role for providing complexion. Plants are important ingredients in cosmetics. A Botanical Ingredient is a component of a cosmetic or personal care product that originates from plants herbs, roots, flowers, fruits, leaves or seeds. Herbal extracts and fragrant oils, such as jasmine and lavender are used to scent many cosmetics. Aloe vera and cocoa butter are used in moisturizing lotions and alginates from seaweeds are used as gelling and stabilizing agents.
Fuels made from plants as a way to decrease the world’s consumption of fossil fuels, especially oil. These so called “energy crops” include wheat, corn, soybeans and sugarcane. Biofuels burn cleaner than fossil fuels, releasing fewer pollutants and greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. They are sustainable, and energy companies often mix biofuels with gasoline. In other words, unlike oil, coal or natural gas, biofuels won’t run out.
Biofuels fall into two main categories: bio alcohol and biodiesel. To create bio alcohol, such as ethanol, engineers use yeast and bacteria to break down the starch in corn and other plants. To create biodiesel, refineries use the oil already found in crops such as soybeans. These vegetable oils are treated with alcohol and turned into biodiesel. Coal, oil, and natural gases are all derived from the plants which decomposed under the soil long ago. Half the wood felled each year is also burnt for fuel. In some countries such as Ireland, peat- the composed remains of mosses and sedges is still dug from the ground and used as fuel.
Like agriculture, textiles have been a fundamental part of human life since the dawn of civilization. Natural fibres are greatly elongated substances produced by plants and animals that can be spun into filaments, thread or rope. Woven, knitted, matted or bonded, they form fabrics that are essential to society. Fibers from the leaves and stems of flax, hemp, raffia and other plants can be spun into yarns. Some fibres such as cotton and kapok come from the seed heads. The finer softer yarns are used to make cloths. Cloths of many colors and patterns are made by weaving threads together on a hand or machine loom. Coarser fibres from plants such as agave and sisal are woven into mats, ropes and baskets. Fiber crops are generally harvestable after a single growing season, as distinct from trees, which are typically grown for many years before being harvested for wood pulp fiber. In specific circumstances, fiber crops can be superior to wood pulp fiber in terms of technical performance, environmental impact or cost.
Plants have been used for natural dyeing since before recorded history. Before artificial dyes were invented, most yarns were colored with natural plant dyes. These are made by pounding natural plants and mixing them with liquid. The color is fixed with chemicals. The colors are quite subtle but many people prefer them to artificial dyes. The staining properties of plants were noted by humans and have been used to obtain and retain these colors from plants throughout history. Native plants and their resultant dyes have been used to enhance people’s lives through decoration of animal skins, fabrics, crafts, hair, and even their bodies.
Every year we use almost 3,000 million cubic meters of wood worldwide. The unique properties of wood are its strength, durability flexibility and appearance make it ideal for constructing boats, building, furniture and smaller items such as musical instruments and toys. Resin that oozes from cut conifer trunks provides turpentine’s and rosin and is used to make varnishes.
Cork oak trees (Quercus suber ) commonly called as the cork oak. It is the primary source for the cork which is having a thick layer of cork below their bark that is striped from the tree every 8 – 10 years. This does no harm as the tree grows soon a cork layer. Cork functions as a bottle. Cork has many uses, as it is waterproof and has good sound and heat insulating properties. It is used for cork flooring. It is native to southwest Europe and northwest Africa. This is one of the few trees able to regenerate their bark. Cork is a kind of bark where the dead cells are waterproofed by a wax called suberin. One cubic centimetre of cork contains 40 million air cells. It is warm to the touch, durable, light, bouncy, chemically inert, and the suction-cup effect of the cut cells makes it stick to a bottle neck.
Natural rubber is made from the sap, called latex of the rubber tree. Below the bark of the rubber trees is a sticky sap or latex that oozes out when the bark is cut. As it dries the latex becomes stretchy. It is treated to turn it into rubber. Rubber is used to make many items like tyre, shoes etc. and uses as a incorporating item to many products where stretch and elasticity is needed.
Paper is a thin material produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood pulp, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets. Books, tissues and printed items such as newspaper s are a few examples of the kinds of paper that we use daily. Some natural forests are still being felled to provide pulp but now much of the wood needed is grown on plantations of fast growing trees such as eucalyptus and poplar.