Handout 1: Plant Facts
The Importance of Plants
- Plants play the most important part in the cycle of nature. Without plants, there could be no life on Earth. They are the primary producers that sustain all other life forms. This is so because plants are the only organisms that can make their own food. Animals, incapable of making their own food, depend directly or indirectly on plants for their supply of food. All animals and the foods they eat can be traced back to plants.
- The oxygen we breathe comes from plants.
- Leaves are the main food-making part of most plants. They capture energy from sunlight, and turn water and carbon dioxide into sugar and starch. This sugar and starch becomes the food that provides plants with energy to grow, to produce flowers and seeds, and carry on their other life processes.
- Plants provide many useful drugs. Some of these plants have been used as medicines for hundreds of years.
- The bark of the cinchona tree was used 400 years ago to reduce fever. It is still used to make quinine, a drug used to treat malaria and other diseases.
- Another drug, called digitalis, is used in treating heart disease. It is made from the dried leaves of the purple foxglove plant.
- The roots of the Mexican yam are used in producing cortisone, a drug useful in treating arthritis and a number of other diseases.