Plants are essential living organisms on the earth. They are essential because none of the animals, including humans, can survive without them.
This indicates their importance for life on the earth.
Uses of plants
- As a source of food
- Clothing textile
- Furniture material
- For Life-saving medicine
- Environmental support
- Shelter to animals
- Support rainfall
- Prevent soil erosion
Their presence is inevitable for clean air, food, and water in this world.
Even these plants contribute to our economy. People in many countries rely on plant products for their livelihood and income. Read more on facts about plants.
Plants and people relationships are so much interlinked that we need them to survive.
Uses of Plants to Humans and Importance
Benefits of plants to humans Plants are in the following ways as
Plants are the main source of food for humans. Unlike animals, plants manufacture their own food. They do so by the process known as photosynthesis using their green leaves in the presence of sunlight.
They produce carbohydrates by converting light energy into chemical energy and storing it in them.
This food synthesized in them is available to us in fruits, seeds, tuberous roots, etc.
Impressively, this plant diet is wholesome food with complete nutrients comprising carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
For humans, plant food is ideal for those wishing for a healthy life, athletic training, and recovery from diseases.
For example, an athlete who has undergone rigorous exercise will have exhausted the essential nutrients from his muscles.
He can regain the lost nutrients from plant food in just two days. On the other hand, if he consumes a high protein diet like animal meat, it would take 5 days or more.
Plants are the largest source of essential vitamins for the body. The body cannot manufacture vitamins on its own for metabolism.
This indicates the importance of plant diet to humans.
Plants like cotton are the largest providers of textile and fabric material. The clothes we wear, like jeans, sweatshirts, and undergarments, are mostly made from cotton fibers.
The specialty of these plant fibers is they can be washed easily, ironed with heat, and even boiled to manage colors.
The cloth made from these fibers is comfortable for the body as it helps to aerate the body and also absorb sweat.
Further, these materials are environmentally friendly, durable, and less expensive.
Hence, plant fibers are mainly used for making clothes and bedding material, which we require in daily life.
The plant materials, like jute, contribute to the manufacturing of bags, ropes, and other materials.
3. Furniture & Shelter
Plants have been an important source of furniture since time immemorial. The plant wood is used to build houses, to make furniture items, carts, boats, automobiles, ships, etc.
At home, we use wood due to its features like durability, neat finishing, resistance to temperature changes, etc.
The trees like teak, neem, red sandal, etc., are good sources of wood for making doors, chairs, shelves, tables, etc.
Even the presence of plants around the area of human life relieves stress. Hence we see many people growing small plants in their households to get fresh air and also give them naturalness.
Plants are an excellent source of medicine, even for life-threatening diseases.
For example, drugs like
♦ Digoxin for the plant Digitalis purpurea is used for congestive heart failure.
♦ Vincristine and alkaloid from Vinca Rosea shrub are used for the treatment of cancer.
♦ Theophylline, a derivative of coffee plant pods, is used for asthma.
♦ Ergot, an alkaloid from the fungus Claviceps purpurea, is used as a remedy for migraine headaches.
♦ Reserpine from the plant Rauwolfia serpentine helps to control high blood pressure.
♦ Chloroquine, a derivative of quinine from cinchona tree bark, is used for malaria.
♦ Ginseng, a root extract from Panax ginseng, enhances vitality and immunity.
So we can even notice that plants are the sole sources of some life-threatening medicines.
Also, plant medicine is safer due to its lower chances of side effects and also better compatibility with humans.
Besides, Bacteria, like microbes, which are classified as plants in taxonomy, also support humans. For instance, they produce antibiotics, insulin, hormones, and enzymes by recombinant DNA technology.
Fuels derived from plant biomass are called biofuel. Ethanol and bio-diesel are popular bio-fuels in use currently.
Did you ever drive your vehicle on petrol, which is a mixture of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline? You will notice the vehicle has good pickup and also gives better mileage. It also keeps the engine healthy.
Ethanol is obtained from plant carbohydrate material by fermentation. Similarly, biodiesel is obtained from vegetable oils. This biodiesel too can be mixed with petrol for better performance of the engine.
These plant fuels help to save the economy by minimizing the import of petroleum. Even the plant waste is used to generate electricity.
6. Natural pesticides
Plants are also a source of insecticides and pesticides.
For example, the mosquito repellent we use at home has the chemical pyrethrin. This pyrethrin is obtained from the plant Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium.
Neem oil and extract have pest-repellent and antimicrobial properties. It is used to control aphids, beetles, spider mites, etc., in farming. It is also used against nematodes, fungi, and bacteria.
Using artificial pesticides is harmful to the environment. They stay in the soil for a very long time, causing groundwater, soil, and air pollution. They even enter the food we eat and cause health issues to humans and animals.
Using these naturally derived pesticides is safe. They degrade fast and even do not harm other animals like earthworms, frogs, squirrels, snakes, etc.
7. Rubber & Plastic
Rubber is one of the regular commodities we use in different forms like footwear, tires, tubes, gaskets, etc.
This rubber is a white latex exudation obtained from rubber trees.
It is one of the major sources of economic contribution to farmers.
Flowers are used widely by humans. They are used for beauty, to convey feelings, and also for their fragrance.
In some countries, they are worn as garlands and even in the hair on the head for beauty.
While some use them to convey their love to their beloved ones, they are also used to produce fragrance, and even their scent is extracted for daily use.
9. Environmental support
Plants support the environment. They help reduce the temperature of the earth, maintain humidity, and provide an environment suitable for the life of other animals.
10. Economic contribution
Plants are great contributors to an economy. Many countries rely on agriculture as one of the main sources of revenue.
Plants are responsible for the production of food, cosmetics, drugs, cloth, honey, gum, tannins, essential oils (perfumes), alkaloids, resins, etc., which are all money-yielding. So plants provide a great contribution to economic growth. Even now, many countries’ economies are primarily dependent on plant products.
Importance of Plants in Nature.
The environment and the climate are interlinked mainly with plants. The presence of plants influences rainfall, humidity, and temperature. The cutting down of plants causes an imbalance in the environment, which will indirectly affect human life.
1. Support food chains:
They form the starting point of food chains:
In every food chain, the plants occupy the first position and lead the chain as a source of food. For example
Grass→ Cow→ Lion.
Grass → Insect → Frog→ Snake→ Eagle.
Here the plant starts the chain, and other animals live on it directly or indirectly. Without plants, there can be no life on Earth.
2. Gaseous balance:
Plants help maintain gaseous balance in the air. Animals emit carbon dioxide by taking in oxygen. This rise in carbon dioxide levels in the air is reduced by plants. They consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen during photosynthesis. Thus oxygen, the essential life force, is kept intact on the earth due to plants alone.
3. Prevent soil erosion
Plants, when grown in dense, prevent soil erosion, i.e., in times of winds, the fertile top layer of soil is carried away by air. This is prevented by plants if grown around.
4. Ecological balance:
Plants impart greenery to the atmosphere; they help reduce heat and prevent the drying up of moisture. Thus they are environmentally savvy.
5. Support rainfall
Plants and trees have a cooling effect on the atmosphere leading to rainfall. Hence we see no rain in deserts.
Rainfall is very important in providing water for drinking, cleaning, irrigation, etc. Hence the role of forests in the cause of rainfall is indispensable.
6. Maintain soil fertility
Plants maintain soil fertility. Their droppings and shedding of leaves, fruits, and other parts degrade in the soil to form humus. This humus increases soil fertility as it is microbial-friendly. Plants like blue-green algae and bacteria are also extensively used to fix nitrogen in the soil for agriculture.
7. Support for birds and animals
Plants are the best places of shelter for birds and a few animals like monkeys & squirrels to live.
Birds build their nests to hatch eggs, sleep, hunt, and live safely on the trees.
In forests, animals can take shelter under trees in heavy summers and rain.
They also provide nutrition for many soil worms (earthworms), insects, rodents, etc.
Importance of Plants in the Environment
1. Reduce Gaseous pollution
In cities and towns, there is a rise in gaseous pollution (CO2, CO, SO2, etc.). So city environments are highly polluted and unsafe for living.
This is due to automobiles and factories ejecting toxic gases and also reducing the healthy oxygen ratio of air. Air pollution causes diseases of various types.
So growing plants on the roadside, in parks, etc., helps minimize gaseous pollution. For the benefit of plants’ oxygen, they can even be grown in offices, residential areas, education institutes, etc.
For this, we can use low-maintenance plants like indoor potted plants, hanging plants, etc.
They are the source of essential oils that are used in perfumes. Their material is used for making beverages like wine, beer, etc. The use of plant material also obtains other items like paper, bio-diesel, and bio-manure.
So they contribute to all types of living beings, either big or small, on land or water.
But given the vast importance of plants to humans, we need to strive for plant conservation.