Useful plants and fungi
Plants and fungi are essential for human wellbeing; they provide us with food, medicine, fibres, fuel, building materials and many other products. In addition, plants hold great cultural meaning for people all over the world.
Plants are a vital part of healthcare. Over 80% of the world's people rely on traditional medicine, much of which is based on plant remedies.
The Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus, above) has yielded two drugs for the treatment of cancer: childhood leukaemia and Hodgkin's disease.
Other examples include balloon pea (Sutherlandia frutescens) that has been used as a tonic to improve the health of cancer and HIV/AIDS patients; and sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua) which is used in anti-malarial drugs.
Fibres and dyes
Tapa, like the one from Samoa pictured below, is the term used for barkcloth from the Pacific Islands.
For thousands of years, a variety of plants including cotton, flax and hemp have been grown to provide fibre for items such as clothes, ropes and paper.
Vegetable dyes too have been sourced from roots, berries, bark, leaves, and wood of plants.
Plants provide all manner of materials used in construction. These range from timbers and rattans, to exudates such as rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) pictured, and waxes used in paints and other products.
Frankincense, an oily gum resin from the tree Boswellia sacra has a long history of medicinal, religious and social uses.
Food and drink
Without plants and fungi, we wouldn't have staple crops such as rice, wheat and potatoes, or luxuries such as chocolate, beer, bread, herbs and spices.
Traditions & Beliefs
Plants play an important role in traditions and beliefs for many cultures around the world.
Plants are used in festivals and celebrations, play a role in religious beliefs, and can be part of daily rituals.
The Tohono O’odham (Native Americans) would organise their traditional calendar around the saguaro cactus’s (Carnigiea gigantea) annual fruiting cycle. They regarded the species as highly as fellow humans, which should not be hurt.
Plants for fuels
Fuel comes not only from wood but also grasses, oil-seed crops (oilseed rape, sunflower oil, palm oil and soybean oil) and sugar (Saccharum officinarum) pictured above.
Beauty and cosmetics
Plants are an important source of ingredients for many cosmetics, toiletries and perfumes.
An essential oil is distilled from the berries and leaves of Pimenta dioica (allspice) and used in soap, perfumes and aromatherapy.
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