|Plants & Human Affairs (BIOL106) - Stephen G. Saupe, Ph.D.; Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.employees.csbsju.edu/ssaupe|
Introduction to Plants and Human Affairs
I. What is a Plant?
A. The 5 or 6 (or More?) Kingdom System
Traditionally, biologists recognized 5 major groups (or kingdoms) of organisms. This system of classification was originally formulated by Robert Whittaker at Cornell, and then championed by Lynn Margulis (Boston Univ.). However, recent studies indicate that there are others including a specialized group of bacteria, methane producers, that are called Archaebacteria). Thus, commonly recognized kingdoms are: Plantae, Animalia, Protista (single-celled or simple organisms), Monera (bacteria, includes blue-green algae), Fungi (mushrooms and molds, mycelium), and Archaebacteria (methane producers, extremeophiles, salt & heat lovers - halophytes and thermophiles).
B. Characteristics of the Plant Kingdom
Plants are non-motile, photosynthetic autotrophs that have cell walls and undergo alternation of generations.
II. Plant Diversity
A. Types of plants
B. Cladogram (in class)
III. Why are plants important? or, Have you thanked a plant today?
A. Plant products
A quick look at the list below should prove the importance of plants in our lives. For more information about any of these topics, check any book on economic botany. One of my favorites is Plants for People by Anna Lewington which examines our reliance on plants from the time we wake up until we go to bed.
Among the ways in which people use plants are: (1) Energy (food, fossil fuels); (2) Nutrients (vitamins, etc.); (3) Liberate oxygen; (4) Prevent oil erosion; (5) wood products (paper, fuel, shelter, furniture); (6) beverages (coffee, tea, beer, wine); (7) fibers/textiles; (8) drugs/medicines; (9) latex/rubber; (10) pitch, turpentine, resins; (11) essential oils (spices, perfumes); (12) aesthetic appeal (gardens, houseplants, landscaping); (13) purify air; (14) food preservation (fermentation); (15) nitrogen fixation; (16) influence course of human history (i.e., spice trade); (17) symbolize events in life (marriage, death, etc.); (18) important in music and art; (19) religious significance; (20) beauty aids cosmetics, soaps; (21) mental stability (horticultural therapy); (22) oils, waxes, gels, tannins
B. The Saupe Challenge
Virtually every aspect of our lives is impacted by plants! In fact, I challenge you to think of product or aspect of your life that is not directly, or indirectly, impacted by plants
IV. Trying to improve on Mother Nature
A. Synthetic Substitutes
Some plant products have been replaced by a variety of synthetic substitutes. These include:
B. Rationale for synthetics
Replacement of plant products with synthetics is a product of "civilization." Among the reasons are: (1) lower cost; (2) uniformity of product; (3) ease of obtaining; (4) ensures supply; and (5) mass production.
Last updated: 09/01/2008 / � Copyright by SG Saupe