Whether you are an expert gardener, amateur botanist, or are a person who has never thought about the trees your dog pees on, you should care about plants. Why? You can’t live without them! Plants keep your house safe in Plants vs. Zombies, and also form the basis of every terrestrial ecosystem.
Even ignoring the fact that the fibers in your clothes, the paper in your books, and the flour in your designer cupcakes all come from plants, we still have to thank them for a lot. Almost all the energy used on Earth originated as a photon hitting a plant leaf and being converted to sugar. The fossil fuels we use to heat our homes, move us around, and turn into plastic odds and ends originated as plant material millions of years ago. There wouldn’t be an iPad today without the lily pad millions of years ago. Now you can even buy water bottles, forks and plates made directly from plants.
All of these modern conveniences come from the diverse array of evolutionary changes that make up the plant kingdom. Plants can be incredibly varied in their form and function; they can be trees, shrubs, forbs, and grasses. Forbs, not to be confused with the billionaire Steve Forbes, are small flowering plants that aren’t grasses or grains. If it weren’t for the astonishing diversity of plants we’d have no balm for sunburn (no Aloe vera), and even worse no one would coo coo for CoCo Puffs without Theobroma cacao.
Plants don’t just make useful products for humans. Ever go into a park or a forest on a hot summer day and notice it’s cooler under the trees? Plants provide shade and can really help cool air down—not a task to be taken lightly in this changing climate of ours. So let’s explore more about plants in this section, and get to know how they shape our world!