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Uses of Plants

There exists a plethora of potential uses for plants which range from being food-based, aesthetically pleasing, medical-based, economic and cultural. Since the beginning of civilization, animals and human beings have been utilizing plants to fulfill their needs and still today, plant species remain to possess an integral role in all ecosystems.

Early humans, such as those residing in hunter gatherer societies, used plants in their day-to-day lives for clothing, food, as medicine and for building miscellaneous items. Although hunter gatherer societies did not have the knowledge or tools we have today regarding plants and how to use them, they knew that these species were critical to their survival. Native Americans also were aware of the strong powers plants can have, such as healing-based ones, and for these individuals, plants were not just beneficial to their health, but they also held meaningful cultural significance.

The use of plants as a food source for humans and even for feeding animals and livestock was completely revolutionized with the emergence of agriculture. This also led to major economic benefits. In modern society, plants are traded and sold all over the world and furthermore, there has been insightful and successful progress in the field of genetic engineering.   

Other important applications of plants include using them as spices, perfumes and novelties, for housing and tools, and for designing clothing and personal décor. These plant-based functions are both economic and social in nature, depending on what end of the trade you are on. Nevertheless, plants have and also will play a pivotal role in the biosphere and understanding their complex functionality is critical to plant biology. 

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Categories within Uses of Plants

Hunter Gatherer Societies

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Hunter gatherer societies likely initiated during the Lower Paleolithic period which began 2.5 million years ago.

Emergence of Agriculture

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The emergence of agriculture took place during the Neolithic period which began around 10 000 BC.

Plants for Foods and Nutrition

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Plants have been used as a source of food and nutrition since the beginning of time and have been an integral product in the practices of hunting, gathering and agriculture, the methods used historically to acquire food.

Use of Plants by Native Americans

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Native Americans have a cultural appreciation and knowledge of plants which is vast and has been passed down through their generations for centuries.

Spices, Perfumes and Novelties

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Spices, perfumes and novelties represent both food related in terms of spices, and aesthetical based applications of plants.

Housing and Tools

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Housing and tools represent a non-food based application of plants, which for the most part is constructed from the wood of tree species.

Clothing and Personal Décor

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Clothing and personal décor are common, everyday products which can be produced from an array of plant species.

Medical Botany

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Medical botany is an area of plant biology which deals explicitly with the application of plant species for medicinal purposes.