In Part I of Exploring the Garden, we made the bold statement:
"The importance of photosynthesis cannot be overstated. All
life on earth depends on it."
We talked about how humansand all
animalsdepend on plants to capture the energy of the sun and, using that energy,
manufacture the carbohydrates on which all animal life depends. Add that to the fact that
during the process of photosynthesis plants release the oxygen we need to survive, and our
dependence upon plants becomes clear.
OK, so we know plants are vital to our survival. But
plants also enhance our lives in innumerable ways. If you look around you right now, you
can probably find a number of items that are derived from plantspencils, paper,
desk, cork bulletin board, cotton t-shirt, books. But you might be surprised at just how
pervasive plants and plant products are in the products you see and use every day.
Rather than simply constructing a random list of
plant-derived products, lets take a more organized, botany-centered approach.
Lets begin at the cellular level and look at various plant cell structures and
properties, and explore how their characteristics determine their utility to us.