Plant

Plant

Overview
Plants are living
Life
Life is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased , or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate...

 organism
Organism
In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system . In at least some form, all organisms are capable of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homoeostasis as a stable whole.An organism may either be unicellular or, as in the case of humans, comprise...

s belonging to the kingdom
Kingdom (biology)
In biology, kingdom is a taxonomic rank, which is either the highest rank or in the more recent three-domain system, the rank below domain. Kingdoms are divided into smaller groups called phyla or divisions in botany...

 Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as tree
Tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

s, flower
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s, herb
Herb
Except in botanical usage, an herb is "any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume" or "a part of such a plant as used in cooking"...

s, bushes
Shrub
A shrub or bush is distinguished from a tree by its multiple stems and shorter height, usually under 5–6 m tall. A large number of plants may become either shrubs or trees, depending on the growing conditions they experience...

, grass
Grass
Grasses, or more technically graminoids, are monocotyledonous, usually herbaceous plants with narrow leaves growing from the base. They include the "true grasses", of the Poaceae family, as well as the sedges and the rushes . The true grasses include cereals, bamboo and the grasses of lawns ...

es, vine
Vine
A vine in the narrowest sense is the grapevine , but more generally it can refer to any plant with a growth habit of trailing or scandent, that is to say climbing, stems or runners...

s, fern
Fern
A fern is any one of a group of about 12,000 species of plants belonging to the botanical group known as Pteridophyta. Unlike mosses, they have xylem and phloem . They have stems, leaves, and roots like other vascular plants...

s, moss
Moss
Mosses are small, soft plants that are typically 1–10 cm tall, though some species are much larger. They commonly grow close together in clumps or mats in damp or shady locations. They do not have flowers or seeds, and their simple leaves cover the thin wiry stems...

es, and green algae
Green algae
The green algae are the large group of algae from which the embryophytes emerged. As such, they form a paraphyletic group, although the group including both green algae and embryophytes is monophyletic...

. The group is also called green plants or Viridiplantae in Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

. They obtain most of their energy from sunlight
Electromagnetic radiation
Electromagnetic radiation is a form of energy that exhibits wave-like behavior as it travels through space...

 via photosynthesis
Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

 using chlorophyll
Chlorophyll
Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in almost all plants, algae, and cyanobacteria. Its name is derived from the Greek words χλωρος, chloros and φύλλον, phyllon . Chlorophyll is an extremely important biomolecule, critical in photosynthesis, which allows plants to obtain energy from light...

 contained in chloroplasts, which gives them their green color.
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Encyclopedia
Plants are living
Life
Life is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased , or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate...

 organism
Organism
In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system . In at least some form, all organisms are capable of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homoeostasis as a stable whole.An organism may either be unicellular or, as in the case of humans, comprise...

s belonging to the kingdom
Kingdom (biology)
In biology, kingdom is a taxonomic rank, which is either the highest rank or in the more recent three-domain system, the rank below domain. Kingdoms are divided into smaller groups called phyla or divisions in botany...

 Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as tree
Tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

s, flower
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s, herb
Herb
Except in botanical usage, an herb is "any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume" or "a part of such a plant as used in cooking"...

s, bushes
Shrub
A shrub or bush is distinguished from a tree by its multiple stems and shorter height, usually under 5–6 m tall. A large number of plants may become either shrubs or trees, depending on the growing conditions they experience...

, grass
Grass
Grasses, or more technically graminoids, are monocotyledonous, usually herbaceous plants with narrow leaves growing from the base. They include the "true grasses", of the Poaceae family, as well as the sedges and the rushes . The true grasses include cereals, bamboo and the grasses of lawns ...

es, vine
Vine
A vine in the narrowest sense is the grapevine , but more generally it can refer to any plant with a growth habit of trailing or scandent, that is to say climbing, stems or runners...

s, fern
Fern
A fern is any one of a group of about 12,000 species of plants belonging to the botanical group known as Pteridophyta. Unlike mosses, they have xylem and phloem . They have stems, leaves, and roots like other vascular plants...

s, moss
Moss
Mosses are small, soft plants that are typically 1–10 cm tall, though some species are much larger. They commonly grow close together in clumps or mats in damp or shady locations. They do not have flowers or seeds, and their simple leaves cover the thin wiry stems...

es, and green algae
Green algae
The green algae are the large group of algae from which the embryophytes emerged. As such, they form a paraphyletic group, although the group including both green algae and embryophytes is monophyletic...

. The group is also called green plants or Viridiplantae in Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

. They obtain most of their energy from sunlight
Electromagnetic radiation
Electromagnetic radiation is a form of energy that exhibits wave-like behavior as it travels through space...

 via photosynthesis
Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

 using chlorophyll
Chlorophyll
Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in almost all plants, algae, and cyanobacteria. Its name is derived from the Greek words χλωρος, chloros and φύλλον, phyllon . Chlorophyll is an extremely important biomolecule, critical in photosynthesis, which allows plants to obtain energy from light...

 contained in chloroplasts, which gives them their green color. Some plants are parasitic and may not produce normal amounts chlorophyll or photosynthesize.

Precise numbers are difficult to determine, but , there are thought to be 300–315 thousand species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 of plants, of which the great majority, some 260–290 thousand, are seed plants (see the table below).

The scientific study of plants is known as botany
Botany
Botany, plant science, or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Traditionally, botany also included the study of fungi, algae and viruses...

.

Definition


Plants are one of the two groups into which all living things are traditionally divided; the other is animals. The division goes back at least as far as Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 (384 BC – 322 BC) who distinguished between plants which generally do not move, and animals which often are mobile to catch their food. Much later, when Linnaeus
Carolus Linnaeus
Carl Linnaeus , also known after his ennoblement as , was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology...

 (1707–1778) created the basis of the modern system of scientific classification, these two groups became the kingdoms
Kingdom (biology)
In biology, kingdom is a taxonomic rank, which is either the highest rank or in the more recent three-domain system, the rank below domain. Kingdoms are divided into smaller groups called phyla or divisions in botany...

 Vegetabilia (later Metaphyta or Plantae) and Animalia (also called Metazoa). Since then, it has become clear that the plant kingdom as originally defined included several unrelated groups, and the fungi
Fungus
A fungus is a member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds , as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, Fungi, which is separate from plants, animals, and bacteria...

 and several groups of algae
Algae
Algae are a large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length. They are photosynthetic like plants, and "simple" because their tissues are not organized into the many...

 were removed to new kingdoms. However, these organisms are still often considered plants, particularly in popular contexts.

Outside of formal scientific contexts, the term "plant" implies an association with certain traits, such as being multicellular, possessing cellulose
Cellulose
Cellulose is an organic compound with the formula , a polysaccharide consisting of a linear chain of several hundred to over ten thousand β linked D-glucose units....

, and having the ability to carry out photosynthesis.

Current definitions of Plantae


When the name Plantae or plant is applied to a specific group of organisms or taxon
Taxon
|thumb|270px|[[African elephants]] form a widely-accepted taxon, the [[genus]] LoxodontaA taxon is a group of organisms, which a taxonomist adjudges to be a unit. Usually a taxon is given a name and a rank, although neither is a requirement...

, it usually refers to one of three concepts. From least to most inclusive, these three groupings are:
Name(s) Scope Description
Land plant
Embryophyte
The land plants or embryophytes, more formally Embryophyta or Metaphyta, are the most familiar group of plants. They are called 'land plants' because they live primarily in terrestrial habitats, in contrast with the related green algae that are primarily aquatic. The embryophytes include trees,...

s, also known as Embryophyta or Metaphyta.
Plantae sensu strictissimo
Sensu
Sensu is a Latin word meaning "in the sense of".It is used in a number of fields including biology, geology, linguistics, and law. Commonly it refers to how strictly or loosely an expression is used, but it also appears in expressions that indicate the convention or context of the usage.-Sensu and...

This group includes the liverworts, hornworts, mosses, and vascular plant
Vascular plant
Vascular plants are those plants that have lignified tissues for conducting water, minerals, and photosynthetic products through the plant. Vascular plants include the clubmosses, Equisetum, ferns, gymnosperms and angiosperms...

s, as well as fossil plants similar to these surviving groups.
Green plants - also known as Viridiplantae
Viridiplantae
Viridiplantae are a clade comprising the green algae and land plants.In some classification systems they have been treated as a kingdom, under various names, e.g. Viridiplantae, Chlorobionta, or simply Plantae, the latter expanding the traditional Plant Kingdom to include the green algae...

, Viridiphyta or Chlorobionta
Plantae sensu stricto This group includes the land plants plus various groups of green algae
Green algae
The green algae are the large group of algae from which the embryophytes emerged. As such, they form a paraphyletic group, although the group including both green algae and embryophytes is monophyletic...

, including stoneworts. The names given to these groups vary considerably . Viridiplantae encompass a group of organisms that possess chlorophyll
Chlorophyll
Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in almost all plants, algae, and cyanobacteria. Its name is derived from the Greek words χλωρος, chloros and φύλλον, phyllon . Chlorophyll is an extremely important biomolecule, critical in photosynthesis, which allows plants to obtain energy from light...

 a and b, have plastid
Plastid
Plastids are major organelles found in the cells of plants and algae. Plastids are the site of manufacture and storage of important chemical compounds used by the cell...

s that are bound by only two membranes, are capable of storing starch, and have cellulose
Cellulose
Cellulose is an organic compound with the formula , a polysaccharide consisting of a linear chain of several hundred to over ten thousand β linked D-glucose units....

 in their cell wall
Cell wall
The cell wall is the tough, usually flexible but sometimes fairly rigid layer that surrounds some types of cells. It is located outside the cell membrane and provides these cells with structural support and protection, and also acts as a filtering mechanism. A major function of the cell wall is to...

s. It is this clade
Clade
A clade is a group consisting of a species and all its descendants. In the terms of biological systematics, a clade is a single "branch" on the "tree of life". The idea that such a "natural group" of organisms should be grouped together and given a taxonomic name is central to biological...

 which is mainly the subject of this article.
Archaeplastida
Archaeplastida
The Archaeplastida are a major group of eukaryotes, comprising the red and green algae and the land plants, together with a small group called the glaucophytes. The plastids of all of these organisms are surrounded by two membranes, suggesting they developed directly from endosymbiotic...

, Plastida or Primoplantae
Plantae sensu lato This group comprises the green plants above plus Rhodophyta (red algae) and Glaucophyta (glaucophyte algae). This clade includes the organisms that eons ago acquired their chloroplast
Chloroplast
Chloroplasts are organelles found in plant cells and other eukaryotic organisms that conduct photosynthesis. Chloroplasts capture light energy to conserve free energy in the form of ATP and reduce NADP to NADPH through a complex set of processes called photosynthesis.Chloroplasts are green...

s directly by engulfing cyanobacteria.


Another way of looking at the relationships between the different groups which have been called "plants" is through a cladogram
Cladogram
A cladogram is a diagram used in cladistics which shows ancestral relations between organisms, to represent the evolutionary tree of life. Although traditionally such cladograms were generated largely on the basis of morphological characters, DNA and RNA sequencing data and computational...

, which shows their evolutionary relationships. The evolutionary history of plants is not yet completely settled, but one accepted relationship between the three groups described above is shown below. Those which have been called "plants" are in bold.

As is discussed further below, the way in which the groups of green algae are combined and named varies considerably between authors. See also the section Evolution.

Many of the classification controversies involve organisms that are rarely encountered and are of minimal apparent economic significance, but are crucial in developing an understanding of the evolution of modern flora.

Algae



Algae comprise several different groups of organisms which produce energy through photosynthesis and for that reason have been included in the plant kingdom in the past. Most conspicuous among the algae are the seaweed
Seaweed
Seaweed is a loose, colloquial term encompassing macroscopic, multicellular, benthic marine algae. The term includes some members of the red, brown and green algae...

s, multicellular algae that may roughly resemble land plants, but are classified among the brown
Brown algae
The Phaeophyceae or brown algae , is a large group of mostly marine multicellular algae, including many seaweeds of colder Northern Hemisphere waters. They play an important role in marine environments, both as food and for the habitats they form...

, red
Red algae
The red algae are one of the oldest groups of eukaryotic algae, and also one of the largest, with about 5,000–6,000 species  of mostly multicellular, marine algae, including many notable seaweeds...

 and green algae
Green algae
The green algae are the large group of algae from which the embryophytes emerged. As such, they form a paraphyletic group, although the group including both green algae and embryophytes is monophyletic...

. Each of these algal groups also includes various microscopic and single-celled organisms. There is good evidence that some of these algal groups arose independently from separate non-photosynthetic ancestors, with the result that many groups of algae
Algae
Algae are a large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length. They are photosynthetic like plants, and "simple" because their tissues are not organized into the many...

 are no longer classified within the plant kingdom as it is defined here.

The Viridiplantae, the green plants – green algae and land plants – form a clade
Clade
A clade is a group consisting of a species and all its descendants. In the terms of biological systematics, a clade is a single "branch" on the "tree of life". The idea that such a "natural group" of organisms should be grouped together and given a taxonomic name is central to biological...

, a group consisting of all the descendants of a common ancestor. With a few exceptions among the green algae, all green plants have many features in common, including cell walls containing cellulose
Cellulose
Cellulose is an organic compound with the formula , a polysaccharide consisting of a linear chain of several hundred to over ten thousand β linked D-glucose units....

, chloroplast
Chloroplast
Chloroplasts are organelles found in plant cells and other eukaryotic organisms that conduct photosynthesis. Chloroplasts capture light energy to conserve free energy in the form of ATP and reduce NADP to NADPH through a complex set of processes called photosynthesis.Chloroplasts are green...

s containing chlorophyll
Chlorophyll
Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in almost all plants, algae, and cyanobacteria. Its name is derived from the Greek words χλωρος, chloros and φύλλον, phyllon . Chlorophyll is an extremely important biomolecule, critical in photosynthesis, which allows plants to obtain energy from light...

s a and b, and food stores in the form of starch
Starch
Starch or amylum is a carbohydrate consisting of a large number of glucose units joined together by glycosidic bonds. This polysaccharide is produced by all green plants as an energy store...

. They undergo closed mitosis
Mitosis
Mitosis is the process by which a eukaryotic cell separates the chromosomes in its cell nucleus into two identical sets, in two separate nuclei. It is generally followed immediately by cytokinesis, which divides the nuclei, cytoplasm, organelles and cell membrane into two cells containing roughly...

 without centriole
Centriole
A Centriole is a barrel-shaped cell structure found in most animal eukaryotic cells, though it is absent in higher plants and most fungi. The walls of each centriole are usually composed of nine triplets of microtubules...

s, and typically have mitochondria
Mitochondrion
In cell biology, a mitochondrion is a membrane-enclosed organelle found in most eukaryotic cells. These organelles range from 0.5 to 1.0 micrometers in diameter...

 with flat cristae. The chloroplast
Chloroplast
Chloroplasts are organelles found in plant cells and other eukaryotic organisms that conduct photosynthesis. Chloroplasts capture light energy to conserve free energy in the form of ATP and reduce NADP to NADPH through a complex set of processes called photosynthesis.Chloroplasts are green...

s of green plants are surrounded by two membranes, suggesting they originated directly from endosymbiotic cyanobacteria.

Two additional groups, the Rhodophyta (red algae) and Glaucophyta (glaucophyte algae), also have chloroplasts which appear to be derived directly from endosymbiotic cyanobacteria, although they differ in the pigments which are used in photosynthesis and so are different in colour. All three groups together are generally believed to have a single common origin, and so are classified together in the taxon Archaeplastida
Archaeplastida
The Archaeplastida are a major group of eukaryotes, comprising the red and green algae and the land plants, together with a small group called the glaucophytes. The plastids of all of these organisms are surrounded by two membranes, suggesting they developed directly from endosymbiotic...

, whose name implies that the chloroplasts or plastids of all the members of the taxon were derived from a single ancient endosymbiotic event. This is the broadest modern definition of the plants.

In contrast, most other algae (e.g. heterokont
Heterokont
The heterokonts or stramenopiles are a major line of eukaryotes currently containing more than 100,000 known species. Most are algae, ranging from the giant multicellular kelp to the unicellular diatoms, which are a primary component of plankton...

s, haptophyte
Haptophyte
The haptophytes, classified either as the Prymnesiophyta or Haptophyta, are a division of algae.The term "Haptophyceae" is sometimes used. This ending implies classification at a lower level...

s, dinoflagellate
Dinoflagellate
The dinoflagellates are a large group of flagellate protists. Most are marine plankton, but they are common in fresh water habitats as well. Their populations are distributed depending on temperature, salinity, or depth...

s, and euglenid
Euglenid
Euglenoids are one of the best-known groups of flagellates, commonly found in freshwater especially when it is rich in organic materials, with a few marine and endosymbiotic members. Most euglenids are unicellular. Many euglenids have chloroplasts and produce energy through photosynthesis, but...

s) not only have different pigments but also have chloroplasts with three or four surrounding membranes. They are not close relatives of the Archaeplastida, presumably having acquired chloroplasts separately from ingested or symbiotic green and red algae. They are thus not included in even the broadest modern definition of the plant kingdom, although they were in the past.

The green plants or Viridiplantae were traditionally divided into the green algae (including the stoneworts) and the land plants. However, it is now known that the land plants evolved from within a group of green algae, so that the green algae by themselves are a paraphyletic
Paraphyly
A group of taxa is said to be paraphyletic if the group consists of all the descendants of a hypothetical closest common ancestor minus one or more monophyletic groups of descendants...

 group, i.e. a group which excludes some of the descendants of a common ancestor. Paraphyletic groups are generally avoided in modern classifications, so that in recent treatments the Viridiplantae have been divided into two clades, the Chlorophyta
Chlorophyta
Chlorophyta is a division of green algae, informally called chlorophytes. The name is used in two very different senses so that care is needed to determine the use by a particular author...

 and the Streptophyta (or Charophyta).

The Chlorophyta (a name that has also been used for all green algae) are the sister group to the group from which the land plants evolved. There are about 4,300 species of mainly marine organisms, both unicellular and multicellular. The latter include the sea lettuce, Ulva
Ulva
Ulva is an island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, off the west coast of Mull. It is separated from Mull by a narrow strait, and connected to the neighbouring island of Gometra by a bridge. Much of the island is formed from Tertiary basalt rocks, which is formed into columns in places.Ulva has...

.

The other group within the Viridiplantae are the mainly freshwater or terrestrial Streptophyta (or Charophyta), which consist of several groups of green algae plus the stoneworts and land plants. (The names have been used differently, e.g. Streptophyta to mean the group which excludes the land plants and Charophyta for the stoneworts alone or the stoneworts plus the land plants.) Streptophyte algae are either unicellular or form multicellular filaments, branched or unbranched. The genus Spirogyra
Spirogyra
Spirogyra is a genus of filamentous green algae of the order Zygnematales, named for the helical or spiral arrangement of the chloroplasts that is diagnostic of the genus. It is commonly found in freshwater areas, and there are more than 400 species of Spirogyra in the world. Spirogyra measures...

is a filamentous streptophyte alga familiar to many, as it is often used in teaching and is one of the organisms responsible for the algal "scum" which pond-owners so dislike. The freshwater stoneworts strongly resemble land plants and are believed to be their closest relatives. Growing underwater, they consist of a central stalk with whorls of branchlets, giving them a superficial resemblance to horsetails, species of the genus Equisetum, which are true land plants.

Fungi


The classification of fungi
Fungus
A fungus is a member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds , as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, Fungi, which is separate from plants, animals, and bacteria...

 has been controversial until quite recently in the history of biology. Linnaeus' original classification placed the fungi within the Plantae, since they were unquestionably not animals or minerals and these were the only other alternatives. With later developments in microbiology
Microbiology
Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, which are defined as any microscopic organism that comprises either a single cell , cell clusters or no cell at all . This includes eukaryotes, such as fungi and protists, and prokaryotes...

, in the 19th century Ernst Haeckel
Ernst Haeckel
The "European War" became known as "The Great War", and it was not until 1920, in the book "The First World War 1914-1918" by Charles à Court Repington, that the term "First World War" was used as the official name for the conflict.-Research:...

 felt that another kingdom was required to classify newly discovered micro-organisms. The introduction of the new kingdom Protista in addition to Plantae and Animalia, led to uncertainty as to whether fungi truly were best placed in the Plantae or whether they ought to be reclassified as protists. Haeckel himself found it difficult to decide and it was not until 1969 that a solution was found whereby Robert Whittaker
Robert Whittaker
Robert Harding Whittaker was a distinguished American plant ecologist, active in the 1950s to the 1970s.Born in Wichita, Kansas, he obtained a B.A. at Washburn Municipal College in Topeka, Kansas, and, following military service, his Ph.D...

 proposed the creation of the kingdom Fungi. Molecular evidence has since shown that the last common ancestor (concestor) of the Fungi was probably more similar to that of the Animalia than of any other kingdom, including the Plantae.

Whittaker's original reclassification was based on the fundamental difference in nutrition between the Fungi and the Plantae. Unlike plants, which generally gain carbon through photosynthesis, and so are called autotrophic phototroph
Phototroph
Phototrophs are the organisms that carry out photosynthesis to acquire energy. They use the energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into organic material to be utilized in cellular functions such as biosynthesis and respiration.Most phototrophs are autotrophs, also known as...

s, fungi generally obtain carbon by breaking down and absorbing surrounding materials, and so are called heterotroph
Heterotroph
A heterotroph is an organism that cannot fix carbon and uses organic carbon for growth. This contrasts with autotrophs, such as plants and algae, which can use energy from sunlight or inorganic compounds to produce organic compounds such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins from inorganic carbon...

ic saprotrophs. In addition, the substructure of multicellular fungi is different from that of plants, taking the form of many chitinous microscopic strands called hypha
Hypha
A hypha is a long, branching filamentous structure of a fungus, and also of unrelated Actinobacteria. In most fungi, hyphae are the main mode of vegetative growth, and are collectively called a mycelium; yeasts are unicellular fungi that do not grow as hyphae.-Structure:A hypha consists of one or...

e, which may be further subdivided into cells or may form a syncytium
Syncytium
In biology, a syncytium is a large cell-like structure; filled with cytoplasm and containing many nuclei. Most cells in eukaryotic organisms have a single nucleus; syncytia are specialized forms used by various organisms.The term may also refer to cells that are connected by specialized membrane...

 containing many eukaryotic nuclei
Cell nucleus
In cell biology, the nucleus is a membrane-enclosed organelle found in eukaryotic cells. It contains most of the cell's genetic material, organized as multiple long linear DNA molecules in complex with a large variety of proteins, such as histones, to form chromosomes. The genes within these...

. Fruiting bodies, of which mushroom
Mushroom
A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source. The standard for the name "mushroom" is the cultivated white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus; hence the word "mushroom" is most often applied to those fungi that...

s are most familiar example, are the reproductive structures of fungi, and are unlike any structures produced by plants.

Diversity


The table below shows some estimates for the numbers of species of different groups of green plants; note as these are from different sources and are of different dates, they are not necessarily comparable, and like all species counts, are subject to a degree of uncertainty in some cases. The table suggests that there are at least 300,000 species of green plants, of which 85-90% are flowering plants. The next largest group are the "bryophytes", liverworts, mosses and hornworts, with 18,000–20,000 species.
Diversity of living plant divisions
Informal group Division name Common name No. of living species
Green algae
Green algae
The green algae are the large group of algae from which the embryophytes emerged. As such, they form a paraphyletic group, although the group including both green algae and embryophytes is monophyletic...

Chlorophyta
Chlorophyta
Chlorophyta is a division of green algae, informally called chlorophytes. The name is used in two very different senses so that care is needed to determine the use by a particular author...

green algae
Green algae
The green algae are the large group of algae from which the embryophytes emerged. As such, they form a paraphyletic group, although the group including both green algae and embryophytes is monophyletic...

 (chlorophytes)
3,800 – 4,300
Charophyta
Charophyta
The Charophyta are a division of green algae, including the closest relatives of the embryophyte plants. In some groups, such as conjugating green algae, flagellate cells do not occur. The latter group does engage in sexual reproduction, and motility does not involve flagella, since they are...

green algae
Green algae
The green algae are the large group of algae from which the embryophytes emerged. As such, they form a paraphyletic group, although the group including both green algae and embryophytes is monophyletic...

 (e.g. desmid
Desmid
Desmids are an order of green algae, comprising around 40 genera and 5,000 to 6,000 species, found mostly but not exclusively in fresh water. Most are unicellular, and are divided into two compartments separated by a narrow bridge or isthmus...

s & stoneworts)
2,800; 4,000-6,000
Bryophyte
Bryophyte
Bryophyte is a traditional name used to refer to all embryophytes that do not have true vascular tissue and are therefore called 'non-vascular plants'. Some bryophytes do have specialized tissues for the transport of water; however since these do not contain lignin, they are not considered to be...

s
Marchantiophyta
Marchantiophyta
The Marchantiophyta are a division of bryophyte plants commonly referred to as hepatics or liverworts. Like other bryophytes, they have a gametophyte-dominant life cycle, in which cells of the plant carry only a single set of genetic information....

liverworts 6,000-8,000
Anthocerotophyta hornworts 100-200
Bryophyta
Moss
Mosses are small, soft plants that are typically 1–10 cm tall, though some species are much larger. They commonly grow close together in clumps or mats in damp or shady locations. They do not have flowers or seeds, and their simple leaves cover the thin wiry stems...

mosses 12,000
Pteridophyte
Pteridophyte
The pteridophytes are vascular plants that produce neither flowers nor seeds, and are hence called vascular cryptogams. Instead, they reproduce and disperse only via spores. Pteridophytes include horsetails, ferns, club mosses, and quillworts...

s
Lycopodiophyta
Lycopodiophyta
The Division Lycopodiophyta is a tracheophyte subdivision of the Kingdom Plantae. It is the oldest extant vascular plant division at around 410 million years old, and includes some of the most "primitive" extant species...

club mosses 1,200
Pteridophyta ferns, whisk ferns & horsetails 11,000
Seed plants Cycad
Cycad
Cycads are seed plants typically characterized by a stout and woody trunk with a crown of large, hard and stiff, evergreen leaves. They usually have pinnate leaves. The individual plants are either all male or all female . Cycads vary in size from having a trunk that is only a few centimeters...

ophyta
cycads 160
Ginkgophyta ginkgo 1
Pinophyta
Pinophyta
The conifers, division Pinophyta, also known as division Coniferophyta or Coniferae, are one of 13 or 14 division level taxa within the Kingdom Plantae. Pinophytes are gymnosperms. They are cone-bearing seed plants with vascular tissue; all extant conifers are woody plants, the great majority being...

conifers 630
Gnetophyta
Gnetophyta
The plant division Gnetophyta or gnetophytes consists of three genera of woody plants grouped in the gymnosperms. The living Gnetophyta consists of around 70 species across the three genera Gnetum , Welwitschia , and Ephedra .The gnetophytes differ from other gymnosperms The plant division...

gnetophytes 70
Magnoliophyta
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

flowering plants 258,650


The naming of plants is governed by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature and International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants
International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants
The International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants regulates the names of cultigens...

 (see cultivated plant taxonomy
Cultivated plant taxonomy
Cultivated plant taxonomy is the study of the theory and practice of the science that identifies, describes, classifies, and names cultigens—those plants whose origin or selection is primarily due to intentional human activity...

).

Evolution


The evolution of plants has resulted in increasing levels of complexity
Evolutionary grade
In alpha taxonomy, a grade refers to a taxon united by a level of morphological or physiological complexity. The term was coined by British biologist Julian Huxley, to contrast with clade, a strictly phylogenetic unit.-Definition:...

, from the earliest algal mat
Algal mat
An algal mat is a layer of usually filamentous algae on marine or fresh water soft bottoms. It may be considered one of many types of microbial mats. Algae and cyanobacteria are ubiquitous, often forming within the water column and settling to the bottom. In shallow environments, they are often...

s, through bryophyte
Bryophyte
Bryophyte is a traditional name used to refer to all embryophytes that do not have true vascular tissue and are therefore called 'non-vascular plants'. Some bryophytes do have specialized tissues for the transport of water; however since these do not contain lignin, they are not considered to be...

s, lycopods, fern
Fern
A fern is any one of a group of about 12,000 species of plants belonging to the botanical group known as Pteridophyta. Unlike mosses, they have xylem and phloem . They have stems, leaves, and roots like other vascular plants...

s to the complex gymnosperm
Gymnosperm
The gymnosperms are a group of seed-bearing plants that includes conifers, cycads, Ginkgo, and Gnetales. The term "gymnosperm" comes from the Greek word gymnospermos , meaning "naked seeds", after the unenclosed condition of their seeds...

s and angiosperms of today. The groups which appeared earlier continue to thrive, especially in the environments in which they evolved.

Evidence suggests that an algal scum formed on the land , but it was not until the Ordovician Period, around , that land plants appeared. However, new evidence from the study of carbon isotope ratios in Precambrian rocks has suggested that complex photosynthetic plants developed on the earth over 1000 m.y.a. These began to diversify in the late Silurian Period, around , and the fruits of their diversification are displayed in remarkable detail in an early Devonian
Devonian
The Devonian is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic Era spanning from the end of the Silurian Period, about 416.0 ± 2.8 Mya , to the beginning of the Carboniferous Period, about 359.2 ± 2.5 Mya...

 fossil assemblage from the Rhynie chert
Rhynie chert
The Rhynie chert is an Early Devonian sedimentary deposit exhibiting extraordinary fossil detail or completeness . It is exposed near the village of Rhynie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland; a second unit, the Windyfield chert, is located some 700 m away...

. This chert preserved early plants in cellular detail, petrified in volcanic springs. By the middle of the Devonian Period most of the features recognised in plants today are present, including roots, leaves and secondary wood, and by late Devonian times seeds had evolved. Late Devonian plants had thereby reached a degree of sophistication that allowed them to form forests of tall trees. Evolutionary innovation continued after the Devonian period. Most plant groups were relatively unscathed by the Permo-Triassic extinction event, although the structures of communities changed. This may have set the scene for the evolution of flowering plants in the Triassic (~), which exploded in the Cretaceous and Tertiary. The latest major group of plants to evolve were the grasses, which became important in the mid Tertiary, from around . The grasses, as well as many other groups, evolved new mechanisms of metabolism to survive the low and warm, dry conditions of the tropics over the last .
A proposed phylogenetic tree
Phylogenetic tree
A phylogenetic tree or evolutionary tree is a branching diagram or "tree" showing the inferred evolutionary relationships among various biological species or other entities based upon similarities and differences in their physical and/or genetic characteristics...

 of Plantae, after Kenrick and Crane, is as follows, with modification to the Pteridophyta from Smith et al. The Prasinophyceae
Prasinophyceae
In taxonomy, Prasinophytes are a class of the Division Chlorophyta. These are primitive eukaryotic, marine green algae. Its best known genus is Ostreococcus , which is considered to be the smallest free-living eukaryote and which has been detected in marine samples around the world...

 may be a paraphyletic basal group to all green plants.

Embryophytes




The plants that are likely most familiar to us are the multicellular land plants, called embryophyte
Embryophyte
The land plants or embryophytes, more formally Embryophyta or Metaphyta, are the most familiar group of plants. They are called 'land plants' because they live primarily in terrestrial habitats, in contrast with the related green algae that are primarily aquatic. The embryophytes include trees,...

s. They include the vascular plant
Vascular plant
Vascular plants are those plants that have lignified tissues for conducting water, minerals, and photosynthetic products through the plant. Vascular plants include the clubmosses, Equisetum, ferns, gymnosperms and angiosperms...

s, plants with full systems of leaves
Leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

, stems
Plant stem
A stem is one of two main structural axes of a vascular plant. The stem is normally divided into nodes and internodes, the nodes hold buds which grow into one or more leaves, inflorescence , conifer cones, roots, other stems etc. The internodes distance one node from another...

, and root
Root
In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial or aerating . Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either...

s. They also include a few of their close relatives, often called bryophyte
Bryophyte
Bryophyte is a traditional name used to refer to all embryophytes that do not have true vascular tissue and are therefore called 'non-vascular plants'. Some bryophytes do have specialized tissues for the transport of water; however since these do not contain lignin, they are not considered to be...

s
, of which moss
Moss
Mosses are small, soft plants that are typically 1–10 cm tall, though some species are much larger. They commonly grow close together in clumps or mats in damp or shady locations. They do not have flowers or seeds, and their simple leaves cover the thin wiry stems...

es and liverworts
Marchantiophyta
The Marchantiophyta are a division of bryophyte plants commonly referred to as hepatics or liverworts. Like other bryophytes, they have a gametophyte-dominant life cycle, in which cells of the plant carry only a single set of genetic information....

 are the most common.

All of these plants have eukaryotic
Eukaryote
A eukaryote is an organism whose cells contain complex structures enclosed within membranes. Eukaryotes may more formally be referred to as the taxon Eukarya or Eukaryota. The defining membrane-bound structure that sets eukaryotic cells apart from prokaryotic cells is the nucleus, or nuclear...

 cells with cell wall
Cell wall
The cell wall is the tough, usually flexible but sometimes fairly rigid layer that surrounds some types of cells. It is located outside the cell membrane and provides these cells with structural support and protection, and also acts as a filtering mechanism. A major function of the cell wall is to...

s composed of cellulose
Cellulose
Cellulose is an organic compound with the formula , a polysaccharide consisting of a linear chain of several hundred to over ten thousand β linked D-glucose units....

, and most obtain their energy through photosynthesis
Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

, using light
Light
Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

 and carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 to synthesize food. About three hundred plant species do not photosynthesize but are parasites on other species of photosynthetic plants. Plants are distinguished from green algae, which represent a mode of photosynthetic life similar to the kind modern plants are believed to have evolved from, by having specialized reproductive organs protected by non-reproductive tissues.

Bryophytes first appeared during the early Paleozoic
Paleozoic
The Paleozoic era is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic eon, spanning from roughly...

. They can only survive where moisture is available for significant periods, although some species are desiccation tolerant. Most species of bryophyte remain small throughout their life-cycle. This involves an alternation between two generations: a haploid stage, called the gametophyte
Gametophyte
A gametophyte is the haploid, multicellular phase of plants and algae that undergo alternation of generations, with each of its cells containing only a single set of chromosomes....

, and a diploid stage, called the sporophyte
Sporophyte
All land plants, and some algae, have life cycles in which a haploid gametophyte generation alternates with a diploid sporophyte, the generation of a plant or algae that has a double set of chromosomes. A multicellular sporophyte generation or phase is present in the life cycle of all land plants...

. The sporophyte is short-lived and remains dependent on its parent gametophyte.

Vascular plants first appeared during the Silurian
Silurian
The Silurian is a geologic period and system that extends from the end of the Ordovician Period, about 443.7 ± 1.5 Mya , to the beginning of the Devonian Period, about 416.0 ± 2.8 Mya . As with other geologic periods, the rock beds that define the period's start and end are well identified, but the...

 period, and by the Devonian
Devonian
The Devonian is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic Era spanning from the end of the Silurian Period, about 416.0 ± 2.8 Mya , to the beginning of the Carboniferous Period, about 359.2 ± 2.5 Mya...

 had diversified and spread into many different land environments. They have a number of adaptations that allowed them to overcome the limitations of the bryophytes. These include a cuticle resistant to desiccation, and vascular tissues which transport water throughout the organism. In most the sporophyte acts as a separate individual, while the gametophyte remains small.

The first primitive seed plants, Pteridosperms (seed ferns) and Cordaites, both groups now extinct, appeared in the late Devonian and diversified through the Carboniferous, with further evolution through the Permian
Permian
The PermianThe term "Permian" was introduced into geology in 1841 by Sir Sir R. I. Murchison, president of the Geological Society of London, who identified typical strata in extensive Russian explorations undertaken with Edouard de Verneuil; Murchison asserted in 1841 that he named his "Permian...

 and Triassic
Triassic
The Triassic is a geologic period and system that extends from about 250 to 200 Mya . As the first period of the Mesozoic Era, the Triassic follows the Permian and is followed by the Jurassic. Both the start and end of the Triassic are marked by major extinction events...

 periods. In these the gametophyte stage is completely reduced, and the sporophyte begins life inside an enclosure called a seed
Seed
A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food. It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant...

, which develops while on the parent plant, and with fertilisation by means of pollen
Pollen
Pollen is a fine to coarse powder containing the microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce the male gametes . Pollen grains have a hard coat that protects the sperm cells during the process of their movement from the stamens to the pistil of flowering plants or from the male cone to the...

 grains. Whereas other vascular plants, such as ferns, reproduce by means of spores and so need moisture to develop, some seed plants can survive and reproduce in extremely arid conditions.

Early seed plants are referred to as gymnosperm
Gymnosperm
The gymnosperms are a group of seed-bearing plants that includes conifers, cycads, Ginkgo, and Gnetales. The term "gymnosperm" comes from the Greek word gymnospermos , meaning "naked seeds", after the unenclosed condition of their seeds...

s (naked seeds), as the seed embryo is not enclosed in a protective structure at pollination, with the pollen landing directly on the embryo. Four surviving groups remain widespread now, particularly the conifers, which are dominant tree
Tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

s in several biome
Biome
Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, and are often referred to as ecosystems. Some parts of the earth have more or less the same kind of abiotic and biotic factors spread over a...

s. The angiosperms, comprising the flowering plants, were the last major group of plants to appear, emerging from within the gymnosperms during the Jurassic
Jurassic
The Jurassic is a geologic period and system that extends from about Mya to  Mya, that is, from the end of the Triassic to the beginning of the Cretaceous. The Jurassic constitutes the middle period of the Mesozoic era, also known as the age of reptiles. The start of the period is marked by...

 and diversifying rapidly during the Cretaceous
Cretaceous
The Cretaceous , derived from the Latin "creta" , usually abbreviated K for its German translation Kreide , is a geologic period and system from circa to million years ago. In the geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows the Jurassic period and is followed by the Paleogene period of the...

. These differ in that the seed embryo (angiosperm) is enclosed, so the pollen has to grow a tube to penetrate the protective seed coat; they are the predominant group of flora in most biomes today.

Fossils



Plant fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

s include roots, wood, leaves, seeds, fruit, pollen
Pollen
Pollen is a fine to coarse powder containing the microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce the male gametes . Pollen grains have a hard coat that protects the sperm cells during the process of their movement from the stamens to the pistil of flowering plants or from the male cone to the...

, spore
Spore
In biology, a spore is a reproductive structure that is adapted for dispersal and surviving for extended periods of time in unfavorable conditions. Spores form part of the life cycles of many bacteria, plants, algae, fungi and some protozoa. According to scientist Dr...

s, phytolith
Phytolith
Some plants can take up silica in the soil, whereupon it is deposited within different intracellular and extracellular structures of the plant. After these plants decay, silica is redeposited in the soil in the form of phytoliths , which are rigid, microscopic structures of varying sizes and shapes...

s, and amber
Amber
Amber is fossilized tree resin , which has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic times. Amber is used as an ingredient in perfumes, as a healing agent in folk medicine, and as jewelry. There are five classes of amber, defined on the basis of their chemical constituents...

 (the fossilized resin produced by some plants). Fossil land plants are recorded in terrestrial, lacustrine, fluvial and nearshore marine sediments. Pollen
Pollen
Pollen is a fine to coarse powder containing the microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce the male gametes . Pollen grains have a hard coat that protects the sperm cells during the process of their movement from the stamens to the pistil of flowering plants or from the male cone to the...

, spores and algae (dinoflagellate
Dinoflagellate
The dinoflagellates are a large group of flagellate protists. Most are marine plankton, but they are common in fresh water habitats as well. Their populations are distributed depending on temperature, salinity, or depth...

s and acritarch
Acritarch
Acritarchs are small organic fossils, present from approximately to the present. Their diversity reflects major ecological events such as the appearance of predation and the Cambrian explosion.-Definition:In general, any small, non-acid soluble Acritarchs are small organic fossils, present from...

s) are used for dating sedimentary rock sequences. The remains of fossil plants are not as common as fossil animals, although plant fossils are locally abundant in many regions worldwide.

The earliest fossils clearly assignable to Kingdom Plantae are fossil green algae from the Cambrian
Cambrian
The Cambrian is the first geological period of the Paleozoic Era, lasting from Mya ; it is succeeded by the Ordovician. Its subdivisions, and indeed its base, are somewhat in flux. The period was established by Adam Sedgwick, who named it after Cambria, the Latin name for Wales, where Britain's...

. These fossils resemble calcified
Calcification
Calcification is the process in which calcium salts build up in soft tissue, causing it to harden. Calcifications may be classified on whether there is mineral balance or not, and the location of the calcification.-Causes:...

 multicellular members of the Dasycladales
Dasycladales
In taxonomy, the Dasycladales is an order of large unicellular green algae in the class Ulvophyceae. It contains two families, the Dasycladaceae and the Polyphysaceae....

. Earlier Precambrian
Precambrian
The Precambrian is the name which describes the large span of time in Earth's history before the current Phanerozoic Eon, and is a Supereon divided into several eons of the geologic time scale...

 fossils are known which resemble single-cell green algae, but definitive identity with that group of algae is uncertain.

The oldest known fossils of embryophytes date from the Ordovician
Ordovician
The Ordovician is a geologic period and system, the second of six of the Paleozoic Era, and covers the time between 488.3±1.7 to 443.7±1.5 million years ago . It follows the Cambrian Period and is followed by the Silurian Period...

, though such fossils are fragmentary. By the Silurian
Silurian
The Silurian is a geologic period and system that extends from the end of the Ordovician Period, about 443.7 ± 1.5 Mya , to the beginning of the Devonian Period, about 416.0 ± 2.8 Mya . As with other geologic periods, the rock beds that define the period's start and end are well identified, but the...

, fossils of whole plants are preserved, including the lycophyte Baragwanathia longifolia. From the Devonian, detailed fossils of rhyniophytes have been found. Early fossils of these ancient plants show the individual cells within the plant tissue. The Devonian period also saw the evolution of what many believe to be the first modern tree, Archaeopteris
Archaeopteris
Archaeopteris is an extinct genus of tree-like plants with fern-like leaves. A useful index fossil, this tree is found in strata dating from the Upper Devonian to Lower Carboniferous , and has a global distribution....

. This fern-like tree combined a woody trunk with the fronds of a fern, but produced no seeds.

The Coal measures are a major source of Paleozoic
Paleozoic
The Paleozoic era is the earliest of three geologic eras of the Phanerozoic eon, spanning from roughly...

 plant fossils, with many groups of plants in existence at this time. The spoil heaps of coal mines are the best places to collect; coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

 itself is the remains of fossilised plants, though structural detail of the plant fossils is rarely visible in coal. In the Fossil Forest at Victoria Park in Glasgow
Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...

, Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, the stumps of Lepidodendron
Lepidodendron
Lepidodendron is an extinct genus of primitive, vascular, arborescent plant related to the Lycopsids . It was part of the coal forest flora. They sometimes reached heights of over , and the trunks were often over in diameter, and thrived during the Carboniferous period...

trees are found in their original growth positions.

The fossilized remains of conifer and angiosperm root
Root
In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial or aerating . Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either...

s, stems
Plant stem
A stem is one of two main structural axes of a vascular plant. The stem is normally divided into nodes and internodes, the nodes hold buds which grow into one or more leaves, inflorescence , conifer cones, roots, other stems etc. The internodes distance one node from another...

 and branch
Branch
A branch or tree branch is a woody structural member connected to but not part of the central trunk of a tree...

es may be locally abundant in lake and inshore sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock are types of rock that are formed by the deposition of material at the Earth's surface and within bodies of water. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause mineral and/or organic particles to settle and accumulate or minerals to precipitate from a solution....

s from the Mesozoic
Mesozoic
The Mesozoic era is an interval of geological time from about 250 million years ago to about 65 million years ago. It is often referred to as the age of reptiles because reptiles, namely dinosaurs, were the dominant terrestrial and marine vertebrates of the time...

 and Cenozoic
Cenozoic
The Cenozoic era is the current and most recent of the three Phanerozoic geological eras and covers the period from 65.5 mya to the present. The era began in the wake of the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous that saw the demise of the last non-avian dinosaurs and...

 eras. Sequoia and its allies, magnolia
Magnolia
Magnolia is a large genus of about 210 flowering plant species in the subfamily Magnolioideae of the family Magnoliaceae. It is named after French botanist Pierre Magnol....

, oak
Oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

, and palms
Arecaceae
Arecaceae or Palmae , are a family of flowering plants, the only family in the monocot order Arecales. There are roughly 202 currently known genera with around 2600 species, most of which are restricted to tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate climates...

 are often found.

Petrified wood
Petrified wood
Petrified wood is the name given to a special type of fossilized remains of terrestrial vegetation. It is the result of a tree having turned completely into stone by the process of permineralization...

 is common in some parts of the world, and is most frequently found in arid or desert areas where it is more readily exposed by erosion
Erosion
Erosion is when materials are removed from the surface and changed into something else. It only works by hydraulic actions and transport of solids in the natural environment, and leads to the deposition of these materials elsewhere...

. Petrified wood is often heavily silicified (the organic material replaced by silicon dioxide
Silicon dioxide
The chemical compound silicon dioxide, also known as silica , is an oxide of silicon with the chemical formula '. It has been known for its hardness since antiquity...

), and the impregnated tissue is often preserved in fine detail. Such specimens may be cut and polished using lapidary
Lapidary
A lapidary is an artist or artisan who forms stone, mineral, gemstones, and other suitably durable materials into decorative items such as engraved gems, including cameos, or cabochons, and faceted designs...

 equipment. Fossil forests of petrified wood have been found in all continents.

Fossils of seed ferns such as Glossopteris
Glossopteris
Glossopteris is the largest and best-known genus of the extinct order of seed ferns known as Glossopteridales ....

are widely distributed throughout several continents of the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

, a fact that gave support to Alfred Wegener
Alfred Wegener
Alfred Lothar Wegener was a German scientist, geophysicist, and meteorologist.He is most notable for his theory of continental drift , proposed in 1912, which hypothesized that the continents were slowly drifting around the Earth...

's early ideas regarding Continental drift
Continental drift
Continental drift is the movement of the Earth's continents relative to each other. The hypothesis that continents 'drift' was first put forward by Abraham Ortelius in 1596 and was fully developed by Alfred Wegener in 1912...

 theory.

Structure, growth, and development



Most of the solid material in a plant is taken from the atmosphere. Through a process known as photosynthesis
Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

, most plants use the energy in sunlight
Sunlight
Sunlight, in the broad sense, is the total frequency spectrum of electromagnetic radiation given off by the Sun. On Earth, sunlight is filtered through the Earth's atmosphere, and solar radiation is obvious as daylight when the Sun is above the horizon.When the direct solar radiation is not blocked...

 to convert carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 from the atmosphere, plus water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

, into simple sugar
Sugar
Sugar is a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose, characterized by a sweet flavor.Sucrose in its refined form primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet...

s. Parasitic plant
Parasitic plant
A parasitic plant is one that derives some or all of its sustenance from another plant. About 4,100 species in approximately 19 families of flowering plants are known. Parasitic plants have a modified root, the haustorium, that penetrates the host plant and connects to the xylem, phloem, or...

s, on the other hand, use the resources of its host to grow. These sugars are then used as building blocks and form the main structural component of the plant. Chlorophyll
Chlorophyll
Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in almost all plants, algae, and cyanobacteria. Its name is derived from the Greek words χλωρος, chloros and φύλλον, phyllon . Chlorophyll is an extremely important biomolecule, critical in photosynthesis, which allows plants to obtain energy from light...

, a green-colored, magnesium
Magnesium
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

-containing pigment
Pigment
A pigment is a material that changes the color of reflected or transmitted light as the result of wavelength-selective absorption. This physical process differs from fluorescence, phosphorescence, and other forms of luminescence, in which a material emits light.Many materials selectively absorb...

 is essential to this process; it is generally present in plant leaves
Leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

, and often in other plant parts as well.

Plants usually rely on soil primarily for support and water (in quantitative terms), but also obtain compounds
Chemical compound
A chemical compound is a pure chemical substance consisting of two or more different chemical elements that can be separated into simpler substances by chemical reactions. Chemical compounds have a unique and defined chemical structure; they consist of a fixed ratio of atoms that are held together...

 of nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

, phosphorus
Phosphorus
Phosphorus is the chemical element that has the symbol P and atomic number 15. A multivalent nonmetal of the nitrogen group, phosphorus as a mineral is almost always present in its maximally oxidized state, as inorganic phosphate rocks...

, and other crucial elemental nutrient
Nutrient
A nutrient is a chemical that an organism needs to live and grow or a substance used in an organism's metabolism which must be taken in from its environment. They are used to build and repair tissues, regulate body processes and are converted to and used as energy...

s. Epiphytic
Epiphyte
An epiphyte is a plant that grows upon another plant non-parasitically or sometimes upon some other object , derives its moisture and nutrients from the air and rain and sometimes from debris accumulating around it, and is found in the temperate zone and in the...

 and lithophytic
Lithophyte
Lithophytes are a type of plant that grows in or on rocks. Lithophytes feed off moss, nutrients in rain water, litter, and even their own dead tissue....

 plants often depend on rainwater or other sources for nutrients and carnivorous plant
Carnivorous plant
Carnivorous plants are plants that derive some or most of their nutrients from trapping and consuming animals or protozoans, typically insects and other arthropods. Carnivorous plants appear adapted to grow in places where the soil is thin or poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen, such as acidic...

s supplement their nutrient requirements with insect prey that they capture. For the majority of plants to grow successfully they also require oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 in the atmosphere and around their roots for respiration. However, some plants grow as submerged aquatics, using oxygen dissolved in the surrounding water, and a few specialized vascular plants, such as mangrove
Mangrove
Mangroves are various kinds of trees up to medium height and shrubs that grow in saline coastal sediment habitats in the tropics and subtropics – mainly between latitudes N and S...

s, can grow with their roots in anoxic conditions.

Factors affecting growth


The genotype of a plant affects its growth. For example, selected varieties of wheat grow rapidly, maturing within 110 days, whereas others, in the same environmental conditions, grow more slowly and mature within 155 days.

Growth is also determined by environmental factors, such as temperature
Temperature
Temperature is a physical property of matter that quantitatively expresses the common notions of hot and cold. Objects of low temperature are cold, while various degrees of higher temperatures are referred to as warm or hot...

, available water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

, available light
Light
Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

, and available nutrient
Nutrient
A nutrient is a chemical that an organism needs to live and grow or a substance used in an organism's metabolism which must be taken in from its environment. They are used to build and repair tissues, regulate body processes and are converted to and used as energy...

s in the soil. Any change in the availability of these external conditions will be reflected in the plants growth.

Biotic factors are also capable of affecting plant growth. Plants compete with other plants for space, water, light and nutrients. Plants can be so crowded that no single individual produces normal growth, causing etiolation
Etiolation
Etiolation is a process in flowering plants grown in partial or complete absence of light. It is characterized by long, weak stems; smaller, sparser leaves due to longer internodes; and a pale yellow color . It increases the likelihood that a plant will reach a light source, often from under the...

 and chlorosis. Optimal plant growth can be hampered by grazing animals, suboptimal soil composition, lack of mycorrhiza
Mycorrhiza
A mycorrhiza is a symbiotic association between a fungus and the roots of a vascular plant....

l fungi, and attacks by insects or plant diseases, including those caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, and nematodes.

Simple plants like algae may have short life spans as individuals, but their populations are commonly seasonal. Other plants may be organized according to their seasonal growth pattern: annual plant
Annual plant
An annual plant is a plant that usually germinates, flowers, and dies in a year or season. True annuals will only live longer than a year if they are prevented from setting seed...

s live and reproduce within one growing season
Growing season
In botany, horticulture, and agriculture the growing season is the period of each year when native plants and ornamental plants grow; and when crops can be grown....

, biennial plant
Biennial plant
A biennial plant is a flowering plant that takes two years to complete its biological lifecycle. In the first year the plant grows leaves, stems, and roots , then it enters a period of dormancy over the colder months. Usually the stem remains very short and the leaves are low to the ground, forming...

s live for two growing seasons and usually reproduce in second year, and perennial plant
Perennial plant
A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter lived annuals and biennials. The term is sometimes misused by commercial gardeners or horticulturalists to describe only herbaceous perennials...

s live for many growing seasons and continue to reproduce once they are mature. These designations often depend on climate and other environmental factors; plants that are annual in alpine
Alpine climate
Alpine climate is the average weather for a region above the tree line. This climate is also referred to as mountain climate or highland climate....

 or temperate
Temperate
In geography, temperate or tepid latitudes of the globe lie between the tropics and the polar circles. The changes in these regions between summer and winter are generally relatively moderate, rather than extreme hot or cold...

 regions can be biennial or perennial in warmer climates. Among the vascular plants, perennials include both evergreen
Evergreen
In botany, an evergreen plant is a plant that has leaves in all seasons. This contrasts with deciduous plants, which completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season.There are many different kinds of evergreen plants, both trees and shrubs...

s that keep their leaves the entire year, and deciduous
Deciduous
Deciduous means "falling off at maturity" or "tending to fall off", and is typically used in reference to trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally, and to the shedding of other plant structures such as petals after flowering or fruit when ripe...

 plants which lose their leaves for some part of it. In temperate and boreal climates, they generally lose their leaves during the winter; many tropical plants lose their leaves during the dry season
Dry season
The dry season is a term commonly used when describing the weather in the tropics. The weather in the tropics is dominated by the tropical rain belt, which oscillates from the northern to the southern tropics over the course of the year...

.

The growth rate of plants is extremely variable. Some mosses grow less than 0.001 millimeters per hour (mm/h), while most trees grow 0.025-0.250 mm/h. Some climbing species, such as kudzu
Kudzu
Kudzu is a plant in the genus Pueraria in the pea family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. It is a climbing, coiling, and trailing vine native to southern Japan and southeast China. Its name comes from the Japanese name for the plant, . It is a weed that climbs over trees or shrubs and grows so...

, which do not need to produce thick supportive tissue, may grow up to 12.5 mm/h.
Plants protect themselves from frost
Frost
Frost is the solid deposition of water vapor from saturated air. It is formed when solid surfaces are cooled to below the dew point of the adjacent air as well as below the freezing point of water. Frost crystals' size differ depending on time and water vapour available. Frost is also usually...

 and dehydration
Dehydration
In physiology and medicine, dehydration is defined as the excessive loss of body fluid. It is literally the removal of water from an object; however, in physiological terms, it entails a deficiency of fluid within an organism...

 stress with antifreeze protein
Antifreeze protein
Antifreeze proteins or ice structuring proteins refer to a class of polypeptides produced by certain vertebrates, plants, fungi and bacteria that permit their survival in subzero environments. AFPs bind to small ice crystals to inhibit growth and recrystallization of ice that would otherwise be...

s, heat-shock proteins
Heat shock protein
Heat shock proteins are a class of functionally related proteins involved in the folding and unfolding of other proteins. Their expression is increased when cells are exposed to elevated temperatures or other stress. This increase in expression is transcriptionally regulated...

 and sugars (sucrose
Sucrose
Sucrose is the organic compound commonly known as table sugar and sometimes called saccharose. A white, odorless, crystalline powder with a sweet taste, it is best known for its role in human nutrition. The molecule is a disaccharide composed of glucose and fructose with the molecular formula...

 is common). LEA (Late Embryogenesis Abundant
Late Embryogenesis Abundant proteins
Late Embryogenesis Abundant proteins are proteins in animals and plants that protect other proteins from aggregation from desiccation or osmotic stresses associated with low temperature. LEA proteins were initially discovered accumulating late in embryogenesis of cotton seeds...

) protein expression is induced by stresses and protects other proteins from aggregation as a result of desiccation
Desiccation
Desiccation is the state of extreme dryness, or the process of extreme drying. A desiccant is a hygroscopic substance that induces or sustains such a state in its local vicinity in a moderately sealed container.-Science:...

 and freezing
Freezing
Freezing or solidification is a phase change in which a liquid turns into a solid when its temperature is lowered below its freezing point. The reverse process is melting....

.

Plant cell




Plant cells are typically distinguished by their large water-filled central vacuole
Vacuole
A vacuole is a membrane-bound organelle which is present in all plant and fungal cells and some protist, animal and bacterial cells. Vacuoles are essentially enclosed compartments which are filled with water containing inorganic and organic molecules including enzymes in solution, though in certain...

, chloroplast
Chloroplast
Chloroplasts are organelles found in plant cells and other eukaryotic organisms that conduct photosynthesis. Chloroplasts capture light energy to conserve free energy in the form of ATP and reduce NADP to NADPH through a complex set of processes called photosynthesis.Chloroplasts are green...

s, and rigid cell wall
Cell wall
The cell wall is the tough, usually flexible but sometimes fairly rigid layer that surrounds some types of cells. It is located outside the cell membrane and provides these cells with structural support and protection, and also acts as a filtering mechanism. A major function of the cell wall is to...

s that are made up of cellulose
Cellulose
Cellulose is an organic compound with the formula , a polysaccharide consisting of a linear chain of several hundred to over ten thousand β linked D-glucose units....

, hemicellulose
Hemicellulose
A hemicellulose is any of several heteropolymers , such as arabinoxylans, present along with cellulose in almost all plant cell walls. While cellulose is crystalline, strong, and resistant to hydrolysis, hemicellulose has a random, amorphous structure with little strength...

, and pectin
Pectin
Pectin is a structural heteropolysaccharide contained in the primary cell walls of terrestrial plants. It was first isolated and described in 1825 by Henri Braconnot...

. Cell division
Cell division
Cell division is the process by which a parent cell divides into two or more daughter cells . Cell division is usually a small segment of a larger cell cycle. This type of cell division in eukaryotes is known as mitosis, and leaves the daughter cell capable of dividing again. The corresponding sort...

 is also characterized by the development of a phragmoplast
Phragmoplast
thumb|300px|Phragmoplast and cell plate formation in a plant cell during cytokinesis. Left side: Phragmoplast forms and cell plate starts to assemble in the center of the cell. Towards the right: Phragmoplast enlarges in a donut-shape towards the outside of the cell, leaving behind mature cell...

 for the construction of a cell plate
Cell plate
thumb|300px|Phragmoplast and cell plate formation in a plant cell during cytokinesis. Left side: Phragmoplast forms and cell plate starts to assemble in the center of the cell. Toawards the right: Phragmoplast enlarges in a donut-shape towards the outside of the cell, leaving behind mature cell...

 in the late stages of cytokinesis
Cytokinesis
Cytokinesis is the process in which the cytoplasm of a single eukaryotic cell is divided to form two daughter cells. It usually initiates during the late stages of mitosis, and sometimes meiosis, splitting a binucleate cell in two, to ensure that chromosome number is maintained from one generation...

. Just as in animals, plant cells differentiate and develop into multiple cell types. Totipotent meristem
Meristem
A meristem is the tissue in most plants consisting of undifferentiated cells , found in zones of the plant where growth can take place....

atic cells can differentiate into vascular
Vascular tissue
Vascular tissue is a complex conducting tissue, formed of more than one cell type, found in vascular plants. The primary components of vascular tissue are the xylem and phloem. These two tissues transport fluid and nutrients internally. There are also two meristems associated with vascular tissue:...

, storage, protective (e.g. epidermal layer
Epidermis (botany)
The epidermis is a single-layered group of cells that covers plants' leaves, flowers, roots and stems. It forms a boundary between the plant and the external environment. The epidermis serves several functions, it protects against water loss, regulates gas exchange, secretes metabolic compounds,...

), or reproductive
Plant sexuality
Plant sexuality covers the wide variety of sexual reproduction systems found across the plant kingdom. This article describes morphological aspects of sexual reproduction of plants....

 tissues, with more primitive plants lacking some tissue types.

Photosynthesis



Plants are photosynthetic
Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

, which means that they manufacture their own food molecules using energy obtained from light
Light
Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

. The primary mechanism plants have for capturing light energy is the pigment
Pigment
A pigment is a material that changes the color of reflected or transmitted light as the result of wavelength-selective absorption. This physical process differs from fluorescence, phosphorescence, and other forms of luminescence, in which a material emits light.Many materials selectively absorb...

 chlorophyll
Chlorophyll
Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in almost all plants, algae, and cyanobacteria. Its name is derived from the Greek words χλωρος, chloros and φύλλον, phyllon . Chlorophyll is an extremely important biomolecule, critical in photosynthesis, which allows plants to obtain energy from light...

. All green plants contain two forms of chlorophyll, chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b. The latter of these pigments is not found in red or brown algae.

Immune system


By means of cells that behave like nerves, plants receive and distribute within their systems information about incident light intensity and quality. Incident light which stimulates a chemical reaction in one leaf, will cause a chain reaction of signals to the entire plant via a type of cell termed a "bundle sheath cell". Researchers from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, found that plants have a specific memory for varying light conditions which prepares their immune systems against seasonal pathogens.

Internal distribution



Vascular plant
Vascular plant
Vascular plants are those plants that have lignified tissues for conducting water, minerals, and photosynthetic products through the plant. Vascular plants include the clubmosses, Equisetum, ferns, gymnosperms and angiosperms...

s differ from other plants in that they transport nutrients between different parts through specialized structures, called xylem
Xylem
Xylem is one of the two types of transport tissue in vascular plants. . The word xylem is derived from the Classical Greek word ξυλον , meaning "wood"; the best-known xylem tissue is wood, though it is found throughout the plant...

 and phloem
Phloem
In vascular plants, phloem is the living tissue that carries organic nutrients , in particular, glucose, a sugar, to all parts of the plant where needed. In trees, the phloem is the innermost layer of the bark, hence the name, derived from the Greek word "bark"...

. They also have root
Root
In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial or aerating . Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either...

s for taking up water and minerals. The xylem moves water and minerals from the root to the rest of the plant, and the phloem provides the roots with sugars and other nutrient produced by the leaves.

Ecology



The photosynthesis conducted by land plants and algae is the ultimate source of energy and organic material in nearly all ecosystems. Photosynthesis radically changed the composition of the early Earth's atmosphere, which as a result is now 21% oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

. Animals and most other organisms are aerobic
Aerobic organism
An aerobic organism or aerobe is an organism that can survive and grow in an oxygenated environment.Faculitative anaerobes grow and survive in an oxygenated environment and so do aerotolerant anaerobes.-Glucose:...

, relying on oxygen; those that do not are confined to relatively rare anaerobic environments. Plants are the primary producers
Autotroph
An autotroph, or producer, is an organism that produces complex organic compounds from simple inorganic molecules using energy from light or inorganic chemical reactions . They are the producers in a food chain, such as plants on land or algae in water...

 in most terrestrial ecosystems and form the basis of the food web
Food web
A food web depicts feeding connections in an ecological community. Ecologists can broadly lump all life forms into one of two categories called trophic levels: 1) the autotrophs, and 2) the heterotrophs...

 in those ecosystems. Many animals rely on plants for shelter as well as oxygen and food.

Land plants are key components of the water cycle
Water cycle
The water cycle, also known as the hydrologic cycle or H2O cycle, describes the continuous movement of water on, above and below the surface of the Earth. Water can change states among liquid, vapor, and solid at various places in the water cycle...

 and several other biogeochemical cycle
Biogeochemical cycle
In ecology and Earth science, a biogeochemical cycle or substance turnover or cycling of substances is a pathway by which a chemical element or molecule moves through both biotic and abiotic compartments of Earth. A cycle is a series of change which comes back to the starting point and which can...

s. Some plants have coevolved with nitrogen fixing
Nitrogen fixation
Nitrogen fixation is the natural process, either biological or abiotic, by which nitrogen in the atmosphere is converted into ammonia . This process is essential for life because fixed nitrogen is required to biosynthesize the basic building blocks of life, e.g., nucleotides for DNA and RNA and...

 bacteria, making plants an important part of the nitrogen cycle
Nitrogen cycle
The nitrogen cycle is the process by which nitrogen is converted between its various chemical forms. This transformation can be carried out by both biological and non-biological processes. Important processes in the nitrogen cycle include fixation, mineralization, nitrification, and denitrification...

. Plant roots play an essential role in soil
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

 development and prevention of soil erosion.

Distribution


Plants are distributed worldwide in varying numbers. While they inhabit a multitude of biome
Biome
Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, and are often referred to as ecosystems. Some parts of the earth have more or less the same kind of abiotic and biotic factors spread over a...

s and ecoregion
Ecoregion
An ecoregion , sometimes called a bioregion, is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone and larger than an ecosystem. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural...

s, few can be found beyond the tundra
Tundra
In physical geography, tundra is a biome where the tree growth is hindered by low temperatures and short growing seasons. The term tundra comes through Russian тундра from the Kildin Sami word tūndâr "uplands," "treeless mountain tract." There are three types of tundra: Arctic tundra, alpine...

s at the northernmost regions of continental shelves
Continental shelf
The continental shelf is the extended perimeter of each continent and associated coastal plain. Much of the shelf was exposed during glacial periods, but is now submerged under relatively shallow seas and gulfs, and was similarly submerged during other interglacial periods. The continental margin,...

. At the southern extremes, plants have adapted tenaciously to the prevailing conditions. (See Antarctic flora
Antarctic flora
The Antarctic flora is a distinct community of vascular plants which evolved millions of years ago on the supercontinent of Gondwana, and is now found on several separate areas of the Southern Hemisphere, including southern South America, southernmost Africa, New Zealand, Australia and New Caledonia...

.)

Plants are often the dominant physical and structural component of habitats where they occur. Many of the Earth's biome
Biome
Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, and are often referred to as ecosystems. Some parts of the earth have more or less the same kind of abiotic and biotic factors spread over a...

s are named for the type of vegetation because plants are the dominant organisms in those biomes, such as grassland
Grassland
Grasslands are areas where the vegetation is dominated by grasses and other herbaceous plants . However, sedge and rush families can also be found. Grasslands occur naturally on all continents except Antarctica...

s and forest
Forest
A forest, also referred to as a wood or the woods, is an area with a high density of trees. As with cities, depending where you are in the world, what is considered a forest may vary significantly in size and have various classification according to how and what of the forest is composed...

s.

Ecological relationships


Numerous animals have coevolved with plants. Many animals pollinate flower
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s in exchange for food in the form of pollen or nectar. Many animals disperse seeds
Biological dispersal
Biological dispersal refers to species movement away from an existing population or away from the parent organism. Through simply moving from one habitat patch to another, the dispersal of an individual has consequences not only for individual fitness, but also for population dynamics, population...

, often by eating fruit
Fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

 and passing the seeds in their feces
Feces
Feces, faeces, or fæces is a waste product from an animal's digestive tract expelled through the anus or cloaca during defecation.-Etymology:...

. Myrmecophyte
Myrmecophyte
Myrmecophyte is a plant that lives in a mutualistic association with a colony of ants. There are over 100 different genera of myrmecophytes. These plants possess structural adaptations that provide ants with food and/or shelter. These specialized structures include domatia, food bodies, and...

s are plants that have coevolved with ant
Ant
Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. More than...

s. The plant provides a home, and sometimes food, for the ants. In exchange, the ants defend the plant from herbivore
Herbivore
Herbivores are organisms that are anatomically and physiologically adapted to eat plant-based foods. Herbivory is a form of consumption in which an organism principally eats autotrophs such as plants, algae and photosynthesizing bacteria. More generally, organisms that feed on autotrophs in...

s and sometimes competing plants. Ant wastes provide organic fertilizer
Fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...

.

The majority of plant species have various kinds of fungi associated with their root systems in a kind of mutualistic symbiosis
Symbiosis
Symbiosis is close and often long-term interaction between different biological species. In 1877 Bennett used the word symbiosis to describe the mutualistic relationship in lichens...

 known as mycorrhiza
Mycorrhiza
A mycorrhiza is a symbiotic association between a fungus and the roots of a vascular plant....

. The fungi help the plants gain water and mineral nutrients from the soil, while the plant gives the fungi carbohydrates manufactured in photosynthesis. Some plants serve as homes for endophytic
Endophyte
An endophyte is an endosymbiont, often a bacterium or fungus, that lives within a plant for at least part of its life without causing apparent disease. Endophytes are ubiquitous and have been found in all the species of plants studied to date; however, most of these endophyte/plant relationships...

 fungi that protect the plant from herbivores by producing toxins. The fungal endophyte, Neotyphodium coenophialum
Neotyphodium coenophialum
Neotyphodium coenophialum is a systemic and seed-transmissible symbiont of Schedonorus arundinaceus , a grass endemic to Eurasia and North Africa, but widely naturalized in North America, Australia and New Zealand / Aotearoa...

, in tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) does tremendous economic damage to the cattle industry in the U.S.

Various forms of parasitism are also fairly common among plants, from the semi-parasitic mistletoe
Mistletoe
Mistletoe is the common name for obligate hemi-parasitic plants in several families in the order Santalales. The plants in question grow attached to and within the branches of a tree or shrub.-Mistletoe in the genus Viscum:...

 that merely takes some nutrients from its host, but still has photosynthetic leaves, to the fully parasitic broomrape
Broomrape
Broomrape or Broom-rape is a genus of over 200 species of parasitic herbaceous plants in the family Orobanchaceae, mostly native to the temperate Northern Hemisphere. Some species formerly included in this genus are now referred to the genus Conopholis.The broomrape plant is small, from...

 and toothwort
Toothwort
Toothwort is a small genus of five to seven species of flowering plants, native to temperate Europe and Asia. They are parasitic plants on the roots of other plants, and are completely lacking chlorophyll. They are classified in the family Orobanchaceae. In addition, Cardamine concatenata is also...

 that acquire all their nutrients through connections to the roots of other plants, and so have no chlorophyll
Chlorophyll
Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in almost all plants, algae, and cyanobacteria. Its name is derived from the Greek words χλωρος, chloros and φύλλον, phyllon . Chlorophyll is an extremely important biomolecule, critical in photosynthesis, which allows plants to obtain energy from light...

. Some plants, known as myco-heterotrophs, parasitize mycorrhizal fungi, and hence act as epiparasites on other plants.

Many plants are epiphyte
Epiphyte
An epiphyte is a plant that grows upon another plant non-parasitically or sometimes upon some other object , derives its moisture and nutrients from the air and rain and sometimes from debris accumulating around it, and is found in the temperate zone and in the...

s, meaning they grow on other plants, usually trees, without parasitizing them. Epiphytes may indirectly harm their host plant by intercepting mineral nutrients and light that the host would otherwise receive. The weight of large numbers of epiphytes may break tree limbs. Hemiepiphyte
Hemiepiphyte
A hemiepiphyte is a plant which begins its life as an epiphyte but which later grows roots down into the ground. The seeds of hemiepiphytes germinate in the canopy and initially live epiphytically...

s like the strangler fig
Strangler Fig
Strangler fig is the common name for a number of tropical and subtropical plant species, including some banyans and unrelated vines, including among many other species:* Ficus aurea, also known as the Florida Strangler Fig...

 begin as epiphytes but eventually set their own roots and overpower and kill their host. Many orchids, bromeliads, fern
Fern
A fern is any one of a group of about 12,000 species of plants belonging to the botanical group known as Pteridophyta. Unlike mosses, they have xylem and phloem . They have stems, leaves, and roots like other vascular plants...

s and moss
Moss
Mosses are small, soft plants that are typically 1–10 cm tall, though some species are much larger. They commonly grow close together in clumps or mats in damp or shady locations. They do not have flowers or seeds, and their simple leaves cover the thin wiry stems...

es often grow as epiphytes. Bromeliad epiphytes accumulate water in leaf axils to form phytotelmata, complex aquatic food webs.

Approximately 630 plants are carnivorous
Carnivorous plant
Carnivorous plants are plants that derive some or most of their nutrients from trapping and consuming animals or protozoans, typically insects and other arthropods. Carnivorous plants appear adapted to grow in places where the soil is thin or poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen, such as acidic...

, such as the Venus Flytrap
Venus Flytrap
The Venus Flytrap , Dionaea muscipula, is a carnivorous plant that catches and digests animal prey—mostly insects and arachnids. Its trapping structure is formed by the terminal portion of each of the plant's leaves and is triggered by tiny hairs on their inner surfaces...

 (Dionaea muscipula) and sundew
Sundew
Drosera, commonly known as the sundews, comprise one of the largest genera of carnivorous plants, with at least 194 species. These members of the family Droseraceae lure, capture, and digest insects using stalked mucilaginous glands covering their leaf surface. The insects are used to supplement...

 (Drosera species). They trap small animals and digest them to obtain mineral nutrients, especially nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

 and phosphorus
Phosphorus
Phosphorus is the chemical element that has the symbol P and atomic number 15. A multivalent nonmetal of the nitrogen group, phosphorus as a mineral is almost always present in its maximally oxidized state, as inorganic phosphate rocks...

.

Importance




The study of plant uses by people is termed economic botany or ethnobotany
Ethnobotany
Ethnobotany is the scientific study of the relationships that exist between people and plants....

; some consider economic botany to focus on modern cultivated plants, while ethnobotany focuses on indigenous plants cultivated and used by native peoples. Human cultivation of plants is part of agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

, which is the basis of human civilization. Plant agriculture is subdivided into agronomy
Agronomy
Agronomy is the science and technology of producing and using plants for food, fuel, feed, fiber, and reclamation. Agronomy encompasses work in the areas of plant genetics, plant physiology, meteorology, and soil science. Agronomy is the application of a combination of sciences like biology,...

, horticulture
Horticulture
Horticulture is the industry and science of plant cultivation including the process of preparing soil for the planting of seeds, tubers, or cuttings. Horticulturists work and conduct research in the disciplines of plant propagation and cultivation, crop production, plant breeding and genetic...

 and forestry
Forestry
Forestry is the interdisciplinary profession embracing the science, art, and craft of creating, managing, using, and conserving forests and associated resources in a sustainable manner to meet desired goals, needs, and values for human benefit. Forestry is practiced in plantations and natural stands...

.

Food


Much of human nutrition depends on land plants, either directly or indirectly.
Human nutrition depends to a large extent on cereal
Cereal
Cereals are grasses cultivated for the edible components of their grain , composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran...

s, especially maize
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

 (or corn), wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 and rice
Rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

. Other staple crops include potato
Potato
The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosum of the Solanaceae family . The word potato may refer to the plant itself as well as the edible tuber. In the region of the Andes, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species...

, cassava
Cassava
Cassava , also called yuca or manioc, a woody shrub of the Euphorbiaceae native to South America, is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates...

, and legumes. Human food also includes vegetable
Vegetable
The noun vegetable usually means an edible plant or part of a plant other than a sweet fruit or seed. This typically means the leaf, stem, or root of a plant....

s, spice
Spice
A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, bark, or vegetative substance used in nutritionally insignificant quantities as a food additive for flavor, color, or as a preservative that kills harmful bacteria or prevents their growth. It may be used to flavour a dish or to hide other flavours...

s, and certain fruit
Fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

s, nuts
Nut (fruit)
A nut is a hard-shelled fruit of some plants having an indehiscent seed. While a wide variety of dried seeds and fruits are called nuts in English, only a certain number of them are considered by biologists to be true nuts...

, herb
Herb
Except in botanical usage, an herb is "any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume" or "a part of such a plant as used in cooking"...

s, and edible flowers
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

.
Beverages produced from plants include coffee
Coffee
Coffee is a brewed beverage with a dark,init brooo acidic flavor prepared from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant, colloquially called coffee beans. The beans are found in coffee cherries, which grow on trees cultivated in over 70 countries, primarily in equatorial Latin America, Southeast Asia,...

, tea
Tea
Tea is an aromatic beverage prepared by adding cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant to hot water. The term also refers to the plant itself. After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world...

, wine
Wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage, made of fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or other nutrients. Grape wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast...

, beer
Beer
Beer is the world's most widely consumed andprobably oldest alcoholic beverage; it is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea. It is produced by the brewing and fermentation of sugars, mainly derived from malted cereal grains, most commonly malted barley and malted wheat...

 and alcohol
Alcohol
In chemistry, an alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxy functional group is bound to a carbon atom. In particular, this carbon center should be saturated, having single bonds to three other atoms....

.
Sugar
Sugar
Sugar is a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose, characterized by a sweet flavor.Sucrose in its refined form primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet...

 is obtained mainly from sugar cane and sugar beet
Sugar beet
Sugar beet, a cultivated plant of Beta vulgaris, is a plant whose tuber contains a high concentration of sucrose. It is grown commercially for sugar production. Sugar beets and other B...

.
Cooking oil
Cooking oil
Cooking oil is purified fat of plant origin, which is usually liquid at room temperature ....

s and margarine
Margarine
Margarine , as a generic term, can indicate any of a wide range of butter substitutes, typically composed of vegetable oils. In many parts of the world, the market share of margarine and spreads has overtaken that of butter...

 come from maize, soybean
Soybean
The soybean or soya bean is a species of legume native to East Asia, widely grown for its edible bean which has numerous uses...

, rapeseed
Rapeseed
Rapeseed , also known as rape, oilseed rape, rapa, rappi, rapaseed is a bright yellow flowering member of the family Brassicaceae...

, safflower
Safflower
Safflower is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like annual. It is commercially cultivated for vegetable oil extracted from the seeds. Plants are 30 to 150 cm tall with globular flower heads having yellow, orange or red flowers. Each branch will usually have from one to five flower heads...

, sunflower
Sunflower
Sunflower is an annual plant native to the Americas. It possesses a large inflorescence . The sunflower got its name from its huge, fiery blooms, whose shape and image is often used to depict the sun. The sunflower has a rough, hairy stem, broad, coarsely toothed, rough leaves and circular heads...

, olive
Olive
The olive , Olea europaea), is a species of a small tree in the family Oleaceae, native to the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean Basin as well as northern Iran at the south end of the Caspian Sea.Its fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the...

 and others.
Food additive
Food additive
Food additives are substances added to food to preserve flavor or enhance its taste and appearance.Some additives have been used for centuries; for example, preserving food by pickling , salting, as with bacon, preserving sweets or using sulfur dioxide as in some wines...

s include gum arabic
Gum arabic
220px|thumb|right|Acacia gumGum arabic, also known as acacia gum, chaar gund, char goond, or meska, is a natural gum made of hardened sap taken from two species of the acacia tree; Acacia senegal and Acacia seyal...

, guar gum
Guar gum
Guar gum, also called guaran, is a galactomannan. It is primarily the ground endosperm of guar beans. The guar seeds are dehusked, milled and screened to obtain the guar gum. It is typically produced as a free-flowing, pale, off-white-colored, coarse to fine ground powder.-Production:Guar gum is an...

, locust bean gum
Locust bean gum
Locust bean gum is a galactomannan vegetable gum extracted from the seeds of the carob tree, mostly found in the Mediterranean region. The long pods that grow on the tree are used to make this gum. The pods are kibbled to separate the seed from the pulp...

, starch
Starch
Starch or amylum is a carbohydrate consisting of a large number of glucose units joined together by glycosidic bonds. This polysaccharide is produced by all green plants as an energy store...

 and pectin
Pectin
Pectin is a structural heteropolysaccharide contained in the primary cell walls of terrestrial plants. It was first isolated and described in 1825 by Henri Braconnot...

.
Livestock
Livestock
Livestock refers to one or more domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber and labor. The term "livestock" as used in this article does not include poultry or farmed fish; however the inclusion of these, especially poultry, within the meaning...

 animals including cows, pigs, sheep, and goats are all herbivore
Herbivore
Herbivores are organisms that are anatomically and physiologically adapted to eat plant-based foods. Herbivory is a form of consumption in which an organism principally eats autotrophs such as plants, algae and photosynthesizing bacteria. More generally, organisms that feed on autotrophs in...

s; and feed primarily or entirely on cereal plants, particularly grass
Grass
Grasses, or more technically graminoids, are monocotyledonous, usually herbaceous plants with narrow leaves growing from the base. They include the "true grasses", of the Poaceae family, as well as the sedges and the rushes . The true grasses include cereals, bamboo and the grasses of lawns ...

es.

Nonfood products


Wood
Wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

 is used for buildings, furniture, paper, cardboard, musical instruments and sports equipment. Cloth is often made from cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

, flax
Flax
Flax is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. It is native to the region extending from the eastern Mediterranean to India and was probably first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent...

 or synthetic fibers derived from cellulose
Cellulose
Cellulose is an organic compound with the formula , a polysaccharide consisting of a linear chain of several hundred to over ten thousand β linked D-glucose units....

, such as rayon
Rayon
Rayon is a manufactured regenerated cellulose fiber. Because it is produced from naturally occurring polymers, it is neither a truly synthetic fiber nor a natural fiber; it is a semi-synthetic or artificial fiber. Rayon is known by the names viscose rayon and art silk in the textile industry...

 and acetate
Acetate
An acetate is a derivative of acetic acid. This term includes salts and esters, as well as the anion found in solution. Most of the approximately 5 billion kilograms of acetic acid produced annually in industry are used in the production of acetates, which usually take the form of polymers. In...

. Renewable fuels from plants include firewood
Firewood
Firewood is any wood-like material that is gathered and used for fuel. Generally, firewood is not highly processed and is in some sort of recognizable log or branch form....

, peat
Peat
Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation matter or histosol. Peat forms in wetland bogs, moors, muskegs, pocosins, mires, and peat swamp forests. Peat is harvested as an important source of fuel in certain parts of the world...

 and many other biofuel
Biofuel
Biofuel is a type of fuel whose energy is derived from biological carbon fixation. Biofuels include fuels derived from biomass conversion, as well as solid biomass, liquid fuels and various biogases...

s. Coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

 and petroleum
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 are fossil fuels derived from plants. Medicines derived from plants include aspirin
Aspirin
Aspirin , also known as acetylsalicylic acid , is a salicylate drug, often used as an analgesic to relieve minor aches and pains, as an antipyretic to reduce fever, and as an anti-inflammatory medication. It was discovered by Arthur Eichengrun, a chemist with the German company Bayer...

, taxol, morphine
Morphine
Morphine is a potent opiate analgesic medication and is considered to be the prototypical opioid. It was first isolated in 1804 by Friedrich Sertürner, first distributed by same in 1817, and first commercially sold by Merck in 1827, which at the time was a single small chemists' shop. It was more...

, quinine
Quinine
Quinine is a natural white crystalline alkaloid having antipyretic , antimalarial, analgesic , anti-inflammatory properties and a bitter taste. It is a stereoisomer of quinidine which, unlike quinine, is an anti-arrhythmic...

, reserpine
Reserpine
Reserpine is an indole alkaloid antipsychotic and antihypertensive drug that has been used for the control of high blood pressure and for the relief of psychotic symptoms, although because of the development of better drugs for these purposes and because of its numerous side-effects, it is rarely...

, colchicine
Colchicine
Colchicine is a medication used for gout. It is a toxic natural product and secondary metabolite, originally extracted from plants of the genus Colchicum...

, digitalis
Digitalis
Digitalis is a genus of about 20 species of herbaceous perennials, shrubs, and biennials that are commonly called foxgloves. This genus was traditionally placed in the figwort family Scrophulariaceae, but recent reviews of phylogenetic research have placed it in the much enlarged family...

 and vincristine
Vincristine
Vincristine , formally known as leurocristine, sometimes abbreviated "VCR", is a vinca alkaloid from the Catharanthus roseus , formerly Vinca rosea and hence its name. It is a mitotic inhibitor, and is used in cancer chemotherapy.-Mechanism:Tubulin is a structural protein that polymerizes to...

. There are hundreds of herbal supplements such as ginkgo, Echinacea
Echinacea
Echinacea is a genus of herbaceous flowering plants in the daisy family, Asteraceae. The nine species it contains are commonly called purple coneflowers. They are endemic to eastern and central North America, where they are found growing in moist to dry prairies and open wooded areas. They have...

, feverfew
Feverfew
Feverfew is a traditional medicinal herb which is found in many old gardens, and is also occasionally grown for ornament. The plant grows into a small bush up to around high, with citrus-scented leaves and is covered by flowers reminiscent of daisies...

, and Saint John's wort. Pesticide
Pesticide
Pesticides are substances or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest.A pesticide may be a chemical unicycle, biological agent , antimicrobial, disinfectant or device used against any pest...

s derived from plants include nicotine
Nicotine
Nicotine is an alkaloid found in the nightshade family of plants that constitutes approximately 0.6–3.0% of the dry weight of tobacco, with biosynthesis taking place in the roots and accumulation occurring in the leaves...

, rotenone
Rotenone
Rotenone is an odorless chemical that is used as a broad-spectrum insecticide, piscicide, and pesticide. It occurs naturally in the roots and stems of several plants such as the jicama vine plant...

, strychnine
Strychnine
Strychnine is a highly toxic , colorless crystalline alkaloid used as a pesticide, particularly for killing small vertebrates such as birds and rodents. Strychnine causes muscular convulsions and eventually death through asphyxia or sheer exhaustion...

 and pyrethrin
Pyrethrin
The pyrethrins are a pair of natural organic compounds that have potent insecticidal activity. Pyrethrins are neurotoxins that attack the nervous systems of all insects. When present in amounts not fatal to insects, they still appear to have an insect repellent effect. Pyrethrins are gradually...

s. Drugs obtained from plants include opium
Opium
Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy . Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine...

, cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

 and marijuana
Cannabis (drug)
Cannabis, also known as marijuana among many other names, refers to any number of preparations of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug or for medicinal purposes. The English term marijuana comes from the Mexican Spanish word marihuana...

. Poisons from plants include ricin
Ricin
Ricin , from the castor oil plant Ricinus communis, is a highly toxic, naturally occurring protein. A dose as small as a few grains of salt can kill an adult. The LD50 of ricin is around 22 micrograms per kilogram Ricin , from the castor oil plant Ricinus communis, is a highly toxic, naturally...

, hemlock
Conium
Conium is a genus of two species of highly poisonous perennial herbaceous flowering plants in the family Apiaceae, native to Europe and the Mediterranean region as Conium maculatum, and to southern Africa as Conium chaerophylloides....

 and curare
Curare
Curare is a common name for various arrow poisons originating from South America. The three main types of curare are:* tubocurare...

. Plants are the source of many natural products such as fibers, essential oil
Essential oil
An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils or aetherolea, or simply as the "oil of" the plant from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove...

s, natural dye
Natural dye
Natural dyes are dyes or colorants derived from plants, invertebrates, or minerals. The majority of natural dyes are vegetable dyes from plant sources – roots, berries, bark, leaves, and wood — and other organic sources such as fungi and lichens....

s, pigments, waxes, tannin
Tannin
A tannin is an astringent, bitter plant polyphenolic compound that binds to and precipitates proteins and various other organic compounds including amino acids and alkaloids.The term tannin refers to the use of...

s, latex
Latex
Latex is the stable dispersion of polymer microparticles in an aqueous medium. Latexes may be natural or synthetic.Latex as found in nature is a milky fluid found in 10% of all flowering plants . It is a complex emulsion consisting of proteins, alkaloids, starches, sugars, oils, tannins, resins,...

, gums
Gum (botany)
Gum is a sap or other resinous material associated with certain species of the plant kingdom. This material is often polysaccharide-based and most frequently is associated with woody plants, particularly under the bark or as a seed coating...

, resin
Resin
Resin in the most specific use of the term is a hydrocarbon secretion of many plants, particularly coniferous trees. Resins are valued for their chemical properties and associated uses, such as the production of varnishes, adhesives, and food glazing agents; as an important source of raw materials...

s, alkaloids, amber and cork. Products derived from plants include soaps, paints, shampoos, perfumes, cosmetics, turpentine, rubber, varnish, lubricants, linoleum, plastics, inks, chewing gum and hemp rope. Plants are also a primary source of basic chemicals for the industrial synthesis of a vast array of organic chemicals. These chemicals are used in a vast variety of studies and experiments.

Aesthetic uses


Thousands of plant species are cultivated for aesthetic purposes as well as to provide shade, modify temperatures, reduce wind, abate noise, provide privacy, and prevent soil erosion. People use cut flowers, dried flowers and houseplant
Houseplant
A houseplant is a plant that is grown indoors in places such as residences and offices. Houseplants are commonly grown for decorative purposes, positive psychological effects, or health reasons such as indoor air purification...

s indoors or in greenhouse
Greenhouse
A greenhouse is a building in which plants are grown. These structures range in size from small sheds to very large buildings...

s. In outdoor garden
Garden
A garden is a planned space, usually outdoors, set aside for the display, cultivation, and enjoyment of plants and other forms of nature. The garden can incorporate both natural and man-made materials. The most common form today is known as a residential garden, but the term garden has...

s, lawn grasses, shade trees, ornamental trees, shrubs, vines, herbaceous perennials and bedding plants are used. Images of plants are often used in art, architecture, humor, language
Language of flowers
The language of flowers, sometimes called floriography, was a Victorian-era means of communication in which various flowers and floral arrangements were used to send coded messages, allowing individuals to express feelings which otherwise could not be spoken...

, and photography and on textiles, money, stamps, flags and coats of arms. Living plant art forms include topiary
Topiary
Topiary is the horticultural practice of training live perennial plants, by clipping the foliage and twigs of trees, shrubs and subshrubs to develop and maintain clearly defined shapes, perhaps geometric or fanciful; and the term also refers to plants which have been shaped in this way. It can be...

, bonsai
Bonsai
is a Japanese art form using miniature trees grown in containers. Similar practices exist in other cultures, including the Chinese tradition of penjing from which the art originated, and the miniature living landscapes of Vietnamese hòn non bộ...

, ikebana
Ikebana
is the Japanese art of flower arrangement, also known as .-Etymology:"Ikebana" is from the Japanese and . Possible translations include "giving life to flowers" and "arranging flowers".- Approach :...

 and espalier
Espalier
Espalier is the horticultural and ancient agricultural practice of controlling woody plant growth by pruning and tying branches so that they grow into a flat plane, frequently in formal patterns, against a structure such as a wall, fence, or trellis, and also plants which have been shaped in this...

. Ornamental plant
Ornamental plant
Ornamental plants are plants that are grown for decorative purposes in gardens and landscape design projects, as house plants, for cut flowers and specimen display...

s have sometimes changed the course of history, as in tulipomania
Tulip mania
Tulip mania or tulipomania was a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which contract prices for bulbs of the recently introduced tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly collapsed...

. Plants are the basis of a multi-billion dollar per year tourism industry which includes travel to arboretum
Arboretum
An arboretum in a narrow sense is a collection of trees only. Related collections include a fruticetum , and a viticetum, a collection of vines. More commonly, today, an arboretum is a botanical garden containing living collections of woody plants intended at least partly for scientific study...

s, botanical garden
Botanical garden
A botanical garden The terms botanic and botanical, and garden or gardens are used more-or-less interchangeably, although the word botanic is generally reserved for the earlier, more traditional gardens. is a well-tended area displaying a wide range of plants labelled with their botanical names...

s, historic gardens
Garden tourism
Garden tourism is a type of niche tourism involving visits or travel to botanical gardens and places which are significant in the history of gardening...

, national park
National park
A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or...

s, tulip festival
Tulip Festival
Tulip Festivals are held in several cities around the world, including a number in North America — most often cities with Dutch heritage — such as Albany ; Ottawa ; Gatineau ; Montreal ; Holland ; Lehi ; Orange City ; Pella ; Mount Vernon ; and Woodburn , and in other countries such as Australia and...

s, rainforest
Rainforest
Rainforests are forests characterized by high rainfall, with definitions based on a minimum normal annual rainfall of 1750-2000 mm...

s, forest
Forest
A forest, also referred to as a wood or the woods, is an area with a high density of trees. As with cities, depending where you are in the world, what is considered a forest may vary significantly in size and have various classification according to how and what of the forest is composed...

s with colorful autumn leaves and the National Cherry Blossom Festival
National Cherry Blossom Festival
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a spring celebration in Washington, D.C., commemorating the March 27, 1912, gift of Japanese cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington...

. Venus Flytrap
Venus Flytrap
The Venus Flytrap , Dionaea muscipula, is a carnivorous plant that catches and digests animal prey—mostly insects and arachnids. Its trapping structure is formed by the terminal portion of each of the plant's leaves and is triggered by tiny hairs on their inner surfaces...

, sensitive plant and resurrection plant
Resurrection plant
A resurrection plant is any plant with the habit of reviving after seeming to be dead or of seeming to revive when being in fact dead.Examples include...

 are examples of plants sold as novelties.

Scientific and cultural uses


Tree rings are an important method of dating in archeology and serve as a record of past climates. Basic biological research has often been done with plants, such as the pea plants used to derive Gregor Mendel
Gregor Mendel
Gregor Johann Mendel was an Austrian scientist and Augustinian friar who gained posthumous fame as the founder of the new science of genetics. Mendel demonstrated that the inheritance of certain traits in pea plants follows particular patterns, now referred to as the laws of Mendelian inheritance...

's laws of genetics. Space stations or space colonies may one day rely on plants for life support
Controlled Ecological Life Support System
Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems are a type of scientific endeavor to create a self-supporting life support system for space stations and colonies typically through controlled closed ecological systems, such as the BioHome, BIOS-3 and Biosphere 2.-Original concept:CELSS was first...

. Plants are used as national
National emblem
A national emblem symbolically represents a nation. Most national emblems originate in the natural world, such as animals or birds, but another object may serve. National emblems may appear on many things such as the national flag, coat of arms, or other patriotic materials...

 and state emblems, including state trees and state flowers. Ancient trees are revered and many are famous. Numerous world records are held by plants. Plants are often used as memorials, gifts and to mark special occasions such as births, deaths, weddings and holidays. Plants figure prominently in mythology, religion and literature. The field of ethnobotany
Ethnobotany
Ethnobotany is the scientific study of the relationships that exist between people and plants....

 studies plant use by indigenous cultures which helps to conserve endangered species as well as discover new medicinal plants
Herbalism
Herbalism is a traditional medicinal or folk medicine practice based on the use of plants and plant extracts. Herbalism is also known as botanical medicine, medical herbalism, herbal medicine, herbology, herblore, and phytotherapy...

. Gardening
Gardening
Gardening is the practice of growing and cultivating plants. Ornamental plants are normally grown for their flowers, foliage, or overall appearance; useful plants are grown for consumption , for their dyes, or for medicinal or cosmetic use...

 is the most popular leisure activity in the U.S. Working with plants or horticulture therapy
Horticulture therapy
Horticultural therapy is defined by the American Horticultural Therapy Association "AHTA" as the engagement of a person in gardening activities, facilitated by a trained therapist, to achieve specific therapeutic treatment goals. AHTA believes that horticultural therapy is an active process which...

 is beneficial for rehabilitating people with disabilities. Certain plants contain psychotropic chemicals which are extracted and ingested, including tobacco
Tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

, cannabis
Cannabis (drug)
Cannabis, also known as marijuana among many other names, refers to any number of preparations of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug or for medicinal purposes. The English term marijuana comes from the Mexican Spanish word marihuana...

 (marijuana), and opium
Opium
Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy . Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine...

.

Negative effects


Weed
Weed
A weed in a general sense is a plant that is considered by the user of the term to be a nuisance, and normally applied to unwanted plants in human-controlled settings, especially farm fields and gardens, but also lawns, parks, woods, and other areas. More specifically, the term is often used to...

s are plants that grow where people do not want them. People have spread plants beyond their native ranges and some of these introduced plants become invasive
Invasive species
"Invasive species", or invasive exotics, is a nomenclature term and categorization phrase used for flora and fauna, and for specific restoration-preservation processes in native habitats, with several definitions....

, damaging existing ecosystems by displacing native species. Invasive plants cause billions of dollars in crop losses annually by displacing crop plants, they increase the cost of production and the use of chemical means to control them affects the environment.

Plants may cause harm to animals, including people. Plants that produce windblown pollen invoke allergic reactions in people who suffer from hay fever
Hay Fever
Hay Fever is a comic play written by Noël Coward in 1924 and first produced in 1925 with Marie Tempest as the first Judith Bliss. Laura Hope Crews played the role in New York...

. A wide variety of plants are poisonous. Toxalbumin
Toxalbumin
Toxalbumins are toxic plant proteins that disable ribosomes and thereby inhibit protein synthesis, producing severe cytotoxic effects in multiple organ systems. They are dimers held together by a disulfide bond and comprise a lectin part which binds to the cell membrane and enables the toxin part...

s are plant poisons fatal to most mammals and act as a serious deterrent to consumption. Several plants cause skin irritations when touched, such as poison ivy
Poison ivy
Toxicodendron radicans, better known as poison ivy , is a poisonous North American plant that is well known for its production of urushiol, a clear liquid compound found within the sap of the plant that causes an itching rash in most people who touch it...

. Certain plants contain psychotropic chemicals
Secondary metabolite
Secondary metabolites are organic compounds that are not directly involved in the normal growth, development, or reproduction of an organism. Unlike primary metabolites, absence of secondary metabolities does not result in immediate death, but rather in long-term impairment of the organism's...

, which are extracted and ingested or smoked, including tobacco, cannabis (marijuana), cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

 and opium
Opium
Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy . Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine...

. Smoking
Smoking
Smoking is a practice in which a substance, most commonly tobacco or cannabis, is burned and the smoke is tasted or inhaled. This is primarily practised as a route of administration for recreational drug use, as combustion releases the active substances in drugs such as nicotine and makes them...

 causes damage to health or even death, while some drugs may also be harmful or fatal to people. Both illegal and legal drugs derived from plants may have negative effects on the economy, affecting worker productivity and law enforcement costs. Some plants cause allergic reactions when ingested, while other plants cause food intolerances that negatively affect health.

See also


  • The Plant List
    The Plant List
    The Plant List is a list of botanical names of species of plants, available on the world wide web. It was created by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Missouri Botanical Garden...

  • Biosphere
    Biosphere
    The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed and self-regulating system...

  • Leaf sensor
    Leaf sensor
    A leaf sensor is a phytometric device that measures water loss or the water deficit stress in plants by real-time monitoring the moisture level in plant leaves. The first leaf sensor was developed by LeafSens, an Israeli company who were granted a US patent for a mechanical leaf thickness...

  • Plant defense against herbivory
    Plant defense against herbivory
    Plant defense against herbivory or host-plant resistance describes a range of adaptations evolved by plants which improve their survival and reproduction by reducing the impact of herbivores. Plants use several strategies to defend against damage caused by herbivores...

  • Plant perception (paranormal)
    Plant perception (paranormal)
    Plant perception or biocommunication may denote not only that plants are sentient - they can certainly communicate through chemical signals and have complex responses to stimuli - but that may respond to humans in a manner that amounts to ESP and that may be interpreted as experience of pain and...

  • Plant perception (physiology)
    Plant perception (physiology)
    In the study of plant physiology plant perception is a term used to describe mechanisms by which plants recognize changes in the environment. Examples of stimuli which plants perceive and can react to include chemicals, gravity, light, moisture, infections, temperature, oxygen and carbon dioxide...

  • Plant identification
    Plant identification
    Plant identification is the process of matching a specimen plant to a known taxon. It uses various methods, most commonly dichotomous keys or multi-access keys. The natural key systems use morphological characteristics that can be compared with known databases to achieve typically the plants' genus...

  • Rapid plant movement
    Rapid plant movement
    Rapid plant movement encompasses movement in plant structures occurring over a very short period of time, usually under one second. For example, the Venus Flytrap closes its trap in about 100 milliseconds. The Dogwood Bunchberry's flower opens its petals and fires pollen in less than 0.5 milliseconds...

  • Biological exponential growth
    Biological exponential growth
    Biological exponential growth is the exponential growth of biological organisms. When the resources availability is unlimited in the habitat, the population of an organism living in the habitat grows in an exponential or geometric fashion....

  • Germination
    Germination
    Germination is the process in which a plant or fungus emerges from a seed or spore, respectively, and begins growth. The most common example of germination is the sprouting of a seedling from a seed of an angiosperm or gymnosperm. However the growth of a sporeling from a spore, for example the...


Further reading


General:
  • Evans, L. T. (1998). Feeding the Ten Billion - Plants and Population
    Population
    A population is all the organisms that both belong to the same group or species and live in the same geographical area. The area that is used to define a sexual population is such that inter-breeding is possible between any pair within the area and more probable than cross-breeding with individuals...

     Growth
    . Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest publishing house, and the second largest university press in the world...

    . Paperback, 247 pages. ISBN 0-521-64685-5.
  • Kenrick, Paul & Crane, Peter R. (1997). The Origin and Early Diversification of Land Plants: A Cladistic Study. Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN 1-56098-730-8.
  • Raven, Peter H., Evert, Ray F., & Eichhorn, Susan E. (2005). Biology of Plants (7th ed.). New York: W. H. Freeman and Company. ISBN 0-7167-1007-2.
  • Taylor, Thomas N. & Taylor, Edith L. (1993). The Biology and Evolution of Fossil Plants. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-651589-4.
  • Trewavas, A. (2003). Aspects of Plant Intelligence, Annals of Botany 92: 1-20.


Species estimates and counts:
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (2004). IUCN Red List
    IUCN Red List
    The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species , founded in 1963, is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world's main authority on the conservation status of species...

    http://www.iucnredlist.org/.
  • Prance, G. T. (2001). Discovering the Plant World. Taxon 50: 345-359.

External links





Botanical and vegetation databases