The Advantages of Flowering Plants
Flowering plants are all around us, the most abundant kind of plant on land. They developed before humans, and their diversity and abundance has been an important part of our survival, culture and history. We have used them in our rituals, given them symbolic meaning and even used them as currency. Their relevance continues, affording gardeners several advantages.
The prime advantage of flowering plants is in their food value. Indeed, flowering plants are our only source of fruit. Fruits don't just include sweet produce like grapes or berries. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peas--are also the fruits of flowering plants. Besides providing fruit, many types of the flowers themselves are edible, including rose and pansy petals. Stems, leaves and roots, like carrots, also provide food.
Flowering plants attract wildlife, though many gardeners wish the deer and rabbits would stay away. Like us, they're are drawn to flowering plants for the food they provide. Birds, butterflies, honeybees--flowering plants nourish these as well.
Just as people and wildlife feed on flowering plants, so do domestic animals. From seed to grasses, flowering plants feed our animals, including those we use for food. Corn is routinely fed to animals like chicken and cattle.
Because so much of so many of flowering plants are edible, it's natural that they would have found their way into folk remedies. Some, like foxglove, do have important medicinal properties and modern science has been able to create standardized synthetic versions of plants' medicinal quality. This is a good thing, since medicine in one dosage is poison in an other. Foxglove, for instance, can be fatal.
Another advantage of flowering plants lies in their value as ornamentation. The presence of flowers elevates events like weddings and funerals. The showiness of flowers isn't just a lucky accident, though. Flowers have evolved to be beautiful. The very wildlife drawn to an area of flowering plants are the same creatures that will help a plant reproduce by distributing pollen between flowers. The more beautiful, scented, nectar-filled, and showy a flower is, the more visits they get from creatures.
Though other kinds of plants, like conifers, provide wood, the sheer number of flowering plants mean that much of the wood we use in our furniture and construction comes from trees that flower.
Grasses are flowering plants and are an important erosion control measure, quickly putting out ground cover over an area of soil and keeping it from blowing away. Especially important are grasses that stabilize hills.
- The Flower Expert: Flowers & History
- Biology Online: Seed Plant Tutorial-Relevance to Humans
- "A Garden of Your Own;" Michael O'Brian; 1993