Economic Plants

Plants are involved in just about everything we do; imagine a breakfast, lunch or dinner not involving a plant. Even driving your car, from its parts to its fuel, is some way related to plants. Human civilization began with agriculture, and we even depend on the remains of prehistoric plants for our fossil fuels today. Without a doubt, the economic importance of plants is huge. 

Check out some of the Duke Biology Department Greenhouse’s economic plants collection.


Aquifoliaceae

Ilex paraguariensis (Aquifoliaceae) - maté 
Used to make a very popular gaucho tea in South America

Solanaceae

Nicotiana tabacum (Solanaceae) - nicotine 
The tobacco plant and one source of James B. Duke's fortune

Apocynaceae

Rauvolfia sp. (Apocynaceae) - reserpine
Alkaloids used to treat high blood pressure and psychosis

Sapotaceae manilkara zapota

Manilkara zapota (Sapotaceae) - chicle latex
Used to make gum (originally)

Zingiberaceae

Elettaria cardamomum (Zingerberaceae) - cardamon
Spice used in cooking

Bixaceae

Bixa orellana (Bixaceae) - annato
Cooking spice used for red coloring