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.
Ilex paraguariensis (Aquifoliaceae) - maté
Used to make a very popular gaucho tea in South America
Nicotiana tabacum (Solanaceae) - nicotine
The tobacco plant and one source of James B. Duke's fortune
Rauvolfia sp. (Apocynaceae) - reserpine
Alkaloids used to treat high blood pressure and psychosis
Manilkara zapota (Sapotaceae) - chicle latex
Used to make gum (originally)
Elettaria cardamomum (Zingerberaceae) - cardamon
Spice used in cooking
Bixa orellana (Bixaceae) - annato
Cooking spice used for red coloring