This blogpost is brought to you by Lisa Drennen.
Plants are a topic of interest among our YCITYSCI students. As a result, why plants are important, plant parts, and plant function is the focus of our blog today! Plants are fascinating and can be found on all parts of the earth. There are not any other organisms that can make food in their own bodies from sunlight. Thousands of organisms eat plants for food including us! Plants are used for medicinal uses for many illnesses. Other than making nutrient-rich food and medicines, plants play other important roles in the environment. Plants make oxygen as a by-product when making food through photosynthesis. Plants are good habitats for animals to be protected and sheltered. The main components of plants are roots, stems, leaves, and fruits/flowers.
Let’s start from the ground up with the roots. The roots of a plant have a main purpose of taking in nutrients and water from the surrounding soil and transferring them to the stem of the plant. The roots act as an anchor for the plant and store extra food for use later on. The stem of a plant has many jobs. The stem provides structural support for the plant’s leaves, fruits, and/or flowers. Water and nutrients are sent from the roots to the leaves by the stem. Food from the leaves is sent to other plants parts by the stem as well. When thinking about the stem of a plant, there are many varieties and structural differences between stems of plants. For example, the stem of a tree is the strong, durable trunk while the stem of a flower is flexible and easily broken. The next component of a plant is the leaves. This is where the magic happens!! Plants will take in the sun’s energy and convert it into glucose to use for food for the plant. Plants use the light energy from the sun, nutrients and water from roots, and carbon dioxide from the air to make glucose as energy and oxygen that is left over at the end of photosynthesis. Below is what is called the chemical equation for photosynthesis for anyone who enjoys biochemistry.
6 O2 + 6 CO2 > C6H12O6 + 6 O2
The flower’s purpose is to assist the plant in reproducing. The flowers of a plant are the components that contain pollen and eggs for the process of pollination. Pollination is the transfer of pollen from one flower to the next so that the plant can produce seeds. Once a plant is pollinated, the egg is fertilized, and the flower will develop into a fruit. The seeds of the plant are inside the fruit. The fruit’s purpose is to keep the seed safe until it is able to grow in the ground into a new plant.
There are many foods we refer to as a vegetable when, in fact, if a food has a seed in it, it is a fruit. Fruits are usually the foods that come from a flower. Vegetables are the food that grows in the roots, stems, or leaves of the plants. What foods can you think of that contain seeds? Are some of the foods that come to your mind you thought were vegetables? It commonly happens that fruits such as avocados, peppers and cucumbers are looked at as vegetables but contain seeds and are actually fruit.
We eat all the different components of plants all the time! It is cool to know which part of a plant you are chopping on. For example, a carrot is the plant’s roots. How cool is it to know that you love to eat plant’s roots with hummus in your lunch! A fun activity to learn more about plants and which parts we eat, click here to play supermarket botany!
For access to this and more information about plant biology, click here.