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HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED… ARE PLANTS LIVING THINGS?

By: Efraim Harari



Plants are living things, just like people and animals. In order for something to be classified as a living thing, it needs to be able to perform certain life processes: It must have the ability to grow and die; the ability to reproduce; the ability to get rid of waste; and the need for energy, nutrients, air, and water. Additionally, it needs to be made up of cells.

Plants are divided into two main groups. The larger group contains the plants that produce seeds. These are the angiosperms(plants that have flowers, referred to as “flowering plants”) and the gymnosperms(plants that make seeds in cones, such as cycads, gingkoes, and conifers). The smaller group contains the seedless plants. This group includes mosses, liverworts, horsetails, and ferns. Botanists have so far named over 400,000 different plant species, 300,000 of which are seed-producing plants.

Flowering Plants

Flowering plants are the most successful and most numerous plants on Earth and can be found just about anywhere on the planet. Flowering plants are divided into two groups: monocots and dicots.

Monocots usually have narrow leaves and three (or multiples of three) petals. Examples include lilies, palms,
and orchids.

Dicotshave broad leaves with a central vein that connects to a smaller network of veins. They have four or five (or multiples of four or five) petals. Examples include magnolias, buttercups, and poppies.

Did You Know?

Most medicines, except antibiotics, come from flowering plants or
were first found in flowering plants.

How do plants feed themselves?

It’s easy to think that plants are helpless. They don’t seem to do much of anything. They stay in one place, and they don’t seem to hunt, hide, jump, fly, or communicate with other living things. But plants have a secret! Unlike people and animals, most plants do not need to find food, because they can make it for themselves. Plants use energy from sunlight to turn water and carbon dioxide into an energy-rich sugar called glucose, which is their “food.” This process is called photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis takes place inside the green leaves of the plant. During photosynthesis, plant leaves take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Using energy from sunlight, the plant combines this carbon dioxide with the water it draws up from its roots, and thus glucose is created for the plant.

Oxygen is also released by the plant during photosynthesis. This is beneficial for us, since oxygen is the main gas that we breathe!

Extra food that the plant doesn’t use right away is stored in its leaves for later use. Ingenious!

It’s All
Greek to Me!

 

The word photosynthesis comes from the Greek language and means “putting together
with light.”
How DoesPhotosynthesisWork?

Leaves cannot perform photosynthesis without chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a pigment that absorbs light. Leaf cells are full of organelles called chloroplasts, which contain chlorophyll.Even when a plant has plenty of chloroplasts, it still needs the following in order to perform photosynthesis:

Carbon Dioxide:This gas enters through pores called stomata, which are located on the underside of the leaf.

Water:This is absorbed by the roots and sent up to the leaves through the xylem part (veins) of the plant’s vascular tissue.

Sunlight: The sun provides the energy that makes the whole process run!

BOTANY 101

Most plants start their life as a seed. A seed contains all of the information necessary for something to grow into a plant. Seeds will not sprout until they have three needs met: water, sunlight, and nutrients from soil. During the early stages of growth, the seedling relies upon its supply of stored food until it is large enough for its own leaves to begin making food for itself through photosynthesis.