Can plants eat other plants?

The importance of green plants

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2. Carbon dioxide degradation and oxygen formation

3. Plants for food
3.1 Fermentation

4. Energy generation
4.1 fossil fuels
4.1.1. Coal
4.1.2. Oil and natural gas
4.2. Fuel: biomass

5. Ingredients of the plants
5.1 Dyes
5.2 Fragrances
5.3 Spices
5.4 Luxury items
5.5 Intoxicants
5.6 Poisons
5.7 Medicinal plants

6. Vegetable fibers

7. Other meanings of green plants

1 Introduction

There are over 300,000 plant species on earth and many species have not yet been discovered. The 0.002 mm small chlorella (alga) belongs to the plants as well as the huge, over 100 m large sequoia trees. Since most plants cannot move or move very slowly, they look peaceful and absolutely inferior to us, but without plants no heterotrophic life (especially animals and humans) would be possible on this planet. Because not even the - in our opinion - most highly developed form of life, humans, can, like (autotrophic, green) plants, produce their own food or the oxygen they need to breathe. The plants only need carbon dioxide (CO2), water (H2O) and light. With the help of the green leaf pigment chlorophyll, plants can convert these inorganic, low-energy substances into organic, high-energy glucose (C6H12O6) and oxygen (photosynthesis).

Figure not included in this excerpt

this equation of reaction is what heterotrophic life on earth is built upon.

2. Carbon dioxide degradation and oxygen formation

When there were no living beings on earth, the CO2 content of the earth's atmosphere was still very high. The plants that evolved in the Earth's primordial ocean degraded CO2 and increased the O2 content of the atmosphere. This made life on earth possible for heterotrophic living beings. Today the O2 content in the atmosphere is 20.75% and the CO2 content 0.035%. There is an O2 and a CO2 circuit. (àAppendix) between plants and heterotrophic organisms, whereby plants also consume O2 when they break down the energy-rich glucose in order to get energy. Plants also reduce the greenhouse effect by breaking down the CO2 produced mainly by industry, cars and animals or humans, and by building up O2, from which ozone can be formed in the atmosphere.

3. Plants for food

Plants produce glucose through photosynthesis. They use up part of the glucose they produce themselves. A large part is also stored, however. The storage locations are different for different plants, that is, different parts of plants are edible by different plants (due to certain ingredients, some plants or parts of plants are not edible) or nutritious. So you can find the root (carrot, radish), the leaves (lettuce, Chinese cabbage, spinach, Brussels sprouts), the stem (asparagus), the inflorescences (cauliflower, broccoli) and fruits (apple, cucumber, tomato, melon) or fruit bunches Eat (wheat, oats, corn, elder).

Animals that cannot produce food for themselves and eat plants (herbivores) take up the energy-rich storage substances (glucose, starch, oil, etc.) and convert some of them into low-energy substances through cellular respiration in the cells with the help of O2, whereby energy is released. The other part is saved. Carnivores in turn eat them to meet their energy needs. This creates a food chain. The first link in any food chain are the autotrophic plants. Since storage substances in plants (e.g. glucose) are not as rich in energy as storage substances in animals (e.g. animal fat), herbivores have to consume more biomass than carnivores. Part of the energy is consumed by each limb and part of the food eaten is not usable (digestible) and therefore no energy can be released from it. This means that only 10% of the producer's biomass can be used by the first-time consumer. In turn, only 10% of the biomass of the first consumer is useful for the second consumer (etc.). Example: 10 t of plant plankton live in a balanced body of water, which also reproduces. Then 1 t of animal plankton must live there, which eats the plant plankton and thereby keeps the ecosystem in balance. Consequently, 100 kg of non-predatory fish live there, which in turn eat the animal plankton. So only 10 kg of predatory fish can live in this body of water. But most food chains are much more complex.

3.1. fermentation

Every living cell operates cell respiration, in which glucose and oxygen are converted into water and CO2 and energy is released in the process. In the absence of oxygen, fermentation takes place, during which glucose is converted into other substances, whereby these have more energy and consequently less energy is released. Like cell respiration, every living cell can also ferment, but there are cells that primarily ferment, i.e. fermentation can also be carried out in certain cases in the presence of oxygen. Example: alcoholic fermentation (C6H12O6 → 2CO2 + 2C2H5OH), cheese and yoghurt production, lactic acid fermentation (sore muscles). Tobacco, pepper) or to break down unwanted components (e.g. hemp and flax fiber production).

4. Energy generation

Already since 500,000 BC Chr., Since man mastered fire, he has been practicing controlled energy production (in the form of heat). Nowadays, energy generation is indispensable. There would be no factories in which objects or food are produced, and no means of transport with which goods can be brought in from countries that are no longer so distant today. But without

Energy generation can't even develop that far. After all, without fire there would be no Bronze Age, in which tougher bronze weapons could be used, and we would still have to chew raw meat and be afraid of larger animals.

4.1 fossil fuels

Fossil fuels are fuels from the geological past, i.e. coal, oil and natural gas. They originated from plants growing at that time and therefore also contain the energy stored in plants, only in a more concentrated form.

4.1.1. Coal

The most important types of coal are hard coal, which has its origin mainly in carbon (360 - 285 million BC, lower spore plants, e.g. horsetail, fern, scale and seal tree) and consists of 75% - 91.5% carbon and has a very high calorific value and the Tertiary (65 - 2 million BC, also more highly developed plants, e.g. deciduous and coniferous trees) originating lignite, with a C content of 65% - 75% a lower calorific value Has.

Formation: In marshland or moorland, peat first formed from dead plant residues when the subsoil (swamp, moor) sank in the absence of air. This is how coalification begins, the conversion of plant residues into coal. The peat is covered by rock (over time) and thus (more or less) gets deep into the earth. There, under high pressure and high temperatures, the oxygen and hydrogen content decreases and consequently the carbon content increases. The longer and stronger these forces act on it, the greater the carbon content and calorific value. The development is as follows: plant → peat → brown coal → hard coal à anthracite → graphite → diamond Historical: Already 250 BC. coal was used in Greece for forging and ore casting. The English coal camps are mentioned for the first time in 833. In Saxony and the Ruhr area, the mining of hard coal began in the middle of the 14th century. Since the beginning of industrialization (with the invention of the steam engine in 1769), the importance of coal as a fuel in factories increased more and more. Uses: Fuel and heating fuel, chemical industry, drawing material, pencil lead, jewelry, diamond drill, glass cutter, record reading head, for steel extraction, tar, fuel, etc.

4.1.2. Oil and natural gas

Origin: There is a lack of oxygen in a shallow sea basin. As a result, animals die that would not exist without plants, and plants (mostly plankton) die off and digested sludge is formed on the sea floor. Over time, the digested sludge is first covered by porous rocks (e.g. sandstone), then by impermeable rocks (e.g. clay, loam). Petroleum mother rock is formed from the digested sludge under high pressure and high temperatures. The oil and gas rise through the porous sandstone and form a deposit under the impermeable layer. (à Appendix) In refineries, crude oil is "cracked" and thus made usable. Uses: fuel, heating and fuel, chemical industry, plastics production, research

4.2 Fuel: biomass

Wood is the oldest human fuel. Long before coal or natural gas was used for heating, people used wood for a fire. He probably also used hay or other dried plant parts to make it easier to ignite. In this case, biomass only means that which has not been significantly changed by coalification or other processes, but rather wood, hay, straw and all combustible waste that arises from forest, forest or field or meadow work. If you burn this waste in power plants instead of letting it rot or burn it uselessly, you could meet 5% of the electricity demand in the whole of Germany. Unfortunately, not even 1% of the German energy demand is covered by biomass incineration.

In addition, oils can be obtained from plants (e.g. rapeseed, sunflower) that are suitable as fuel, have less impact on the environment and, unlike fossil fuels, are not used up at some point.

5. Ingredients of the plants

Plants have always been more than just food. Many plants have become so popular only because of their color, their smell, the intoxicating effects on oneself, or the lethal effects on others. For some, certain features are only emphasized through appropriate treatment. Today most colorings (except food colors) are made synthetically because this method is faster, more effective or cheaper.

5.1 Dyes

One of the oldest natural dyes is the indigo of the indigo plant (Indigofera tinctoria, → Appendix). It was used in China and its country of origin, India, before. In other countries other plants were used to beautify fabrics, vessels or the body with their dyes. In Europe, for example, saffron was obtained from crocuses, which colored foods (e.g. cakes) yellow. With onion skins or oak bark you could get a more or less strong brown. Until the indigo came to Europe, the woad plant was the predominant plant that provided the indigo dye. The first synthetic indigo was produced in 1880. The indigo plant lost its importance. Nowadays better and better synthetic colors are being produced that displace the natural dyes, but the first denim dye indigo was found again when it came back into fashion.

5.2 Fragrances

Many plants form essential oils that are characteristic of them in order to attract insects or animals (bats) with their scent, which they fertilize or spread their seeds. However, some plants (onions) also use unpleasant smelling fragrances to keep pests away. Essential oils are not only found in the flower, but also in the leaves (lemon balm, sage, lovage, peppermint), the roots (horseradish), in buds (roses), as well as in the wood and the bark of the trees and in all of them other parts of the plant, which are consequently also processed. But many essential oils do not smell or hardly smell at all. Many essential oils only smell in connection with water (mustard, bitter almond, wintergreen oil) or when the cells are broken (garlic). Essential oils are insoluble in water, which is why they (e.g. in perfumes) are usually dissolved in alcohol. Uses: Perfume, tobacco (cigars), liqueurs, confectionery, spices, foodstuffs, production of pure chemical fragrances.

5.3 Spices

Spices make the food tastier. Spices stimulate the olfactory and taste organs and promote the production of saliva and gastric juice. They stimulate the appetite and digestion. In addition, some have an antibacterial effect. That is why many spices are also medicinal plants (caraway, anise, mustard, garlic). These effects are caused by the essential oils and bitter substances it contains. Since these substances occur in all parts of the plant, the most diverse parts of the plant are used for spices: fruits and seeds (paprika, pepper, allspice, vanilla, nutmeg, lemon, mustard), flowers and buds (cloves, capers), bark (cinnamon) , Roots and rhizomes (ginger, celery, turmeric), onions (garlic, onion), leaves and herbs (dill, savory, parsley, marjoram, bay leaves, borage)

5.4 Luxury items

Luxury foods are substances (mostly) without any significant nutritional value, which have a stimulating effect on the brain by means of alkaloids. In overdoses they can also act as intoxicants (in high doses, intoxication) or “stimulants” (toxic in high doses). Some luxury foods are coffee (origin in the Coffee Mountains in the highlands of Ethiopia, contains caffeine), cocoa (from Central and South America, contains caffeine and theobromine), tea (East Asia, there also medicinal products, contains caffeine) and tobacco (from central and South America, contains nicotine, named after Jean Nicot de Villemain, who brought tobacco to France)

5.5 Intoxicants

Intoxicants were already known in ancient times. The “prophets” in the oracle of Delphi used certain means to put themselves into trance states in order to find the “ultimate answer” to the visitors' questions and then mumbled more or less understandable advice against them. Intoxicants are substances that change the state of consciousness by acting on the central nervous system, creating intoxicating states. There are natural intoxicants (hashish, cocaine, opium), semi-synthetic intoxicants (alcohol in high doses, heroin) and synthetic intoxicants (wake-up amines (wake-up or wake-up drugs) such as ecstasy, barbiturates (sedatives)). Effects of intoxicants are disinhibition, suppression of pain and feelings of discomfort, states of euphoria, hallucinations as well as strong calming and relaxation or reduced symptoms of tiredness. But with most intoxicants there is a rude awakening afterwards: Depression, damage to the body and its performance, overdose or contaminated intoxicants can lead to serious illness (poisoning) or even death. In addition, intoxicants can be physically (even if you want to quit, you cannot, because the body “needs” the intoxicant.) Or psychologically (the body does not become dependent, but you absolutely want to take the intoxicant so that you feel better, what else It is more dangerous if you have big problems with your family, your job, etc.) become dependent, which can lead to financial ruin as well as physical and mental decline.

5.6 Poisons

Humans have certainly known poisons for a long time: it is likely that some people perished from the effects of poisonous plants before they began to avoid them or to smear them with spears and arrows in order to be able to kill animals more effectively. In ancient wars there is already talk of arrows provided with poison, which did not fail to have a deadly effect. But most poisonous plants have healing properties in the right dosage. Plants likely produced toxins to protect themselves from animals that could eat them. Often plants only have poisonous effects on certain animals, as rowan berries, for example, are non-toxic to birds that spread their seeds. Most vegetable poisons belong to the alkaloids, essential oils, amino acids, glycosides, polyines, proteins or peptins, but many of these substances are very fragrant or tasty. Some poisonous plants are: foxglove, lily of the valley, yew, and the fruits of the potato plant (the fruits arise from the flowers, potatoes do not), or also unripe fruits (tomato)

5.7 Medicinal plants

We still have a collection of healing methods from Egypt from 1550 BC written on papyrus. Received. This means that humans have known medicinal plants for a very long time. (Probably not as long as poisonous plants) In the right dosage, stimulants, intoxicants or poisons are very useful remedies. The same applies here: as in the case of pleasure plants and poisonous plants, the corresponding ingredients are usually only found in certain parts of the plant, only certain parts of the plant are usually used in medicinal or medicinal plants. Examples: arnica (sore remedy), valerian (soothing), eucaliptus tree (sore and fever remedy), fennel (expectorant, flatulence, soothing), autumn crocus (gout remedy, possibly toxic), chamomile (anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic)

6. Vegetable fibers

There are many different plant fibers. Not only do they differ in thickness, length and toughness, plant fibers can also come from different parts of the plant.Cotton fibers are seed fibers, flax and hemp fibers are stem fibers, manila, sisal and yucca fibers are leaf fibers and coconut fibers are fruit fibers. All plant fibers are made of cellulose. They can be used to make clothing, ropes, nets, mats, insulation materials and pressboard for building houses. It can also be used to make paper, which was made by the Chinese as early as 105 BC. reported. The hemp plant is a fast growing plant whose fibers are the best in the plant kingdom. As much cellulose fiber can be obtained from 0.4 hectares of hemp as from 1.6 hectares of trees. In addition, hemp grows back much faster. If one were to accept the more difficult and more expensive variant of paper and building material production from hemp fibers in the future, one could get more trees, which would benefit not only us, but much more our descendants.

7. Other meanings of green plants

In addition to these vital and life-enhancing functions, plants also have other functions that may perhaps be forgotten.

Vegetable oils are used in cosmetics production. (Hemp oil) In addition, plants are water reservoirs. This can be life-saving, as you can, for example, cut open cacti standing in the desert and drink the vital water. Plants can fetch water from the underground in places where humans do not have the opportunity or the money to do so. They also show hidden water reserves from afar. (Oasis)

They also provide great protection against soil erosion. Many mountain avalanches only came about because the flora there was removed in order to create profitable ski and tourist areas. Where there are no plants, of course, no water can be absorbed from the soil and there are also no roots that can hold the earth. Nature has designed a sophisticated system over the course of millions of years. Humans should not fight against it or harm it, but learn from it, otherwise our planet will soon no longer be worth living in (completely without the ozone layer ...).