Uses_and_Abuses_of_Plants - A VERY DELICATE BALANCE OF...

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A VERY DELICATE BALANCE OF ASSOCIATION It is true that Angiosperms, in comparison to the other groups of terrestrial plants, have an intimate association with animals. Angiosperms have a knack for getting animals to do their bidding – particularly in terms of fertilization and seed dispersal. In some cases the relationship with an animal species is an absolute must for the survival of both the plant and animal species – a true mutualistic symbiotic association. But sometimes the line is crossed and animals now turn on the plants as a source of food. In cases like this, the plant now needs to develop mechanical and chemical defenses for protection. The coevolution of plants and animals is a very fascinating field of study – plants not only needing the animals for their own benefit, but also trying to find ways to protect themselves. At the other end of the extreme is the group of animals, called humans, which are sometimes too smart for their own good and find ways to use plant chemicals to their own detriment and sometimes, demise. PLANT PROTECTION: Mechanical: waxy, sticky, hairy surfaces – difficult to ingest. Also, spines and thorns are in this category as well. Chemical: Plants are pharmaceutical factories and are able to manufacture thousands of compounds for their defense. Most of these compounds are classified as “secondary compounds .” Primary compounds are molecules such as glucose, amino acids, ATP, DNA and other molecules needed for basic metabolism. Terpenes are lipids and the largest class of secondary compounds. Most seem to be produced solely for the purpose of poisoning animals . Pyrethroids from Chrysanthemum leaves are a major class of insecticides. Saponins are found in certain varieties of alfalfa and kill grazing animals by rupturing red blood cell membranes.
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Uses_and_Abuses_of_Plants - A VERY DELICATE BALANCE OF...

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