Flowering Plants: Early Growth and Development - 9 Plants, Secondary Metabolites and Coevolution There have been several opportunities in our discussion of flowering plant reproduction and development to mention coevolution in these processes, particularly with pollinating agents and with dispersal agents, two times in the life history of the flowering plant when it beneficial for the plant to provide some of itself to another organism. The same phenomenon, lack of locomotion, that makes it necessary to have “outside” agents for these essential processes can be a negative to the plant during other periods of its life. The secondary metabolites of many plants are also successful coevolutionary mechanisms to help plants minimize predation. Secondary metabolites include alkaloids, quinines, essential oils, (many of which are terpenoids or terpenes) glycosides, cyanogens, raphides (calcium oxalate crystals) and flavonoids. We call many of these substances phytochemicals, and are investigating them for possible health-promoting benefits.
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