The Scope of Botany
At its roots, botany is the study of plants. There are around 400,000 known plant species currently living on this plant, but the average person knows about only a handful, and many of those are agriculture plants that have been brought to supermarkets.
It can be difficult to know where to begin when you start thinking about botany. Plants are a keystone to our existence and survival on this earth and as such, they have a long history of being entangled with our lives in many ways; many ethnobotanists studying the relationships between plants and humans know this firsthand.
There are other specializations that you’ll find in botany that can lead to incredible discoveries and a furthered appreciation for the natural world. The scope of botany is as large as the earth itself and can easily span into the past with help from knowledgeable paleobotanists, unlocking genetic and ancestral mysteries about the plants we know today.
Why is Botany Important?
Botany has such a wide range of importance to humans that it can be difficult to separate out our history from plants’. While the same might be said for animals, plants have provided us with everything we needed.
From feminine hygiene products and diapers made of absorbent mosses, to many commonly known plants such as lamb’s ear and yarrow serving as wound care supplies in field medicine, plants and humans have long since been connected with each other.
Botany serves many important purposes in all specializations, giving us a better scientific understanding of our world in many ways:
- Human Nutrition and Medicine
- Biochemistry Research
- Genetics Research
- New Materials
- Ecological Research
Even in the advent of modern supplies and medicine, many of these materials are (or were) derived from plants in some fashion.
Common medicines like aspirin are derived from salicylic acid; something you can find commonly in the inner root bark of willow trees.
If you look around you, plastic notwithstanding, you’re likely to find something that was at some point in time, derived from plants.
Whether it’s a degree removed, like the synthetic-fiber washcloth in your bathroom, or directly derived like the wood of your kitchen counters or tables, plants still provide us with everything we need, from food to medicine, shelter, and clothing.