Fire-Fighting Foliage? The New Super Plants
Plants having a number of benefits besides medicine and food sources is nothing new, however some of the latest findings from the world of vegetation may surprise you. According to an article published on the BBC's website, we could be missing out on potential powers that plants possess. New research from the Botanical Gardens of Kew stated that there are many more ways we could be harnessing the power of plants beyond their current uses.
Plants That Fight Fires
Forest fires are a serious problem in many areas of the world, and scientists are exploring a natural way to solve the issue. Fires occur when the plants become too dry and are rooted too closely or when non-native plants have failed to adapt to their new surroundings. These incidents can cause devastating economical and environmental issues.
Kew Gardens are working with and identifying flammable plants in order to cultivate landscapes that will be much more resilient of fire, there by using them as 'natural fire breaks' to prevent the amount of damage to the area and resources. According to the BBC, plants with thick bark, serotinous cones and with an ability to quickly re-sprout are the most resistant to fire.
Researchers from the Crop Wild Relatives Projects (CWR) say that the vegetables we eat are have 'cousins' who live in the wild, and that 'are to food what wolves are too dogs.' This means that these 'relative plants' are stronger and more resilient against disease, pests, bad soil and climate change than our traditional farm-grown veggies.
Plant breeders across the world are working on cross-breeding our well-known vegetables with these stronger versions in order to reap the benefits from both. Hardy though they are, in countries such as Brazil, Azerbaijan and India which yield large amounts of wild plants, these counter-vegetables are struggling to stand up to difficulties like war, pollution and global warming. Coming to their rescue is Millennium Seed Bank of the Royal Botanical Gardens, alongside partners that run breeding programmes. They hope to have saved these plants within the next several years.
The enset is a member of the banana family which boasts a plethora of amazing benefits. Grown in Ethiopia for many thousands of years, the enset has over 200 names and used for a number of different needs. It can be used to make rope, medicine, clothes, shelter, provide a micro-climate for coffee plants and of course, is a staple crop in Africa. Known to us as the Ethiopian banana, the enset actually has over 200 names!
With its amazing durability and impressive resume of uses, scientists are exploring the option of cultivating this plant elsewhere, particularly other areas of Africa that struggle with famine. With the ability to be turned into three different food substances, the enset could be the first steps in bringing an end to starvation.
Plants have been used in the medical field for centuries and are still found on the shelves today; the common pain killer aspirin is derived from the bark of a tree. Over 28,000 plant species are used as medicine sources. however, less than 16% of these are cited in a medicinal regulatory publication.
Despite this, 90% of Germany's population use plants derived from garlic and foxglove medicinally. China is another country that is harnessing the medical power of greenery. Chinese government officials in December 2016 announced their goal to incorporate more traditional Chinese medicine into their healthcare system by 2020, and stated they would present detailed illustrations and description of the source plants in order to prevent any confusion. Researchers say that as medicinal plants become more prevalent, we must obtain them from sustainable sources and ensure effective tractability and quality control systems are put into place.