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10 Incredible Plant Facts You Didn't Know

Food

By Kevin Mathews

1. The earth has more than 80,000 species of edible plants.

If you’re ever in the mood to try something new, the good news is that there is certainly food you haven’t tasted yet still growing somewhere in the world. You’ll probably have some trouble finding it, however, because …

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2. 90 percent of the foods humans eat come from just 30 plants.

Out of tens of thousands of plants we could eat, mankind chooses to consume only about 30 of them. It’s crazy to contemplate how limited our diets are compared to all of the different foods we could be eating. If you think the selection of which plants we eat has anything to do with their nutritional benefits, however, you’d be wrong …

3. Nutrition doesn't factor into the crops we do mass produce.

The world’s largest farmers have pursued certain crops because they can grow a lot of them more quickly, easily and inexpensively to turn a better profit. As a result, most of the most healthful plants stay off of our dinner plates because they aren’t available at grocery stores. Still, sustenance isn’t the only thing humans rely on plants for …

4. 70,000 plant species are utilized for medicine.

As it turns out, humans are more diversified in the plants we use for medicine. Although a large portion of that figure applies to traditional medicine, modern medicine is not excepted from plant help. Half of the drugs prescribed in the U.S. have plant origins, many coming out of the rainforest, yet …

5. Only one percent of rainforest plants have been studied for medicinal potential.

Given how valuable plants can be medicinally, the rainforest houses a host of possible cures for ailments new and old. This untapped resource could still hold the key to medical breakthroughs. Of course, a lot of this potential could be lost considering …

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6. 80 percent of the Earth's original forests have been cleared or destroyed.

The same forests that dominated the land 8,000 years ago are all but gone. Approximately four-fifths of the forests are gone thanks to human intervention—just think of how many plant species may have been lost in that process. If you thought protections were in place, actually …

7. Just 10 percent of the world's plant-rich areas are protected.

Of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, only 10 percent are officially “protected” to ensure the survival of a multitude of species—plant and animal alike. Worse still, many of the supposedly protected areas are done so nominally only, leaving plants threatened by external factors they should be safeguarded from. This is especially problematic because …

8. More than half of plant species are native to just one country.

Chances are, a plant you find in one part of the world is not currently growing anywhere else. As plant habitat is ruined, there’s little point in hoping that the killed plants could be found and harvested somewhere else in the future. For this reason …

9. 68 percent of plants are in danger of going extinct.

While scientists have only examined a fraction of the existing known plant species, of those that have been studied, 68 percent face extinction in the not too distant future. Since plants can’t just up and move as their habitat is being destroyed, they are even more vulnerable than endangered animals. It’s happening quickly, too, since …

10. Plant species are going extinct—about 5,000 times faster than they should.

Some will argue that species would go extinct even without human interference. While that’s certainly true, it’s the rate that plants are dying off that raises alarm. Thanks to climate change, deforestation and other human-influence factors, experts believe that species are going extinct somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 times faster than they would naturally.

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERISTY and FOOD pages for more related news on this topic.

 

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