Why Plants Matter

At The New York Botanical Garden we study plants, and we believe it is important for people to understand and appreciate the role of plants in our lives and in the environment.

Plants convert solar energy into stores of energy, or food, through photosynthesis. The plants use this food which is then, in turn, consumed by animals, and then by animals that eat animals, and so on up the food chain. One byproduct of photosynthesis is oxygen. Plants are the only source for this vital gas on earth. Plants thus provide all the food we eat and all the oxygen we breathe. No plants, no people.

Plants provide many vital ''ecosystem services,'' from global down to local levels. For example, during photosynthesis plants absorb carbon dioxide, thus reducing the amount of this major greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. Roots stabilize soil, reducing erosion. Leaves cleanse the atmosphere and expel water vapor which cools the surrounding air. Branches and leaves reduce the force of winds, provide shade, and diffuse noise.

Plants provide thousands of useful products that make life possible on earth, such as fibers, wood, fuels, oils, resins, waxes, soaps, dyes, foods, and medicines.

Plants give people pleasure; gardening is among the most popular hobbies in the United States.

Central to the Garden's mission is its role as an advocate for the plant kingdom.

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