Plants are very different beings from us: the life cycle of plants works at a rate very different from ours, they cannot move by themselves and they do not share the characteristics of animals in general. For this reason and because we are animals, most of us find it much easier to empathize with an animal, even with those as far from us as insects, than with a plant. But plants live, and every day we learn more about how they do it.
Are plants living beings?
We define as a living being , in a simple and summarized way, those capable of performing the functions of nutrition, relationship and reproduction , functioning by itself and maintaining its structural level until death arrives. Here you can learn more about the Characteristics of living beings .
How do we know that plants are living beings then? It is very simple: if nutrition, relationship and reproduction are the conditions to be considered living beings, we can verify that plants perform the three vital functions .
- Plants use the water and nutrients available to them in the soil and air and produce their own food through photosynthesis, so they nourish themselves. In this other link we talk more about Plant Nutrition .
- Plants maintain complex supportive or competing relationships among themselves, as numerous studies have shown. They are able to fight for the terrain and protect other plants and even supply them with nutrients through their connections in the roots. Some plants are capable of attracting certain types of insects that prey on those that are attacking them, among many other defense systems, and attract pollinators for their reproduction. Therefore, we can say that they are related. To find out more, here you can read about How Plants Communicate .
- Plants can reproduce both sexually and asexually, expanding to colonize new territories while relying on genetic variability to adapt to changes or new environments. Thus, we can indicate that they also reproduce. Find out more about this vital function of plants by reading this other post on Plant Reproduction .
In addition, it is common to ask the following question: do plants feel pain? They have been shown not only to feel it, but to be able to react to it. Some new trends, such as that of the neurobiologist Stephano Mancuso, one of the current maximum authorities in plant neurobiology, maintain that plants are incredibly sensitive and intelligent living beings, capable of relating to the environment and anticipating its changes thanks to much more senses. tuned than those of animals. You can learn more about this topic in this other article: Do plants feel pain?
These are the main characteristics of plants :
- Plants, belonging to the so-called Kingdom Plantae , are one of the three large groups of eukaryotes or multicellular organisms with cells made up of nucleus and mitochondria. Thus, plants are multicellular living beings , so we cannot consider unicellular microorganisms such as microalgae as such.
- In addition, plants are autotrophic living beings , which means that they are capable of creating organic matter from inorganic matter. This function is vital for the existence of our planet as we know it, since without this base of the food chain, none of the upper strata could exist. They make organic matter from water, light and elements present in the soil and air through photosynthesis , a complex process that occurs in their chloroplasts thanks to chlorophylls, the green pigments they contain. Here you can learn more about what are autotrophic organisms, their characteristics and examples .
- Plant cells are also characterized by containing a cellulosic wall not present in animal cells, as well as by having molecules such as lignin, which enables the creation of rigid plant tissues .
- Plants are also attached to the ground or other surfaces through their root system , which is one of the three major parts of plants : roots, stem and leaves. Some also have flowers and fruits, although the latter parts are not present in all.
- They are basic in ecosystems as producer organisms and are the origin of all trophic chains both in water and on land. Our life thus completely depends on them, not only for their supply of oxygen, but also as food and an indispensable ingredient of all kinds of resources, such as medicines.
Plants essentially need water and light in order to grow and develop, but we must never forget the inorganic compounds that are equally vital to them. Without phosphorus, nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, potassium and sulfur, in addition to micronutrients such as iron, manganese or zinc, among others, plants cannot develop properly. They also need oxygen and carbon , as plants also breathe.
One of the most common classifications of plants divides them into herbaceous , shrubby and arboreal .
- The herbaceous plants tend to be reduced in size and are characterized as having branches and stems soft with low lignin content. They are widely used for their wide range of properties both therapeutic and in the food industry.
- The shrubby plants or shrubs , have small trunks, but woody, and although they can grow much more, it will normally not exceed its height half a meter or two meters. Its various trunks start from the same soil, at the base of the plant.
- The arboreal plants, or trees , are easy to recognize because they have a single main trunk, which split its branches and leaves. The trunk is woody and can reach very different sizes, from a few meters high to more than 100 registered in some.