a question

Charles S Buer buer at WPI.EDU
Mon Feb 3 04:26:45 EST 1997

Most of the chemicals we humans exploit plants for are what are known as
secondary metabolites.  They perform several functions for plants, or at
least plant physiologists believe their functions are:

1.  Since plants cannot pick up and move if an insect or pathogenic
invasion begins, they need to resort to chemical warfare.
2.  Some of the chemicals are used by plants to entice pollinators.
3.  Some of the chemicals make plants taste bad, some release
hydrogen cyanide upon being crushed, and some are poisonous in
other ways, thus, reducing herbivory.

There is a good chapter on secondary metabolites in:  Taiz and Zeiger,
1991.  Plant Physiology (Benjamin Cummings, Redwood City, CA) pp. 318-345.

Charles S. Buer                         |E-mail:  buer at wpi.edu
Biology/Biotechnology Dept.             |Phone:   (508) 831-5052
Worcester Polytechnic Institute         |FAX:     (508) 831-5936
100 Institute Rd.                       |http://www.wpi.edu/~buer
Worcester, MA 01609                     |

On Sun, 2 Feb 1997, Jessica T. Fried wrote:

> 	It's easy to see why some plants produce poisonous chemicals.
> What I'd like to know is how they benifit from the production of chemicals
> which we, as humans, harvest for medicinal purposes.  What is the role of
> these chemicals in the life of a plant?
> 	If anyone has any ideas or sources, please e-mail me.
> 	Jessica Fried
> 	Grand Valley State University
> 	Allendale, MI

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