Plants which changed the world

Plants as a whole have entirely changed the world.  Without plants, the earth would be very empty and there’d certainly be no animals or humans.  But some have had more earth shattering impacts than others.

Whilst this is nowhere near a complete list, I’m going to look briefly at some plants that most of us will use throughout our day.  These plants come with stories of war, of exploitation, of discovery and adventure as well as slavery, worker abuse and environmental issues.

Before you even get out of bed, you’re probably thankful to a plant.  Cotton is a common plant used in bedding, and we all like to be cosy and tucked up in the morning!

Perhaps you’ve dragged yourself out of bed, or are lucky and have a kind person on hand, and are united with a cup of hot tea or coffee.  Two more plants, three if you take sugar.  Where would you be without your morning caffeine hit?!

Cup of tea
Cup of tea

Are you reading the newspaper as you drink your morning beverage?  Yup, another plant.  And if you’re reading it on your tablet or phone or other device, you’ve got to thank a whole host of long long long dead plants who kindly made the electricity for you.

Not for everyone, but my morning also includes an array of medicines, including morphine, derived from a plant.

By midday perhaps you’re feeling a bit low on sugar, so you reach for some chocolate to get you through the rest of the work day.

Once home you kick off your shoes, probably leather from cows fed by plants, and reach for a nice cold beer or glass of wine.  Regardless of what you eat for your dinner, you’ve had a healthy dose of plants today.

I’m planning on looking a little more closely at the history of these plants and how they have shaped the world.  In particular I want to look at opium poppies which also intersect with the history of tea.


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