Talking about basic human need related to the plants is always interesting. In my opinion, we can focus only in 2 main topics, which is edibility and usability. Then we can breakdown each topic for further discussion. The importance of plants for supporting our life was known from ancient period. It continues along with the human history it self.
Over 20,000 plants species in the world are edible. From all edible plants, less than 20 species now become main food source for people around the world. Such as rice (Oriza sativa), wheat (Triticum sp.), corn (Zea mays), potato (Solanum tuberosum). Long history for each species from their ancestor to become domesticated. From wild species then develop ti to become many varieties.
Domesticated plants, which become nutrition source for humans are consist of grains crop (mostly for carbohydrate source), vegetable crops, fruit crops, and oil crops. Rice is the most important for Indonesia and other south east Asian country.
Besides as a food, edible plants also uses as medicine since ancient period. Many species were uses in almost all civilization as a medicine. In Indonesia, some ethnics has strong tradition related to the usage of medicinal plants.
The recipe we called ramuan, and the product we call jamu. Some big companies still exist till today with jamu as their main products. Sido Muncul, Jamu Jago, Air Mancur, is some big companies which use medicinal plants as their raw material for the products.
We can divide plants in a many parts. Most edible parts is leaves and fruits. Followed by stem, root, and seed part. Leaves and fruits usually consumes fresh or cooked as vegetable. But many flowers from Indonesian plants actually also edible, please see here.
Wild edible plants species always interesting. Just curious and looking the google trend for the key word “wild edible plants”. Peoples is always search it everyday since 2014. Reason why peoples looking it is to find alternative food sources. They looking for daily purpose or for survival situation causing by disaster, war, or pandemic.
Edible is not identical with tasty. Some tasty wild edible plant in Indonesia came Fabaceae, Arecaceae, or Musaceae families. But for sure, many wild edible plants in Indonesia also has flat taste. It just OK to eat and become last choice if we didn’t find the tasty one.
The importance of plants as non-edible plants has vary functions. As material for clothing, fuel, building, rubber, cosmetics, paint, boat, and many others. There are still many non edible species grew wild and need to study.
The function of plants in general is only for three major usage, which are for food, medicine and protection. Food and medicine purpose has explain above. Plants function as protection we can divide by function as shelter, clothing, energy source/fire, and weapon.
Common function of protection is to protect us from threats. Can be animal or environmental threat. Shelter will provide protection from animal or extreme environment. Indonesia is always hot and humid, typically as tropical country. In the wild condition of Indonesia, shelter type is depend where you are.
Animal protection as main reason of shelter function
Top of mind is wild animal protection, and then other reasons. For instance in coastal area, which is hot and windy. Shelter mostly needed to protect you from direct sunlight.
In rain forest, which is very humid and wet. Shelter should be made as dry as possible, but also should protect you from rain and wind. While in high altitude (usually more than 2500 meters above see level), shelter should be enough to protect you. Protect from cold and strong wind, also heavy rain. Some examples of plant which usually uses as natural shelter in the Indonesian wild is from Arecaceae, Musaceae, Poaceae, Zingeberaceae and Pteridophyta.
Other usage is for clothing, as our body protection. Cotton is domesticated plants which most uses. other some common species are Boehmeria nivea, Musa textilis, Eichhornia crassipes.
Fire is essential when we are in the wild. It will protect us from cold temperature, animals, and increase our confidences. When we have no resource to make fire such as lighter, we can try some ways to make fire from natural materials. Just be careful with fire. Make sure to not spreading out by using border and don’t forget to turn it off before you go.
Last importance of plants is the for function as weapon. From our ancestors, we learn about how they made spears, arrows, and several other weapons from plants. Besides for protection, the weapon also useful for hunting the animals.
always love to learn from nature. Passionate on studying plants in some aspects: the DNA, Identification, propagation, and their uses