PLANT PRODUCTS

As well as food and medicines, plants provide other useful products. Many plant cells form NATURAL FIBRES that strengthen and support the plant. The same properties make them perfect for textiles and paper. Timber from trees is used to build boats, houses, and furniture. Palm leaves are woven into baskets, hats, and mats. People also extract perfumed oils and natural dyes from the flowers and leaves of certain plants.

MANUFACTURING PAPER

Most paper comes from softwood trees, such as pines. First, machines or chemicals break down the wood chips into fibres. This is called pulping. The fibres are soaked in chemicals, then pressed by heavy rollers into thin, flat sheets. Before pressing, the fibres may be bleached white or dyed different colours. Smoother paper is made by adding starch or clay.

TAPPING RUBBER

The rubber tree grows naturally in South America, but there are also plantations in Asia. If its bark is cut, the tree produces a milky fluid called latex. People harvest the latex so that it can be turned into rubber, a useful, elastic material. Not all rubber comes from rubber trees. Most is made artificially from petroleum.

FIELD OF LAVENDER

Vast farms of lavender are found around the Mediterranean, in Britain, and in the United States. The plant is grown for its scented oil, produced in oil glands on the stems, leaves, and flowers. The harvested flowers may be dried, or pressed to extract the oil. Sometimes the oil is distilled to create a purer, “essential” oil. Lavender oil is used in aromatherapy and as an ingredient for perfumes, soaps, and other cosmetics.

TIMBER FOR CONSTRUCTION

Harvested wood is called timber. Its strength makes it useful in the building trade, especially for creating supporting frameworks. Pine and other softwoods are the most widely used because they grow straight. They also grow fast, which makes their timber cheap and renewable (easily replaced). Hardwood, from flowering trees, grows slowly. It is more costly and is used for furniture.

HENNA FOR HANDS

Henna is a shrub that grows in the Middle East and North Africa. Its leaves are harvested for their reddish-brown pigment. This is used to dye clothes, hair, and even people’s skin. Greenish henna paste, made from powdered leaves, is used to paint the skin. When the paste dries and rubs off, the skin looks tattooed.

NATURAL FIBRES

Plants produce long groups of cells, called fibres. These can be used to make textiles, such as cotton, as well as other materials such as paper or felt. All plant fibres are strong, because their cell walls contain a tough molecule called cellulose, but to be useful fibres also need other properties, such as flexibility and length. Flax and hemp were two of the earliest fibres used by people.

SPINNING COTTON

The cellulose in cotton is arranged as interlocking, coiled strands of fibres. These can be spun into threads called yarn. Yarn is produced on an industrial scale and woven on looms to make textiles. Cotton textiles are hardwearing, “breathable”, and take dyes well. They range from light gauzy fabrics to tough denims.

COTTON PLANTS READY FOR HARVEST

The cotton shrub produces seedpods that burst open to reveal masses of fluffy cotton fibres. These fibres are harvested to produce cotton yarn and textiles. Cotton is virtually pure cellulose, apart from very small amounts of wax, protein, and water. The plant is cultivated in many parts of the world including China, the United States, and India.

Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley

highlights

Vote Now for the Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards
Voting is open now through May 3 for the Children's and Teen Choice Book Awards — the only national book awards program where the winning author, illustrator, and books of the year are selected by young readers. Encourage your child to vote for his favorites today!

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!

8 Products to Help Your Family Go Plastic-Free
How can you minimize your family's exposure to harmful chemicals and lessen your impact on the environment? Try swapping out some of your everyday plastic products with these non-plastic alternatives.

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Wondering what to do now that you've signed your child up for kindergarten? Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks