The kingdom of the plantae, which includes all known plants, has many strange and wonderful members. Some plants have unusual characteristics, while facts about others might surprise you. If you think plants are boring because they can't move around and make decisions, a few facts that people don't usually know may change your mind.
Plants represent one of the five kingdoms of living organisms, the other four being animals, fungi, protozoans and bacteria. The kingdoms sort organisms based on whether they are single-celled or multicellular and whether they produce, absorb or ingest their nutrition. Plants are multicelled organisms that produce their own food from sunlight and inorganic matter.
The plant kingdom groups plants like flowers together in divisions based on common elements. The members of the flowering plant division have roots, leaves and stems and produce fruit. Two additional divisions containing many common plants include those that produce cones, like pine trees, and those that have stems and leaves but no flowers, like ferns. Two other divisions deal with mosslike plants, either with tiny leaves or with branched stems and green scales.
Unlike animal cells, plant cells have a stiff cell wall made of cellulose. The wall gives the pants rigidity while remaining flexible. When plant cells divide, each new cell has to grow a new cellulose wall via tiny tubes between the cells that guide the cellulose to the location of the new wall.
Plants can adapt to very cold temperatures and are found in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. They grow small and close together for protection from the wind, and they focus on growing and reproducing during the long summer days when there is almost constant sunlight.
California redwoods are the largest living organisms in the world, but the oldest is a bristlecone pine in the California White Mountains that is estimated to be 4,600 years old.
Onions, garlic, leek and asparagus are members of the lily family. Onions contain an antibiotic that helps reduce infection and the itch of athlete's foot.
The corn cob is part of the corn plant's flower. It has about 600 kernels, and one bushel of corn can sweeten about 400 cans of pop.
The largest flower in the world is the stinking corpse lily, which smells like a rotting corpse. It can reach 91 centimeters (3 feet) in diameter and weigh 7 kilograms (15 pounds). The smallest flowering plant is a duckweed that measures 1.2 millimeters (less than 4/100 of an inch). The varieties of flowering plants number about 250,000.
Wheat is the most widespread crop and is grown everywhere except Antarctica.
Pioneers planted four corn seeds and expected only one to grow as they lost some to insects and birds.
A rye plant has an extensive root system that can reach a total length of 613 kilometers (380 miles) when the plant is fully grown.
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images