Physiological Uses and Biological Significance

  • In connection with the discussion of each of the above-mentioned groups of organic components of plants, an attempt will be made to point out what significance these particular compounds have in the plant's life and growth. Certain terms will be used to designate different rôles, which it is probably necessary to define.

    There may be two possible explanations of, or reasons for, the presence of any given type of compound in the tissues of any particular species of plant. First, it may be supposed that this particular type of compounds is elaborated by the plant to satisfy its own physiological needs, or for the purpose of storing it up in the seeds as synergic food for the growth of the embryo, in order to reproduce the species. For this rôle of the various organic food materials, etc., we will employ the term "physiological use." On the other hand, it is often conceivable that certain types of compounds, which have properties that make them markedly attractive (or repellent) as a food for animals and men, or which are strongly antiseptic in character, or which have some other definite relationship to other living organisms, have had much to do with the survival of the particular species which elaborates them, in the competitive struggle for existence; or have been developed in the plant by the evolutionary process of "natural selection."