Groups of Organic Compound Found in Plants

  • As a result of their various synthetic and metabolic activities, a great variety of organic compounds is produced by plants. Certain types of these compounds, such as the carbohydrates and proteins, are necessary to all plants and are elaborated by all species of autotrophic plants. Other types of compounds are produced by many, but not all, species of plants; while still others are found in only a few species. It is fairly easy to classify all of these compounds into a few, well-defined groups, based upon similarity of chemical composition. These groups are known, respectively, as the carbohydrates and their derivatives, the glucosides and tannins; the fats and waxes; the essential oils and resins; organic acids and their salts; the proteins; the vegetable bases and alkaloids; and the pigments. A consideration of these groups of compounds, as they are synthetized by plants, constitutes the major portion of the study of the chemistry of plant life as presented in this book. Following the discussion of the compounds themselves, the chapters dealing with enzymes, with the colloidal nature of protoplasm, and with the supposed accessory stimulating agencies, aim to show how the manufacturing machine known as the plant cell accomplishes its remarkable results, so far as the process is now understood.