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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Wednesday - December 07, 2011

From: South Korea, Korea
Region: Other
Topic: General Botany, Non-Natives
Title: Consumption of carbon dioxide from South Korea
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am curious about what flowers consume CO2 for growing (especially 1-year life flower). Thanks.

ANSWER:

Before we answer your question, there are a couple of things we need to explain to you. The first is that The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, where Mr. Smarty Plants lives, is committed to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native to North America. The second thing is that what you refer to as a "one-year life flower" is called an annual. That is, the plant grows from seed, matures, blooms, makes and drops seeds and then dies, all within a year. Probably more will come up the next year, but they will be emerging from seeds they have dropped or other plants around them.

Now we can answer your question without making a list or giving you information on plants that would not grow where you are. Let's consider photosynthesis. From a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer: "When sunlight strikes a leaf, a process called photosynthesis is put into play, the plant converts the energy from the sun, combines it with water and nutrients in the plant, and metabolizes it into food to support the plant, form new structures within the plant, and store food in the roots. Along the way, it releases oxygen, which is a good thing for the human race. The plant uses carbon dioxide, not good for breathing in the process, and releases much needed oxygen as a waste product!" How cool is that? From sunlight and photosynthesis the whole food chain of Nature is begun. This happens in native plants, alien plants and invasive plants. It's hard to call a plant useless. It may be irritating, poisonous, ugly, intrusive, but it is still feeding all the lifeforms on Earth and providing oxygen."

Another discussion of plants' use of carbon dioxide comes from The University of Massachusetts The Origin of the Organic Soup (which read) from which we have extracted this paragraph:

"Photosynthesis evolved over three billion years ago, shortly after the appearance of the first living organisms. The food we eat and the oxygen we breathe are both formed by plants (including algae) through photosynthesis. The power to drive this reaction comes from sunlight absorbed by chlorophyll in the chloroplasts of plants. At the present time, no known chemical system can be made to serve as a substitute for this process. It has been calculated that each CO2 molecule in the atmosphere is incorporated into a plant structure every 200 years and that all the O2 in air is renewed by plants every 2000 years. All life depends directly or indirectly on the sun's energy, and only plants are capable of capturing and converting this energy into chemical energy in the form of sugar and other organic compounds. Thus, if plants should suddenly disappear from the earth, so would we."

One more article, this one from e-How, Do Non-Vascular Plants Use Photosynthesis? The answer to that question is yes. So, in answer to your question, look around you. Any plant you see, flowering or not, tree, shrub, fern or algae, consumes carbon dioxide, all the time, everywhere in the world.

 

 

 

 

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