A Trip to the Gardens By Leo E. Giorgini

Hi! My name is Leo Giorgini, and I am going to take you on an adventure through the New York Botanical Gardens, where I will point out three very special plants.

The Cacao Plant

The Cacao Plant (Theobroma cacao)

Vascular vs. Nonvascular: Vascular

Seeded vs. Seedless: Seeded

Gymnosperm vs. Angiosperm: Angiosperm

Monocot vs. Dicot: Dicot

Range and Habitat: The Cacao plant grows naturally in the Central and South American tropical regions. However, it can be grown in any tropical habitat, including the one at the Botanical Gardens.

Use By Humans: Food (Chocolate, Cocoa Powder), Medicinal (Cocoa Butter). In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Aztec Empire in Mexico used Cacao beans as a currency. Cacao Butter is used to heal rashes, cuts, burns, and dry skin. Chocolate is made using Cacao, milk, and sugar to make a delicious food. Cacao Powder is thought to relieve inflammation.

Adaptations: The Cacao plant has its seeds protected by tough, thick fruits to resist predators. The seeds are also high in the air, so that most predators cannot even reach them.

Sources: "Theobroma cacao", Encyclopedia of Life; "Theobroma cacao", Wikipedia; "Insect pollination of cacao (Theoboma cacao L.) in Costa Rica", University of Wisconsin.

Chocolate: One of Cacao's many uses.
Another use for Cacao: Cocoa Butter!
The Kava Plant

The Kava Plant (Piper methysticum)

Vascular vs. Nonvascular: Vascular

Seeded vs. Seedless: Seedless

Gymnosperm vs. Angiosperm: N/A (as the plant has no seeds, they cannot be covered).

Monocot vs. Dicot: N/A (as the plant has no seeds, they cannot have cotyledons).

Range and Habitat: The Kava plant grows in the tropics and jungles of the Western Pacific Islands.

Use By Humans: The plants' roots are used to produce a sedative (relaxing), anesthetic (pain-dulling), euphoriant (making one feel good), and entheogenic (causes a spiritual experience) drink. However, the drink can cause liver problems, and as such it is regulated by the countries where it is produced, including Vanuatu and Australia. Kava was first observed by non-Pacific Islanders in 1777, by Captain James Cook.

Adaptations: The roots and stems are woody, which defend the plant against predators.

Sources: "Kava", Wikipedia; "Kava", Merriam-Webster's Dictionary; "Kava Kava", Encyclopedia.com.

Here is the famous Kava drink. Because of the drink, Kava is a cash crop in the Pacific Islands.
The Aloe Plant

The Aloe Plant (Aloe vera)

Vascular vs. Nonvascular: Vascular

Seeded vs. Seedless: Seeded

Gymnosperm vs. Angiosperm: Angiosperm

Monocot vs. Dicot: Monocot

Range and Habitat: The Aloe plant grows in desert and tropical climates around the world.

Use By Humans: Aloe lotion is used to treat cuts and burns (however, studies often contradict each other as to how effective it is). Aloe gel can also be used to make a dessert, as pictured later. In Ancient Egypt, Aloe was regarded as sacred. In the Papyrus Eber, some of Aloe's effects were documented. In Japan, Aloe was known as the "royal plant" and used as an elixir.

Adaptations: The Aloe plant has little thorns to defend itself from predators.

Sources: "Aloe Vera", National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, "Aloe vera",Wikipedia, "Gardening", SFGate; "Medicinal Plants of Ancient", Aloe Medicinal Group.

Here, Aloe gel is being used to make a dessert.
This lotion is made of gel taken from the Aloe plant.

I hope you enjoyed the adventure! Make sure to take a trip to the New York Botanical Gardens sometime soon!

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