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7.8: Importance of Plants

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    Where does electricity come from?

    You probably have noticed these huge power lines delivering electricity across the country. But how is this electricity generated? Although there are some alternate sources like wind power and nuclear power, the majority of electricity in the United States is generated by burning coal. Seedless plants were central in forming the coal deposits that we depend on.

    Importance of Seedless Plants

    Seedless plants have been tremendously useful to humans. Without these plants evolving millions of years ago, life as we know it would be very different.

    Seedless Plants Became Coal

    The greatest influence seedless plants have had on human society is in the formation of coal millions of years ago. When the seedless plants died, became buried deep in the Earth, and were exposed to heat and pressure, coal formed. Coal is essentially made of the fossilized carbon from these plants. Now coal is burned to provide energy, such as electricity.

    Current Uses

    But some seedless plants still have uses in society today. Peat moss is commonly used by gardeners to improve soils, since it is really good at absorbing and holding water (Figure below).

    Depending on the location, ferns have several different uses worldwide. Ferns are found in many gardens as ornaments, and are used as indoor plants. In tropical regions, the fern is used as a food source by many locals. The fronds can also be used to weave hats and baskets. The fiddleheads of certain species of ferns are used in gourmet food. Some species of ferns, such as the maidenhair fern, are used as medicines. In Southeast Asia, the fern is used in rice fields as a biological fertilizer. Much of the world’s fossil fuels consist of remains of ferns and their relatives.

    The horsetail’s reedy exterior and silica content made it popular as a metal polisher and abrasive cleanser. Herbalists still use horsetail to treat a variety of kidney/bladder problems, including inflammation, infection, and kidney stones, and it is used as a remedy for brittle nails. Club moss is also used to treat kidney ailments and digestive problems. Club moss spores can be dusted onto the skin and provide relief from itching and irritation, and provide the skin with protection. Extinct forests of club moss have fossilized and developed into huge beds of coal.

    Sphagnum, or peat moss, is commonly added to soil to help absorb water, and keep it in the soil
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Sphagnum, or peat moss, is commonly added to soil to help absorb water, and keep it in the soil.


    • Seedless plants were responsible for the formation of coal millions of years ago.
    • Two ways that gardeners utilize seedless plants are peat moss as a soil amendment and ferns as ornamental plants.

    Explore More

    Use the resource below to answer the questions that follow.

    1. How does coal form?
    2. Low sulfur coal produces less pollution when burned than high sulfur coal. Name one factor that affects the sulfur content in coal.
    3. How do scientists feel the Powder River Basin coal was formed?


    1. How was coal formed?
    2. What is one use of ferns?

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