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Plants are necessary for human life and woven into every aspect of it. Our nearest kin (not our ancestors) are the great apes. They are largely vegetarian, though they will eat small animals and insects. Chimpanzees, very close relatives to us, will even hunt small game.

All evidence is that early humans got far more food calories from plants than from animals. People in remote places of the world today rely on more of their daily meal from plant gathering done by women and children than hunting done by men.

But food is only part of the story. Most houses are made of wood, bamboo, thatch or other plant materials. Baskets, cords, tool handles, mats, clothing, linens, beds and other furniture are all traditionally made of plants. Plants provide us with the bulk of our medicines. This doesn't even count the modern world's use of paper and fossil plant fuels.

Since early humans relied so heavily on plants, I believe they also used them extensively for beads and other human adornments. This is difficult to demonstrate because plant materials decay quickly, particularly in the tropical and temperate zones, where our ancestors lived. Hence, archaeological evidence is hard to find.

Anthropological studies by the English a century ago on the least advanced people in India show that they relied very heavily on plants for ornaments. Some groups, such as the Semang of Malaysia, wore nothing but plants. There were no furs, feathers, claws, teeth or animal hairs in their clothes or adornment.

Many of us have lost contact with living plants. Our lawns are antiseptically manicured. Our food comes frozen or from a drive-through. Those who do not garden or cook are the farthest away from the natural, essential human-plant synergy. The rate at which we chop out the planet's lungs show a careless disregard for our oldest friends.

High School (Secondary School) biology classes drive many students away from an appreciation of botany. Yet, the study of plants is fascinating. I am pleased that I can couple my interest in flowering (and non-flowering) plants with beads. Just like plants, beads are universal.


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