What is Phyto?
To Explain the meaning of Phyto, Gail has enlisted the help of respected Doctor David Allen...
Phyto is the combining form of the Greek...a plant...literally 'that which is grown' - hence phytobiology, the biology of plants.
Dr. David J. Allen has a BSc. in horticulture from the University of London, a PhD in applied biology from Cambridge and a DSc. from Exeter University. David worked for more than 20 years in international agriculture, principally as a plant pathologist in Africa where he specialized on the improvement of food legume cro ps in subsistence farming systems. He has published over 100 scientific articles, two major books on legume pathology, and several other books the latest of which is Wild Flowers and Common Trees of East Africa.
David lives with his wife Leonora and their daughter Vanessa, now in the UK where he is a freelance plant ecologist with particular interest in conservation management. He is a member of the management group of the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Vice-Chairman of the botany section of the Devonshire Association, and a voluntary warden with Natural England on the Axmouth-Lyme Regis Undercliffs National Nature Reserve.
David is the author also of Wild Flowers of the East Devon Coast (2000) and Heathland of East Devon and the Blackdown Hills (2004). He gives lectures and leads wildlife walks and tours; the most recent was to Galapagos.
"Phyto is the combining form of the Greek for 'a plant', literally that which is grown."
Dr David J. Allen, BSc.
Plants are green and contain the pigment chlorophyll which enables them to harness energy from the sun to manufacture food from water combined with carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, giving off oxygen. This process is called photosynthesis, a process which is fundamental to life. Without plants, there would be no food, no animals of any kind, and no life on earth at all.
For perhaps 100,000 years, man has been a successful hunter and gatherer of food. Indeed, from 10,000 years onwards, food production became common through the evolution of agriculture and the domestication of crop plants. Plants have also given us fibre for clothing and cordage and wood for timber used in constructing shelter and protection, and fuel for cooking and heating. From the early history of our planet, plants have also provided us with ornamental flowers for decoration and ceremony, oils, gums, resins, dyes and other chemical constituents used variously as fish poisons and arrow poisons for hunting. They have given us insecticides and medicines.
Because of this ancient reliance, we have long regarded vegetation as something to be exploited indefinitely. But natural plant life is not inexhaustible and there is a crucial need to conserve wildlife in all its forms for future generations. Once a particular species is made extinct, literally millions of years of evolution become undone.
A positive consequence of this long association we have had with plants is a precious repository of traditional knowledge of the properties of plants and, unless we look to animals to teach us medicines again*, it would be prudent to safeguard the survival of this hard-earned traditional knowledge before modern development extinguishes it too.’
If you would like to ask David a question about plant life, click here