There are about 400,000 species of plants in the world. Humans use approximately 10–15% of them to cover our basic needs, such as food, medicine and shelter, as well as other needs, such as recreation, art, and craft. But why and how have humans selected only a small fraction of all plants to utilize? A new study published in today’s Nature Plants sheds new light on these questions by investigating how people use palms in South America. The overall conclusion is that people are very selective when it comes to plants used to cover basic needs, but less so when it comes to using plants for needs with no physiological underpinnings.
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