Human Use Plants


Plants that provide benefit or utility to mankind, or have social significance.

Chewing gum plant:

Plants that produce chewable, rubbery fruits or somewhat insoluble extracts used as a source of chewing gum.


Drug and/or pharmacological use


Hallucinogenic plant:

Plants that, upon inhalation or ingestion, produce a nervous system disorder, often                             associated with mind-altering effects such as "hallucinations" or "visions."


Narcotic plant:

Plants known to produce a drug that in moderate doses dulls the senses and relieves pain.


Pharmacological plant:

Medicinal plants or plants producing products or compounds used in medicine and                           promoted by pharmacologists, often used in the herbal medicine trade.


Dye plant:

Plants or plant extracts used as a source of coloring.


Economically important plant:

Plants determined or shown to provide a significant source of direct economic benefit to humans, beyond indirect economic benefits such as ecosystem services or scenic beauty.  .


Edible plant:

Plants having edible parts.


CAUTION:  In many cases, certain plant parts of a particular species may be edible, while other plant parts of the same species may be highly toxic.  For example, only the fleshy portion of arils of the genusTaxus are indeed edible, while the hard seeds contain a potent toxin.  Also, although the seeds of Cycas circinalis are poisonous, they can be eaten if they are soaked in water and dried several times to remove the toxins.  Since many similar cases exist, even for commercial vegetables, it is recommended that a query on the toxic plants category be run simultaneously with the edible plant category to help screen the possibilities.  If any edible plant is also shown to be toxic, it should be avoided unless other information is available.  Furthermore, although BONAP has attempted to indicate all North American plants found within the geographic area that are known or suspected to contain toxins, many toxic effects are individual-specific, rendering some persons as being far more susceptible to certain toxins than others.  For example, certain individuals are extremely allergic to Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans).  Nonetheless, the young leaves and stems of Poison Ivy can be eaten by nonsensitive individuals as vegetable greens. Since many people are extremely sensitive to the toxic oil produced by virtually all parts of the plant, I have not included this species as an edible plant, for concern that vulnerable individuals might use it in their salads.  Conium maculatum (Poison-Hemlock) has been reported to be eaten in the South of England, where apparently it is comparatively harmless, and in Russia where it has been used historically by the peasants as a pot herb.  Numerous other situations can be found within the website.  Therefore the website should not be used in any regard to determine if a particular plant should, or could be used for human consumption without consulting other works or individuals knowledgeable about toxic plants.


Cereal grain plant:

Plants producing grain rich in starch and suitable for human consumption.  Such plants are primarily but not exclusively grasses. 


Culinary plant:

Plants eaten as "vegetables" (raw or cooked), used as garnishes, or whose seeds are made into flour.  This category does not include plants that produce edible fruits or edible nuts, nor plants used in preserves, spices, starches, sugars, chewing gums, or drink plants.  See other categories for these fields.


Drink plant:

Plants producing products used in beverages or juices for human consumption.


Edible bark:

Plants producing bark material used as edible products.


Edible flowers/buds:

Plants that produce flowers and/or flower buds used as edible products.


Edible fruits:

Plants that produce edible reproductive bodies that usually have a sweet or starchy pulp and are used for human consumption.  Edible gymnosperm seeds (technically not fruits) are also included here.


Edible leaves:

Plants that produce leaf blades, leaflets, leaf buds, and/or petioles used as edible products.


Edible nuts:

Plants with a hard-shelled, one-seeded, indehiscent, dry fruit derived from a simple or compound ovary and used as edible products.  I have made a few exceptions to the technical definition by including plants such as Arachis hypogaea (Peanut), Prunus dulcis (Sweet Almond), and a few others within this category.


Edible seeds:

Plants that produce edible seeds.


Edible stems/shoots:

Plants with above-ground stems, shoots, and/or sprouts used as edible products.


Edible subterranean part:

Plants with roots, tubers, and/or other plant parts growing underground, used as edible products.


Jam, jelly, and marmalade plant:

Plants or plant parts used in making jams, jellies, marmalades, or other preserves.


Spice plant:

Plants or plant products used for their aromatic properties in seasoning or flavoring food. This category includes spices, flavorings, condiments, and seasonings.


Starch plant:

Plants known to produce a high quantity of complex carbohydrates as a chief source of storage, used in human foodstuffs.


Sugar plant:

Plants that produce a high quantity of sucrose, fructose, or other types of sugars, via their various organs.  This category includes plants used to produce sugars or syrups, or provide sweetness to confections and candies.


Vegetables – commercial:

Herbaceous plants commercially grown for their food value, and eaten as a principal part of a meal.


Erosion control plant:

Plants used to prevent or reduce the loss of soil by various natural phenomena including wind, rain, or action by waves or running water.


Fatty oil plant:

Plants known to contain or produce an unusually high quantity of fatty oil.


Fiber plant:

Plants known to produce an abundance of fibrous material used in clothing, textiles, etc.


Gum- and resin-producing plant:

Plants that provide a commercial source of gums and resins.  Gums are plant by-products that represent colloidal polysaccharides, which are gelatinous when moist and harden upon drying and represent salts of complex organic acids, e.g., mucilage, oleoresin, or gum resin produced by Eucalyptus spp., Manilkara zapotaNyssa sylvatica, etc. Resins are plant by-products that represent various solid or semisolid secretions and that are fusible, flammable natural organic substances usually soluble in organic solvents, but not in water.  Resins are often used in varnishes, printing inks, plastics, etc.


Herbs of commerce:

Plants valued for their medicinal, savory, aromatic, or culinary values, and used in trade.


Insecticide and insect repellent plant:

Plants or their products used by humans for the purpose of reducing or eliminating the annoyance from insect pests.


Lumber and timber plant:

Tree species known to produce an abundance of wood used significantly in building or home construction.


Major range plant:

Significant plants found within North American range lands based on their abundance, desirability, or noxious properties.  They include the species with which Range Managers should be familiar.


Ornamental grass:

Any members of the grass family (Poaceae) used in horticulture to enhance landscape appeal and beautification.


Perfume plant:

Plants that produce essential oils used for their nonfood aromatic or fragrance value.


Smoke plant:

Plants used for the purpose of smoking in pipes, wrapped leaves, paper, or other fiber material; or plants that have been added to tobacco to flavor or enhance the effects on the senses.


Soap plant:

Plants used for their ability to produce soapy lathers that act as emulsifying agents.


Tanning plant:

Plants commonly used as sources of tannin, which is a soluble, astringent, complex phenolic substance used in tanning, dyes, and medicines.


Wax plant:

Plants included here produce or secrete significant quantities of a substance containing esters, which are less greasy, harder, and more brittle than fatty oils.