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Other uses

Plants also provide us with fibres for making cloth, rope, paper etc. There are numerous dyes obtained from plants with which to colour our fabrics. Many plants have oil-rich seeds and these oils can be extracted when they have a variety of uses. Many of them are edible and they can also be used as lubricants, fuel, for lighting, in paints and varnishes, as a wood preservative, waterproofing etc.

The articles below highlight some of these uses.

  1. Alternative Lighting: Plant Oils and Waxes
  2. Fibre Plants
  3. Soap Plants
  4. Vegetable Oils
Database: Other Uses

Search the database for plants with the following other uses. (Numbers of plants in brackets).

Building Materials
  • Insulation  Providing insulation against extremes of temperature, sound or electricity. ( 25 )
  • Pipes  For carrying water etc. ( 5 )
  • Pitch  Used for waterproofing, in paints etc. ( 12 )
  • Plaster  Used for covering walls. ( 7 )
  • Roofing  Used to give a waterproof roof to buildings. See also Thatching. ( 10 )
  • Thatching  Used for making thatched roofs. ( 81 )
Clothing
  • Buttons  Plants that can be used as buttons. Not including making buttons from wood. ( 8 )
  • Darning ball  ( 1 )
  • Fibre  Used for making cloth, rope, paper etc. ( 292 )
  • Latex  A source of rubber. ( 63 )
  • Leather  Substitutes, that is. ( 3 )
  • Needles  Used for sewing, darning etc. ( 12 )
  • Pins  Used as needles and pins in sewing etc. Also used to lance boils, extract splinters from the skin etc. ( 4 )
  • Raffia  A substitute for that material. ( 1 )
  • Starch  Used as a fabric stiffener. ( 29 )
  • Stuffing  Used in making soft toys, mattresses, pillows etc. ( 49 )
  • Tannin  An astringent substance obtaied from plants, it is used medicinally, as a dye and mordant, stabilizer in pesticide etc. ( 259 )
  • Weaving  Items such as grass and palm leaves that are woven together for making mats, baskets etc. See also Basket making and Fibre. ( 109 )
Dyes, paints, inks and paper
  • Blotting paper  Plant that can be used to make blotting paper. ( 1 )
  • Dye  Plants that provide dyes. ( 1171 )
  • Ink  Plants that can be used as an ink. ( 41 )
  • Mordant  Used for making a dye more permanent, it also affects the colour of the dye. ( 49 )
  • Paint  Plants used directly as a paint. Does not include oil plants and dyes that can be used as ingredients in paints. ( 10 )
  • Paper  Related to the entry for Fibre, these plants have been specifically mentioned for paper making. ( 143 )
  • Pencil  A couple of plants especially mentioned for making the tubes that pencil leads fit into. ( 3 )
  • Size  Used on materials, paper etc to give a surface that will take ink, dyes etc. ( 14 )
Fertilisers
  • Compost  Plants used for activating compost heaps, providing biomass for composting, using as instant compost etc. ( 50 )
  • Fertilizer  Provides a concentrated solid plant food. ( 3 )
  • Green manure  Fast-growing plants that can be used to increase the fertility of the soil. ( 59 )
  • Liquid feed  Plants that can be used to make a liquid fertilizer. ( 29 )
  • Potash  Used for making glass, soap and as a fertilizer. ( 12 )
Fire and lighting
  • Alcohol  Used for fuel etc. (this is wood alcohol, it is not the sort that can be drunk. ( 5 )
  • Biomass  Provides a large quantity of plant material that can be converted into fuel etc. ( 74 )
  • Charcoal  Used for fuel, drawing, deodorant, filter, fertilizer etc. ( 72 )
  • Friction sticks  Used for starting fires when there are no matches. ( 5 )
  • Fuel  Usually wood, plant materials that have been mentioned as being a good fuel. ( 199 )
  • Kindling  Plant material that burns easily and can be used for starting fires. ( 5 )
  • Lighting  Plants that can be used as torches etc. See also Oil and Wax. ( 18 )
  • Oil  Vegetable oils have many uses, as lubricants, lighting, soap and paint making, waterproofing etc. This does not include the edible oils unless they are also mentioned as having other uses. ( 524 )
  • Tinder  Used for starting fires. See also Kindling. ( 45 )
  • Wax  Used for making candles etc. ( 24 )
  • Wick  Used as a wick for candles, lamps etc. ( 12 )
In the bathroom
  • Baby care  Various plants that can be used in place of items such as nappies. ( 14 )
  • Cleanser  For various materials. Perhaps best included under separate headings. ( 21 )
  • Cosmetic  Used to improve the physical appearence of a person. ( 63 )
  • Cotton wool  Plants that can be used as substitutes for cotton wool. ( 1 )
  • Deodorant  A pleasant smelling plant that is used on the body to mask the human smell. ( 32 )
  • Disinfectant  Plants used for disinfecting. ( 51 )
  • Essential  Essential oils that are used in perfumery, medicines, paint solvents, insect repellents etc. ( 286 )
  • Hair  Plants used as hair shampoos, tonics, to treat balding etc. ( 121 )
  • Resin  Used in perfumery, medicines, paints, soap making etc. This also includes turpentine, which is extracted from many resins and used as a preservative, water proofer etc, ( 75 )
  • Soap  Plants used directly as a soap substitute. ( 113 )
  • Soap making  Plants used as an ingredient in making soaps. Does not include the essential oils, dyes and oils that are also used in making soap. ( 11 )
  • Teeth  Plants used to clean and care for the teeth. ( 29 )
In the Garden
  • Fencing  Plants that can be used for fencing. ( 1 )
  • Fire retardant  Plants that do not easily burn and can be used in barrier plantings to limit the spread of forest fires. ( 10 )
  • Hedge  Plants that can be grown as hedges. ( 792 )
  • Mulch  Used for covering the ground to conserve the nutrients in the soil. ( 42 )
  • Pioneer  Plants, usually trees and shrubs, that can be used to reforest land. ( 45 )
  • Plant breeding  Used in producing new species of plants or improved varieties. ( 2 )
  • Plant support  Usually bamboos, used as canes in the garden for holding up plants. ( 29 )
  • Rooting hormone  Substances that can be used to promote the production of roots in plant cuttings. ( 19 )
  • Rootstock  Plants used as the rootstock for grafting scions onto. ( 73 )
  • Shelterbelt  Wind resistant plants than can be grown to provide shelter in the garden etc. ( 106 )
  • Soil conditioner  Plants grown to improve the structure of the soil. See also Green manures. ( 7 )
  • Soil reclamation  Plants that can be grown in such circumstances an the spoil tips of mines in order to restore fertility. ( 32 )
  • Soil stabilization  Plants that can be grown in places such as sand dunes in order to prevent erosion by wind, water or other agents. ( 219 )
In the home
  • Bedding  Used as a lining for sleeping on or putting fruits etc on. ( 15 )
  • Besom  A type of broom. ( 5 )
  • Brush  Used for cleaning clothes, as a paintbrush etc. ( 22 )
  • Incense  Aromatic plants that can be burnt to impart a pleasant smell, repel insects and disinfect closed areas. ( 88 )
  • Lining  Used for lining boxes, baskets etc so that fragile items can be more safely carried in them. ( 10 )
  • Packing  Used as a filler in boxes etc in order to protect the contents. ( 11 )
  • Porcelain  ( 2 )
  • Pot-pourri  Aromatic plants used to impart a pleasant smell to an area. Can this be grouped with incense or essential oil? ( 46 )
  • Scourer  Used for cleaning pots, pans, plates etc. ( 7 )
  • Strewing  Plants, usually aromatic, that are strewn on the floor to give a nice smell, repel insects etc. ( 50 )
  • String  Plants that can be used as they are as a temporary string or can be easily made into a string. See also Fibre. ( 44 )
In the kitchen
  • Bottles  Plants that can be used as bottles. ( 1 )
  • Containers  Plants, such as gourds, that can be used as containers. Does not include baskets or containers made from wood. ( 15 )
  • Cork  Including any plants used as a cork substitute. Cork is used for insulation (sound or heat), fire-retardant, bottle stops etc. ( 14 )
  • Filter  Used to strain out particles from liquids. ( 2 )
  • Fruit ripening  Substances that promote the premature or rapid ripening of fruits. ( 2 )
  • Gum  Gums have a wide range of uses, especially as stabilizers, emulsifiers, thickening agents, adhesives etc. ( 214 )
  • Pectin  A substance that is used to thicken jams etc and as a culture medium in laboratories. ( 19 )
  • Straw  For drinking with. ( 9 )
  • Waxed paper  Substitutes that is. ( 1 )
Other Uses
  • Broom  Used for sweeping the floor etc. ( 36 )
  • Litmus  Used for testing whether a substance is acid or alkaline. ( 8 )
  • Microscope  ( 6 )
  • Miscellany  A rag-bag of items that are difficult to categorise. ( 255 )
  • Musical  Specific mention of plants used as musical instruments. Does not include the various woods that can be used for making musical instruments. ( 25 )
  • Pollution  Plants used to combat pollution. ( 18 )
  • Repellent  Plants that are said to deter but not necessarily kill various mammals, birds, insects etc. ( 423 )
  • Weather forecasting  A few plants that are supposed to help us forecast the weather. ( 6 )
  • Weather protection  Plants that can be used to give the body protection from severe weather. ( 6 )
Pesticides
  • Fungicide  Arrests the growth of, or kills, fungi. ( 34 )
  • Herbicide  Plants or plant extracts that can inhibit the growth of other plants. ( 86 )
  • Insecticide  Kills insects. ( 141 )
  • Parasiticide  Kills external body parasites such as hair lice. ( 124 )
Woodwork and other crafts
  • Adhesive  Glues. ( 62 )
  • Basketry  Plant used in making baskets and other items such as chairs. Includes plants that are only used as an ornamental addition. ( 201 )
  • Beads  Used as necklaces etc. ( 24 )
  • Furniture  A few miscellaneous uses that do not fit easily into other headings. ( 2 )
  • Lacquer  A type of varnish. ( 6 )
  • Nails  A few woods are tough enough to be used in place of metal nails in certain circumstances. ( 3 )
  • Polish  Plants used to give a shine to metals, wood etc. ( 19 )
  • Preservative  For food, or for treating wood, ropes etc. ( 44 )
  • Rust  Plants that can be used to prevent or treat rust. ( 9 )
  • Sandpaper  Plants used to smooth rough wooden surfaces by means of abrasion. ( 5 )
  • Varnish  Plants that can be used as a varnish without any special treatment. Does not include varnishes made from oils etc. ( 10 )
  • Waterproofing  Does what it says. See also Pitch and Oil. ( 21 )
  • Wood  A list of the trees and shrubs that are noted for having useful wood. ( 929 )