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Probably the most bizarre topic you will encounter on these forums - (Oct/03/2011 )


I write this in need of help. Recently, I have been doing a lot of side reading and writing that co-inline with my interests. I am an older college student right now, who is majoring is mathematics. One of my projects for one of my classes required me to start reading peer-reviewed journals as well as, oh what's the word, more credible scientific magazines. (So for example, Popular Science vs. New Scientist etc..) and I was blown away with how much information my school had. I have been reading constantly, reading articles from quasirandom sampling, quantum theory, to new advancements in material engineering. And well, I have started diving into climate studies with regards to global warming, and that fueled my desire to learn more.

I then found a book that explains why society for the most part has denied the undeniable evidence put before us.

The reason why I am saying all of this, is I just finished an opinion article for my school's paper. I have attached the .doc to this post if you are all interested. (This is essentially my motive to asking help from people who are knowledgeable about botany.) I have come to the conclusion (I can only focus on two main sources as there is a word limit) that a complete societal collapse will happen. I do not have all the data in front of me to mathematically predict when, but even if I did, the numbers that were to be used are estimates. So ultimately, even if I had the numbers, there would be an error margin.

So, if it happens within this year, next year, five years from now, to maybe even twenty years from now, the point is, I have to start preparing myself. And well, eventually once things start to collapse, many of the products and services that we enjoy on a daily basis would not be available. Therefore, my family and I would have to be self-sustaining. Part of this, is knowing how to garden, hunt, build, and to apply medical attention when it is needed.

This is where I need your help....

Is there a classification of plants that provide nutritional sustenance to humans? If so, what is this category(s) called?
Is there a classification of plants that can provide medical treatments to humans? If so, what is the category(s) called?

I understand the basics of gardening. What people do not realize is that the temperatures of this planet is going to continually increase for sure till the end of this century. I am sure this has huge implications with regards to the study of plants. This is why I want to read about these specific categories, as this knowledge will give me the tools that would allow me and my family to survive.

And if you think I am just a complete nut case.....

That is fine. Just.....could you help by maybe shedding some light on the basics of botany? If anything, just let a nut case read about plants, right?

Thank you for your time and consideration.
Attached File


I think you are drastically underestimating the power of adaption that we have as humans.

However, there is no classification for edible or medical plants, these like animals and other organisms are divided into the standard classifications of Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species, based on how related (mostly based on morphological similarity) they are to each-other. This leads to some members of some families having some very edible plants and some very toxic ones too, an example of this is the Solanaceae, which includes such things as tomato and potatoes (don't eat the fruit, they are toxic), but also deadly nightshade and woody nightshade, which are very toxic,largely based on their atropine content. Medicinal plants are a little more tricky, as most of them are toxic in large amounts, but small doses are curative or medicinal - the atropine I talked about above is used in eye surgery to dilate the pupil.

There are however, books out there on edible plants and how to identify which ones you can eat when you come across them. Most toxins from plants are not all that deadly in small amounts, but it pays to be absolutely sure before you eat things, getting it wrong could kill you or leave you very ill. Learning some of the terminology will be a help, identification is largely based on the leaf shape and attachment, flower shapes and parts, growth habits and size. Learning to use a dichotomous key will be a big boost too.

You would probably be better off learning how to garden, as this basic skill will teach you how to grow plants that are suited to the environment where you live. If you get a hot house/glass house, then you can experiment with growing stuff that won't normally grow in your area

One other thing I will add is: Don't pick and eat fungi! - getting it wrong will result in severe damage to your liver, brain and kidneys, and it is really, really easy to get it wrong.


Thank you for your response.

Would you be kind as to possibly provide a title and author of a book that I can start reading? Ideally, I would really like it to lay the very basics and fundamentals of botany.

I have been trying to find a good book to start, but I am not sure about what book I should get. Especially considering I am utterly new to the whole field.


Oh and on a side note, I understand that humans are adaptive, but the bottom line is there is a law of nature that populations of all kinds of species crash when there is a boom. Here is a quick video that touches on this concept briefly. (

Humans maybe adaptive, however I believe we have passed the tipping points and are going to produce conditions on this planet where only the extremely adaptive will survive.

That is all. But that is besides the point. I wanted to say thank you so far for having an open mind and not immediately shutting everything I say down (as is the usual response on forums like these). So thanks, and if you know of a book or two, I would really appreciate it.



Good books depend on which country you are in - usually there are basic field guides that will have pictures of the plants, along with a description of the leaves and flowers etc, which are a good starting point, many of these will contain a basic dichotomous key as well, which you can use to familiarise yourself with usage. For basics of identification methods, try a basic biology text book, which should have a section on plants.

The concept you are talking about is called carrying capacity - the amount of one species a particular environment or "niche" can sustain long term. What happens in nature is not necessarily that a population grows to fit the carrying capacity, but that the population undergoes a "boom and bust" cycle, where the population shoots up in number, to a point well over where it can be sustained, then collapses back to a lower number. This is repeated several times to average out at the carrying capacity, sort of what you see if you have damped harmonic oscillation (do a google image search).

We are well over the carrying capacity in some parts of the planet - look at places like Ethiopia, where there are major famines (not entirely due to people though), but there are still plenty of people surviving. I think you will find that your prediction of a population crash/environmental disaster scenario will be well beyond our lifetimes yet.

Having said that, I would prefer not to debate it, as these sorts of threads tend to attract the vociferous minority (mostly from outside the more regular forum members) and end up being a shouting match.