Economic Significance

Conifers are also considered the most important gymnospermous group from an economic perspective. Coniferous trees are a very important source of timber for lumber and paper. They are harvested in North America, parts of Europe and Asia, and in Australia. In addition to timber, conifers provide Christmas trees, ornamental trees and shrubs, turpentine, and resin. Pine nuts (or pignoli), the seeds of some pine trees, are used as food. An important cancer-fighting drug, taxol, has been derived from the bark and leaves of the Pacific Coast yew (Taxus). Other gymnosperms also are the source of drugs and herbal medications. The powerful stimulant ephedrine derived from the gnetophyte Ephedra is often used in cold and allergy medications, and compounds shown to improve the mental capacities of the elderly have been discovered in Ginkgo. Ginkgo seeds are also quite nutritious and are used as food in Asia. Ginkgo and cycads are also important as ornamentals. see also Coniferous Forests; Conifers; Evolution of Plants; Ginkgo; Record-Holding Plants; Trees; Wood Products.

Linda A. Raubeson

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