Economic and Ecologic Importance

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Many of the most important plant species grown for human consumption are in the grass family, which includes rice, corn (maize), wheat, rye, barley, teff, millet, and other species. Many species of the grass family are also grown for animal consumption or as lawn grasses; examples include timothy, fescue, and bluegrass. Another group of great economic importance is the palm family, which includes coconuts, dates, and the oil palm. In addition to these foods, the palm family provides construction materials for housing, thatching, and a variety of tools and implements in many parts of the world. The largest family of monocots, in terms of number of species, is the orchid family. Although orchids are widely grown as ornamentals, only one species, the vanilla orchid, is grown as a food plant. The flavoring agent vanilla is extracted from the podlike fruits of this species.

Apart from their obvious economic importance as sources of foods and other materials of use to humanity, various monocots are of great significance as dominant elements in a variety of habitats, such as prairies (many grasses), marshes, bogs, and other wetlands (many members of the sedge family, or Cyperaceae), and ponds and streams (various members of the frog's-bit family, Hydrocharitaceae, and related aquatic families). Members of the orchid family and the pineapple family (Bromeliaceae) are important epiphytes plants that epiphytes in tropical forests, where they provide food to pollinating insects grow on other p|ants and birds and habitat for insects, fungi, and other kinds of organisms in the forest canopy.

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