By Taiwo Ekeleme
Professor of Botany, University of Lagos, Professor James Olowokudejo, has called for a balance in the use of green plants.
He hinged this call on the significance of green plants to human existence.
Professor Olowokudejo was speaking at the Main Auditorium, University of Lagos, while delivering his Inaugural lecture titled: The Enigmatic Kingdom of Plants; Their Power to stimulate, intoxicate, and alter consciousness, their power to maim, kill and cure.
His lecture was divided into four segments namely: The origin and advances of Botany, the power and mysteries of plants in human affairs, his contributions in Plant taxonomy and biodiversity, and the destruction of the atmosphere by humans.
Professor Olowokudejo said the benefits of botany for food, fibre, and clothing cannot be overemphasized.
The Professor of Botany further outlined the benefits of most plants, stating that they aid human health and are very helpful for medicinal purposes. He stated further that psychoactive plants abound(plants that have the power to alter consciousness, intoxicate, depress and stimulate.) and these comprises stimulants, such as cocaine, Hallucinogens such as Datura and Depressants such as Alcohol.
The Unilag Academician, also reiterated that big ancient trees such as obeche and iroko as well as roots which include idi araba, idi esin,idi emi amongst others, serve economic purposes just as plants such as the lilies, thorns/thistles, as well as the olive tree all have spiritual representations.
Prof. Olowokudejo attributed Civilisation and migration to the plant family’s influence. He listed piper nigrum,capsicum nigrum as species that paved the way for civilisation while Adonssonia digitata that paved the way for migration.
The Botanical expert warned that benefits of plants to human existence does not erase its destructive tendencies. He cited an example of the cyanide present in apple seeds as a fast killer when taken in large quantities. Professor Olowokudejo also revealed his personal experience of a family of seven, who died in 1965, after eating poisonous mushrooms at Ikere, Ekiti state.
Other issues the Professor of Botany raised included the importance of plants possessing only one name, as it aids proper identification of that species. He specifically cited ‘mango’ as a unique fruit, mentioning that it has a specific name-mangifera indica.
Professor Olowokudejo spoke on his exploits on the isolation of alkaloids, ethno botanical research in traditional medicine, the employment of sophisticated techniques, as well as in mangrove swamp after which he recommended that more resources be allocated to education, liquid and solid wastes in the environment should be better managed.
He particularly charged the management of the University of Lagos to plant more trees for ecological benefits to keep the university as a safe haven.