Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Why is it that plants like oleander and periwinkle produce chemicals that are toxic to humans and other animals? The answer is simple: survival. The chemicals are defenses that protect these plants from being eaten. Chemicals produced by each kind of plant are often unique to the species, but similar among family members. We've learned that many of these chemicals, if used in minute quantities, can have tremendous medicinal value. For example, chemicals from the pink periwinkle, that is native to Madagascar, have become important in fighting some cancers and have helped build a multi-million dollar industry. It's hard to predict which plant might be producing the cures for our most dreaded diseases, an important reason to protect the diversity of life around us. Somewhere a plant, from a jungle faraway, or from the swamp next door might someday save your life.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences and Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.