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Ethnobotany (from "ethnology" - study of culture[1] and "botany" - study of plants) is the scientific study of the relationships that exist between people and plants.

Ethnobotanists aim to reliably document, describe and explain complex relationships between cultures and (uses of) plants: focusing, primarily, on how plants are used, managed and perceived across human societies (eg. as foods; as medicines; in divination; in cosmetics; in dyeing; as textiles; in construction; as tools; as currency; as clothing; in literature; in rituals; and in social life.)

History of ethnobotany
Though the term "ethnobotany" was not coined until 1895 by the US botanist John William Harshberger, the history of the field begins long before that. In AD 77, the Greek surgeon Dioscorides published "De Materia Medica", which was a catalog of about 600 plants in the Mediterranean. It also included information on how the Greeks used the plants, especially for medicinal purposes. This illustrated herbal contained information on how and when each plant was gathered, whether or not it was poisonous, its actual use, and whether or not it was edible (it even provided recipes). Dioscorides stressed the economic potential of plants. For generations, scholars learned from this herbal, but did not actually venture into the field until after the Middle Ages.

In 1542 Leonhart Fuchs, a Renaissance artist, led the way back into the field. His "De Historia Stirpium" cataloged 400 plants native to Germany and Austria.

John Ray (1686-1704) provided the first definition of "species" in his "Historia Plantarum": a species is a set of individuals who give rise through reproduction to new individuals similar to themselves.

In 1753 Carl Linnaeus wrote "Species Plantarum", which included information on about 5,900 plants. Linnaeus is famous for inventing the binomial method of nomenclature, in which all species get a two part name (genus, species).

The 19th century saw the peak of botanical exploration. Alexander von Humboldt collected data from the new world, and the James Cook's voyages brought back collections and information on plants from the South Pacific. At this time major botanical gardens were started, for instance the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.[citation needed]

Edward Palmer collected artifacts and botanical specimens from peoples in the North American West (Great Basin) and Mexico from the 1860s to the 1890s.

Once enough data existed, the field of "aboriginal botany" was founded. Aboriginal botany is the study of all forms of the vegetable world which aboriginal peoples use for food, medicine, textiles, ornaments, etc.[citation needed]

The first individual to study the emic perspective of the plant world was a German physician working in Sarajevo at the end of 19th Century: Leopold Glueck. His published work on traditional medical uses of plants done by rural people in Bosnia (1896) has to be considered the first modern ethnobotanical work.[citation needed]

The term "ethnobotany" was first used by a botanist named John W. Harshberger in 1895 while he was teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. Although the term was not used until 1895, practical interests in ethnobotany go back to the beginning of civilization when people relied on plants as a way of survival.[citation needed]

Other scholars analysed uses of plants under an indigenous/local perspective in the 20th century: e.g. Matilda Coxe Stevenson, Zuni plants (1915); Frank Cushing, Zuni foods (1920); Keewaydinoquay Peschel, Anishinaabe fungi (1998), and the team approach of Wilfred Robbins, JP Harrington, and Barbara Freire-Marreco, Tewa pueblo plants (1916).

In the beginning, ethonobotanical specimens and studies were not very reliable and sometimes not helpful. This is because the botanists and the anthropologists did not come together on their work. The botanists focused on identifying species and how the plants were used instead of including how plants fit into people's lives. On the other hand, anthropologists were interested in the cultural role of plants and not the scientific aspect. Therefore, early ethnobotanical data does not really include both sides. In the early twentieth century, botanists and anthropologists finally collaborated and the collection of reliable, detailed data began.

Modern ethnobotany
Beginning in the 20th century, the field of ethnobotany experienced a shift from the raw compilation of data to a greater methodological and conceptual reorientation. This is also the beginning of academic ethnobotany. The founding father of this discipline is Richard Evans Schultes.

Today the field of ethnobotany requires a variety of skills: botanical training for the identification and preservation of plant specimens; anthropological training to understand the cultural concepts around the perception of plants; linguistic training, at least enough to transcribe local terms and understand native morphology, syntax, and semantics.

Considerable information on the traditional uses of plants is still intact with the tribals[3]. But the native healers are often reluctant to accurately share their knowledge to outsiders. Schultes actually apprenticed himself to an Amazonian shaman, which involves a long term commitment and genuine relationship. In Wind in the Blood: Mayan Healing & Chinese Medicine by Garcia et al. the visiting acupuncturists were able to access levels of Mayan medicine that anthropologists could not because they had something to share in exchange. Cherokee medicine priest David Winston describes how his uncle would invent nonsense to satisfy visiting anthropologists. [4]

Scientific journals covering ethnobotanical research
The Latin American and Caribbean Bulletin of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (Abbreviated BLACPMA) or Boletin latinoamericano y del caribe de plantas medicinales y aromaticas (ISSN-0717 7917) is a bimonthly scientific publication directed to diverse professionals and technicians linked to the field of medicinal and aromatic plants. It accepts papers related with the Bulletin's areas of interest, which are agronomy, anthropology and ethnobotany, industrial applications, botany, quality and normalization, ecology and biodiversity, economy and markets, pharmacology, phytochemistry, legislation, information and diffusion of events, courses, prizes, regulations, news, market questions, reports, bibliography, or any other material type that is important to publish.

See also the following peer-reviewed journals:

Journal of Ethnobiology
Ethnobotany Research and Applications
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
Journal of Ethnopharmacology
Economic Botany

(Notes, this intrigues me, I really wish to get my hands on these studies so that I may get a more proper view of Ethnobotany)

Binomial nomenclature
"Latin name" redirects here. For information on personal names in the Roman empire, see Roman naming conventions.

In biology, binomial nomenclature is the formal system of naming species. The system is called binominal nomenclature (particularly in zoological circles), binary nomenclature (particularly in botanical circles), or the binomial classification system. The essence of it is that each species name is in (modern scientific) Latin and has two parts, so that it is popularly known as the "Latin name" of the species, although this terminology is frowned upon by biologists and philologists, who prefer the phrase scientific name. Instead of using the seven-category system in naming an organism, Carl Linnaeus chose to use a two-word naming system. He adopted the binomial nomenclature scheme, using only the genus name and the specific name or epithet which together form the species name. For example, humans belong to genus Homo and their specific name is sapiens. Humans are then as a species classified by Linnaeus as Homo sapiens. Note that the first name, the genus, is capitalized, while the second is not.

Species is the lowest rank in this system for classifying organisms.

The adoption of a system of binomial nomenclature is due to Swedish botanist and physician Carolus Linnaeus (1707 – 1778) who attempted to describe the entire known natural world and gave every species (mineral, plant, or animal) a two-part name. However, binomial nomenclature in various forms existed before Linnaeus, and was used by the Bauhins, who lived nearly two hundred years before Linnaeus.

Value of binomial nomenclature
The value of the binomial nomenclature system derives primarily from its economy, its widespread use, and the stability of names it generally favors:

The same name can be used all over the world, in all languages, avoiding difficulties of translation.
Although such stability as exists is far from absolute, the procedures associated with establishing binomial nomenclature tend to favor stability. For example, when species are transferred between genera (as not uncommonly happens as a result of new knowledge), if possible the species descriptor is kept the same. Similarly if what were previously thought to be distinct species are demoted from species to a lower rank, former species names may be retained as infraspecific descriptors.
Despite the rules favoring stability and uniqueness, in practice a single species may have several scientific names in circulation, depending largely on taxonomic point of view (see synonymy).

Derivation of names
The genus name and specific descriptor may come from any source. Often they are ordinary New Latin words, but they may also come from Ancient Greek, from a place, from a person (often a naturalist), a name from the local language, etc. In fact, taxonomists come up with specific descriptors from a variety of sources, including inside-jokes and puns.

However, names are always treated grammatically as if they were a Latin phrase.

There is a list of Latin and Greek words commonly used in systematic names.

Family names are often derived from a common genus within the family.

The genus name must be unique inside each kingdom. It is not normally a noun in its Latin grammar.

The specific descriptor is also a Latin word but it can be grammatically any of various forms including these:

another noun nominative form in apposition with the genus; the words do not necessarily agree in gender. For example, the lion Panthera leo.
a noun genitive form made up from a person's surname, as in the Tibetan antelope Pantholops hodgsonii, the shrub Magnolia hodgsonii, or the Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni. Here, the person named is not necessarily (if ever) the person who names the species; for example Anthus hodgsoni was named by Charles Wallace Richmond, not by Hodgson.
a noun genitive form made up from a place name, as with Latimeria chalumnae ("of Chalumna").
the common noun genitive form (singular or plural) as in the bacterium Escherichia coli. This is common in parasites, as in Xenos vesparum where vesparum simply means "of the wasps".
an ordinary Latin or New Latin adjective, as in the house sparrow Passer domesticus where domesticus (= "domestic") simply means "associated with the house" (or "... with houses").
Specific descriptors are commonly reused (as is shown by examples of hodgsonii above).

Codes of nomenclature
From the mid nineteenth century onwards it became ever more apparent that a body of rules was necessary to govern scientific names. In the course of time these became Nomenclature Codes governing the naming of animals (ICZN), plants (incl. Fungi, cyanobacteria) (ICBN), bacteria (ICNB) and viruses (ICTV). These Codes differ.

For example, the ICBN, the plant Code does not allow tautonyms, whereas the ICZN, the animal Code does.
The starting points, the time from which these Codes are in effect (retroactively), vary from group to group. In botany the starting point will often be in 1753 (the year Carolus Linnaeus first published Species Plantarum), in zoology in 1758. Bacteriology started anew, with a starting point on 1980-01-01.[1]
A BioCode has been suggested to replace several codes, although implementation is not in sight. There also is debate concerning development of a PhyloCode to name clades of phylogenetic trees, rather than taxa. Proponents of the PhyloCode use the name "Linnaean Codes" for the joint existing Codes and "Linnaean taxonomy" for the scientific classification that uses these existing Codes.

Although the fine detail will differ, there are certain aspects which are universally adopted:

As the words "binomial", "binominal" and "binary" all signify, the scientific name of each species is formed by the combination of two words, which are in a modern form of Latin:
the genus name (also called the generic name).
a second word identifying the species within that genus, for which the technical term varies, as follows:
a general term for the word identifying the species is the specific descriptor
in zoology, the word identifying the species is called the specific name
in botany, the word identifying the species is called the specific epithet
Species names are usually typeset in italics; for example, Homo sapiens. Generally the binomial should be printed in a typeface (font) different from that used in the normal text; for example, "Several more Homo sapiens were discovered." When handwritten, they should be underlined; for example, Homo sapiens. Each name should be underlined individually.
The genus name is always written with an initial capital letter.
In current usage, the specific name is never written with an initial capital.[2][3]
For example, the entire tiger species is Panthera tigris
Some older works, on the other hand, would sometimes write the specific name with an initial capital.[4]
There are several terms for this two-part species name; these include binomen (plural binomina), binomial, binomial name, binominal, binominal name, and species name.
All taxa at ranks above species have a name composed of one word only, a "uninominal name".
The first level subdivisions within a species, termed subspecies, are each given a name with three parts: these are the two forming the species name, plus a third part (the subspecific name) which identifies the subspecies within the species. This is called trinomial nomenclature, and is written differently in zoology and botany.[5] For example:
Two of the subspecies of Olive-backed Pipit are Anthus hodgsoni berezowskii and Anthus hodgsoni hodgsoni
The Bengal Tiger is Panthera tigris tigris and the Siberian Tiger Panthera tigris altaica
The tree European Black Elder is Sambucus nigra subsp. nigra and the American Black Elder is Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis
In scholarly texts, the main entry for the binomial is followed by the abbreviated (in botany) or full (in zoology) surname of the scientist who first published the classification. If the species was assigned in the description to a different genus from that to which it is assigned today, the abbreviation or name of the describer and the description date is set in parentheses.
For example: Amaranthus retroflexus L. or Passer domesticus (Linnaeus, 1758) — the latter was originally described as member of the genus Fringilla, hence the parentheses.
When used with a common name, the scientific name usually follows in parentheses.
For example, "The house sparrow (Passer domesticus) is decreasing in Europe."
The scientific name should generally be written in full. The exception to this is when several species from the same genus are being listed or discussed in the same paper or report; in that case the genus is written in full when it is first used, but may then be abbreviated to an initial (and period) for successive species names; for example, in a list of members of the genus Canis, when not first in the list Canis lupus becomes C. lupus. In rare cases, this abbreviated form has spread to more general use; for example, the bacterium Escherichia coli is often referred to as just E. coli, and Tyrannosaurus rex is perhaps even better known simply as T. rex, these two both often appearing even where they are not part of any list of species of the same genus.
The abbreviation "sp." is used when the actual specific name cannot or need not be specified. The abbreviation "spp." (plural) indicates "several species". These are not italicised (or underlined).
For example: "Canis sp.", meaning "one species of the genus Canis".
Easily confused with the foregoing usage is the abbreviation "ssp." (zoology) or "subsp." (botany) indicating an unspecified subspecies (see also trinomen, ternary name); "sspp." or "subspp." indicates "a number of subspecies".
The abbreviation "cf." is used when the identification is not confirmed.
For example Corvus cf. splendens indicates "a bird similar to the House Crow but not certainly identified as this species".
Mycology uses the same system as in botany.


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Layla S. Williams {Sky High}

June 2014


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