Historical Ethnobotany: Interpreting the Old Records

A special issue of Plants (ISSN 2223-7747). This special issue belongs to the section "Phytochemistry".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2023) | Viewed by 30643

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Special Issue Editors

Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and Statistics, Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Via Torino 155, Mestre, 30172 Venice, Italy
Interests: ethnobotany; ethnobiology; ecosemiotics; biocultural diversity; Eastern Europe; post-Soviet
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Estonian Literary Museum, Vanemuise 42, 51003 Tartu, Estonia
Interests: ethnobiology; ethnobotany; science history; biocultural diversity; wild food plants
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

History is the basis for our interpretation of humanity’s past. Indeed, new developments in digital humanities and the digitalization of archives can place historical sources in a new light. Systematized historical sources allow us to see the practical changes that occurred over centuries of ethnobotany and analyze (although sometimes solely hypothesize on) the causes of such changes. Studying history helps us to understand the influences on the evolution of local ecological knowledge regarding plant use. In ethnobotany, numerous understudied historical sources are awaiting modern interpretations. Old uses enhanced by the new possibilities offered by technology can enrich our everyday life. Yet, understanding historical sources, especially in ethnobotany, where several disciplines are involved, is not univocal. Mistakes introduced by misidentified plants or information misinterpreted from old languages can have negative, long-term consequences. This Special Issue aims to provide examples of the critical analyses of various historical sources, provide insights into ongoing historical and diachronic studies on plant use, and introduce the best practice guidelines for interpreting such data.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Critical reviews on published historical ethnobotanical sources;
  • Analysis of archival data on medicinal, veterinary, ritual, household, handicraft and wild food plant uses;
  • Methodological papers on the best practice for working with archival and historical sources in ethnobotany;
  • Interpretational papers on plant identification in historical sources without herbarium specimens;
  • Possibilities in the modern applications of historical plant use;
  • Diachronic comparison of historical plant use with the current field of ethnobotany;
  • Examples of historical influences on specific and current plant use.

Prof. Dr. Renata Sõukand
Dr. Raivo Kalle
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • history of ethnobotany
  • plant identification in historical sources
  • methodology in historical ethnobotany
  • from past to present
  • diachronic comparison
  • old herbals

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Published Papers (14 papers)

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Editorial

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4 pages, 215 KiB  
Editorial
Historical Ethnobotany: Interpreting the Old Records
Plants 2023, 12(21), 3673; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12213673 - 25 Oct 2023
Viewed by 603
Abstract
For centuries, knowledge about the use of plants has been collected, published, or simply left in archives [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Ethnobotany: Interpreting the Old Records)

Research

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26 pages, 3107 KiB  
Article
Remnants from the Past: From an 18th Century Manuscript to 21st Century Ethnobotany in Valle Imagna (Bergamo, Italy)
Plants 2023, 12(14), 2748; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12142748 - 24 Jul 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1435
Abstract
Background: This project originated from the study of an 18th century manuscript found in Valle Imagna (Bergamo, Italy) which contains 200 plant-based medicinal remedies. A first comparison with published books concerning 20th century folk medicine in the Valley led to the designing of [...] Read more.
Background: This project originated from the study of an 18th century manuscript found in Valle Imagna (Bergamo, Italy) which contains 200 plant-based medicinal remedies. A first comparison with published books concerning 20th century folk medicine in the Valley led to the designing of an ethnobotanical investigation, aimed at making a thorough comparison between past and current phytotherapy knowledge in this territory. Methods: The field investigation was conducted through semi-structured interviews. All data collected was entered in a database and subsequently processed. A diachronic comparison between the field results, the manuscript, and a 20th century book was then performed. Results: A total of 109 interviews were conducted and the use of 103 medicinal plants, belonging to 46 families, was noted. A decrease in number of plant taxa and uses was observed over time, with only 42 taxa and 34 uses reported in the manuscript being currently known by the people of the valley. A thorough comparison with the remedies in the manuscript highlighted similar recipes for 12 species. Specifically, the use of agrimony in Valle Imagna for the treatment of deep wounds calls back to an ancient remedy against leg ulcers based on this species. Conclusions: The preliminary results of this study allow us to outline the partial passage through time fragments of ancient plant-based remedies once used in the investigated area. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Ethnobotany: Interpreting the Old Records)
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19 pages, 3286 KiB  
Article
Temporal Changes in the Use of Wild Medicinal Plants in Trentino–South Tyrol, Northern Italy
Plants 2023, 12(12), 2372; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12122372 - 19 Jun 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1076
Abstract
Mountain regions are fragile ecosystems and often host remarkably rich biodiversity, and thus they are especially under threat from ongoing global changes. Located in the Eastern Alps, Trentino–South Tyrol is bioculturally diverse but an understudied region from an ethnobotanical perspective. We explored the [...] Read more.
Mountain regions are fragile ecosystems and often host remarkably rich biodiversity, and thus they are especially under threat from ongoing global changes. Located in the Eastern Alps, Trentino–South Tyrol is bioculturally diverse but an understudied region from an ethnobotanical perspective. We explored the ethnomedicinal knowledge of the area from a cross-cultural and diachronic perspective by conducting semi-structured interviews with 22 local inhabitants from Val di Sole (Trentino) and 30 from Überetsch–Unterland (South Tyrol). Additionally, we compared the results with ethnobotanical studies conducted in Trentino and South Tyrol over 25 years ago. The historical comparison revealed that about 75% of the plants currently in use were also used in the past in each study region. We argue that the adoption of “new” medicinal species could have occurred through printed and social media and other bibliographical sources but may also be due to limitations in conducting the comparison (i.e., different taxonomic levels and different methodologies). The inhabitants of Val di Sole and Überetsch–Unterland have shared most medicinal plants over the past few decades, yet the most used species diverge (perhaps due to differences in local landscapes), and in South Tyrol, people appear to use a higher number of medicinal plants, possibly because of the borderland nature of the area. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Ethnobotany: Interpreting the Old Records)
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13 pages, 5002 KiB  
Article
Botanical Analysis of the Baroque Art on the Eastern Adriatic Coast, South Croatia
Plants 2023, 12(11), 2080; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12112080 - 23 May 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 986
Abstract
The analysis of plants featured in Baroque artworks on the eastern Adriatic coast has not previously been the subject of an in-depth study. The study of plant iconography in Baroque sacred artworks, which are mostly paintings, was carried out in eight churches and [...] Read more.
The analysis of plants featured in Baroque artworks on the eastern Adriatic coast has not previously been the subject of an in-depth study. The study of plant iconography in Baroque sacred artworks, which are mostly paintings, was carried out in eight churches and monasteries on the Pelješac peninsula in southern Croatia. Taxonomic interpretation of the painted flora on 15 artworks led to the identification of 23 different plant taxa (species or genera) belonging to 17 families. One additional plant was identified only by family taxonomic rank. The number of plants was relatively high, and most species were considered non-native (71%, “exotic” flora) phanerophytes. In terms of geographic origin, the Palaearctic region (Eurasia) and the American continent were identified as the main areas of plant origin. Lilium candidum, Acanthus mollis, and Chrysanthemum cf. morifolium, were the most common species. We think that the plants were selected for decorative and aesthetic reasons, as well as for their symbolic significance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Ethnobotany: Interpreting the Old Records)
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16 pages, 1510 KiB  
Article
Plants and Other Materials Used for Dyeing in the Present Territory of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine according to Rostafiński’s Questionnaire from 1883
Plants 2023, 12(7), 1482; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12071482 - 28 Mar 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1892
Abstract
Background: Traditional dyeing methods are practically forgotten in Poland. Józef Rostafiński included questions on the use of dyes in his ethnobotanical survey from 1883. Methods: 126 questionnaires contained information on dye plants. They were identified by the respondents using folk names or sometimes [...] Read more.
Background: Traditional dyeing methods are practically forgotten in Poland. Józef Rostafiński included questions on the use of dyes in his ethnobotanical survey from 1883. Methods: 126 questionnaires contained information on dye plants. They were identified by the respondents using folk names or sometimes even Latin names. Folk names were analyzed by comparison with other literature. Several voucher specimens were also present. Results: 74 plant taxa were identified to genus or species level. The most commonly used were: onion (Allium cepa), brazilwood (Caesalpinia brasiliensis or Paubrasilia echinata), winter corn (mainly rye Secale cereale), black alder (Alnus glutinosa), safflower (Carthamus tinctorius), apple (Malus domestica), birch (Betula pendula), oak (Quercus robur), and violet flowering spring flowers (mainly Hepatica nobilis and Pulsatilla spp.). Conclusions: Most species are well known in the literature about plant dyeing, but the paper provides extra details on the picture of dyeing traditions in Eastern Europe. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Ethnobotany: Interpreting the Old Records)
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17 pages, 1485 KiB  
Article
Trends of Medicinal Plant Use over the Last 2000 Years in Central Europe
Plants 2023, 12(1), 135; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12010135 - 27 Dec 2022
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 3127
Abstract
Medicinal plant knowledge in Central Europe can be traced back from the present to antiquity, through written sources. Approximately 100 medicinal plant taxa have a history of continuous use. In this paper, we focus on use patterns over time and the link between [...] Read more.
Medicinal plant knowledge in Central Europe can be traced back from the present to antiquity, through written sources. Approximately 100 medicinal plant taxa have a history of continuous use. In this paper, we focus on use patterns over time and the link between historical and traditional uses with the current scientific evidence. We discuss our findings against the backdrop of changing eras and medicinal concepts. Based on use-records from totally 16 historical, popular and scientific herbals, we analyze how use categories of 102 medicinal plant taxa developed over time. Overall, 56 of the 102 taxa maintained continuous use throughout all time periods. For approximately 30% of the continuous uses, scientific evidence supporting their use exists, compared to 11% for recently added uses and 6% for discontinuous uses. Dermatology and gastroenterology are use categories that are relevant across all time periods. They are associated with a high diversity of medicinal taxa and continuously used medicinal species with scientific evidence. Antidotes, apotropaic (protective) magic, and humoral detoxification were important use categories in the past. New applications reflecting biomedical progress and epidemiological challenges are cardiovascular and tonic uses. Changes in medicinal concepts are mirrored in plant use and specifically in changes in the importance of use categories. Our finding supports the concept of social validation of plant uses, i.e., the assumption that longstanding use practice and tradition may suggest efficacy and safety. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Ethnobotany: Interpreting the Old Records)
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12 pages, 3435 KiB  
Article
“Cow Healers Use It for Both Horses and Cattle”: The Rise and Fall of the Ethnoveterinary Use of Peucedanum ostruthium (L.) Koch (fam. Apiaceae) in Sweden
Plants 2023, 12(1), 116; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12010116 - 26 Dec 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1801
Abstract
Masterwort, Peucedanum ostruthium (L.) Koch, is an Apiaceae species originally native to the mountain areas of central and southern Europe. Written sources show that it was used in northern Europe. This study explores the cultivation history of masterwort and its past use in [...] Read more.
Masterwort, Peucedanum ostruthium (L.) Koch, is an Apiaceae species originally native to the mountain areas of central and southern Europe. Written sources show that it was used in northern Europe. This study explores the cultivation history of masterwort and its past use in Sweden. Although only few details are known about the history of this taxon, it represents a cultural relict plant of an intentionally introduced species known in Sweden as early as the Middle Ages. In Sweden, the masterwort was mainly used as an ethnoveterinary herbal remedy from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. However, medicinal manuals, pharmacopoeias and some ethnographical records indicate that it was once also used in remedies for humans. Today, this species remains as a living biocultural heritage in rural areas, especially on the surviving shielings, which were once used as mountain pastures in Dalecarlia, and at former crofts that were inhabited by cattle owners in the forest areas of southern Sweden. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Ethnobotany: Interpreting the Old Records)
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23 pages, 1814 KiB  
Article
The Appeal of Ethnobotanical Folklore Records: Medicinal Plant Use in Setomaa, Räpina and Vastseliina Parishes, Estonia (1888–1996)
Plants 2022, 11(20), 2698; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11202698 - 13 Oct 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1018
Abstract
The historical use of medicinal plants is of special interest because the use of plants for healing is a rapidly changing, highly culture-specific and often need-specific practice, which also depends on the availability of resources and knowledge. To set an example of folkloristic [...] Read more.
The historical use of medicinal plants is of special interest because the use of plants for healing is a rapidly changing, highly culture-specific and often need-specific practice, which also depends on the availability of resources and knowledge. To set an example of folkloristic data analysis in ethnobotany, we analyzed texts from the database, HERBA, identifying as many plants and diseases as possible. The research was limited to the Seto, Räpina and Vastseliina parishes in Estonia. The use of 119 taxa belonging to 48 families was identified, of which nine were identified at the genus level, four ethnotaxa were identified as two possible botanical taxa and fifteen ethnotaxa were unidentifiable. The most frequently mentioned taxa were Pinus sylvestris, Matricaria discoidea and Valeriana officinalis. High plant name diversity as well as high heterogeneity in the plants used were observed, especially in earlier records. The use of local wild taxa growing outside the sphere of everyday human activities, which was abandoned during Soviet occupation, signals an earlier, pre-existing rich tradition of plant use and a deep relationship with nature. Working with archival data requires knowledge of historical contexts and the acceptance of the possibility of not finding all the answers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Ethnobotany: Interpreting the Old Records)
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12 pages, 2001 KiB  
Article
From Şxex to Chorta: The Adaptation of Maronite Foraging Customs to the Greek Ones in Kormakitis, Northern Cyprus
Plants 2022, 11(20), 2693; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11202693 - 12 Oct 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1733
Abstract
The traditional foraging of wild vegetables (WVs) has played an important role in the post-Neolithic development of rural local food systems of the Near East and the Mediterranean. This study assessed the WVs gathered by the ancient Maronite Arabic diaspora of Kurmajit/Kormakitis village [...] Read more.
The traditional foraging of wild vegetables (WVs) has played an important role in the post-Neolithic development of rural local food systems of the Near East and the Mediterranean. This study assessed the WVs gathered by the ancient Maronite Arabic diaspora of Kurmajit/Kormakitis village in Northern Cyprus and compared them with those gathered by their Cypriot and Arab Levantine neighbors. An ethnobotanical field survey focusing on WVs was conducted via twenty-two semi-structured interviews among the few remaining Maronite elderly inhabitants (approximately 200); and the resulting data were compared with those described in a few field studies previously conducted in Cyprus, Lebanon, and coastal Syria. Wild vegetables in Kormakitis are grouped into a folk category expressed by the emic lexeme Şxex, which roughly corresponds to the Greek concept of Chorta (wild greens). The large majority of Şxex have Greek folk phytonyms and they overlap for the most part with the WVs previously reported to be gathered by Greek Cypriots, although a remarkable number of WVs are also shared with that of the other groups. The findings address a possible adaptation of Maronite WV foraging to the Greek one, which may be explained by the fact that the Maronite minority and the majority Greek communities lived side by side for many centuries. Additionally, after Turkish occupation in 1974, a remarkable migration/urbanization of Maronites to the main Greek centers on the southern side of the isle took place, and Kurmajit became part of Cypriot trans-border family networks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Ethnobotany: Interpreting the Old Records)
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24 pages, 2282 KiB  
Article
Diverse in Local, Overlapping in Official Medical Botany: Critical Analysis of Medicinal Plant Records from the Historic Regions of Livonia and Courland in Northeast Europe, 1829–1895
Plants 2022, 11(8), 1065; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11081065 - 13 Apr 2022
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2057
Abstract
Works on historical ethnobotany can help shed light on past plant uses and humankind’s relationships with the environment. We analyzed medicinal plant uses from the historical regions of Livonia and Courland in Northeast Europe based on three studies published within the 19th century [...] Read more.
Works on historical ethnobotany can help shed light on past plant uses and humankind’s relationships with the environment. We analyzed medicinal plant uses from the historical regions of Livonia and Courland in Northeast Europe based on three studies published within the 19th century by medical doctors researching local ethnomedicine. The sources were manually searched, and information extracted and entered into a database. In total, there were 603 detailed reports of medicinal plant use, which refer to 219 taxa belonging to 69 families and one unidentified local taxon. Dominant families were Asteraceae (14%), Solanaceae (7%), Rosaceae (6%), and Apiaceae (5%). The majority of use reports were attributed to the treatment of four disease categories: digestive (24%), skin (22%), respiratory (11%), and general (11%). The small overlapping portion (14 taxa mentioned by all three authors and another 27 taxa named by two authors) contained a high proportion of taxa (46%) mentioned in Dioscorides, which were widespread during that period in scholarly practice. Despite the shared flora, geographical vicinity, and culturally similar backgrounds, the medicinal use of plants in historical Courland and Livonia showed high biocultural diversity and reliance on wild taxa. We encourage researchers to study and re-evaluate the historical ethnobotanical literature and provide some suggestions on how to do this effectively. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Ethnobotany: Interpreting the Old Records)
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18 pages, 1856 KiB  
Article
“I Climbed a Fig Tree, on an Apple Bashing Spree, Only Pears Fell Free”: Economic, Symbolic and Intrinsic Values of Plants Occurring in Slovenian Folk Songs Collected by K. Štrekelj (1895–1912)
Plants 2022, 11(3), 458; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11030458 - 07 Feb 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2477
Abstract
In this study we examine the occurrence of plants and their symbolic, economic, and intrinsic values in Slovenian folk songs. We have analyzed songs published by the ethnologist Karel Štrekelj between 1895 and 1912. Of the 8686 songs studied, plants occur in 1246 [...] Read more.
In this study we examine the occurrence of plants and their symbolic, economic, and intrinsic values in Slovenian folk songs. We have analyzed songs published by the ethnologist Karel Štrekelj between 1895 and 1912. Of the 8686 songs studied, plants occur in 1246 (14%) of them. A total of 93 plant taxa were found, belonging to 48 plant families. Grapevine is the most frequently mentioned species, followed by rosemary, wheat, carnation, and lily. About half of the taxa belong to cultivated plants (52%), followed by wild plants (42%). Exotic plants (i.e., not growing in the area) are mentioned only occasionally (6%). Half of all citations (49.3%) refer to the symbolic values, such as religion, love, death, economic status, or human qualities. More than a third of the citations (36.7%) are associated with plant’s usefulness, especially consumption, while only a small percentage of citations (14.0%), relate to environmental representation. Several verses show how our appreciation of some plants, especially those used as food, has changed over the centuries. Folk songs have turned out to be interesting sources of information, and although they cannot be fully trusted as historical documents, they can still be used as sources for understanding the relationship between people and plants. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Ethnobotany: Interpreting the Old Records)
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29 pages, 4379 KiB  
Article
Early Citizen Science Action in Ethnobotany: The Case of the Folk Medicine Collection of Dr. Mihkel Ostrov in the Territory of Present-Day Estonia, 1891–1893
Plants 2022, 11(3), 274; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11030274 - 20 Jan 2022
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 3078
Abstract
Presently, collecting data through citizen science (CS) is increasingly being used in botanical, zoological and other studies. However, until now, ethnobotanical studies have underused CS data collection methods. This study analyses the results of the appeal organized by the physician Dr. Mihkel Ostrov [...] Read more.
Presently, collecting data through citizen science (CS) is increasingly being used in botanical, zoological and other studies. However, until now, ethnobotanical studies have underused CS data collection methods. This study analyses the results of the appeal organized by the physician Dr. Mihkel Ostrov (1863–1940), which can be considered the first-ever internationally known systematic example of ethnopharmacological data collection involving citizens. We aim to understand what factors enhanced or diminished the success of the collaboration between Ostrov and the citizens of that time. The reliability of Ostrov’s collection was enhanced by the herbarium specimens (now missing) used in the identification of vernacular names. The collection describes the use of 65 species from 27 genera. The timing of its collection coincided with not only a national awakening and recently obtained high level of literacy but also the activation of civil society, people’s awareness of the need to collect folklore, the voluntary willingness of newspapers to provide publishing space and later to collect data, and the use of a survey method focusing on a narrow topic. While Ostrov’s only means of communication with the public was through newspapers, today, with electronic options, social media can also be used. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Ethnobotany: Interpreting the Old Records)
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Review

Jump to: Editorial, Research

34 pages, 6585 KiB  
Review
Iconic Arable Weeds: The Significance of Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas), Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus), and Field Larkspur (Delphinium consolida) in Hungarian Ethnobotanical and Cultural Heritage
Plants 2023, 12(1), 84; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12010084 - 23 Dec 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 4362
Abstract
There are an increasing number of initiatives that recognize arable weed species as an important component of agricultural biodiversity. Such initiatives often focus on declining species that were once abundant and are still well known, but the ethnographic relevance of such species receives [...] Read more.
There are an increasing number of initiatives that recognize arable weed species as an important component of agricultural biodiversity. Such initiatives often focus on declining species that were once abundant and are still well known, but the ethnographic relevance of such species receives little recognition. We carried out an extensive literature review on the medicinal, ornamental, and cultural applications of three selected species, Papaver rhoeas, Centaurea cyanus, and Delphinium consolida, in the relevant Hungarian literature published between 1578 and 2021. We found a great diversity of medicinal usages. While P. rhoeas stands out with its sedative influence, D. consolida was mainly employed to stop bleeding, and C. cyanus was most frequently used to cure eye inflammation. The buds of P. rhoeas were sporadically eaten and its petals were used as a food dye. All species fulfilled ornamental purposes, either as garden plants or gathered in the wild for bouquets. They were essential elements of harvest festivals and religious festivities, particularly in Corpus Christi processions. P. rhoeas was also a part of several children’s games. These wildflowers were regularly depicted in traditional Hungarian folk art. In poetry, P. rhoeas was used as a symbol of burning love or impermanence; C. cyanus was frequently associated with tenderness and faithfulness; while D. consolida regularly emerged as a nostalgic remembrance of the disappearing rural lifestyle. These plants were also used as patriotic symbols in illustrations for faithfulness, loyalty, or homesickness. Our results highlight the deep and prevalent embeddedness of the three iconic weed species studied in the folk culture of the Carpathian Basin. The ethnobotanical and cultural embeddedness of arable weed species should also be considered when efforts and instruments for the conservation of arable weed communities are designed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Ethnobotany: Interpreting the Old Records)
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21 pages, 2731 KiB  
Review
Ethnobotanical History: Duckweeds in Different Civilizations
Plants 2022, 11(16), 2124; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11162124 - 15 Aug 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2060
Abstract
This presentation examines the history of duckweeds in Chinese, Christian, Greek, Hebrew, Hindu, Japanese, Maya, Muslim, and Roman cultures and details the usage of these diminutive freshwater plants from ancient times through the Middle Ages. We find that duckweeds were widely distributed geographically [...] Read more.
This presentation examines the history of duckweeds in Chinese, Christian, Greek, Hebrew, Hindu, Japanese, Maya, Muslim, and Roman cultures and details the usage of these diminutive freshwater plants from ancient times through the Middle Ages. We find that duckweeds were widely distributed geographically already in antiquity and were integrated in classical cultures in the Americas, Europe, the Near East, and the Far East 2000 years ago. In ancient medicinal sources, duckweeds are encountered in procedures, concoctions, and incantations involving the reduction of high fever. In this regard, we discuss a potential case of ethnobotanical convergence between the Chinese Han and Classical Maya cultures. Duckweeds played a part in several ancient rituals. In one, the unsuitability of its roots to serve as a wick for Sabbath oil lamps. In another reference to its early use as human food during penitence. In a third, a prominent ingredient in a medicinal incantation, and in a fourth, as a crucial element in ritual body purifications. Unexpectedly, it emerged that in several ancient cultures, the floating duckweed plant featured prominently in the vernacular and religious poetry of the day. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Historical Ethnobotany: Interpreting the Old Records)
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