Iroko Milicia excelsa Moraceae

This important African tree grows throughout tropical Africa and is a popular substitute for teak, despite being not as strong as teak. West Africa is now the major source, as over-exploitation has greatly reduced populations in east Africa. It is a large tree, producing good quality, cylindrical logs, which are exported throughout the world. The wood has pale yellow sapwood and deep brown heartwood with light fawn flecks radiating out from the center of the wood to the bark, when quarter-sawn....

Hemp Cannabis sativa Cannabaceae

In the 1890s, hemp was produced all over the world. There were many cordage plants referred to as Russian hemp, Manila hemp, and sisal hemp, but true hemp Cannabis sativa was the standard to which all other cordage fibers were compared. In 1896, while other countries were using machines to plant, harvest, and process hemp, Japanese farmers still carried out most of these tasks by hand. Also, the process of retting (i.e., the separation of soft unusable plant tissue from the tough usable plant...

Inuit berry pickers between 1900 and ca 1930 Library of Congress Prints Photographs Division

The earliest primates, being small, most probably had a predominately insectivorous diet. Small mammals lose body heat more quickly than larger creatures, so they need a mainly carnivorous diet in order to maintain the higher metabolic rate required to compensate for this heat loss. Plant foods generally take longer to digest. Thus a mainly plant-based diet was only possible for primates who evolved to a size that limited their heat loss and thus reduced their...

Europe and the Mediterranean Near East

Europe differs from the other regions under discussion, in that there the historical knowledge about medicinal plants is rarely a popular tradition or based on knowledge handed down from one generation to the next. Instead herbal traditions form part of mainstream pharmaceutical traditions and relatively well-researched botanical medicines are often available. Most of this information is now transmitted via the mass media, especially through popular books about herbal medicines and in countries...

Jute Corchorus capsularis and C olitorius Tiliaceae

Corchorus capsularis and C. olitorius are the principal species grown for commercial fiber production. Each species has a large number of varieties, but these are utilized for textiles and cordage on more of a local basis. Both species are annual plants and attain heights of 12 feet or more. The shapes of their fruits differ C. capsularis having globular capsules flattened at the top, C. olitorius having elongated pods. The C. olitorius does not tolerate excessive humidity and is therefore...

Tobacco Nicotiana tabacum Solanaceae

In the 17th century, tobacco was one of the first crops grown strictly for commercial profit in what is now the southern United States. It was taken in the form of snuff (i.e., inhaled as a powder through the nose) or smoked in a pipe. John Rolfe was the first Virginia colonist to develop tobacco for export from the American Colonies in 1612. Over time, Virginia became one of the primary snuff and pipe tobacco producers in the world, and a major player in the world tobacco market. The formal...

Turmeric CI Natural Yellow 3 Curcuma spp Zingiberaceae

Native to both India and China turmeric is also known as Indian saffron. This underground stem or root of the Chinese Curcuma longa is the commercial variety of turmeric plant that is used for dyeing, the coloring matter being curcumin. It is one of the few natural dyes that is used as a direct dye, that is, requiring no mordant to give it a reasonable degree of fastness to the textile. The dried rhizomes, about 1 inch or longer and lk inch in diameter are very hard and have an external...

Case Studies

The case studies below include examples submitted from individual specialists, and examples selected from the literature. Teak conservation project in the Philippines The Philippine Plant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) is undertaking conservation of the Philippine teak (Tectona philippinensis), an endemic and threatened tree species found along highly disturbed forest edges on limestone along the seashores of Batangas and in Iling Island, Mindoro. This tree...

Vanilla Vanilla fragrans Orchidaceae

Natural vanilla comes from fermented and dried fruits of an orchid. The principal source is Vanilla fragrans, from tropical Mexico and Central America, but V. pompona West Indian vanilla and V. tahitensis Tahitian vanilla are grown in small quantities, despite their inferior quality. Hand Pollination of Vanilla, Mexico. Copyright Edward Parker, used with permission. Bemal D az, accompanying Cort s on his conquest of Mexico in 1520, described the drink choc-olatl of the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma,...

Cotoneaster Cotoneaster Rosaceae

There are over two hundred species of Cotoneaster in Europe and Asia east to China. Several European species have been cultivated since the 16th century for their flowers, berries, and, in some cases, foliage that turns purplish-red in autumn. The influx of species from eastern Asia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries greatly enriched the range available, and also resulted in the raising of some fine hybrids. Notable among these are C. frigidus, and C. henryanus, C. salicifolius, and C....

Grapes in wine Vitis vinifera Vitaceae

Grapes are woody vines cultivated for their fruit, which is eaten fresh, dried, or drunk as a juice or fermented. By definition, wine is any fermented fruit juice however, in practice, the term wine is overwhelmingly used for the fermented juice of grapes. The simple act of collecting ripe grapes and merely bruising or crushing them can cause fermentation to occur due to the naturally occurring yeast on the fruit skin. Although some scientists think it is possible that man began making wine as...

Red stinkwood Prunus africana Rosaceae

The bark of Prunus africana is obtained from a tree that grows in the high at elevations of 1000-2500 m mountain forests of Africa and Madagascar . It has been developed into a phy-tomedicine and used to treat benign prostate enlargement, with good clinical evidence pointing to the extract's efficacy. Within Africa, different decoctions of the plant are used to treat various conditions, including fevers, urinary tract infections, and inflammation bark tea , and to prepare wound dressings leaves...

Cacao Cocoa Chocolate Theobroma cacao Sterculiaceae

Cacao Ssp Sphaerocarpum

Theobroma cacao, one of 22 species, has been cultivated since antiquity and has complex subspecific relationships. Several subspecies have been recognized, with a great number of cultivars developed from them. The two main subspecies are Criollo, T. cacao ssp. cacao f. cacao, and Amazon Forastero, T. cacao ssp. sphaerocarpum. A hybrid Criollo x Amazon Forastero is called Trinitario. The Criollo Cacao seeds drying in Chachi canoe, Ecuador. Photo by Hans Beck. subspecies is further divided with...

Sorghum Sorghum bicolor

Sorghum is an ancient staple food plant in Africa and Asia, and a relatively recent introduction to the Americas, where it is used as animal feed and for industrial purposes. Sorghum's wild ancestor is S. verticilliflorum, a wild grass that grows throughout tropical Africa. The earliest archaeobotanical records of domesticated sorghum in Africa are from Sudan and Cameroon, dating to 100 to 500 ad. However, finds from India that show sorghum had reached south Asia by 2000 bc indicate that...

Dill Anethum graveolens Apiaceae

Dill is native to the Mediterranean countries and southern Russia and is now cultivated widely in Europe, India, and North America. Dill has been used since classical times in herbalism to aid digestion. The leaves and seeds have a similar flavor, reminiscent of caraway, though the seed Dill Anethum graveolens .USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated flora of the northern states and Canada. Vol. 2, p. 634. has a more pronounced flavor. Its principal culinary use...

Sawa millet Echinochloa frumentacea

This millet is widely grown as a cereal in India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Its wild ancestor is the tropical grass E. colona, but the exact date or region of domestication is uncertain. It is cultivated on marginal lands where rice and other crops will not grow well. The grains are cooked in water, like rice, or boiled with milk and sugar. Sometimes it is fermented to make beer. The closely related Japanese barnyard millet Echinochloa esculenta is cultivated on a small scale in Japan, China, and...

Tobacco Nicotiana spp Solanaceae

With the exception of Australia which has its own indigenous Nicotiana that was chewed by Aborigines , the world ultimately owes its supplies of tobacco to the Americas. The cultural history of tobacco use begins in the remote prehistory of South America. According to current understanding, the lowlands of Patagonia, the Pampas, and Gran Chaco are the probable home of the tobacco plant. The early history of tobacco in South America is obscure, as few, if any, definite archaeological finds have...

White willow Salix alba and Salix spp Salicaceae

The genus Salix includes numerous trees and shrubs common in alpine ecosystems and along the margins of streams. The white willow, Salix alba, is a tree that commonly grows in areas periodically flooded along streams and lakes. Willow bark known to pharmacists as Salicis cortex is a European phytomedicine with a long tradition of use for treatment of chronic pain, rheumatoid diseases, fever, and headache, and one of its main compounds, salicine, served as a lead substance for aspirin...

Wormwort Epazote Chenopodium ambrosioides Chenopodiaceae

The wormwort or wormseed is also known under its alternative Latin name, Teloxys ambrosioides, or its Aztec name, epazotl modern mexican Spanish epazote . It is another species with a long tradition of uses. Fascinatingly, it is used both as a spice for a variety of dishes, especially ones with Mexican black beans frijoles , and as a medicine for gastrointestinal parasites. The name seems to be derived from the Nahua term for skunk, epatl, and relates to the rather unpleasant smell of the plant...

Wild fennel Foeniculum vulgare subsp piperitum Apiaceae

Although today the cultivated edible form of fennel characterized by its broad white, sweet leaf stalks and bulb is widely grown, collecting wild fennel to eat is an important activity in many Mediterranean areas. Young shoots of wild fennel are the main ingredient of the well-known Sicilian dish pasta con le sarde noodles with fresh sardines , and fennel seeds are collected during the fall and used to flavor homemade sausages. See Herbs and Vegetables, p. 103 Plants as Medicines, p. 214...

Thaumatin Thaumatococcus daniellii Marantaceae

The thaumatins are a class of intensely sweet proteins 1,600 times as sweet as sucrose isolated from the aril of the fruit of the tropical west African species Thaumatococcus daniellii. Thaumatin is approved for use in many countries, and it serves both as a flavor enhancer and a high-intensity sweetener. The supply of naturally occurring thaumatin is limited, which has prompted extensive research into its synthesis via transgenic organisms. The gene encoding thaumatin has been introduced into...

Wheat Triticum spp

Cultivated Einkorn Spike

Wheat is by far the most important food grain of temperate regions. Its role in human subsistence is matched by the deep significance of wheat in religion and daily life. Wheat, in the form of bread, is central to Jewish and Christian rites. Although barley was domesticated at the same time, has higher yields, and was the most important cereal in antiquity, wheat has always been more highly valued, probably because of its better taste and more versatile culinary properties. Papago winnowing...

Pearl millet Pennisetum glaucum

The wild ancestor of cultivated pearl millet, P. violaceum, is harvested as a wild cereal during times of scarcity. Archaeological evidence suggests that it was harvested as a wild cereal before the advent of agriculture in tropical west Africa some 3000 to 4000 years ago. Genetic evidence points to west Africa as the most likely region of domestication the earliest archaeobotanical finds are in Mauritania and Nigeria, dating to about 1000 bc. Sporadic records of pearl millet occur at Indian...

References and Further Reading

Agroecology The Science of Sustainable Agriculture 2nd ed. . Boulder, CO Westview Press. Bailey, C.H., and Hough, L.F. 1975. Apricots. In Advances in Fruit Breeding, edited by J. Janick and J.N. Moore. West Lafayette, IN Purdue University Press, 367-383. Bates, D.M., and Robinson, R.W. 1995. Cucumbers, melons and water-melons, Cucumis and Citrullus Cucurbitaceae . In Evolution of Crop Plants, edited by J. Smartt and N.W. Simmonds. London Longman, 89-96. Beech, M. and E....

Asia

Notes on the products of western Afghanistan and of north-eastern Persia. Transactions of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh 18, 1-228. Ertug, F. 2000. An ethnobotanical study in Central Anatolia Turkey . Economic Botany 54, 155-182. Johnson, N., and Grivetti, L.E. 2002. Environmental change in Northern Thailand impact on wild edible plant availability. Ecology of Food and Nutrition 41, 373-399. Johnson, N., and Grivetti, L.E. 2002. Gathering practices of Karen women...

Bitter leaves Vernonia amygdalina and V cinerea Asteraceae

In central Africa the leaves are often used as a vegetable, although they must be washed prior to eating to get rid of their very bitter taste. They are claimed to stimulate the digestive system and to reduce fever. The leaves are also used as a topical medicine against bilharzia-transmitting leeches, and are also used instead of hops to make beer in Nigeria. Chimpanzees chew on the pith from young shoots if they have been attacked by parasites. Meat dishes prepared with the bitter leaves are...