Ethnobotany is the study of the use of plants by people, and can draw on many sources ranging from anthropological or ethnobotanical studies of current plant use by existing peoples, through documentary and historical sources (travellers' tales, writings of the Classical authors, Mediaeval Herbals, etc.), to present-day cookery or woodworking books, to give a few examples. Ethnobotany is a burgeoning field, as evidenced by the vast number of general handbooks on the subject which have appeared recently, though much interest is focused on such commercially-viable fields as ethnopharmacology (or medicinal plant use, or on 'fundable' topics such as studies of biodiversity.
Along with an increasing awareness of the value of what is often rapidly-disappearing indigenous or traditional knowledge of the uses of plants, there is an increasing awareness of the need by those who wish to obtain ethnobotanical data from cultures other than their own to take account of 'indigenous property rights' (IPR), and to respect the 'ownership' of such cultural or traditional knowledge.
However, ethnobotany is not just the study of 'other' cultures' use of plants, it includes our 'own' cultural traditions.
SOME FICTIONAL SMALLTALK
Toby: We're using up the earth, it's almost gone. Vandana: Staying Alive! Robert : See Nature as a process. We are working with a living ecosystem. Richard: The superweed is a favourite vilain in science fiction. The seed of some alien plant-form reach earth, germinate in hours and quickly blanket the planet. Or worse, IT hybridise with humans. A GM crop passes on its herbicide and disease resistant-genes to wild oats and creates the ultimate botanical demon, which perfectly and ironically fulfils the anthropocentric definition of a weed: a rampant plant generated by human activity.
|urtica dioica||stinging nettle||soup, puree|
|allium ursinum||wild garlic||salads||salad, soup, sauce|
plants and herbs: http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/recipe.html