Botanical Ontologies: A Cross-Disciplinary Forum on Human-Plant Relationships

May 16-17 2014, Oxford, UK

Abstracts & Author Bios



Iwa Kołodziejska-Degórska (University of Warsaw): The role of magazines and books in the creation of local ethnobotanical knowledge of villagers in central Ukraine

In TEK research the knowledge coming from media is often treated as a contamination – something that should be excluded from the research results as not being “traditional”. Such an attitude does not go in line with understanding knowledge making as a process. That is why I argue that (especially in European context) the way written sources of knowledge influence the construction of local plants knowledge is very important and informative for the understanding of plant-human relationships. To grasp the process of plant knowledge making in Central Ukraine it is crucial to unravel how the information derived from a book or magazine is turned into practice – an everyday relation with plants. And to understand the way it becomes an innovation in the local context, gains popularity and may become a part of shared cultural knowledge. Due to the state withdrawal the plant knowledge, especially on medicinal plants, is significant for everyday well-being. As self-medication is the first and very important curing strategy, such knowledge also gives the feeling of agency. I analyse the magazines and books read by Ukrainian villagers and compare them with declarative knowledge and practices of the readers, collected via ethnographic research (participant observation, unstructured interviews, villagers’ plant collections surveys, filming). By doing so I aim to answer the following questions: How is the knowledge from written sources incorporated into practice? Which elements of the written information are chosen by readers for experimenting with? What are the factors influencing the choice of a particular plant species? How is the knowledge gained in such a way shared afterwards among the community members?

Keywords: LEK, written sources, knowledge making, Ukraine

Author bio: Iwona Kołodziejska-Degórska is a biologist and cultural anthropologist, PhD student at Faculty of “Artes Liberales” at University of Warsaw. She is fascinated by diversity and complexity of relationships both social and ecological. She has conducted research in Romania, Ukraine, Poland and Russia. Recent research project “The Local Plant Knowledge and Nature Narratives in The Context of State Discourses in East Podolia (Ukraine)” financed by National Science Center is a part of her PhD project on ethnobotanical knowledge making and transmission. She works at the University of Warsaw Botanic Garden. She is engaged in various educational projects popularizing anthropology and ethnobiology.

Natalia Magnani (University of Cambridge):  Skolt Sami Herbal Medicine and Perception of Environment: Transitions in Availability and Value of Medicinal Plants

In this paper I examine how research on individual perception of environmental change may inform inquiries into transitions in herbal medical practices among the Sami. Specifically, I will evaluate how communities have reconciled the role of climate and environmental change in botanical transitions. Herbal medicine is inextricably linked with the environment, which provides resources for local pharmacopeia. However, what happens when the phenomena of climate change and other environmental disturbances alter the abundance and distribution of vegetation? In northern Norway, Finland, and Russia, how do the Sami perceive these environmental shifts and their role in changing the relationships of people to plants? Scientific surveying in Sami areas of northern Norway and Finland shows significant vegetation change, including those plants used by the Sami for healing purposes. However, it remains to be examined whether these changes in plant distribution and abundance have registered in the oral histories of the community. During upcoming fieldwork I will examine Skolt Sami settlements that have experienced changes in the abundance and distribution of Arctic vegetation, including medicinal plants. I will explore the role of perception of environmental influence, investigating what oral histories reveal about transitions in Sami herbal medicine, and how changes in the environment have entered into peoples’ experiences with local vegetation and its use.How have differences in medicinal plant availability across man-made environmental alterations and natural geographic features affected the value of relevant medicinal plants? Changes in medicinal plant distribution and abundance may affect the importance assigned to particular species. Building a background for these inquiries, I am presenting a review of current literature on the relations between people, environmental change, and geographic landscape, showing how these studies may be extended to examine ethnobotanical transformations. Research into Skolt Sami herbal practice and local vegetation change will inform discussions of environmental shifts and their manifestation in concepts and practices of herbal medicine.

Keywords: ethnobotany, Sami, environment, transitions

Author bio: Natalia Magnani is pursuing a PhD in Polar Studies at the University of Cambridge. As a Gates Cambridge scholar, her research examines Skolt Sami ethnobotany in Arctic Norway, Finland, and Russia, focusing on medicinal plants in the context of a changing environment. During upcoming fieldwork, she will work on a collaborative oral history project with the local community and museum in order to explore relationships between people and plants.

Dr. Elena Bulakh (SOCIUS-ISEG Lisbon University): On Cognitive Principles In Plant Naming

Over the last decades, cognitive poetics has been recognized as an area within stylistics which applies the insights from cognitive linguistics to the analysis of texts. This paper is devoted to the area of linguo-botanical poetics that studies popular plant names at different levels of abstraction (from the folk botany to the literary text) considering their nominative and motivational potential. As the works in linguistic theory show, plant nominations are regarded from the two points of view: as the product of scientific nomination and as the result of cognitive naming. In the first case, we speak about a scientific systematization of natural phenomena – plant taxonomy by Carl Linnaeus, which was created to solve logical and objective problems of systematization. In the second case, we regard popular plant nominations, regulated by the principles of cognition. Popular botanical nomenclatures registered in the Russian and English languages have unique formation mechanisms and illustrate anthropocentric choices in creating linguistic world images. In a verbal form they record human practical experience in interaction with the world of flora. Evaluative attitude serves as the motivation basis of folk plant names. Such attitude is deeply rooted in popular archetypical structures and is actualized in the process of nomination. Popular plant structure points directly to the basic motivation, which can be pragmatic, parametrical or evaluative and expresses aesthetical or emotional response in plant-human relationship. This paper will attempt to throw light on the main features of biological, cognitive, emotional and socio-cultural aspects of linguo-botanical poetics, analysing popular plant image structures on various descriptive levels from popular botany to the higher level of abstraction realized in the literary texts of Russian and English authors.

Keywords: botanical poetics, popular nomenclatures, motivation basis, abstraction levels

Author bio: Elena Bulakh is currently working as a Russian language lecturer at SOCIUS-ISEG Lisbon University. She holds a PhD in Historical and Comparative Linguistics from Pyatigorsk University (Russia, 2001), recognized by Lisbon University (2009). She has been teaching such linguistic courses as Lexicology & Lexicography, Stylistics, Creative Writing, Discourse Analysis, etc. She is the author of a number of books and articles on comparative linguistic aspects. Her interests include: cross-linguistic comparison, cognitive science, stylistic variation, second language acquisition. Ms. Bulakh specializes in the study of popular botanical nomenclatures at various levels of abstraction. Languages researched include English, Russian, French, German, Portuguese.

Viola Bizard (University of Kent): ‘Following the season of others:’ Rattan (Arecaceae: Calamoideae) knowledge and its acquisition amongst Ngaju Dayak in Indonesian Borneo

This paper offers an anthropological account of rattan knowledge and its acquisition amongst Ngaju Dayak rattan farmers in Katingan, Central Kalimantan. Rattan is the generic term for a large and complex group of climbing spiny palms, constituting the world’s most important non-timber (agro)forest product. Yet in face of overexploitation and forest conversion not only (wild) rattan stocks are dwindling, but so is people’s knowledge of the multiple uses of rattan. Following a practice-oriented approach to environmental knowledge and its transmission, the presentation discusses the relationship between people and rattan through an elaboration of folk classifications, the manifold practical uses of rattan in everyday context as well as in local belief and ritual conduct. The underlying assumption is that knowledge involves sensual and performative aspects in addition to conceptual dimensions. While it is shown that learning of rattan knowledge rests on a combination of various factors (observation, imitation, listening etc.) and is sequential and gender-, context-, and phase-dependent, it is argued that rattan knowledge develops through an active engagement with the surrounding world and the cane itself. Environmental knowledge transmission among rattan managers does not rest on passing on a stock of context-free information. But rattan knowledge evolves from the very continuity of practice as individuals “follow the season of others” (umba rayan uluh) – even though year-long phases of non-practice and associated forgetting form part of the dynamic properties of rattan knowledge as well.

Keywords: rattan, environmental knowledge, transmission, Borneo

Author bio: Viola Bizard is a PhD candidate in social anthropology at the School of Anthropology and Conservation at the University of Kent, with particular interest in environmental anthropology. From August 2012 till December 2013, she carried out fieldwork amongst Ngaju Dayak rattan farmers in Central Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo. The research was conducted within the scope of a fellowship at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), allowing Viola to explore the biophysical dimension of local rattan management as well.


Joseph B. Powell (UC-Santa Barbara & Louisiana State University): Actor-networks and collaborative plant breeding in Northwest Portugal: an evaluation of farmer – plant breeder interaction

Collaborative plant breeding (CPB) is a crop enhancement strategy that brings farmers and plant breeders together in the effort to conserve crop genetic resources, improve yield, and increase agricultural sustainability. In CPB, plant breeders spend considerable time on local farms to understand farmer knowledge and skill, existing crop genetic diversity, and the resource limitations on small farms. Among the most important aspects of CPB is understanding the role of local farmers’ “folk varieties,” those crops bred and maintained by farmers for household and local market needs. Although the idea of CPB is appealing, it remains difficult to evaluate the success of such projects. This paper adopts an “actor network theory” (ANT) approach in an ethnographic evaluation of a CPB project in Northwest Portugal. In this case, famers and plant breeders have been working “on-farm” to enhance local folk varieties of maize for flour yield. For centuries, farmers in NW Portugal have selected varieties of white maize for use as flour in the popular household staple maize bread, “broa.” Here, I describe the social implications of this effort in terms of nature-culture hybridity, human and non-human relations, and the emerging novel spaces of collaborative research. I focus particularly on the socio-spatial implications of plant breeding on farms rather than research stations. Key questions are: To what extent does CPB represent a social world-building process? What kinds of socio-natural hybrid entities, and interactive spaces, are produced in this process? Is ANT and ethnography a useful framework for evaluating CPB in general?

Keywords: Actor Network Theory, Collaborative Plant Breeding, Folk Varieties, Socionature

Rodrigo Cámara-Leret, Narel Paniagua-Zambrana, Jens-Christian Svenning, Henrik Balslev, and Manuel J. Macía: Traditional knowledge of medicinal plants in northwest South America is strongly localized

The Nagoya Protocol attempts to regulate benefit-sharing from traditional knowledge of genetic resources. However, a limited understanding of the geography of traditional knowledge restricts the development of fair compensation schemes. To remedy this situation, we investigated the geospatial and cultural distribution of traditional knowledge of medicinal uses of wild and cultivated palms across four Neotropical countries (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia), three ecoregions (Amazon, Andes, Chocó), two cultural groups (Amerindian and non-Amerindian), 52 Amerindian tribes, and 1392 informants. Surprisingly, we found that most traditional knowledge was not shared on any scale. Still, a minor knowledge component was widely shared, even across countries. This high geographic complexity needs consideration when designing property rights protocols, and calls for countrywide compilation efforts as much localized knowledge must remain unrecorded.

Keywords: Biocultural diversity, Convention of Biological Diversity, Indigenous people, Nagoya Protocol

Author bios:

Rodrigo Cámara-Leret, PhD, Department of Biology, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain. I am a tropical botanist who has worked on plant taxonomy (Malesian Melastomataceae) and tropical plant community ecology (Andean rainforests and páramos). During the last years I expanded my research to focus on palm ethnoecology and the biocultural diversity of northwestern South America. I have conducted fieldwork across the Amazon, Andes and Chocó of Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia, with 26 Amerindian tribes, mestizos, and Afro-colombians. My current interests include bridging knowledge systems to improve decision-making for conservation.

Narel Paniagua-Zambrana, PhD student, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Bolivia. I am interested in the study of local knowledge about the ecology and use of plants in the Amazon and Andes of northwestern South America and demographics, ethnobotany and conservation of palms (Arecaceae).

Henrik Balslev, professor, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Denmark. I am a tropical botanist who started out as a taxonomist (Flora of Ecuador, Flora Neotropica) and gradually changed into ethno-ecology and community ecology. I have focused on palms and palm communities in South America and have done extensive fieldwork in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. In Thailand I have been interested in the ethnobotany of the northern hill tribes.

Jens-Christian Svenning, professor, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Denmark. I am an ecologists and biogeographer who started out as a tropical plant community ecologist and gradually expanded my research area to also cover macroecology, biogeography, other biomes and organism groups, as well as geography more generally. Key current research themes including climate change effects on biodiversity and ecosystems, with a focus on disequilibrium dynamics and long-term historical legacies and human-biodiversity relations in the Anthropocene.

Manuel J. Macía, associate professor, Department of Biology, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain. My area of ​​research focuses on the study of patterns of plant diversity in tropical areas, both in terms of plant species and communities. More specifically I am interested in three complementary aspects: (1) Biodiversity and floristics of Neotropical forests of the Amazon and the Andes in northwestern South America (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia); (2) Distribution patterns, dominance and rarity of species and plant communities; (3) Use of plant species (e.g. medicinal, edible) by the local indigenous and mestizo population.

Nora Villamil Buenrostro (University of Oxford), Jonás Aguirre Liguori, and Abril Vázquez de los Reyes (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México): A darn of scientific knowledge to a Botanical Garden ran by a local indigenous community in the Mexican Mixtec

Aiming to enhance local ecotourism we worked with the “Helia Bravo Hollis” Botanical Garden (HBHBG) guides contributing to broaden or update their scientific knowledge of particular species. We sampled those plants they would like to know more scientific facts about and created fact sheets that could later on be used as informative, didactic material for the existing and forthcoming guides. The Botanical Garden is ran by the local mixtec indigenous community from the Mexican Mixtec. This Garden is inside the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve, a bastion of semiarid tropical plants, with one third of the species being exclusively distributed in that region (endemic). Strongly contrasting with its biological richness, the Mixtec area is the poorest region in the country. The biogeographical features that make this area bioculturally diverse, also account for the extreme drought that severely restrains agriculture and ranching, and also compromises public health. Therefore, the HBHGB represents an attempt to increase local incomes via a sustainable activity: ecotourism. As a result of hundreds of years of intertwining with their environment, these communities have a remarkable knowledge of the natural history of plants, and despite all the shortages, the guides are fluent on most species latest taxonomy, medical or industrial uses, aside from their traditional importance. Of the 22 specimens sampled, we identified 11 up to species level, found 6 specimens that could either be hybrids or non-described species, and 5 more that due to the season lacked reproductive structures and were only identified up to family name. Despite the questionable viability of this as a sustainable solution for all nearby communities, HBHGB is still a promising centre for environmental education. It is also a noteworthy example of a community organization that definitely treasures a vast amount of traditional botanical knowledge.

Keywords: Botanical garden, Mexican Mixtec, indigenous, Tehuacán-Cuicatlán

Author bios: This work was done by Nora, Jonás and Abril in 2008 as Biology undergraduates at UNAM Science Faculty in Mexico City. Now they are all graduate students. Nora is a DPhil student in Plant Sciences, University of Oxford and her research focuses on evolutionary ecology of plant insect interactions. She works on pollinators, mutualistic ants and herbivores. Jonás is studying a DPhil in Mexico at UNAM Ecology Institute. He focuses on the molecular evolution and population genetics of corn (Zea mays) and teocintle (Zea perennsis), the plant from which Z. mays was domesticated. After Abril graduated she went off to Barcelona and joined the Universitat Pompeu Fabra where she is doing a Master on science communication.

Theresa Miller (University of Oxford): ‘Living lists’: exploring the materiality of ethnobotanical knowledge in indigenous communities

Documenting the ethno-classification of local flora and fauna is an important aspect of expanding our understanding of indigenous traditional environmental knowledge (TEK). In many of these communities, particularly in lowland South America, environmental knowledge typically forms part of an oral and unwritten tradition. Thus, documenting local ethnobotanical classification in a written form can sometimes prove difficult for the researcher and the indigenous participants, as Western scientific concepts may not easily translate into indigenous ones. At the same time, the indigenous participants may conceptualize the ethnobotanical lists themselves as useful and valuable, and seek out exchanges with the researcher to expand the lists. In this paper, I draw from my fieldwork experience documenting cultivated crop diversity in the Ramkokamekra-Canela indigenous community of Maranhão state, Brazil, to explore the purpose and value of ethnobotanical lists for those indigenous people who participate in list making. I argue that, in the case of the Canela, research participants appeared to value the ethnobotanical lists for their own sake – that is, they valued the paper lists as material objects embedded with sociocultural and environmental meaning. I explore what the materials involved in making the lists mean to the indigenous participants, with a particular focus on the power of the written word for the Canela and other lowland South American communities. Finally, I examine the fluidity and dynamism of ethnobotanical list making, and posit that perhaps these lists should be considered as metaphorically ‘living’ entities that are constantly changing and growing over time.

Keywords: ethnobotanical lists, materiality, indigenous, Northeast Brazil

Author bio: Theresa Miller is a DPhil student in Anthropology whose research focuses on environmental aesthetics and varietal diversity maintenance in the Ramkokamekra-Canela indigenous community in Northeast Brazil. In particular, she is interested in understanding how Canela women and men gardeners value and make meaningful their engagements with cultivated crop species and varieties. Other research interests include material culture studies, native Christianit(ies), food and nutrition, and indigenous experiences with governmental social assistance programmes such as Brazil’s Bolsa Família.


Luci Attala (Exeter University): Conversations over dinner: a phyto-centric exploration of being edible

Recent botanical studies present plants as responsive subjectivities that use a wide range of chemicals to communicate metaorganismically. Ethnographic information makes similar claims. However, despite these cross-disciplinary resonances, scientific papers tend to overlook human animals as recipients of plants’ chemical messages while ethnographic accounts do the contrary. Using an ethno-bio-chemical, morethanhuman and morethanspecies approach, this paper considers these perspectival disparities alongside the becoming-consequences of ingesting plants. Focusing on hallucinations and addiction in particular, this paper positions edibility and ingestion as pivotal in mobilising some plant-human relationships, and illustrates how the co-mingling or molecular entanglements of the digestive encounter initiate enduring corporeal affiliations between the digester and the digested. This model enables edibility to be a historically significant plant-initiated strategy and another method in plants’ diverse chemical communication repertoire that both botanical and ethnographic accounts describe.

Keywords: morethanhuman, morethanspecies, becomings, addiction

Author bio: my research interests coalesce around themes of incorporation, eco-logical bodies and materialities but looks specifically at ingestion as an interactive relational and contextual process that emerges via the assimilation of substances, ideas and knowledges. Taking inspiration from post-humanism, the morethanhuman move and multispecies ethnographies, my work reconsiders social understandings of plant – human interactions within the body as well as other/wider environmental settings.

Felix C. H. Sprang (University of Hamburg): The Voluntary Movement of Plants in Romantic Poetry: Challenging Anthropocentric Conceptions of Plants Then and Now

Metaphors, similes and analogies that shape the sphere of human interaction with plants abound. In my paper I will shed some light on a largely ignored episode in the field of botany that is grounded in extended metaphors and analogies: the description (and discussion) of the movement of plants. While the movement of flowers such as the mimosa or sun flower and of climbers such as the vine or pumpkin provided poets with productive imagery since antiquity, it is in poems and botanical tracts from the late 18th- and early 19th-century that we can discern a renewed interest in the “voluntary” movement of plants. With new inquiries into the ecology, the histology and the “behaviour” of plants, botanists gradually downgraded the movement of these plants using a mechanistic model of stimulus and response. At the same time, poets like Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley and John Clare explored possibilities to animate or anthropomorphise flowers and trees by pointing to their movements. The reciprocal process in which poetry and botany assert their different perspectives on the movement of plants is a fascinating development. I will trace changing conceptions of the movement of plants in botanical treatises by John Hill, Asa Gray and Hugo Mohl, and I will compare them to the depiction of plant movement in poems like, for example, Clare’s “Evening Primrose”. There can be no doubt that contemporary research into the movement of plants (Baluska/Mancuso/Volkmann 2006; Moulia/Fournier 2009) and the relationship between humans and animals (Schaefer/Ruxton 2011) has come a long way from reductionist models. It is my contention, however, that we need to re-visit plant knowledge as construed in Romantic poetry if we wish to conceptualize ‘new’ plant ontologies for the 21st century. And if we wish to address prevailing anthropocentric perspectives we are well-advised to re-read and scrutinize the poetic heritage from the Romantic period.

Keywords: plant movement, poetry, c19 botany, Romanticism

Author bio: Felix C. H. Sprang, currently Visiting Professor at the Humboldt-University in Berlin, studied English, Biology and Philosophy at Frankfurt, Hamburg and at the Warburg Institute, London. His main research interests are: science and literature; early modern culture; aesthetics and symbolic form. His publications include: Londons Fountaine of Arts and Sciences. Bildliche und theatrale Vermittlungsinstanzen naturwissenschaftlichen Denkens im frühneuzeitlichen London (2008); “(Mis)Representations of Darwin’s Origin and Evolutionary Master Narratives in The Sea and The Secret Scripture” in: Reflecting on Darwin: Victorian and Neo-Victorian Responses to Evolutionism. (2013); “ ‘Trite and fruitlesse Rhapsodies’? The rise of a new genre in the light of national identity: vernacular science writing” Anglia (2006).

Fiona Bradshaw (University of Oxford): Not Just Sitting in the Old Gum Tree: exploring the uses of Australian and Oceanian plant resins through chemical analysis

Aboriginal Australians and other indigenous peoples of Oceania have long had an extensive knowledge of their native plants and their usefulness. For example, there are numerous ethnographic records of Aboriginal medicinal uses for plants, utilising all different parts, including leaves, bark, seeds, roots, and exudates such as gums and resins. Some of these plant remedies have proven to produce physical medical results, and many of the active components of such plants have since been incorporated into modern medicine. Plant resins are used by Australian Aborigines, like many cultures throughout the world, for a number of purposes, such as adhesives, waterproofing, and decoration. They made use of a number of the characteristic properties of resin, some of which are now exploited commercially for making varnishes, glues and adhesives, violin rosin, inks, soaps, and so on. My work studies the chemical composition of resins on ethnographic museum artefacts with a view to investigate the way in which resins were used by indigenous communities in different parts of Oceania, in the past 100 years or so. I present some of my research, which focuses on investigating the selection of materials, differences in the use of resin from different species, the alteration and adaption of materials, and the relationship between geography and the type of materials used. Traditional methods of preparation and use of resins indicate a long-standing knowledge of the physical properties of different resins, that different resins can be more suitable to different purposes and that the implementation of heating and tempering can alter the behaviour of the resin to a desired effect. The analysis of such methods has considerable importance from an archaeological perspective and future research has the potential to discover how far back this indigenous plant knowledge stems.

Keywords: resin, Indigenous, plant use, GC-MS

Author bio: Fiona Bradshaw is a Fourth Year DPhil Student at RLAHA, University of Oxford. Current research focuses on exploring the use of plant resins in Australia and Oceania, through a collation of ethnographic records, materials and new chemical analysis data. Species identification, elucidation of biomarkers, and material characterization including possible degradation pathways are all aspects of the analysis. This well-rounded approach to ethnographic materials aims to offer insight for archaeological research. Research interests include natural materials exploitation, organic technologies, relationships between humans and plants and the wider environment, and the application of analytical techniques for archaeology.

Elizabeth Ann Rahman (University of Oxford): Tobacco, a ‘master plant’ and person known and used in indigenous and non-indigenous contexts

Tobacco is a plant that continues to be of widespread use in indigenous contexts in its ‘source’ region: Lowland South America. Linguistic and archaeological evidence suggest that Amazonian societies have a long history of engagement with this plant, which include uses as diverse as pollicises, decoctions, juices, snuffs and pastes as well as smoking cigars. Tobacco is consistently cited as a cooling and hardening substance, as well as the shaman’s proxy to facilitate animist relations with other plants. In these contexts it is often referred to as a ‘master plant’. Many Amerindian societies view tobacco as an important element in maintaining well-being and health, one capable of periodically aiding the growth and development of young persons, as well as being an important quotidian aspect of manhood. This paper reflects on how knowledge about this ubiquitous plant shifts according to time and space, and considers some of the reasons behind the differential ways in which people view tobacco. In particular, the paper underscores the import of the mode of engaging with plants, suggesting that new –mindful- methodologies are needed to apprehend plants in a way that does greater justice to indigenous -and alternative lay knowledge-about maintaining and promoting good health.

Key words: tobacco, animism, mindfulness, health.

Author bio: Dr. Elizabeth Rahman is a social and medical anthropologist based at the University of Oxford. She specializes in Amazonian anthropology, with a particular focus on innovations within the sub-discipline of medical anthropology. Her current work investigates the therapeutic dimensions of bodily practices among the indigenous Brazilian Warekena. Forthcoming publications include a co-edited volume (The Master Plant: Tobacco in Lowland South America) and a book chapter on perinatal caring praxis in north-western Amazonia. Research interests include: animism, mindfulness, health and sickness, plants, perinatal care, infancy and child care.


Coupaye, Ludovic (UCL): ‘Old Pots and New Broths:’ Ontology and Chaine Opératoire. The Example of Long Yam Cultivation among the Ambulas (Abelam) Speakers of Nyamikum (East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea)

“C’est dans les vieux pots qu’on fait les meilleures soupes”, says the French proverb (« The best broths are made in the oldest pots »). The chaîne opératoire, an “old” methodology” is used here to describe Nyamikum people’s yam (Dioscorea alata and D. esculenta) gardening, resulting in a sort of “ethnographic transect” through the multifold network of relationships mobilizing humans and non-humans (land, places, invisible entities, substances, plants, materials, etc.) This presentation discusses how, following what the French ethno-botanist André-George Haudricourt avocated forty years ago, by studying closely material activities, the logics in which these actions are lodged and the elements they recruit, one can outline local ontological dimensions of yams. It confirms what other scholars in Melanesian ethnography have advocated, that is how, by describing people’s actions and motivations, one can make an account of the complex web of relationships which constitutes and ties together, in an ever-dynamic way, their cosmos and the heterogeneous entities that inhabits it, including themselves and others. In the case of the long yams of the Nyamikum Ambulas-speakers (known as the Abelam), the methodology shows that Long Yam ceremonies are the crucial moments when waapi tubers are revealed as images of relations, before being exchanged as valuables, consumed as food and replanted as plants. This revelation suggests that people use the properties and capacities “afforded by” the plants to display what could, perhaps, be conceived as their own form of analysis of social life.

Kay E Lewis Jones (University of Kent & Kew): Banking on Biodiversity and what it means to conserve a wild seed in the anthropocene: perceptions of threat and value in a conservation network

As the environment around us is increasingly understood as threatened by anthropogenic pressures, both the way we think about and our lived experience of this inspire the formation of new communities: networks that not only transcend nations and local environmental interactions, but which also forge novel assemblages of human and non-human interactions. The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP) is the largest ex-situ plant conservation project in the world and brings together partners from over 80 countries in an endeavor to collect and bank seeds from wild, rare and endemic plant species. This research explores how the perception of a vulnerable environment is experienced by those involved in the MSBP’s projects and the desire that this fosters to design and manage interactions with the wild plants that are brought into the project’s collections. By tracing the banking process itself, from the ecologically entangled field, through the laboratory and the metabolic stasis of the bank, and back out into the ‘wild’ again, we are drawn to ask what new relationships does the banking process enable and inspire and what does the category of ‘wild’ nature look like on the other side of this? Relating to themes of nature’s autonomy and how scientific knowledge and the temporal and spatial abstraction of banking affect human control and relationships with natural agency, seed banking raises questions of for whom and with what purpose are plant species ‘saved’? and what innovative and intentional relationships with a new, managed, category of ‘wild’ nature lie ahead of us in the ‘anthropocene’?

Keywords: Conservation, Wild plants, Anthropocene, Agency

Author bio: Kay Lewis-Jones is an Ethnobotany PhD candidate at the University of Kent, UK. Her research draws upon the traditional ethnobotanical focus on the categorisation and development of plant knowledge, whilst introducing elements of Science and Technology Studies and Political Ecology, turning the ethnobotanical lens on to emerging, international, conservation based ‘botanical ontologies’. This summer she will be continuing her research on Kew’s MSBP project in the post-soviet country of Georgia. Kay has a BSc in Social Anthropology from London School of Economics and her PhD is supported by an ESRC studentship grant.

Tyler Phan (UCL): Faults, Phases, and Patterns: Mapping Assemblages in Traditional Indic, Tibetan, and Sino Medicinal Plant Ontologies

Plants are vital to the survival of non-Western traditional medicine. Therapeutically, traditional medical practitioners provide insight on botanical ecologies that encompasses a network of topographies, climate, soil, cohabitation, as well as phenomenological factors like smell, taste, compounds, and character. The human-plant medical relationship relies on feedback from the plants, which embody factors that assist in re-establishing health to a specific ontological body. In this paper, I will briefly map ontological assemblages such as “bile”, “phlegm”, and “wind” found in Indo-Tibetan medical epistemologies along with pattern taxonomies of “heat”, “cold”, “dampness”, “excess”, and “deficiency” found in Chinese medicine. From the onto-medical cartography, I will evaluate botanical affects in therapeutics by assimilating the traditional knowledges of plants and transmit the information in an attempt to sustain, translate, and disseminate traditional medical practices to a Western audience. In this process, I will also integrate surveys in Western manifestations and diasporic practices of the non-Western traditional medicines. Throughout the paper I will reflect on influences such as biomedical pluralism and biopower with controversies such as approaches in clinical trials, biomedical exceptionalism, intellectual property, and the threat of endangering human/non-human communities, all of which influences the perceptions of botanical ontologies. The material provided in the paper is informed by my fieldwork in Bhutan, Vietnam, Nepal, and India as well as my experience as a fifth-generation Vietnamese acupuncturist with almost thirteen-years of training.

Keywords: Ontology, human & non-human agency, medical anthropology, mycorrhiza

Author bio: Tyler Phan is a fifth-generation Vietnamese lineaged acupuncturist who is pursuing a PhD in Anthropology at UCL. He has conducted fieldwork in Bhutan, Vietnam, Nepal, Indian, and the US. His research interests consist of ontology, non-human agency, traditional medical enactments, and medical pluralism as well as Asian Straight Edge counter cultures and dark materialism in Black Metal.

Maria Zurita (Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle): Local time categories: perspectives of plant knowledge

This presentation aims to propose a methodology to preserve plant knowledge, by using the local mechanism of learning about forest interactions. Many studies have shown the positive impact of Amerindian livelihood activities and their acuity to recognized past human activities. Waorani people, in Northwest Amazon, signalized their social history in landscape. Forest is a socialized space in which people learn about ecological dynamics, plants are used in social reproduction, as they are attached to historical events. Doing so, they assemble space and time dimensions: as trees are placed and as trees are attached to the time period of the event. Field research was conducted in two Waorani villages settled on the Nushiño River, where I carried participant observation, collected oral history, geographically registered places with history, afterwards some of these places were ethnobotanically inventoried. The intersection of semantic construction of time, the content of the stories and the geographical position of places, allowed me to construct Waorani time categories. Local time categories enabled to diachronically order historical events and to estimate the distance between an event of management practices, which transform a forest, and the present. This categorization tries to reproduce local time conception, according to the ways of experiencing the succession of events. In this way, we translate the local mechanisms of transmission about plant and landscape knowledge, in western sciences. Local categorization can be used as a school program to validate natural knowledge by the local transmission and reproduction of society.

Keywords: oral history, landscape formation, local management, time category

Author bio: María Gabriela Zurita Benavides is a PhD candidate in ethno-ecology at the Muséum nationale d’Histoire naturelle in Paris. Her thesis in progress, which analyses Waorani landscape management and the link between oral history with resources management practices, will be presented in the fall of 2014. Her research interests focus on the relationship between humans and nature, and its link with on natural resource management and human subsistence strategies. She has completed fieldwork in Mexico, the Ecuadorian Andes and Ecuadorian lowlands.


(In Alphabetical Order)

Jayne Elisabeth Archer, Richard Marggraf Turley, and Howard Thomas (Aberystwyth University): Remembering darnel, a forgotten plant of literary, religious and evolutionary significance

Darnel (Lolium temulentum) is a weed of arable land that has been known, exploited, and sometimes feared, throughout history for the psychotoxic properties of its grains. Darnel is classified as extinct in developed countries with intensive agriculture, such as the UK, and its significance as a food chain contaminant and literary and religious symbol is vanishing from experience and understanding. An enduring metaphor is the biblical parable of wheat and tares (Matt. 13: 24-30; tares is one of the many alternative names for darnel). Because darnel/tares mimics the cereals it infests, the term has been used to denounce subversive religious heterodoxy, but also by self-proclaimed heretics as well as irenic voices calling for tolerance. We tell the story of how the ambiguous name ‘tares’ came to be substituted for darnel at the time of the second Wyclif bible (c. 1395) and the rise of lollardy (a name that some accounts suggest is derived from Lolium). We trace the subsequent literary career of darnel and show how knowledge of its classical, biblical, pharmacological and agronomic histories gives deeper insights into canonical works from Shakespeare (King Lear, 1 Henry VI) to George Eliot (Mill on the Floss). The evolutionary origins and spread of darnel during the expansion of arable agriculture have been recovered by molecular phylogenetic studies. Such approaches have also shown that the psychotoxicity of darnel grains is due to the presence of an endophytic fungus closely related to ergot. It seems clear that historical accounts of ‘dancing madness’ and other symptoms of a contaminated food chain have arisen by entangling the effects of ergot and darnel.

Keywords: Corruption, foodchain, tares, psychotoxic

Author bios:

Jayne Elisabeth Archer was a Lecturer in the Department of English and Creative Writing, Aberystwyth University, between 2005 and 2014. Her research interests are alchemy, science and the pseudo-sciences in early modern literature – especially literature by and for women – and she has published on several aspects of early modern culture and the historiography of alchemy.

Richard Marggraf Turley is Professor of English Literature in the Department of English and Creative Writing, Aberystwyth University, and he is the University’s first Professor of Engagement with the Public Imagination. He is the author of several monographs and articles on Romanticism, including Keats’s Boyish Imagination (Routledge, 2004) and Bright Stars: John Keats, Barry Cornwall and Romantic Literary Culture (Liverpool UP, 2009). He is also the author of a novel set in the Romantic period, The Cunning House (Dingwall: Sandstone, 2015).

Howard Thomas is Emeritus Professor of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University. He has held visiting professorships at universities in Switzerland and the United States. His research interests include genetics, evolution and uses of food plants. He also has a special interest in the cultural significance of scientific research and promotion of links between science and the arts. He has published more than 150 research papers and is co-author of the recent textbook ‘The Molecular Life of Plants’ (Wiley, 2013).

Meadhbh Costigan (University of Zurich): An investigation of the cultural and pharmacological driving forces directing plant selection for incense use

Evidence suggests pharmacological factors are a greater determinant in plant selection for ethnopharmacopoeia compared to cultural factors. However, current concepts consider ritual plants as social constructs that are culture bound. This view has been widely adopted by the ethnopharmacological community, resulting in a general lack of interest in the investigation of ritual plants. This stance is in contrast to early ethnobotanial studies which suggest plants associated with ritual are CNS active, and as such have potential for application in biomedical science. This project will apply quantitative techniques to investigate the phytochemistry and evolutionary relationship of ritual plants. Such analysis should make clear whether chemical or cultural factors are directing plant selection for use in ritual. The identification of strong phylogenetic signals and shared bioactive compounds, would suggest ritual plants are an extension of the medicinal flora. If these patterns do not exist, then this project will have produced quantitative data in support of culture as the greater determinant of ritual flora. In this instance, the project has potential to explore the link between ritual practices and meaning response (placebo effect). The author proposes there is a need to revise the current understanding of ritual plants. Through this study we might gain new insight into the dynamics and efficacy of holistic treatments which span ethnomedicinal and spiritual knowledge systems. The results should be of interest to anthropologists, botanists, and scientists interested in drug discovery.

Keywords: Ritual, plant selection, phytochemistry, phylogenetics

Author Bio: I trained in Botany at Trinity College Dublin, in Ethnobatany at the University of Kent and Kew, in Biopharmaceutical Sciences at the University College Dublin, and I have research experience with the National Museum of Ireland and the University of Montreal. I am interested in how plants influence human behaviour and health. This PhD position is based at the Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zurich. The project supervisor is Dr. Caroline Weckerle, and co-supervisors are, Prof. Florian Schiestl, Prof. Michael Heinrich, and Dr. Anita Ankli. The position is funded by MedPlant, a Marie Curie Actions ITN.

Rachele Ellena (University of Kent): A taste of the nutrition transition in Tyrna

Wild food plants play a central role in the subsistence of traditional societies. Socio-cultural and economic transformations can determine variation in knowledge, consumption and attitudes towards natural resources. A variety of factors, including market integration, changes in occupation, cultural transformation, formal education, forest intensification, age and sex contribute to these changes. The present study aimed at understanding the dynamics of the changing traditional food system in a rural village in the Northeast of India, exploring variation in knowledge, consumption and attitudes toward wild food plants (WFP) across different generations and sex. Free-listing exercises, cultural domain analysis and semi and structured-interviews were used with 47 informants to explore differences and similarities between female and men, across three different. The results indicate that people know and consume a large variety of wild plants: people named 96 different plants belonging to 35 different families. Gender differences were recorded, relating to the number of wild food plants named, the number of medicinal uses known, knowledge of culinary preparations and wild food plants gathering. Differences between generations were observed in the number of medicinal uses named for wild food plants, culinary preparations and wild food plants gathering. Differences between generations were also recorded in relation to the reasons named to like specific wild food plants. The researched population considered wild food plants important particularly for their medicinal and nutritional properties. Along with health benefits of WFPs, taste appreciation was considered the first reason to like and consume specific wild food plants. A high correlation between health and taste was noticed between elders and adults but not among children, who did not valued wild food plants’ taste. In fact, contrary to the other age groups, children tended to favor the ‘food from the market’ over the ‘food from the forest’. Despite the community’s awareness about WFPs health-giving properties, WFPs consumption and knowledge are decreasing, and some of the values associated with their consumption, quickly changing.

Keywords: Traditional food system, nutrition transition, health and well-being, cultural identity

Author bio: I have recently graduated from the MSc in Ethnobotany at the University of Kent with a thesis on the nutritional transition in the Northeast of India and the contribution of the forest to peoples’ diet and health. For my undergraduate project, I investigated the local pharmacopoeia and links between food and medicine in Southern Senegal and among Senegalese migrants in Turin. A part of this research has been published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal. I am interested in applied research on sustainable diets and indigenous food systems and knowledge, food security, food sovereignty and human health and well-being.

Elizabeth Elliott (UCL): A Medical Landscape in Laos

This research seeks to explore and deconstruct concepts of ’embodied communities’ (Hughes-Freeland 2008), ‘traditional knowledge’, and the ‘creation of continuity through ritual’ (Evans 1998), by ‘mapping’ a contemporary ‘medical landscape’ of a lowland village close to a provincial Traditional Medicine Station in rural Laos. In a context of rapid knowledge loss, environmental change and deforestation, it aims to provide an ethnographic account of household, local and Buddhist medicine and health culture, such as ‘being Sabaai’. It shall assist in protection and research of these practices, and examine their relevance to the developing healthcare system, and to the wider social and political landscape, as well as addressing a lack in the current literature on knowledge transmission in Southeast Asia. It will consist of a period of study and research in Vientiane, followed by a year of rural fieldwork, using ethnobotanical surveys and mapping techniques, and village-based participant observation.

Key words: Laos, Traditional Medicine, Ethnobotany, Medical Anthropology

Author bio: Elizabeth Elliott (PhD candidate, UCL) has a background in traditional East and Southeast Asian medicine, and has studied in China, Thailand and Laos; she is also a practitioner. She has previously researched locally produced treatments for malaria and sensory experience in blindness. Her research interests include medical anthropology, ethnobotany, malaria, touch, community healthcare, Buddhism and Southeast Asia.

Laura Green (University of Oxford): Spicing up the Neolithic: Investigating Wider Non-Staple Plant Uses in the Neolithic Near East

The Neolithic period marks a critical development in plant and human interactions, with the emergence of plant cultivation and domestication. Within this framework, archaeobotanical approaches have often focused exclusively on the core developing cultivar species (cereals and pulses) in the Neolithic Near East, while neglecting the trajectories of more diverse small-scale wild plant utilisations in these transforming societies. Modern ethnobotanical studies highlight the persistence of extensive wild plant uses in small agricultural communities, with many sought for medicinal treatments, flavourings and ritual functions. However, the identification of such non-staple plant uses in prehistoric sites is problematic. By examining the range of factors influencing the underrepresentation of small-scale wild plant uses archaeologically, such as preservation, recovery and identification techniques, this study emphasises the many biases of the archaeobotanical record, which limit the narratives of ancient plant use. Recognition of rare contextual examples, where preservation conditions are exceptional, confirms various intentional collections of wild plants alongside crop staples, throughout the Neolithic. By combining these approaches, a number of principles could be established, in order to maximise the recognition of small-scale wild plant uses from other modes of deposition (i.e. crop weeds, dung taxa) in future archaeobotanical projects.

Keywords: Archaeobotany, wild plants, Neolithic Near East, non-staple plant uses

Author bio: Laura Green is a doctoral student in Archaeology, specialising in the analysis of carbonised plant macro-remains in Neolithic western Asia. Her research interests concern the relationships between wild and newly domesticated plant species in the Neolithic period, and the differing plant related practices indicated by distinct modes of stratigraphic deposition. Her current DPhil research focuses on the ecological ‘signatures’ of emerging crop weeds, recognised from well-preserved aceramic and later Neolithic crop storage and processing contexts, and aims to reconstruct the nature and conditions of early cultivation practices using a functional ecological approach.

Julie Hawkins, Marco Kreuzer, Irene Teixidor, and Paul Wennekes (University of Reading): The MedPlant International Training Network: patterns in knowledge of medicinal plants

MedPlant is a Marie Curie Initial Training Network (ITN) supporting a new generation of science researchers in medicinal plant biodiversity. The network will enable young researchers to work collaboratively across disciplines to develop new approaches and technologies for selection and sustainable use of biodiversity resources as well as to explore knowledge concerning the relation between humans and plants. From three different perspectives, we will enquire about patterns in knowledge of medicinal plants. We will address (1) the role of transmission of knowledge about medicinal plants within and between neighboring ethnic groups, (2) DNA barcoding tools for species identification and plant trade patterns for sustainable, legal and safe use of medicinal plants and (3) the reconstruction of a mega-phylogeny of European plants using published and newly generated sequence data in order to identify Evolutionarily Distinct (ED) species. It is the aim of MedPlant to inspire appreciation of the world’s biodiversity and the need to protect it and study it.

Keywords: Knowledge patterns, functional trait evolution, value chain analysis, phylogeny

Author bios:

Dr. Julie Hawkins is an Associate Professor at the University of Reading. Her main fields of study are phylogeny and evolution of flowering plants, exploring the patterns in medicinal plant use. She also works with molecular marker data to determine identity, parentage and provenance of economically important plant species. She is a member of the management team for MedPlant EU ITN.

Marco Kreuzer is a PhD student at the University of Reading. He focused his studies mainly on population genetics, speciation and phylogeography. His further interests are taxonomy, biogeography and cultural anthropology. In his PhD project he studies trade patterns of medicinal plants in Nepal and will contribute in the development of DNA barcoding methods using next-generation sequencing approaches.

Irene Teixidor is a PhD student based in the University of Reading. Although she trained as a marine ecologist, she always had a personal interest in traditional knowledge transmission that she is now developing academically. She is interested in understanding medicinal plant selection patterns and the flow of plant knowledge across cultures as well as understanding traditional perceptions of health according to specific human-environment relationships.

Paul Wennekes is a PhD student at the University of Reading with an interest in biogeography, phylogenetic diversity, functional trait evolution and genomics. He previously worked on crop domestication history, biogeographical theory and transcriptome analysis.

Jason Irving (Kew & University of East London): Medicinal Plant Name Services – A Global Resource for Plant Names

Building on Kew’s existing taxonomic resources the MPNS resource offers access to up-to-date scientific names for medicinal plants, reflecting recent changes in taxonomy and nomenclature. The resource also indexes published scientific synonyms as used in medicinal plant literature, bringing together the range of scientific names used for a species in one place. In addition to scientific names, MPNS is also collecting pharmaceutical, trade and common names, which will enable users from a wide variety of backgrounds to more readily access Kew’s taxonomic information. The MPNS resource will be publicly accessible through a web portal and will also form the basis of a number of consultancy services offered to sustain the project in the long term. The resource is aiming for global coverage, and currently contains 15,000 species and somewhere around 30,000 vernacular names in a wide variety of languages. These common names are often collected from ethnobotanical surveys published in journals, meaning MPNS is becoming involved in dissemination of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). The MPNS resource also contains pharmaceutical names from the official pharmacopoeias of the main herbal medicine systems: Chinese, Ayurvedic, Western, and others. As these non-scientific names are drawn from a variety of different classification systems the MPNS web portal provides a useful tool for comparison between systems, and will enable improved communication between them, on the basis of the species to which they refer in the literature. The MPNS resource will provide a valuable resource for researchers, not only facilitating the use of scientifically accurate names, but also providing a starting point for further research. Plant names are fundamental for classifying and communicating about plants, and provide an interesting area of study in their own right.

Author bio: My interest in botany began when I started working for a foraging business in Kent after completing my degree in Politics at SOAS. The job introduced me to the incredible diversity of the native flora of the UK and the history of their uses. I left after two years to study Herbal Medicine at UEL to explore these uses further. I am now working on a student placement at Kew gardens on the MPNS project, my job involves adding data to the MPNS resource, selecting references, developing the functionality and user interface of the web portal and communicating the work of the project to a wider audience.

Helen Ougham et al. (Aberystwyth University): Enriching online content of a scientific journal using the Plant Ontology

The increasing availability of scientific journals in online format offers new opportunities to enrich the content of articles. Content enrichment can include the provision of additional terms for indexing, definitions of specialised terms, links to relevant content in bioinformatics and other databases, suggestions for further reading and much more. We are developing a process for enriching the content of papers published in New Phytologist, one of the world’s leading plant science journals (impact factor 6.736). A key component of this process is the Plant Ontology (PO;, a botanical ontology that describes plant anatomy and stages in plant development. The PO, which has been developed by international experts in these domains with considerable and ongoing input from the research community, provides a structured controlled vocabulary of defined terms. We describe how we are using the PO to increase the amount of knowledge readers of New Phytologist papers can access, and how this approach can facilitate botanical research and education.

Keywords: content enrichment, New Phytologist, Plant Ontology, text mining

Author bios:

Helen Ougham has a degree in natural sciences/genetics, and a PhD in biochemistry. She has over 30 years’ experience in plant science research, at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research then Aberystwyth University, working particularly on growth and development in grasses and cereals, and on leaf senescence. Her early training in computer programming led her on to work in crop plant bioinformatics and modelling. Since 2010 she has been an independent scientist, affiliated with Aberystwyth University and East Malling Research. She is a Co-Editor, with special responsibility for content enrichment, for the leading plant science journal New Phytologist.

Laurel Cooper has a degree in Agronomy and a Ph.D. in Plant Physiology, from the University of Alberta, Canada. She has about 17 years experience in plant sciences at Oregon State University and the USDA-ARS, in Corvallis, Oregon. Research topics included gene expression analysis, genetic mapping, and marker development in various plants including the economically important grasses: Hordeum vulgare (barley), Lolium spp. (ryegrass), and Zea mays (maize). For the past four years, Laurel has been project coordinator and scientific curator with the Plant Ontology Consortium, working primarily on developing reference ontologies for plant sciences and comparative bioinformatic analyses.

Sarah Lennon is Managing Editor of New Phytologist, a leading international plant science journal, based at Lancaster University. After completing an undergraduate degree in Botany at the University of Glasgow, Sarah trained as a librarian at the University of Strathclyde. She has worked in publishing since 2000, with a focus on academic journal publishing across a number of disciplines. She worked in scientific journal production for Blackwell Publishing before moving to the University of Glasgow to run the Editorial Office of Europe-Asia Studies, an inter-disciplinary humanities and social science journal. She joined the New Phytologist team in January 2013.

Dennis Stevenson received a doctorate in botany from the University of California. He has published over 275 peer reviewed papers, edited 11 books ranging from Horticulture to Paleobotany to Genomics and co-authored a text book: Plant Anatomy: An applied approach. His research has focused on developmental plant anatomy, the biology and evolution of land plants, and most recently applying genomics approaches to phylogenetics. He is a Foreign Member of the Linnean Society of London. He currently is Vice President for Botanical Science at the New York Botanical Garden and serves as the editor of two journals, Botanical Review and Cladistics.

Janna Rose (Grenoble Ecole de Management): The Etiology of Plant Knowledge in Cosmopolitan/Urban US and UK Populaces

Classification schemes and symbolic connotations of plants have been central to ethnobotanical research for decades if not centuries. However, as boundaries blur and plants are transferred from cultures of origin to cities around the world, the importation of plants and their symbolic value reflects complex knowledge streams, disseminations, acquisitions, and changes that are significant if we are to understand botanical ontologies in their socio-cultural and political instantiations. Schiebinger, an historical ethnobotanist, writes about the importance of not only spreading knowledge about plants but also the social processes that destroy or systematically ignore bits of knowledge systems (see Proctor and Schiebinger 2008). In cases of social or political domination, entire systems of plant knowledge can be ignored and eventually destroyed. The UN estimates that over half the world’s population now lives in urban areas, a figure that has serious implications for human-plant interactions. The etiology of plant knowledge in cosmopolitan/urban peoples is of upmost importance considering the political, financial, and social clout of these major populations. Their plant knowledge (or lack thereof) affects the rest of the world. Using examples from popular magazines and movies as sources of prevalent plant knowledge, we can discuss the significance of understanding the general urban public’s perceptions of plants and how these perceptions might influence ethnobotany’s future.

Keywords: Urban Ethnobotany, Globalisation, Knowledge Transfer, Discourse Analysis

Author bio: Janna Rose is an affiliate professor and researcher at Grenoble Ecole de Management where she teaches innovation and science and society interactions. Receiving her PhD in Biological Sciences (Florida International University, 2011) and her MA in Socio-Cultural Anthropology (Tulane University, 2005), Rose situates herself uniquely. Her current focus on urban centers was derived from her ethnobotanical fieldwork in Brazilian and Turkish villages, where rural groups were often pressured to align their interests to larger political or economic forces. She has published in Economic Botany as well as Ethnobiology and Conservation and served as co-editor for the Journal of Ethnobiology.

Hannah Simons (University of York): The String Age? An investigation into spinning, stitching and weaving of plant materials in Palaeolithic France and Spain

While some archaeologists have highlighted the use of plant fibre technologies, such as weaving and basketry in the Palaeolithic, research is still dominated by durable stone and osseous artefacts; a view encouraged by preservational bias and a long standing focus on ‘Man the hunter’. This limited view fails to reflect the true breadth of Palaeolithic ingenuity and helps to perpetuate a public view of Palaeolithic people as primitive. At later prehistoric sites with optimal preservation (e.g. at waterlogged sites) around 95% of all artefacts are organics. In ethnographic contexts plant fibres have varied essential uses, a number of which have now been demonstrated from the Palaeolithic. The majority of such evidence is reported from Upper Palaeolithic Eastern Europe; however plant fibre research is current underrepresented in Western Europe, which has an otherwise rich Upper Palaeolithic record. Scattered fragments of evidence raise unresolved questions about these technologies and their transmission. This poster will describe planned research into Upper Palaeolithic material from Franco-Cantabria which aims to redress this issue. Engraved motifs on Palaeolithic bone, antler and ivory artefacts have been suggested to depict patterns relating to cordage and weaving; in addition durable remains can bear use traces of plant fibre processing. Therefore this project aims to assess: 1. Motifs suggestive of weaving and stitching on osseous objects; 2. Use wear analysis of these decorated pieces, and undecorated osseous objects; 3. Distribution of the different motifs and possible plant fibre processing tools. Data from Franco-Cantabria will evaluate the possibility of skills transmission and group industries at larger communal sites, and assess the significance of plant fibre use. The project will illuminate our understanding of Palaeolithic people’s knowledge of botany, plant properties, technologically complex crafts, symbolism, group and inter-group organisation.

Keywords: Paleolithic, textile, basketry, plant-fibre

Author bio: Hannah Simons is a PhD researcher in The University of York Archaeology Department. Her research focuses on the past use of plant fibres for textiles and basketry; a theme that she explored during her Masters in Experimental Archaeology, employment at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village and research projects at Lejre Research Centre, Denmark. Her PhD research explores this theme in a Palaeolithic context by examining tools, use wear evidence and the representation of weaving in art motifs. She hopes to draw attention to the breadth of Palaeolithic culture beyond stone technology. She also has wider professional interests in museums and education.

Victoria Wyllie de Echeverria (University of Oxford): Pacific crabapple (Malus fusca): Ecological and cultural significance of a keystone species on the west coast of North America

In this poster I will be considering the relationship between Indigenous peoples on the Northwest coast of North America (primarily British Columbia and Alaska) and Pacific crabapple (Malus fusca), a cultural and ecological keystone species, from several perspectives. First I will discuss my previous masters research, examining the ethnobotany and folk taxonomy of crabapples to situate their importance both culturally and ecologically. Crabapples range from southern Alaska to the middle of California, and play key ecological roles in this coastal ecosystem, such as bank stabilization and providing food for numerous animal species. Moreover, they are extremely culturally important, with over 35 Indigenous groups using them for sustenance, technological and medicinal purposes. They are also appear in traditional narratives and stories, landscape management, ceremonial uses and trade relations. However, during that work, several interview participants voiced their concern that changing weather patterns, likely due climatic change, is contributing to the disappearance of crabapples. These observations have led to my DPhil research proposal, which I will discuss in the second part of this presentation. Coastal environments are known to be extremely biologically and culturally diverse, tremendously productive, and particularly sensitive to, and influenced by, climatic change. In my DPhil research I propose to merge Indigenous Knowledge and environmental time series data to examine how coastal people in this region have been perceiving climate change, how these weather patterns are influencing their ability to harvest about crabapples through time and space and how shifting populations of crabapples influence the ecosystem, including non-human animals, from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Overall in this presentation I will explore how using a cultural and ecosystem keystone species as a case study can help us understand the influences of climatic change on peoples’ relationships to their environment, how these plant-people connections change over time and how people can or cannot apply strategies from the past to adapt to probable future coastal environmental changes.

Keywords: Cultural Keystone Species, Ecological Keystone Species, Pacific Northwest of North America, Pacific crabapple (Malus fusca)

Author bio: I received both a B.Sc. and an M.Sc. at the University of Victoria, Canada, focusing in plant ecology, taxonomy and ethnobotany, before moving to the University of Oxford where I am currently undertaking a DPhil. I am greatly interested in how people classify and use their environment, particularly in looking at peoples’ relationships to plants and floristic ecosystems, and how these uses change through time. In my DPhil project I am examining how climate change is being perceived by Indigenous people, and how these changes are affecting cultural and biological diversity in the coastal environment of north-western North America, using a cultural and ecological keystone species, Pacific crabapple (Malus fusca).