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Ethnobotany Definition

From the ancient period man lives closely associated with nature and depended on it for their survival. "Many living groups of people, having diversified ethnic history of rituals and performance, who are more of less isolated form modem world and are closely associated with their ambient vegetation is the emporia of ethno botanical research" (Pal and Jain, 1998). The surrounding environment directly and indirectly influences the human life and culture.

Plants are the part of our environment. People uses plants around them for many proposes like; food, shelter, dyes, cosmetics, clothing, medicine etc. from their surrounding vegetation. They gathered the knowledge from the environment, iched them and pass them through generation to generation with or without y written documents. But many have disappeared due to several reasons. Without proper documentation, these resourceful of information or knowledge may be disappeared for ever.

So a recent branch of Botany, Ethnobotany arise which provide the proper documentation and preservation system of traditional plant use information, accumulated in a community through generation by generation in relation with their culture.

Ethnobotany is a multidisciplinary subject. It incorporates the culture or practice of ancient knowledge that deals with the interaction between peoples and plants. Ethnobotany has its roots in botany, the study of plants. “Each human population classifies plants through their culture, develops attitudes and beliefs and learns the use of plants, while human behavior has a direct impact on plant communities with which they interact; the plants themselves also impose limitations on humans. These mixtures of interactions are the focus of Ethnobotany” (Ford 1978).

In 1895 Dr. John Harshberger first used this term “Ethnobotany” in a lecture at Pennsylvania and defined it as the study of “Plants used by primitive and aboriginal people.” In 1896 He published the term and suggested “Ethnobotany” be a field, which elucidates the “cultural position of the tribes who used the plants for food, shelter or clothing” (Harshberger, 1896) Robbins et al. (1916) first defined this term as a “Study and evaluation of the knowledge of all phases of plant life amongst primitive societies and effect of the vegetal environment upon the life” (Rao and Henry 1996). The founding father of this discipline is Richard Evans Schultes.

Different ethnobotanists define Ethnobotany according to their concept and some are as follows:

“Ethnobotany is the study of the interactions between ‘primitive’ humans and plants.” (Jones 1941)

“Ethnobotany may be defined as the study of plants relationships, which exists between people of a primitive society and their plant environment.” (Schultes 1962).

“The study of the direct relationships between humans and plants” (Ford 1978). He added it as a unit of an ecological study specialization in the interaction of man and the plant world.

“The study of the relationships between people and plants, especially the utilization of plants by people” (Given and Harris 1994).

“All studies (concerning plants) which describe local people’s interaction with the natural environment” (Martin 1995).

“Ethnobotany is the Science of people’s interactions with plants” (Turner 1996).

Ethnobotany may be defined as an anthropocentric approach to botany, and is essentially concernedwith gathering information on plants ad their use” Rao and Henry, 1997).

We may define Ethnobotany as the study of how people of a particular culture and region make of use of indigenous plants.

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