Students of Ethnobotany: Mr. Potato-head’s beautiful but deadly cousin

503px-Brugmansia_versicolor_1

Angel’s Trumpet. Image from Wikimedia Commons by berichard.

This ultimate edition of Students of Ethnobotany comes from Carina I., and teaches us that you can’t necessarily trust a plant just because it’s beautiful and comes from a good family.

Imagine this… you see a nice looking flower in a nearby garden, you take a whiff and BAM! Free will and the ability to reason are knocked right out of you! Sounds like a tale out of a science fiction story, doesn’t it?

Continue reading

Students of Ethnobotany: Diviner’s Sage

398px-Salvia_divinorum_-1

Salvia divinorum. Image from Wikipedia by Eric Hunt.

This divine edition of Students of Ethnobotany comes from the sage Riel Eden.

If you are a member of today’s younger generation, you probably have heard of Diviner’s Sage, more commonly known as Salvia divinorum. Although this plant is usually just referred to as Salvia, Salvia is the name of the entire genus of plants. The specific hallucinogenic plant is Salvia divinorum. I was interested in this plant because of the hype I heard around it when I was growing up. The common tag lines being ‘a plant related to marijuana, that is also legal’ or ‘an LSD that is legal.’ I wanted to investigate this plant and see if all those phrases were true.

Continue reading

Students of Ethnobotany: Bittersweet Digestive Health

20131115_201135

Digestive bitters. Image by Laura E.

This easily digestible edition of Students of Ethnobotany is brought to us by Laura E.

When I was a kid, I really hated licorice.  The taste just put me right off; I wouldn’t go near anything that resembled the sweet, bitter flavour.  Lately, however, it is helping me to heal in a powerful way.

Continue reading

Students of Ethnobotany: There’s more to ginkgo than you think

This edition of Students of Ethnobotany, by G. Loi, looks more deeply into the medicinal uses of our smelly friend, the ginkgo.

ginkgo

The ginkgo plant at the University of British Columbia. Picture taken in October 2013. Photo by G. Loi.

Which tree has no living relatives? Which tree was still standing after the Hiroshima atomic bomb in 1945? Which tree has awful smelling seeds that can enhance memory? The Ginkgo biloba, a plant native to China. My first experience with the ginkgo plant was when I was shelling the white seeds and picking out the fruit to make congee for my mother when she was sick. The slightly bitter and bland taste did not make much of an impression for me. It was not until much later, that I realized how the history and the uses of the ginkgo were so diverse and curious.

Continue reading

Students of Ethnobotany: Beware the ‘magic’ fruit

7e02e32f-7206-4792-b38a-1b41af318e261

Do you buy this? Image created by someone else, but we’d rather not link to them…

This skeptical edition of Students of Ethnobotany comes to from the clear-eyed Sydney Beatty-Mills.

Procrastination tends to get sweeter as the days go by while studying for my final exams. Often times, this procrastination will involve perusing the web for the most frivolous and non-academic entertainment I can find; anywhere from Facebook to searching for fun things to do once exams are over. While perusing through fun Christmas recipes and how to knit cute socks online I have lately been bombarded with advertisements for a ‘miracle’ weight loss supplement that goes by the name “Garcinia Cambogia”.These sorts of promises come a dime a dozen but I thought I would humour my botanical curiosity and click on the link which presented a svelte women’s abdomen next to an odd looking squash-like green fruit with an off-white fleshy interior.

Continue reading

Students of Ethnobotany: Seasoned Greetings – Powers of Cinnamon

800px-Cinnamon-other

Photo from Wikimedia Commons by photo8.

Spice up your holidays with this warming Students of Ethnobotany post by Shannon Keefe.

Have you ever noticed the amount of memories people have about the holidays that are related to spices? For example, how the smell of scented candles, gingerbread houses, cinnamon cookies, or spiced baked apple crisp are related to recollection of the holidays. In addition, as much as we look forward to the holidays, many of us fear enjoying it too much, by overeating and therefore negatively affecting our health. All of these things are directly related to spices and how they are used in the holiday season.

Continue reading

Students of Ethnobotany: Heart of the Chontaduro

Chontaduro_(Bactris_gasipaes)_at_Cali

The noble Chontaduro. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

This installment of the second round of Students of Ethnobotany gets to the heart of the peach palm, thanks to Marizulu.

Picture this: A man climbs avidly up a bare palm trunk strapped to a triangular wooden formation.  He skilfully avoids the spines that threaten to injure him 20 meters above the ground and cautiously stretches to the neighbouring plant to reach the chontaduro raceme. (See this in the video below or here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yyr3q0qFzU at the 3 min mark.)

Continue reading

Students of Ethnobotany: A plant too shy to touch

449px-Mimosa_pudica_001

Mimosa pudica plant. Photo from Wikimedia Commons by H. Zell.

Round 2 of Students of Ethnobotany continues with this post, which is no shy wallflower, by Michael Bo Zhang.

I do not know about you but when it comes to plants I tend to think of them as immobile living organisms. They cannot move parts of their bodies or move around like most animals can. That is, I held that thought until I came across a little shrub called the shy plant, shame plant, or sensitive plant.

Continue reading

Students of Ethnobotany: Himalayan blackberry, my favorite invasive plant

blackberries

Foraged blackberries. Photo by Amy J.

This new series of Students of Ethnobotany: Round 2 starts off with a bang and a paradox – a plant that is both wonderfully useful and terribly invasive – thanks to the keen observations of human nature by Amy J.

When I first moved to Vancouver, I was thrilled to discover that blackberries grow wild along the sides of roads and on the edges of forests here.

Continue reading

Students of Ethnobotany: Round 2!

800px-W-classroom

Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Canadian2006.

Students of Ethnobotany has returned, with a fresh batch of writers to wax scientific and poetic about the curiosities of the ethnobotanical world. Once again, students from UBC’s BIOL 343 Plants and People course (taught by Dr. Michael Hawkes, and TA’d by myself), have written their own blog posts about ethnobotanically interesting plants. Some of them are even invasive! I will upload these over the next few weeks. Standard disclaimer: Opinions expressed belong to the student. I haven’t rigorously fact checked every detail in every post, so certainly, if you have new or better information on a topic, please share with us!