Students of Ethnobotany: Pondering a Project for Ponderosa Pine

This edition of Students of Ethnobotany is brought to you by Randip G., who is  handy with power tools.

Set on using Ponderosa Pine for a project in my Plants and Peoples Biology course at UBC, I had a spectrum of directions to take the assignment in. The assignment involved both the completion of a report on the history and uses of a plant species, and the creation of a product we’d create from the plant ourselves. My desire was to transform the raw material into a modern practical product, but first I looked to the past for inspiration. Oregon_Ponderosa_Pine

Pines were one of the earliest forests to dominate British Columbia’s southern coast, and have had a multitude of uses by First Nations people throughout North America. I hoped to take this plant of historical use and importance, in my own backyard of B.C., and transform it for my own personal, contemporary use.  Some of its historic uses include the use of the pine’s pitch by the Thompson peoples for aching backs, joints and limbs, the use of the wood by the Okanagan peoples for cache poles, and its use in construction and for dugout canoes by several groups in the southern interior of British Columbia.

For my project working with the Ponderosa Pine, I decided to recreate a poster frame that had once donned my hallway wall until one fateful day when it fell and broke. I have experience working with pine wood from my childhood. I worked with my father to create furniture for our family business, so the medium was familiar, and the tools were available. I set out to complete my poster frame over an evening and luckily I didn’t run into any serious complications along the way. The wood was cooperative, and after a few hours of carefully measuring twice and cutting once, a bottle of wood glue, a staple gun, overnight drying, and some finishing touches courtesy of a wad of sandpaper, I was able to construct a poster frame worthy to succeed its store-bought predecessor.


Finished Product (Photo credit Randip G.)

With the ubiquitous use of synthetic materials in modern products, it’s easy to forget about the incredibly useful and readily available materials growing naturally in our environment. With the woodworking experience I have gained over the years, combined with the knowledge I’ve obtained over the course of this research project on Ponderosa Pine, I have developed a deeper appreciation for not only the history and importance of the plant, but the art and precision required to craft an object out of raw wood material.


Flynn S. 1999. Ecosystems at risk in british columbia: Coastal douglas-fir ecosystems. BC Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks.Queens Printer, BC.

Moerman DE. 1998. Native american ethnobotany. Portland, Or: Timber Press. p. 410-412.

Turner NJ and Royal British Columbia Museum. 1992. Plants in british columbia indian technology. Victoria: Royal British Columbia Museum. p. 107-110.

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