Students of Ethnobotany: Beware the ‘magic’ fruit

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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.

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Students of Ethnobotany: Seasoned Greetings – Powers of Cinnamon

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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.

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Students of Ethnobotany: Heart of the Chontaduro

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The noble Chontaduro. Photo by http://www.cropsofthefuture.org 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.)

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Students of Ethnobotany: A plant too shy to touch

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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.

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Students of Ethnobotany: Himalayan blackberry, my favorite invasive plant

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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.

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Students of Ethnobotany: Round 2!

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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!

Students of Ethnobotany: The Mystery of the Killer Bean

physostigma_venenosum_gb5100(2)This killer, and ultimate, edition of Students of Ethnobotany comes from the mysterious E. Green.

One of the draws of botanical research, in my opinion, is the chance that you will discover something extraordinary, some intricate mechanism, adaptation, or chemical that has implications able to expand the scope of human knowledge.  However, there are times when less information can be more exciting than a thorough chemical or physiological analysis.  These are the instances where investigation into the mystery surrounding a plant actually reveals more about humans than the plant in question.

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