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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Students of Ethnobotany: Life is Sweet

600px-Bunter_Teller_(27_Stücke)This sugary edition of Students of Ethnobotany is brought to us by the sweet Bryan Q.

In most parts of the world, sugar, the sweet kick to every meal, has been an important part of the human diet. Apart from making human food palatable, it also provides energy. However, the health risk of diabetes has been an ongoing concern throughout the world. Increasing the consumption of sugar-sweeted foods can cause an increase in blood sugar levels, which can be dangerous to many known and unknown diabetic patients. Can this epidemic be solved with our ongoing desire for tasty candy, yummy ice-cream, and 1000+ flavors of cake?

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Students of Ethnobotany: Breath of the Undead

GarlicThis garlicy edition of Students of Ethnobotany comes to us from the healthy Alison V.

Garlic has been used by humans for centuries, possibly best known in western culture as a deterrent to ward off attention from less than friendly vampires. It is also used extensively in cooking, where many people may be familiar with it. According to no-on but myself, its use in cooking probably arose as a covert way to detect whether the new next door neighbours are going to come suck your blood in your sleep.

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Students of Ethnobotany: Botanical gold

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Figure 1: Saffron crocus. Photographer: Gut Gimritz (Germany) from Wikimedia Commons

This flavorful edition of Students of Ethnobotany comes from the glittering Fiona Thompson.

At between $1,000 and $10,000 USD per kilo, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. Why is it that the stigma of this small flower is worth (one fifth) its weight in gold?

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