A review of ethnobotanical research in Southern Africa

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59 Citations (Scopus)


The diversity of plant species in southern Africa is matched by an equally rich cultural diversity, but traditional uses of plants have not yet been systematically recorded. Available information is fragmentary and widely dispersed in many different journals and books. A survey by Liengme (1983a) has shown several gaps in the scientific literature and some progress has been made towards a more complete record of indigenous plant use in the region. Information on some ethnic groups, such as the Khoi, Ndebele and Swazi, as well as the interaction between plants and people, folk taxonomies, plant-related mythology, ethnoveterinary medicine and pre-colonial plant use are some of the aspects that still remain poorly recorded. In contrast, ethnopharmacology - particularly the testing of biological activity of crude extracts and isolated compounds - has received considerable attention in recent years. The aim of these studies is usually to validate traditional uses rather than to provide information for product development. A review of the literature on various categories of plant use, including recent publications and some hitherto unpublished research, is presented. Ethnobotany remains an underdeveloped discipline in southern Africa and there is an urgent need to systematically document indigenous knowledge on traditional plant use before it becomes irretrievably lost to future generations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalSouth African Journal of Botany
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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