An ethnobotanical survey of the Agter-Hantam, Northern Cape Province, South Africa

J. J.J. De Beer, B. E. Van Wyk

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80 Citations (Scopus)


The use of a rapid appraisal methodology, followed by a new approach that we refer to as the Matrix Method, has revealed a wealth of traditional knowledge on useful plants amongst people of Khoi-San decent in the Agter-Hantam, Calvinia district, Northern Cape Province of South Africa. The data include 14 new species records of useful plants; 20 new vernacular names and 99 new uses for 46 of the plant species, showing that Khoi-San ethnobotany is still incompletely recorded and that there is an urgent need to document this wealth of traditional knowledge before it is lost forever. This article also introduces two new terms - the Ethnobotanical Knowledge Index (EKI), a quantitative measure of a person's knowledge of local plant use (value between 0 and 1), and the Species Popularity Index (SPI), a quantitative measure of the importance or popularity of each species (value between 0 and 1). In the Agter-Hantam, the EKI varied from 0.20 to 0.93 in older people but even young children had EKI values of 0.27. The best known and most popular indigenous useful plants in the Agter-Hantam are Aloe microstigma (a new species record, with a SPI of 0.97), Hoodia gordonii (SPI = 0.94), Microloma sagittatum (0.94), Sutherlandia frutescens (0.92), Quaqua incarnata (0.92) and Galenia africana (0.85). The new quantitative method will allow for direct comparisons of the preservation of traditional plant knowledge and the importance of various plants species in different communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)741-754
Number of pages14
JournalSouth African Journal of Botany
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011


  • Hantam
  • Indigenous knowledge
  • Khoi-San
  • Medicinal plants
  • Methodology
  • Plant uses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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