This course was last offered in fall 1999!
PEOPLE AND PLANTS:
ECONOMIC BOTANY, ETHNOBOTANY,
AND MEDICAL BOTANY
Integrative Biology 24-6:
Freshman Seminar, University of California, Berkeley
Instructor: Rudolf Schmid, 1098 LSB
Grading: Pass/Not pass
Meeting time: Thursday 9:00-10:00, room 5192 LSB
The literature on "people and plants" is widely scattered amongst several
fields: botany, biology, agriculture, anthropology, history, and medicine.
Plants are directly or indirectly
vital to all forms of animal life, including humans. The study of human
uses of plants has generally gone under the rubric of economic botany.
Topics might include the history and production of coffee, tea, cacao (the
source of cocoa and chocolate), corn, and similar crop plants. The emphasis
here is often from an historical and/or especially agricultural perspective.
The use of plants by indigenous peoples is generally called ethnobotany.
Examples might be the use of pine or cedar by prehistoric and historic
Indians of North America or the use of certain palms in housing by native
Pacific Islanders. Medical botany involves the use of plants in
folk medicine or modern medicine. Two examples that have received much
attention in recent years are taxol derived from the yew tree Taxus brevifolia
and used to treat breast cancer, and Ginkgo biloba derived from the tree
of the same name and used as an apparent memory enhancer. Of course, many
herbs and spices used nowadays for culinary purposes have had medical or
presumed medical applications in earlier times.
The course will involve several lectures and mostly readings and discussions
on topics selected by the participants. Any topic is fair game, as long
as it deals substantially with a plant or with plants. Students will be
required to assign several readings on a topic and to lead an informal
discussion of that topic. Active participation in all the discussions will
be expected of all students.
Sample references (these may or may not be relevant to actual
discussions in this seminar):
Rudolf Schmid has participated in the basic biology course, where he teaches
plant and funal diversity, and offers the spring course "Introduction to
California plant life." He is also the long-time editor of the "Reviews
and notices of publications" column of Taxon: International journal
of plant taxonomy, phylogeny and evolution, the preeminent journal
in the field of plant systematics.
Alexiades, M. N. (ed., assist. by J. W. Sheldon). 1996. Selected
guidelines for ethnobotanical research: A field manual. The New York
Botanical Garden, Bronx (series: Advances in economic botany, vol.
Balick, M. J. & Cox, P. A. 1996. Plants, people, and culture:
The science of ethnobotany. Scientific American Library, New York (Scientific
American library series, no. 60).
Beck, B. M. 1994. Ethnobotany of the California Indians.
Vol. 1. A bibliography and index. Koeltz Scientific Books
USA, Champaign. Strike, S. S. 1994. Idem. Vol. 2. Aboriginal
uses of California's indigenous plants. Ibid.
Dunmire, W. W. & Tierney, G. D. 1997. Wild plants and native
peoples of the Four Corners. Museum of New Mexico Press, Sante
Economic botany: Devoted to past, present, and future uses of plants
by people, volumes 1-53 (1947-1999).
Martin, G. J. 1995. Ethnobotany: A methods manual. Chapman
and Hall, London (series: 'People and plants' conservation manuals,
Moerman, D. E. 1998. Native American ethnobotany. Timber
Neuwinger, H. D. 1996. African ethnobotany: Poisons and drugs:
Chemistry • pharmacology • toxicology. Trans. from the Ger. by A. Porter
& the author. Chapman & Hall, London.
Prance, G. T.; Chadwick, D J. & Marsh, J (ed.). 1994. Ethnobotany
and the search for new drugs. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester
Ciba Foundation symposium, 185).
Rea, A. M. 1997. At the desert's green edge: An ethnobotany of
the Gila River Pima. Linguistic consultant C. Cassa. The University
of Arizona Press, Tucson.
Smith, H. I. 1997. Ethnobotany of the Gitksan Indians of British
Columbia. Ed., annot., and expanded by B. D. Compton, B. Rigsby &
M.-L. Tarpent. Canadian Museum of Civilization, Hull (Mercury series,
unnum.; Canadian Ethnology Service Paper, no. 132).
Return to Course List
Return to Rudi Schmid's Home Page
Last revised: Sept 2002