Native American Ethnobotany.
Native American Ethnobotany is the most important single reference on uses of plants by native group of Canada and the United States. In the introduction, Dr. Moerman explains that the work has been a continuous effort for more than 25 years, beginning with the creation of a database in 1974 to compile ethnobotanical notes he then stored on index cards. The first print work resulting from this database was American Medical Ethnobotany (Garland Publishing, New York, 1977). This publication included 1,288 plant species and their uses among 48 native groups in North America. American Medical Ethnobotany served as the standard guide to the ethnobotanical literature until 1986, when the Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan published an updated version of Moerman's database as the Museum's Technical Report #19: Medicinal Plants of Native America. Published in two volumes, this greatly expanded update covered 2,147 species of plants used by 123 native societies in North Ameri ca. Now we have the third print version of the database -- Native American Ethnobotany. In addition to medicinal uses covered in the previous works, Moerman has added data on plants used for foods, fibers, dyes, ceremonial and magical items, cleaning agents, and a host of additional economic botany categories (186 categories in all). However, medicinal uses still form the bulk of the work, representing more than half of the 44,691 uses enumerated in these pages. Native American uses of 4,029 kinds of plants are included, representing about 25 percent of the vascular plant species found in the United States and Canada. The main body of the book is arranged alphabetically by genus. The genus heading, easily found in large boldface type, is followed by the scientific plant family name. Entries follow under the species (including botanical authority and common name). Under each species entry are subheadings by use, including drug, food, fiber, other, and so forth. Within each subcategory, use by specific indigenous groups is enumerated. Names of indigenous societies treated under the species are set off in bold face type. The specific drug use, again under alphabetical arrangement, is set in italic type, such as dermatological aid, cold remedy, and so forth. A plant part-specific entry of use follows, keyed to the reference number corresponding to its listing in the bibliography, along with the page number in the work. This design feature makes it easy to find the cited entry in the primary reference. The publishers have carefully designed the book to make it exceptionally user friendly. The "Catalog of Plants" represents about two-thirds of the book. Notes and bibliography follow. Next comes an "Index of Tribes" with tribe name followed by use category, and an alphabetical listing of uses and the species involved. An "Index of Usage" follows. The first entry, "abortifacient," lists over 100 genera followed by the tribe that used the genus for that purpose. Finally, an "Index of Common Names" rounds out the presentation. The greatest value of this one-stop shopping source for information on Native American ethnobotany is how quickly and easily it leads one to the primary literature. This is significant, as it is important to understand that Moerman's work is a compilation of data, not a commentary on data (though explanatory comments are found in the 85 notes preceding the bibliography). Reviewing the primary literature is often revealing. For example, many entries on Cherokee medicinal uses in Moerman come from Hamel and Chiltoskey's 1975 Cherokee Plants and Their Uses - A 400 Year History, a small staple bound book of 65 pages, available mostly at Cherokee gift shops in North Carolina and Oklahoma for about $2.00. In their introduction, Hamel and Chiltoskey list 12 works from which their data is compiled. Details on exactly how the plants were used are excluded as are attributions of source. It is important to obtain primary source material to understand many uses of plants in their proper co ntext. It is often left to the reader to search out that context. Anyone interested in the economic botany and ethnobotany of indigenous groups of North America needs to have a copy of this book. It is the standard references on Native American plant uses. Article copyright American Botanical Council. ~~~~~~~~ By Steven Foster">by Daniel E. Moerman. Timber Press, Inc.
Hardcover, 927 pp., ISBN 0-88192-453-9.
Available from ABC Book Catalog #B355. $79.95.p#