Ethnobotany: Introductory Reading List

Further suggestions are welcome, particularly for outstanding regional monographs.


Anderson, E. S. (1967). Plants, man, and life. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 251p. Readable, still vigorous polemic on the importance of ethnobotany

Balick, M. J. & P. A. Cox (1996). Plants, people, and culture : the science of ethnobotany. Scientific American Library series 60. Scientific American Library, New York, 228p. Well illustrated and wide-ranging survey of the subject

Lewington, A. (1990). Plants for people. Natural History Museum Publications, London, 232p. Good introduction to uses of plants

Minnis, P. E. (2000). Ethnobotany: a reader. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK, 327p.

Simpson, B.B. & Conner-Ogorzaly, M. (2000). Economic botany: plants in our world. McGraw-Hill Higher Education.


Alexiades, M. N. & J. W. Sheldon (1996). Selected guidelines for ethnobotanical research : a field manual. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, N.Y., 306p.

Cotton, C. M. (1996). Ethnobotany : principles and applications. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester ; New York, 424p.

Cunningham, A. B. (2001). Applied ethnobotany : people, wild plant use and conservation. Earthscan, London, 300p.

Martin, G. J. (1995). Ethnobotany : a methods manual. Chapman & Hall, London ; New York, 268p.

Medicinal Plants

Joyce, C. (1994). Earthly goods : medicine-hunting in the rainforest. Little Brown, Boston, 304p.

Plotkin, M. J. (1993). Tales of a shaman's apprentice : an ethnobotanist searches for new medicines in the Amazon rain forest. Viking, New York, 318p.

Agriculture and Food Plants

Brush, S. B. (1999). Genes in the field : on-farm conservation of crop diversity. International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome, 288p.

Davidson, A. (1999). The Oxford companion to food. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 892p.

Harlan, J. R. (1995). The living fields: our agricultural heritage. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,

Heiser, C. B. (1990). Seed to civilization : the story of food. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 228p.

Smith, B. D. (1998). The emergence of agriculture. Paperback edition. Scientific American Library, New York, NY,

Vaughan, J. G. & C. A. Geissler (1997). The new Oxford book of food plants. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 239p.

Regional: some classic monographs


Hatfield, G. (1999) Memory, wisdom and healing: the history of domestic plant medicine. Sutton Publishing, Stroud, 209p.

Mabey, R. (1996). Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London, 480p.

North America

Felger, R. S. & M. B. Moser (1985). People of the desert and sea : ethnobotany of the Seri Indians. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Ariz., 435p.

Gibbons, E. (1987). Stalking the wild asparagus. Alan C. Hood.

Nabhan, G. P. (1985). Gathering the desert. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Ariz., 209p.

South America

Balée, W. L. (1994). Footprints of the forest : Ka'apor ethnobotany-- the historical ecology of plant utilization by an Amazonian people. Columbia University Press, New York, 396p.

Schultes, R. E. & R. F. Raffauf (1990). The healing forest : medicinal and toxic plants of the northwest Amazonia. Dioscorides Press, Portland, Or., 484p.

Schultes, R. E. & A. Hofmann (1992). Plants of the gods : their sacred, healing, and hallucinogenic powers. Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vt., 192p.

Southeast Asia

Anderson, E. F. (1993). Plants and people of the Golden Triangle : ethnobotany of the hill tribes of northern Thailand. Dioscorides Press, Portland, Or., 279p.


Cox, P. A. & S. A. Banack (1991). Islands, plants, and Polynesians : an introduction to Polynesian ethnobotany : proceedings of a symposium. Dioscorides Press, Portland, Or., 228p.

Prepared 22 October 2001, Centre for Economic Botany, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

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