Human Flower Project
Monday, November 22, 2004
Herbariums—Holistic Approach in a DNA-Age
As botanical studies increasingly focus on the micro-particles of plants, herbariums are libraries of history and diversity.
The Lynchburg (VA) News and Advance rediscovers a green library of 60,000 plants, the college herbarium that two local botanists began assembling in 1927. Ruskin Freer and his successor Gwynn Ramsey collected and catalogued specimens in the beautiful and plant-rich country along the Blue Ridge Parkway. And Ramsey, now 73, believes there are 1000 more plants out there to find.
“‘At least 70 percent of our pharmaceuticals … come from plants,’ Ramsey said.
“While that alone should make the study of plant taxonomy an ever-growing field, Ramsey said few students remain interested in his lifelong love.”
About two decades ago, mainstream botany shifted attention “from the study of whole organisms to DNA.” But it’s herbariums that document plant (and human) environments, that evidence the plant world’s immensity —and that free botanists from the flourescent lights of the lab!
Sunday, November 07, 2004
Ethiopia’s Elite Reclaim Folk Remedy
Ethiopian scientists advocate more testing and conservation of an age-old soothing herb.
The Addis Tribune and other Ethiopian newspapers report an upsurge of scientic interest in dingetenga (Taverniera abyssinica) and concern that the flowering plant, used for generations, may now be engandered.
Dingetenga, a legume that grows only in Ethiopia, is a common herbal remedy widely sold in the Addis Ababa maket as a cure for sudden onset stomach cramps and fever. “A single dose of tied-up roots sells for about one birr. The roots are chewed, and the juice swallowed.” Botanist Helmut Koos began scientific documentation of the herb’s medicinal uses in the late 1970s. More recently, Ethiopians scientists have begun to analyze dingetenga’s chemical make-up and clinically proven its benefits. But as so often happens, this official seal of approval comes as the plant is about to disappear from its native habitat.
Today’s Tribune editorial stresses that “conservation, cultivation, and development considerations need to go hand in hand in order to promote judicious use of medicinal plants.”