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      Diversity of wetland plants used traditionally in China: a literature review


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          In comparison with terrestrial plants, those growing in wetlands have been rarely studied ethnobotanically, including in China, yet people living in or near wetlands can accumulate much knowledge of the uses of local wetland plants. A characteristic of wetlands, cutting across climatic zones, is that many species are widely distributed, providing opportunities for studying general patterns of knowledge of the uses of plants across extensive areas, in the present case China. There is urgency in undertaking such studies, given the rapid rates of loss of traditional knowledge of wetland plants as is now occurring.


          There have been very few studies specifically on the traditional knowledge of wetland plants in China. However, much information on such knowledge does exist, but dispersed through a wide body of literature that is not specifically ethnobotanical, such as regional Floras. We have undertaken an extensive study of such literature to determine which species of wetland plants have been used traditionally and the main factors influencing patterns shown by such knowledge. Quantitative techniques have been used to evaluate the relative usefulness of different types of wetland plants and regression analyses to determine the extent to which different quantitative indices give similar results.


          350 wetland plant species, belonging to 66 families and 187 genera, were found to have been used traditionally in China for a wide range of purposes. The top ten families used, in terms of numbers of species, were Poaceae, Polygonaceae, Cyperaceae, Lamiaceae, Asteraceae, Ranunculaceae, Hydrocharitaceae, Potamogetonaceae, Fabaceae, and Brassicaceae, in total accounting for 58.6% of all species used. These families often dominate wetland vegetation in China. The three most widely used genera were Polygonum, Potamogeton and Cyperus. The main uses of wetlands plants, in terms of numbers of species, were for medicine, food, and forage. Three different ways of assigning an importance value to species (Relative Frequency of Citation RFC; Cultural Importance CI; Cultural Value Index CV) all gave similar results.


          A diverse range of wetland plants, in terms of both taxonomic affiliation and type of use, have been used traditionally in China. Medicine, forage and food are the three most important categories of use, the plants providing basic resources used by local people in their everyday lives. Local availability is the main factor influencing which species are used. Quantitative indexes, especially Cultural Value Index, proved very useful for evaluating the usefulness of plants as recorded in the literature.

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            Cryptic invasion by a non-native genotype of the common reed, Phragmites australis, into North America.

            Cryptic invasions are a largely unrecognized type of biological invasion that lead to underestimation of the total numbers and impacts of invaders because of the difficulty in detecting them. The distribution and abundance of Phragmites australis in North America has increased dramatically over the past 150 years. This research tests the hypothesis that a non-native strain of Phragmites is responsible for the observed spread. Two noncoding chloroplast DNA regions were sequenced for samples collected worldwide, throughout the range of Phragmites. Modern North American populations were compared with historical ones from herbarium collections. Results indicate that an introduction has occurred, and the introduced type has displaced native types as well as expanded to regions previously not known to have Phragmites. Native types apparently have disappeared from New England and, while still present, may be threatened in other parts of North America.
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              Medicinal plants in Mexico: healers' consensus and cultural importance.

              Medicinal plants are an important element of indigenous medical systems in Mexico. These resources are usually regarded as part of a culture's traditional knowledge. This study examines the use of medicinal plants in four indigenous groups of Mexican Indians, Maya, Nahua, Zapotec and - for comparative purposes - Mixe. With the first three the methodology was similar, making a direct comparison of the results possible. In these studies, the relative importance of a medicinal plant within a culture is documented using a quantitative method. For the analysis the uses were grouped into 9-10 categories of indigenous uses. This report compares these data and uses the concept of informant consensus originally developed by Trotter and Logan for analysis. This indicates how homogenous the ethnobotanical information is. Generally the factor is high for gastrointestinal illnesses and for culture bound syndromes. While the species used by the 3 indigenous groups vary, the data indicate that there exist well-defined criteria specific for each culture which lead to the selection of a plant as a medicine. A large number of species are used for gastrointestinal illnesses by two or more of the indigenous groups. At least in this case, the multiple transfer of species and their uses within Mexico seems to be an important reason for the widespread use of a species. Medicinal plants in other categories (e.g. skin diseases) are usually known only in one culture and seem to be part of its traditional knowledge.

                Author and article information

                J Ethnobiol Ethnomed
                J Ethnobiol Ethnomed
                Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
                BioMed Central (London )
                15 October 2014
                15 October 2014
                : 10
                : 1
                College of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Yangzhou University, Yangzhou, 225009 China
                © Zhang et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2014

                This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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                Health & Social care

                wetland plants, traditional knowledge, literature study, china


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