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Florida Ethnobotany.

Florida Ethnobotany. Daniel F. Austin. 2004. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida. 909 pp. $149.95. ISBN 0-8493-2332-0 (cloth).

For a book priced well above one-hundred dollars, one expects a great deal. After a cursory examination, it was obvious this large volume is well worth the price. This book's appeal is to all students of plants and their uses, including health-care professionals, anthropologists, plant taxonomists, and ethnobotanists.

Dan Austin, who has lived and worked in Florida for several decades, relies heavily on his own personal experiences which are scattered throughout. Contrary to most current and recent ethnobotanists such as Balick, Cox, Schultes, and others, who take a Eurocentric view and therefore define ethnobotany as plant uses by "traditional" peoples (read "primitive"), Austin includes uses by all local peoples including Europeans.

The book is divided into two sections: "People and Plants" (pp. 1-53) and "The Ethnobotany" (pp. 54-739).

The first section presents an overview of the native peoples of the state and of adjacent regions including Mexico and California. Also included is a history of Old World "newcomers": Europeans and Africans of the region. Under "Ethnoflora," the early usages of Florida plants are discussed. Austin estimates that probably 100% of the woody flora and at least 50% of other plant species were used by the various inhabitants.

"The Ethnobotany" is the "nuts-and-bolts" section of the book. Plants of Florida known to be used for food, medicine, dyes, building materials, ornaments, or other purposes are listed alphabetically by genus from Abutilon (the original source of marshmallows) to Zornia (a legume used as a diuretic and laxative). A typical entry includes several common names derived from various languages, followed by its use by ethnic groups of the area. For poisonous or medicinal plants, the active compounds, when known, are given. Taxonomists will appreciate the nomenclature histories, often beginning with Linnaeus. Most of the 900 species are illustrated by line drawings from various sources, especially those of Britton and Brown (1897) and Sargent (1905). There also are 64 species illustrated by full-color photographs.

Florida Ethnobotany is a storehouse of useful information, and contains over 1500 references. I agree with Professor Yoshiaki Yoneda of Shizuoka University, Japan, who stated, "I expect this book will become a model in ethnobotany." As a large percentage of the species featured also occur in Tennessee, the book certainly is of interest to botanists of this state.


BRITTON, N. L., AND H. A. BROWN. 1896. An illustrated flora of the Northern United States, Canada, and the British possessions. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.

SARGENT, C. S. 1905. Manual of the trees of North America. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
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Author:Hemmerly, Thomas E.
Publication:Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Science
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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