Historical Examples of Allelopathy and Ethnobotany from the Mediterranean Region

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Abstract

The true scientific study of plants began as a consequence and a part of the great intellectual movement of the sixth century BC in Asia Minor and in the Mediterranean Region. Greek and Roman scholars viz., Theophrastus, Cato the Elder, Varro, Vergil, Columella and Pliny the Elder wrote treatises on agriculture dealing with aspects of good crop husbandry used to minimize weed interference with crops by hand weeding, mechanical methods, tillage, burning and mulching. They were the forerunners of allelopathy. In this chapter we combined our expertise in reviewing the agricultural and ethnobotanical knowledge of ancient Greeks and Romans. In particular we focused our attention on medicinal and edible plants (rue, olive, squill and lavender). Their ethnobotanical information suggests great opportunities for the future through full evaluation of their potential allelochemicals in plant interactions.