Economic Botany

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 15–32 | Cite as

The useful plants of Tambopata, Peru: I. Statistical hypotheses tests with a new quantitative technique

  • Oliver Phillips
  • Alwyn H. Gentry


This paper describes a new, simple, quantitative technique for evaluating the relative usefulness of plants to people. The technique is then compared to the quantitative approaches in ethnobotany that have been developed recently. Our technique is used to calculate the importance of over 600 species of woody plants to non-indigenous mestizo people in Tambopata, Amazonian Peru. Two general classes of hypotheses are formulated and tested statistically, concerning (1) the relative importance of different species, and (2) the importance of different families. The plant families are compared with respect to all uses, and with respect to five broad groups of uses. Palms, Annonaceae, and Lauraceae were found to be the most useful woody plant families. On average, the 20 largest woody plant families are most important to mestizos for subsistence construction materials, followed in descending order by commercial, edible, technological, and medicinal uses.

Key Words

quantitative ethnobotany hypothesis tests statistics Tambopata, Peru mestizo 

Las plantas útiles de Tambopata, Perú: I. Pruebas estadisticas de hipótesis etnobotánicas con una nueva técnica cuantitativa


En éste estudio se describe una nueva técnica cuantitativa para la evaluation de la relativa utilidad de plantas a la gente. Esta técnica se compara con aquellas técnicas cuantitativas recientemente desarrolladas en etnobotánica. Con ésta técnica nosotros estimamos la importantia que las plantas lenosas, más de 600 especies, tienenpara los mestizos de Tambopata de la Amazonia del Peru. Estadisticamente, se prueban dos hipótesis generates concernientes a (1) la relativa importantia de especies diferentes, y a (2) la importantia de diferentes familias. Las familias de plantas son comparadas entre ellas en relation a todos los usos, y con respecto a cinco grupos amplios de usos. Se descubrió que lasfamilias leńosas mas útiles son las palmeras, Annonaceas, y Lauraceas. En término promedio, las 20 familias mas grandes de plantas leñosas tienen prioridad como materiales de constructión de subsistencia, seguidas en orden descendiente por sus usos comerciales, comestibles, tecnológicos, y medicinales.


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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oliver Phillips
    • 1
  • Alwyn H. Gentry
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Missouri Botanical GardenSt. LouisUSA

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