Economic Botany

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 33–43 | Cite as

The useful plants of Tambopata, Peru: II. Additional hypothesis testing in quantitative ethnobotany

  • Oliver Phillips
  • Alwyn H. Gentry


We present results of applying a simple technique to statistically test several hypotheses in ethnobotany, using plant use data from non-indigenous people in southeast Peru. Hypotheses tested concern: (1) the power of eight different variables as predictors of a plant’s use value; (2) comparisons of ethnobotanical knowledge among informants; and (3) the relationship between informant age and knowledge of plant uses. Each class of hypothesis is evaluated with respect to all uses, and classes (1) and (3) are evaluated for each of the following subsidiary use categories: construction, edible, commerce, medicine, and technology. We found that the family to which a plant belongs explains a large part of the variance in species’ use values. Each of the other factors analyzed (growth-form, density, frequency, mean and maximum diameter, mean and maximum growth rate) is also significantly predictive of use values. Age significantly predicts informant knowledge of(l) all uses, and (2) of medicinal uses. Plant medicinal lore is particularly vulnerable to acculturation.

Key Words

hypothesis tests statistics prediction diameter density trees lianas age 

Las plantas útiles de Tambopata, Perú: II. Hipótesis adicionales en etnobotánica cuantitativa


Presentamos los resultados de la aplicación de una simple técnica cuantitativa, descrita anteriormente, para probar estadisticamente algunas hipotesis etnobotánicas. Usamos datos de los usos de plantas por los mestizos del Sur-Este del Peru. Las hipótesis que nos conciernen están relacionadas con: (1) el poder de ocho factores diferentes para pronosticar la utilidad de plantas; (2) el nivel del conocimiento etnobotánico entre informantes; y (3) la influencia de la edad del informante para pronosticar la varianza en el conocimiento de usos de plantas. Se evalua cada hipotesis con respecto a todos los usos, y se evalua las hipotesis (1) y (3) para cada una de la categorias de uso: construcción, comestibles, comerciales, medicinales, y tecnologicos. Concluimos que la familia a la cual pertenece una planta afecta el valor de su utilidad, y explica en parte la varianza de los valores de utilidad. Cada uno de los otros factores analizados (forma de crecimiento, densidad, frecuencia, diámetro promedio y máximo, tasa de crecimiento promedio y máximo) también pronostican significativamente los valores de utilidad. La edad es un buen pronosticador del conocimiento de todos usos, y de usos medicinales. Sin embargo, informantes de edades similares pueden tener niveles de conocimiento muy diferentes. El conocimiento de plantas medicinales es más suceptible a la aculturacción que el conocimiento de las otras categorias de uso.


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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 University One Brooking’s DriveSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Missouri Botanical GardenSt. LouisUSA

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