, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 299–313 | Cite as

Plant as Object within Herbal Landscape: Different Kinds of Perception

  • Renata SõukandEmail author
  • Raivo Kalle
Original Paper


This contribution takes the notion of herbal landscape (a mental field associated with plants used to cure or prevent diseases and established within specific cultural and climatic zones) as a starting point. The authors argue that the features by which a person recognises the plant in the natural growing environment is of crucial importance for the classification and the use of plants within the folk tradition. The process of perception of the plant can be divided into analytical categories according to the sign concept of Charles Sanders Peirce. Whereas the plant can be seen as the object, the feature(s) the plant is recognised by is (are) the representamen(s), and the image of the plant within the herbal landscape can be understood as the interpretant. Different methods of perception of the signs within the herbal landscape are demonstrated comparing the herbal knowledge acquired from the herbals with the method of plant recognition learned in the traditional way. The first can be looked at with the terms of Tim Ingold as transportation, using plant features to go across, leaving all other signs present in the landscape unnoticed. The wayfarer, guided by signs learned within the context of surroundings, walks along and perceives the plant as a part of the herbal landscape. Although the examples analysed come from Estonian ethnobotany, the method of analysis can be applied in ethnobotanical research worldwide.


Ethnobotany Recognition of plant Interpretation Perceived landscape Medicinal plants 



The authors acknowledge the Governmental Research and Development program “Estonian Language and Cultural Memory” (EKKM09-84), EEA/EMP Grant 54 MP1RT08079N and the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund (Centre of Excellence CECT) for supporting this research. Our special thanks to Sabine Brauckmann, Kalevi Kull, Kati Lindström, Timo Maran and Morten Tønnessen for their useful comments on this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Estonian Literary MuseumTartuEstonia
  2. 2.Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics, Department of SemioticsUniversity of TartuTartuEstonia

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