Economic Botany

, Volume 60, Issue 1, pp 3–23 | Cite as

Plant knowledge of the Shuhi in the Hengduan Mountains, Southwest China

  • Caroline S WeckerleEmail author
  • Franz K Huber
  • Yang Yongping
  • Sun Weibang


The Shuhi are a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group of around 1,500 people living exclusively in the Shuiluo Valley, southwest China. We documented their plant knowledge concerning wild collected species, and analyzed food, medicine, and ritual uses. Overall, uses, collection sites, and use frequencies of 136 plant species were documented. The plants were divided in fodder (46 spp.), food (43 spp.), medicine (27 spp.), ritual plants (20 spp.), fuelwood (17 spp.), plants used for construction (8 spp.), ornamentals (2 spp.), and "others" (34 spp.). Food plants mainly consist of fruits and leafy vegetables, and the uses are comparable with those of other ethnic groups in the area. Knowledge about medicinal plants is relatively limited, since traditional Shuhi healers use ritual and other healing methods instead of medicinal plants. Ritual plants play an important role relative to human well-being. Villagers and ritualists use them to keep the environment clean of malevolent spirits and to maintain a good relationship with the deities. All habitats, from the dry shrub vegetation at the valley bottom up to the alpine shrub, are used for plant collection, but 87% of all species are collected in the near vicinity of the villages around the fields and in the dry shrub vegetation. Finally, we postulate two main factors influencing wild plant use among the Shuhi: cultural values and accessibility.

Key Words

Ethnobotany food plants medicinal plants ritual plants Shuiluo Valley Tibeto-Burman 


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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden Press 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caroline S Weckerle
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Franz K Huber
    • 1
  • Yang Yongping
    • 1
  • Sun Weibang
    • 1
  1. 1.Chinese Academy of SciencesKunming Institute of BotanyHeilongtan, KunmingChina
  2. 2.Institute of Systematic BotanyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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