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INHS Seminar - Ethnobotany of the Prairie—Cultural Use of Native Plants

Event Type
Illinois Natural History Survey Seminar Committee
wifi event
Oct 19, 2021   4:00 pm  
Dr. Kelly Kindscher, Professor in Environmental Studies and Senior Scientist, Kansas Biological Survey at the University of Kansas
Dr. Suneeti Jog
Originating Calendar
INHS Events

Meeting URL:
Meeting ID:  870 0429 3990 | Password: 395608

I have been able to document the use of over 300 species of prairie plants that were used by Native Americans in the Midwest for food, medicine and craft.  The majority of these species were used as medicine.  The prairie is rich in plants with secondary compounds, and we have had great success in finding and publishing on new compounds in wild tomatillos (Physalis spp.), milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), Ipomoea leptophylla, Datura wrightii and other species.  Echinacea species were the most widely used and the most important medicinal plant species where they were found and we have studied all aspects of this species, including its sustainable harvest.   Food plants provided basic sustenance with prairie turnips (Pediomelum esculentum) and groundnuts (Apios tuberosa) being two of the most important.  Prairie turnips are not common today, in part because they are no longer harvested in patches where they were found and where seeds were replanted.  We are now working with the Arikara, Osage and Omaha tribes on ethnobotany projects to repatriate and rematriate traditional knowledge of useful species from historical documents and to work on educational materials, which stress both the importance of their cultural uses and value of these native prairie species.

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