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U.S. Forest Service


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Plants Sustaining People

Ethnobotany is the study of how people of a particular culture and region make use of indigenous (native) plants. Plants provide food, medicine, shelter, dyes, fibers, oils, resins, gums, soaps, waxes, latex, tannins, and even contribute to the air we breathe. Many native peoples also use plants in ceremonial or spiritual rituals.

Plants and People

A stick figure of a person tile.

Since our earliest origins, humans have depended on plants for their primary needs and existence. Over time, people and cultures have tested and continued to use the plants that were beneficial. Our cultures evolved by passing ever more sophisticated knowledge of plants and their usefulness from generation to generation. Examining human life on earth requires understanding the role of plants in historical and current day cultures. Even today, we depend upon plants and their important pollinators for our existence and survival. Let's explore people's use of plants.