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Plants in Samoan Culture

W. Arthur Whistler, Ph.D.

Softcover, 234 pp.

Samoans have a rich heritage of using native and other traditional plants found in the islands to fulfill their everyday needs. The archipelago is home to nearly 800 native vascular plants, and the ancient Samoans also brought another 50 or so plant species with them for use as food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities of life. In recent times, however, much of the traditional plant lore has been lost as Samoa has undergone profound changes related to the introduction of western ways and material goods. A whole generation has grown up without much of this traditional knowledge that their parents and grandparents had, and the information is slowly being lost.

Plants in Samoan Culture: the Ethnobotany of Samoa is about this traditional plant lore, and is based upon the botanical literature of the last 150 years and the author's 30 years of work in Samoa. The book, which is richly illustrated with about 150 black and white photos, includes all the current and traditional use of plants in Samoan culture. The book is divided into chapters on food (staples and minor plants), plaiting of weaving materials, cordage, tapa cloth, wood products (for houses, boats, and artifacts), medicine, ornamentation, and other uses. It also features a listing of all Samoan plant names, with their scientific names, habitat, status, and uses. Also included is an appendix with other plant names that have not been substantiated.

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