The role of herbaria and flora in preserving local plant-use information: the case of the Ethiopian National Herbarium and Flora

  • Mirutse Giday Institute of Pathobiology, Addis Ababa University PO Box 12577, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Zemede Asfaw The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, PO Box 3434, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Zerihun Woldu The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, PO Box 3434, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


The aim of this study was to compile and analyse information on local use of plants in Ethiopia based on data obtained from labels of specimens stored at the National Herbarium and from published volumes of the Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Two families were considered: Fabaceae and Euphorbiaceae. Analysis of the herbarium data yielded a total of 116 locally useful plant species in Ethiopia. The highest proportion of plants (52%) was used for medicinal purposes. The study also revealed Acacia nilotca, Croton macrostachyus and Ricinus communis as having the highest use diversity. Further analysis of the Euphorbiaceae herbarium data demonstrated an increasing trend, with time, for collectors to incorporate plant-use information on specimen labels even though much of the records were found too incomplete to be considered useful. The study also revealed that the majority of plant-use information on herbarium labels was absent from the relevant Flora volumes. We, therefore, recommend that more thorough ethnobotanical investigations are conducted in Ethiopia to obtain more complete and precise data on the local use of plants.

Journal of East African Natural History: a Journal of Biodiversity Vol. 94(2) 2005: 281-301

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1026-1613
print ISSN: 0012-8317