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Leafy vegetables are important in human nutrition; however, their diversity as seen in the dishes in South western Nigeria appears to be diminishing. Many popular delicacies are no longer available in the markets. Therefore, this research was conducted to identify and document leafy vegetables in South West Nigeria, assess their ethnobotanical uses from questionnaires administered to farmers/sellers, secure their genetic resource base, and improve their value chain in South-West Nigeria. Vegetable samples were collected from different local communities in five South-West states in Nigeria, identified using manual/flora, and authenticated at the University of Lagos Herbarium. One thousand respondents, 200 in each state, participated in the study. Of these, 76.7% were female, while 23.3% were male. A total of twenty-six (26) leafy vegetables were collected. Twenty-one (21) species are indigenous to the study area, while five (5) species are non-indigenous. Ethnobotanical survey on leafy vegetables from farms and markets revealed that Launaea taraxacifolia, Solanum macrocarpon, Solanum nigrum, Solanum aethiopicum, Solanecio biafrae, Crassocephalum crepidioides and Basella alba are of high medicinal value. They can be used solely or as a recipe with other leafy plants in the treatment of various ailments including malaria, typhoid, blood pressure, stomach disorder, heart diseases and gastrointestinal tract infections. These vegetable species have been neglected and underutilized by humans. Generally, a low degree of consumption, extent of consumption, and cash income capacity was recorded, with exception to the commonly cultivated vegetables. Extracted DNA from the leafy vegetables yielded good-quality DNA; this has been deposited in the DNA bank at the University of Lagos. This study has documented indigenous knowledge on leafy vegetables in southwest Nigeria and contributed towards ex-situ conservation of the species in the DNA bank.
Keywords: Leafy Vegetables, Ethnobotany, Genetic Conservation, Indigenous knowledge, Underutilized species