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Hierarchies of knowledge: Ethnobotanical knowledge, practices and beliefs of the Vhavenda in South Africa for biodiversity conservation

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Background: Indigenous and local knowledge systems are characterised by a 'knowledge-practice-belief' complex that plays a critical role for biodiversity management and conservation on indigenous lands. However, few studies take into consideration the interconnected relationship between the social processes underpinning knowledge accumulation, generation and transmission. The study draws on ethnobotanical research to explore plant uses, practices and belief systems developed among the indigenous Vhavenda in South Africa for sustaining indigenous plant resources and highlights some of the forces of change influencing the acquisition and transmission of knowledge. Methods: Data was collected from September-November 2016 from 31 individuals by means of semi-structured interviews; walks in home gardens, cultivated fields, montane forests and deciduous woodlands; and vouchering of plant species in six villages (Duthuni, Tshidzivhe, Vuvha, Lwamondo, Mashau and Tshiendeulu) in the Vhembe District of South Africa. The Use Value Index (UVI) was used to measure the number of different uses of each species and the Relative Frequency Index (RFI) to measure the local importance of each species. Semi-structured interviews and comparisons with published works also explored cultural practices and belief systems associated with plants, modes and barriers of knowledge transmission. Results: Eighty-four plant species were reported within 44 families, with Fabaceae representing the highest diversity of plant species. We identified six species not previously documented in the Vhavenda ethnobotanical literature, 68 novel uses of plants and another 14 variations of known uses. Vhavenda plants were predominantly used for food (36.0%) and medicine (26.1%) and consisted mainly of native (73.8%) compared to non-native species (26.2%). The Vhavenda possess a range of practices for managing plant resources that can be attributed to taboos preventing the use of selected species, promotion of sustainable harvesting practices and the propagation of plant species for ecological restoration. Plant knowledge and management practices were transmitted from relatives (48.4%), self-taught through time spent planting and harvesting plants on the land (19.4%), through apprenticeships with traditional healers (16.1%), initiation schools (9.7%) and clan gatherings (6.4%). Changes in traditional learning platforms for knowledge exchange, erosion of cultural institutions and shifting value systems serve as barriers for knowledge transmission among the Vhavenda. Conclusion: The study points to a need for new partnerships to be forged between conservationists, government actors and local and indigenous knowledge holders to foster hybrid knowledge coproduction for developing strategies to enhance the productivity and biodiversity of indigenous lands.
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R E S E A R C H Open Access
Hierarchies of knowledge: ethnobotanical
knowledge, practices and beliefs of the
Vhavenda in South Africa for biodiversity
conservation
Natasha Louise Constant
1,2*
and Milingoni Peter Tshisikhawe
3
Abstract
Background: Indigenous and local knowledge systems are characterised by a knowledge-practice-beliefcomplex that
plays a critical role for biodiversity management and conservation on indigenous lands. However, few studies take into
consideration the interconnected relationship between the social processes underpinning knowledge accumulation,
generation and transmission. The study draws on ethnobotanical research to explore plant uses, practices and belief
systems developed among the indigenous Vhavenda in South Africa for sustaining indigenous plant resources and
highlights some of the forces of change influencing the acquisition and transmission of knowledge.
Methods: Data was collected from SeptemberNovember 2016 from 31 individuals by means of semi-structured
interviews; walks in home gardens, cultivated fields, montane forests and deciduous woodlands; and vouchering of plant
species in six villages (Duthuni, Tshidzivhe, Vuvha, Lwamondo, Mashau and Tshiendeulu) in the Vhembe District of South
Africa. The Use Value Index (UVI) was used to measure the number of different uses of each species and the Relative
Frequency Index (RFI) to measure the local importance of each species. Semi-structured interviews and comparisons with
published works also explored cultural practices and belief systems associated with plants, modes and barriers of
knowledge transmission.
Results: Eighty-four plant species were reported within 44 families, with Fabaceae representing the highest diversity of
plant species. We identified six species not previously documented in the Vhavenda ethnobotanical literature, 68 novel
uses of plants and another 14 variations of known uses. Vhavenda plants were predominantly used for food (36.0%) and
medicine (26.1%) and consisted mainly of native (73.8%) compared to non-native species (26.2%). The Vhavenda possess
a range of practices for managing plant resources that can be attributed to taboos preventing the use of selected species,
promotion of sustainable harvesting practices and the propagation of plant species for ecological restoration. Plant
knowledge and management practices were transmitted from relatives (48.4%), self-taught through time spent planting
and harvesting plants on the land (19.4%), through apprenticeships with traditional healers (16.1%), initiation schools (9.
7%) and clan gatherings (6.4%). Changes in traditional learning platforms for knowledge exchange, erosion of cultural
institutions and shifting value systems serve as barriers for knowledge transmission among the Vhavenda.
(Continued on next page)
* Correspondence: constantn@cardiff.ac.uk
1
SARChI Chair on Biodiversity Value and Change, School of Mathematical
and Natural Sciences, University of Venda, Private Bag X5050, Thohoyandou
0950, South Africa
2
Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University, 33 Park Place, Cardiff
CF10 3BA, UK
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article
© The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to
the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver
(http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Constant and Tshisikhawe Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
(2018) 14:56
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13002-018-0255-2
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
(Continued from previous page)
Conclusion: The study points to a need for new partnerships to be forged between conservationists, government actors
and local and indigenous knowledge holders to foster hybrid knowledge coproduction for developing strategies to
enhance the productivity and biodiversity of indigenous lands.
Keywords: Ethnobotany, Indigenous and local knowledge, Traditional ecological knowledge, Biodiversity conservation,
Sustainable management, Vhavenda, Knowledge transmission
Background
Indigenous and local communities have devised cultural
practices embedded in cultural and religious values that
have maintained species and habitats of biocultural import-
ance through indigenous and local knowledge systems [1].
Indigenous and Local Knowledge (ILK) consist of a body
of knowledge shaped by cultural practices, institutions and
worldviews forming a nested knowledge-practice-belief
complex that provide insights into ways of knowing and
governing social-ecological systems (SESs) for contempor-
ary biodiversity management and conservation [1]. Indi-
genous plants provide a plethora of ecosystem services to
support human needs for food, medicines, livelihoods and
other cultural activities [2]. Plant resources are sustained
through cultural practices where plant users collect and
harvest materials selectively using locally adapted manage-
ment strategies [3], that is also important for the conserva-
tion of biodiversity, rare species, ecological processes and
sustainable harvesting practices [1,4]. The application of
biodiversity management through cultural practices can
help to strengthen cultural values compatible with conser-
vation to sustain plant resources for biodiversity and to
support human needs [5]. In recognition of this, many
international and national agencies and agreements (e.g.
Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), Intergovern-
mental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
(IPBES)) advocate for enhanced engagement and protec-
tion of the customary use of biogenetic resources in ac-
cordance with cultural practices to promote biodiversity
conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
Cultural practices are embedded in institutions and
local social norms that influence the coordination and
management of resource use practices often through
traditional leaders who control access and use of natural
resources on indigenous lands [4]. Taboos play a role in
limiting destruction of important plant resources
through limitations on harvesting and prohibitions
against the use of selected species. Rituals, ceremonies
and other traditions associated with plant use serve to
pass on institutional memory and cultural internalisation
to support knowledge generation, accumulation and
transmission [4]. Similarly, worldviews are important for
delineating beliefs, and cosmologies that influence cul-
tural values, and ethics for engaging with the natural
world [4]. These social mechanisms are critical for
understanding how institutions and norms structure
and transmit plant-based knowledge and influence
modes of knowledge transmission to support the revival
of sustainable management practices for biodiversity
conservation.
The aim of the study is to examine the use, cultural prac-
tices and beliefs associated with plant species among a rural
community in South Africa for biodiversity conservation
on communal lands using a case study of the Vhavenda.
Ethnobotanical research on the Vhavenda has focused on
peoples use and knowledge of indigenous plants [6], plants
for food [7], nutrition [8], medicine [911], the treatment
of livestock diseases [12], beverages [13], invasive species
[14,15] and impacts of bark harvesting [10]. Some studies
have addressed the role of Vhavenda culture and conserva-
tion of the wider bio-physical environment [16]andthe
protection of sacred sites [17]. However, few studies have
examined the interconnected relationships between
plant-based knowledge, practices and beliefs of diverse
plant species for biodiversity conservation and the nature
and barriers of knowledge transmission in the context of
social-cultural change. The hypothesis of the study is that
the Vhavenda exhibit a complex knowledge-practice-belief
system of ILK that acts to sustain plant resources and
carries insights to inform culturally specific management
strategies for the conservation of indigenous plants on
community lands. The study aims to address the following
questions: (1) What are the characteristics of plant species
used by the Vhavenda and which species are most import-
ant in terms of their use value and frequency of use? (2)
What cultural practices, institutions and beliefs sustain
plant resources for biodiversity conservation? and (3) How
is plant-based knowledge acquired and what are the
barriers for the transmission of knowledge to younger
generations?
Methods
Vhavenda history and social structure
Oral accounts of the early history of the Vhavenda prior
to their entry from present day Zimbabwe are vague and
fragmented; however, it is probable that their origins
were located in the Great Lakes region of East Africa
[18]. The Vhavenda are composed of different clans, for
example, Senzi, Nyai, Mbedzi, Lemba, Ngona, Ludzi,
Kwevho, Nzhelele, Luvhu, Famadi and other smaller
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nuclear groups [19]. The first Europeans arrived in
Venda during the early 1800s including missionaries, ex-
plorers, hunters and land speculation companies. Con-
testations between the Vhavenda and the first colonisers
(named the Voortrekkers) ensued over conflicts of land
and natural resource resulting in ongoing wars between
the late 1880s1900s [20]. The first missionary church
was established in the region named Schoemansdal in
1851 [17]. The missionaries acted as neutral entities dur-
ing the earlier colonial wars but asserted their own form
of colonisation through the erosion of traditional cul-
tural practices and belief systems of the Vhavenda.
The onset of apartheid headed by the National Party
saw the establishment of the Bantustans where South
Africans were segregated by ethnicity to create territor-
ies and autonomousnational states [17]. The Prime
Minister of the time Verwoerd sought to reduce the
number of Africans resident in South Africas urban
areas by requiring them to live in their respective home-
lands and to seek employment in nearby towns and cit-
ies to address rural poverty [21]. Vhavenda chiefs who
were ruling at the time favoured the new government
policy mainly because they were able to maintain their
traditional system of governance [22]. In 1973, Vhavenda
was granted self-government under the leadership of
Chief Patrick Mphephu who traced his ancestry to the
legendary leader Thohoyandou [23].
The current social structure of the Vhavenda chieftain-
ship is headed by the Thovhele meaning kingwho rules
over the largest regions of Vhavenda [21]. The Khosi,a
senior chief,rules an area of more than two villages,
and under his jurisdiction, each village is ruled by a Vha-
musanda, a junior chief [19]. A Vhamusanda may ap-
point a Mukoma who settles disputes in the village and
is responsible for allocating arable land to individual
homesteads, organising social rituals, and the protection
of the natural environment [6]. The Makhadzi is usually
a position held by one of the Khosissisters, but only one
sister can be chosen by the royal council who serves as
an advisor to the Khosi, resolves conflicts within the
royal family and participates in ritual ceremonies and
rites of passage [19]. The traditional religion of the Vha-
venda is based on the belief of a supreme being named
Nwali who influences the world of the living by identify-
ing his presence in storms, rains and earthquakes and is
appeased through ritual ceremonies [19]. The Vhavenda
believe that the deceased are taken by the ancestors,
who continue to exert control over the lives of the living
by bringing peace or ill fortune and are venerated and
appeased through ritual practices [6,19]. The Makhadzi
and traditional healers serve to maintain a link between
the dead and the living and are responsible for different
rituals involving libations and prayers in veneration of
ancestor spirits. Although these rituals may serve as a
family affair, the Makhadzi of the royal family often
serves as a representative for the whole of the royal an-
cestors and will perform public ceremonies such as the
first fruits and vegetable ceremonies [19].
Study site
The study took place in six villages (Duthuni, Tshidzivhe,
Vuvha, Lwamondo, Mashau and Tshiendeulu) located in
the Vhembe District of the Limpopo Province, South Af-
rica, and forms part of the eastern Soutpansberg Moun-
tain Range in the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve (Fig. 1). The
villages of Duthuni, Tshidzivhe and Lwamondo are located
in the Thulamela Municipality and Vuvha, Tshiendeulu
and Mashau in the Makhado Municipality (Fig. 1).
The area is characterised by a subtropical climate with
moist winters and wet, warm summers [24]. The area ex-
periences an annual rainfall of 500 mm of which 87% of
rainfall occurs between October and March [24]. Annual
temperatures range from 10 °C in winter to a maximum
of 40 °C in the summer [24]. The Soutpansberg Mountain
Range is a centre for botanical endemism in southern Af-
rica and falls under the mountain bushveld vegetation unit
of the Savannah biome that includes dense deciduous
woodlands and evergreen montane forests and open
savannah in places [25]. The southern slopes of the east-
ern portion of the Soutpansberg Mountain support dense
deciduous woodlands at lower altitudes consisting of
small-tree species (dominated by Diospyros whyteana
(Hiern) P. White, Englerophytum magalismontanum
(Sond.) T. D. Penn, and Schefflera umbellifera (Sond.)
Baill) and dense evergreen montane forests consisting of
small-tree species (e.g. Brachylaena transvaalensis Hutch.
ex E. Phillips & Schweick, Celtis africana Burm. f, Cusso-
nia spicata Thunb) [25,26]. The more arid northern
ridges consist of tall-trees (e.g. Acacia nigrescens Oliv,
Adansonia digitata L, Brachystegia spiciformis Benth) and
small-tree species (e.g. Combretum apiculatum Sond,
Commiphora glandulosa Schinz) [26,27]. Vendas land-
scapes have also undergone significant land-use change
through the establishment of commercial forestry and tea
plantations during the 1930s1970s to provide economic
development in the Venda homeland. The confinements
of the former Venda homeland in the semi-urbanised vil-
lages surrounding the town of Thohoyandou necessitate a
demand for housing, and clearing of land for agriculture
has resulted in the degradation and fragmentation of
montane forests and deciduous woodlands that are largely
confined to river valleys and higher elevations of the
mountain on south-facing slopes [27].
Data collection
Data was collected from SeptemberNovember 2016 by
working in collaboration with the community-based organ-
isation Dzomo La Mupo who acted as a key gatekeeper to
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Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
access the targeted villages. Initial meetings with communi-
ties were established in consultation with the Chief (Khosi)
or headman (Mukoma) to describe the aims and objectives
of the study, identify informants who were knowledgeable
of plants and seek permission for the study. Each partici-
pant was presented with an information sheet and consent
form (approved by the Research Ethics Committee of Car-
diff University) which clarified the objectives of the study,
and all informants were asked to sign consent forms to se-
cure informed consent to participate in the study.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted in the local lan-
guage (Tshivenda) through the assistance of a translator
and later translated into English. Questions focused on the
important plant uses including their local names, habits of
the plant, parts used, collection sites and plant uses. Local
practices and belief systems associated with the manage-
ment and protection of plant resources were explored. Fi-
nally, discussions with all informants addressed perceptions
of how plant-based knowledge is transmitted and the per-
ceived barriers for knowledge transmission. Selection of
study participants was made using a snowball sampling
strategy in consultation with the Khosi or Mukoma from
each village to identify individuals for interview based on
the condition that they were knowledgeable of plants or
were specialists in the community, for example, traditional
healers. A total of 31 people were interviewed, namely 18
females (58.0%) and 13 men (42.0%), ranging in age from
34 years to 85 years. Of all informants, 35.5% received no
formal education, 29.0% received a primary school educa-
tion, while 35.5% received a secondary school education.
Plant collections
Collections of plant specimens were obtained by walking in
home gardens, cultivated fields, montane forests and
deciduous woodlands. During collection, the species was
classified according to its habit: tree, shrub, herbaceous,
climbing or grass [28]. Plants were later classified according
to their biogeographical region to determine whether they
were native or exotic plants. The plant species were identi-
fied by PT with the aid of the literature and comparison
with herbarium species, and voucher specimens were pre-
pared and deposited at the University of Venda Herbarium
(UVH) in South Africa. Plant species were categorised as
invasive,’‘naturalisedand casual alienclassifications [29,
30] and by drawing on species records of alien plants using
the Southern African Plant Invaders Atlas (SAPIA) [31].
Fig. 1 Map of sampled villages of the Vhavenda community, Limpopo Province, South Africa
Constant and Tshisikhawe Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine (2018) 14:56 Page 4 of 28
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Data analysis
Descriptive statistics such as frequencies and percent-
ages were used in the analysis of the data. The Use Value
Index (UVI) and the Relative Frequency Index (RFI)
were calculated to determine the most important plant
species sampled [32]. The UVI is a measure of the rela-
tive importance, measured as the number of different
uses of each species: UV =ΣUi/N. It is calculated by the
total number of uses of a plant mentioned by a partici-
pant (U) divided by the total number of participants in
the study. The RFI is an index of the local importance of
each species: RFI = FC/Nin which the FC is the number
of participants that mention the use of a species divided
by the total number of participants in the study.
Results
Indigenous plants of the Vhavenda
There are a total of 84 plant species in the sampled
communities all of which were identified to species level
from 44 families (Table 1). The best represented families
were Fabaceae with ten species and Apoynaceae, Astera-
ceae, Combretaceae, Cucurbitaceae and Rubiaceae all
with a total of four species. The other families (64.3%)
were represented by one to three species.
Species origin, status and habitat
The majority of plants were native species (73.8%) com-
pared to exotics (26.2%). The average year of settlement
in the region was 60.5 years suggesting a considerable
period of knowledge assimilation and experimentation
with the local flora. The habits of the species were trees
(53.2%), herbs (21.3%), shrubs (8.5%), climbers (5.3%)
and grasses (1.0%). The communities of Tshidzivhe,
Vuvha, Lwamondo and Tshiendeulu were surrounded by
small patches of montane forests and deciduous wood-
lands in river valleys and higher elevation slopes. Plant
samples were collected for identification from home gar-
dens (89.7%), cultivating fields (6.9%) and montane for-
ests and deciduous woodlands (3.4%).
The majority of plant species used were wild (54.8%)
compared to cultivated species (20.2%) whilst 25% were
both harvested in the wild and cultivated. When the
plants were separated by habit, native species were
mainly trees, and exotic species were mainly a combin-
ation of herbs and trees (Fig. 2).
Considering only the exotic cultivated species (Fig. 3),
these were mainly trees and herbs that have originated
from areas of Europe, North and Central America, Asia,
Australasia and Tropical Africa before their introduction
to South Africa (Table 1). Of the exotic tree species,
Carica papaya L, Citrus limon (L.) Burm. F and Persea
americana Mill were reported as naturalised or casuals
in South Africa (Table 1).
Of the exotic cultivated herb species documented, Psi-
dium guajava LandRicinus communis L were listed as in-
vasive. Exotic wild species were mainly herbs (Fig. 3)that
were of European, North or Central America, North Afri-
can and Asian origin. Of the exotic herbs species listed,
Amaranthus hybridus L, Bidens pilosa L, Chenopodium
album L, Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott, Hibiscus trionum
L, Obetia tenax Friis and Sonchus oleraceus (L.) L were re-
ported as naturalised or casuals in South Africa (Table 1).
Native cultivated species were mainly trees (Fig. 3)to
name a few included Celtis africana,Combretum erythro-
phyllum (Burch.) Sond, Faidherbia albida (Delile) A. Chev,
Faurea saligna Harv, Philenoptera violacea (Klotzsch)
Schrire and Rauvolfia caffra Sond. The Vhavenda continue
to exploit native wild species mainly trees (Fig. 3), for
example, Afrocanthium mundianum (Cham. & Schltdl.)
Lantz, Annona senegalensis Pers, Carissa edulis (Forssk.)
Vah l, Cephalanthus natalensis Oliv, Combretum collinum
Fresen, Diospyros lycioides Desf, Englerophytum magalis-
montanum and Ekebergia capensis Sparrm.
Species use and frequency
To our knowledge, six of the species documented have
not been recorded in the ethnobotanical literature of local
plants used by the Vhavenda, prior to this study (Table 1).
Three of these species are exotic including Litchi chinen-
sis,Macadamia ternifolia and Persea Americana,and
other species include the exotic Athyrium filix-femina (L.)
Roth and the indigenous Croton sylvaticus Hochst and
Ziziphus rivularis Codd. The local uses for these species
appear to remain unpublished, as similar Vhavenda ethno-
botanical studies documenting the use of these plants
could not be found in the literature. New Vhavenda trad-
itional use records for 68 species were also identified as
well as 14 partially new plant uses (i.e. variations on previ-
ously recorded uses) and presented in Table 1.
The species with the highest use value index were
recorded for the Brachylaena discolor DC (0.23), Engler-
ophytum magalismontanum (0.16) and Persea ameri-
cana (0.19) representing the highest number of plant
uses of all species documented (Fig. 4). The species with
the highest relative frequency included Amaranthus
hybridus (0.23) and Colocasia esculenta (0.23) as the
most frequently cited species by informants (Fig. 4b).
Of the species identified, the majority were used for food
(36.0%), medicine (26.1%), firewood (11.8%), shade (5.0%),
cultural purposes (5.0%), drink (4.3%), domestic utensils
(4.3%), commercial use (2.5%), charcoal (1.9%), construc-
tion (1.2%), crafts (0.6%) and as indicator species for soil
fertility (0.6%). Of the 84 species identified, 61.7% were
multi-use. Of all species identified, the leaves (25.7%), fruits
(20.8%), wood (16.0%), bark (13.9%), roots (9.7%), stem
(8.3%), seed (2.8%), thorns (0.7%), latex (0.7%), flowers
(0.7%) and the whole plant (0.7%) were used.
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Table 1 Plant species cited by informants among Vhavenda communities in the Limpopo Province of South Africa
Scientific and family name Vhavenda name Habit BO Status CS AP P Use value Description Literature on Vhavenda
ethnobotanical use
Voucher
numbers
UVI RFI
Acanthaceae
Ribbon Bush (Hypoestes
aristata (Vahl) Roem. &
Schult.)
Mukuluvhali H N C/W HG Y Food, medicine a) Leaves: eaten as a vegetable;
relish eaten with porridge; b)
Roots: menstrual pain; bolsters
immunity in young babies
1
a) Leaves: vegetable; eaten
during times of food
shortage [6].
NCU0014 0.065 0.032
Amaranthaceae
Fat Hen, Lamb's Quarter,
White Goosefort,
Common Pigsweed
(Chenopodium album L)
Dale Dale H E (Europe) W HG C/
N
Food a) Leaves: edible vegetable;
relish seasoned with salt and
eaten with porridge; dried in
the sun and stored.
a) Leaves: vegetable [6]. NCU0065 0.032 0.032
Red amaranth, Wild
amaranth, Purple
Amaranth, Cockscomb
(Amaranthus cruentus L)
Mukango H E (North
and
Central
America)
W HG Food, cultural,
charcoal
a) Leaves: edible vegetable;
eaten with porridge; b) Stem:
seasoning to be mixed with the
leaves of Corchorus tridens;also
mixed with Ricinus communis to
make a stimulant named snuff
1
;
c) Bark stem: used to make
charcoal
1
.
a) Leaves and stem: edible
vegetable served with other
vegetables and pumpkin
leaves; dried and stored for
future use [7].
NCU0021,
117, 135
0.097 0.097
Smooth Pigweed
(Amaranthus hybridus L)
Vowa H E
(America)
C/W HG C/
N
Y Food, medicine a) Leaves: edible vegetable;
mixed with tomatoes and salt;
relish eaten with porridge;
infusion of leaves used to make
a drink for new-born children
named khongodoli to bolster the
immune system
2
;infusion of
leaves is also used to treat high
blood pressure
1
.
a) Leaves: vegetable eaten with
pumpkin leaves and flowers and
eaten with Corchorus tridens;
used to test suitability of babys
food during first 34 days. If the
baby shows symptoms of
diarrhoea, it is given a soft
porridge named khongodoli
instead of ntsu a liquid food.
In this case, the baby is given
a decoction of boiled leaves;
ingredient in snuff; high
nutritional value [68].
NCU0049, 94,
114, 118, 125,
157,
0.065 0.226
Anarcardiaceae
Marula (Sclerocarya birrea
(A.Rich.) Hochst.)
Mufula T N C/W F/W Y Firewood, food,
medicine, drink
a) Fruits: edible and used to
make a beer named mukumbi;
b) Bark: treat ulcers; supports
pregnancy and fertility in
women; c) Wood: firewood.
a) Fruit: edible fruits; beer; b)
seeds: cooking fat; cooking oil;
c) bark: support pregnancy;
fertility; colds; headaches;
malaria; stomach troubles;
ulcers; toothache; regulate sex
of unborn child; d) wood: for
carving and household utensils;
burning articles made from clay
[6,9,16].
NCU0140, 158,
176
0.129 0.097
Annonaceae
African Custard Apple,
African Custard Apple
(Annona senegalensis
Pers)
Muembe T N W HG Firewood, food,
medicine
a) Fruit: edible fruits; b) Bark:
toothache
1
; root bark added
to porridge for babies for its
nutritional value; c) Wood:
firewood
1
.
a) Fruit: edible fruits; b) Root:
snake-bite; venereal disease;
bilharzia; enhances medicinal
and nutritional value of
porridge; relieves constipation;
stomach and spasms; headache
NCU0180 0.097 0.032
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Table 1 Plant species cited by informants among Vhavenda communities in the Limpopo Province of South Africa (Continued)
Scientific and family name Vhavenda name Habit BO Status CS AP P Use value Description Literature on Vhavenda
ethnobotanical use
Voucher
numbers
UVI RFI
due to indigestion; blood in
faeces; c) Bark: stomach ache;
diarrhoea; dysentery; protecting
individuals from antagonistic
individuals; fibre used to make
ox-whips; d) Wood: cow-stick; e)
Branch: headache [6,9,16]
Kalahari Bitterwood,
Kalahari Red-Fingers
(Xylopicrum odoratissi
mum (Welw. ex Oliv.)
Kuntze)
Muvhulavhusiku T N W HG Medicine a) Roots: stomach pain a) Roots: stomach ache [6,16]. NCU0082 0.032 0.032
Apocynaceae
African Heartvine
(Pentarrhinum insipidum
E.Mey.)
Phulule C N W HG Food a) Leaves: edible vegetable;
cooked with porridge.
a) Edible vegetable; used as a
spice when cooked with other
vegetables [6].
NCU0070 0.032 0.032
Quinine Tree (Rauvolfia
caffra Sond)
Munadzi T N C HG Y Medicine, shade,
domestic utensils
a) Wood: household utensils
such as spoons and bowls; b)
Bark: stomach aches; c) An
important shade tree
1.
a) Bark: killing maggots in
wounds; abdominal and pelvic
troubles; malaria; arrests
development of diseases;
epilepsy; b) Wood: household
utensils such as spoons and
bowls [6,9,49].
NCU0013 0.097 0.032
Rubber Vine (Landolphia
Kirkii Dyer)
Muvhungo Shr N W HG Food a) Fruits: edible fruits named
muvhungo; b) Latex:
strengthening birdlime.
a) Fruits: edible fruits; beverage;
b) Latex: sweet taste and used
to make birdlime; c) Roots: piles;
rheumatoid arthritis; d) Stem:
sticks to protect against
witchcraft and magical attacks;
e) Saplings: basket rims;
constructions of thatch roofs
[6,9,13].
NCU0085,
NCU0194
0.032 0.065
Simple-Spined Num-
Num, Climbing Num-
Num, Small Num-Num
(Carissa edulis (Forssk.)
Vahl)
Murungulu T N W HG Firewood, food a) Fruit: edible fruits; b) Roots:
soaked and mixed with other
vegetables to make a relish
and eaten with porridge; c)
Wood: firewood
1
a) Fruits: edible fruits; juice; b)
Roots: mixed with other roots
to make an infusion for soft
porridge named tshiunza and
eaten by babies; tuberculosis;
menorrhagia; infertility; worms;
increase size of penis, mild
laxative for children; c) Leaves:
stomach ache; cough; cataracts
[6,9,13,50].
NCU0174, 201 0.065 0.065
Aracreae
Taro (Colocasia esculenta
(L.) Schott)
Mufungwe H E (Asia) C/W HG C/
N
Food a) Leaves: edible vegetable,
leaves are dried and stored
for future use; often eaten with
meat because it produces an
attractive aroma
2
. The plant is
commonly found in rivers.
a) Leaves: edible vegetable;
b) Rhizomes: taste like
potatoes when fried [7].
NCU0002, 19,
68, 92, 99, 144
0.032 0.226
Constant and Tshisikhawe Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine (2018) 14:56 Page 7 of 28
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Table 1 Plant species cited by informants among Vhavenda communities in the Limpopo Province of South Africa (Continued)
Scientific and family name Vhavenda name Habit BO Status CS AP P Use value Description Literature on Vhavenda
ethnobotanical use
Voucher
numbers
UVI RFI
Araliaceae
False-Cabbage Tree
(Schefflera umbellifera
(Sond.) Baill)
Mukho T N C/W HG Y Firewood,
construction
a) Wood: used to make
household utensils such as
spoons and plates; firewood.
a) Wood: household utensils
such as knives; spoons; plates;
bowls [6].
NCU0053 0.065 0.032
Asteraceae
Annual Sowthistle,
Common Sowthistle
(Sonchus oleraceus
(L.) L.)
Shashe H E (Europe,
Asia)
WHGC/
N
Food a) Leaves: edible vegetable
believed to bolster the immune
system
2
a) Leaves: piquant taste to
cooked vegetable; dried and
stored for future use [6].
NCU0152 0.032 0.032
Black Jack, Beggars Ticks
(Bidens pilosa L)
Mushidzhi H E
(America)
WHGC/
N
Y Food, medicine a) Leaves: edible vegetable
eaten with porridge; leaves are
dried and used during times of
drought or famine
2
;bolsters the
immune system
1
; given to new
born babies to be eaten with
soft porridge.
a) Leaves: edible vegetable
eaten with porridge; piquant
with other vegetables;
menstruation problems;
promote conception; testing
whether new-born babies
need liquid food or solid
porridge; high nutritional
value [68].
NCU0022, 60,
62, 95, 126,
151
Bushmans Tea (Athrixia
phylicoides DC)
Mutshatsha Shr N W HG Y Food, drink a) Leaves: Boiled and mixed with
Hibiscus trionum to make a tea
2
;
b) Fruits: used to make a dish
named thopi from the fruits
named gwadi
1
.
a) Root: aphrodisiac;
anthelmintic; b) Leaves: tea
named Mubosotie; meaning
wild tea plant; c) Wood: broom;
d) Other uses: heart disease;
diabetes; high blood pressure;
headaches; stomach aches;
influenza; leg wounds [6,13,51].
NCU0187 0.065 0.032
Forest Silver Oak
(Brachylaena discolor DC)
Mufhata T N C/W HG Y Firewood, domestic
utensils,
construction,
charcoal, medicine,
crafts, cultural
a) Wood: carving spoons; fences;
huts; and poles; support for the
neck to correct bad posture in
children
1
;threads for ties
1
;
firewood; charcoal
1
; b) Leaves:
treating roundworm; c) tree
found in rivers; forests and
mountains.
a) Leaves: roundworm infection;
b) Wood: roofs; fencing; posts;
wall posts; tool handles;
firewood [6].
NCU0054, 57 0.226 0.097
Athyriaceae
Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-
femina (L.) Roth)
Muvangulure Shr E (North
America)
W HG Indicator a) Grows in cultivating fields and
its presence indicates soil fertility
1
No known records NCU0177 0.032 0.032
Capparaceae
African Cabbage, Spider
Wisp (Cleome gynandra
L)
Murudi H N W HG Y Food a) Leaves: edible vegetables; the
leaves are cooked and eaten as
a relish with tomatoes and
served with porridge; leaves can
also be dried and stored during
winter.
a) Leaves: edible vegetable;
eaten with porridge; spice
favoured for its piquant taste;
dried and stored for future
use; high nutritional value [68].
NCU0131, 184 0.032 0.129
Caricaceae
Papaya tree (Carica
papaya L.)
Mupapawe T E (Central
America)
CHGC/
N
Y Food, commercial,
medicine
a) Fruits: Face mask to clear
pimples
1
;body lotion
1
; edible
a) Roots: venereal disease [9]. NCU0073, 100,
147
0.097 0.097
Constant and Tshisikhawe Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine (2018) 14:56 Page 8 of 28
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Table 1 Plant species cited by informants among Vhavenda communities in the Limpopo Province of South Africa (Continued)
Scientific and family name Vhavenda name Habit BO Status CS AP P Use value Description Literature on Vhavenda
ethnobotanical use
Voucher
numbers
UVI RFI
fruits; b) Bark: steam of bark
used to cure symptoms of flu
1
Chrysobalanaceae
Cork Tree (Parinari
curatellifolia Planch.
ex Benth.)
Muvhula T N W HG Food, drink a) The fruits are eaten when
ripened and an alcoholic
beverage is also made from
the fermented pulp of the
fruit.
a) Fruits: for edible fruits;
stamped in water or milk;
alcoholic beverage; b) Bark:
pelvic pains; venereal diseases;
cleaning kidneys; toothache; c)
Roots: venereal disease [6,9,13].
NCU0084 0.065 0.032
Combretaceae
Bicoloured Bushwillow,
Kalahari Bushwillow,
Silver Bushwillow
(Combretum collinum
Fresen)
Muvuvha T N W HG Firewood, charcoal Wood: firewood; charcoal
1
a) Wood: firewood; b) Shade
saplings: building material [6].
0.065 0.032
Bush Willow, Bushveld
Willow (Combretum
erythrophyllum (Burch)
Sond)
Muvuvhu-wa-
mulamboni
T N C HG Y Medicine a) Bark: pregnancy problems;
b) Tree is found close to rivers.
a) Bark: pregnancy problems;
b) Branches: roofs and wattles;
c) Roots: coughs [6,9].
NCU0105 0.032 0.032
Silver-cluster leaf
(Terminalia sericea Burch.
ex DC.)
Mususu T N W HG Medicine a) Roots: treats diarrhoea in
young babies.
a) Roots: used in soft porridge
to prevent diarrhoea and
dysentery; arrest purging; treat
protracted parturition or a
hanging placenta; venereal
disease; infertility [6,9].
NCU0124 0.065 0.032
Velvet Bush Willow,
Velvet Leaf Willow
(Combretum molle R.Br
ex G. Don)
Mugwiti T N C/W HG,
CL
Firewood, charcoal,
medicine
a) Bark: diarrhoea
1
; b) Leaves:
common colds; c) Wood:
firewood.
a) Wood: firewood; construction;
building; b) Leaves: colds; c)
Medicine to encourage and
maintain pregnancy; Roots:
laxative [6,9].
NCU0040,
NCU0179
0.097 0.065
Cucurbitaceae
Balsam Pear (Momordica
balsamina L)
Tshibavhe C N W HG Food, medicine a) Leaves: edible vegetable;
leaves of plant; eaten with
porridge; high blood pressure
1
a) Leaves: edible vegetable
eaten with porridge; piquant
taste when added to other
vegetables; antiemetic [6].
NCU0063 0.065 0.032
Bitter Melon (Momordica
boivinii Baill)
Nngu C N W HG Food, medicine a) Leaves: edible vegetable;
eaten during times of drought;
b) Leaves and roots: Earache
1
;
gout
1
a) Leaves: eaten with porridge;
spice; b) Roots: helps babies to
grow bigger [6,7].
NCU0067,
NCU0156
0.097 0.065
Jelly Melon, Bitter Wild
Cucumber, African
Cucumber (Cucumis
africanus L.f.)
Tshinyagu H N W HG Food a) Leaves: Edible leaves and
mixed with Hibiscus Trionum
to be eaten with porridge
2
.
a) Leaves: edible vegetable; b)
Seed: purgative [6,7].
NCU0186 0.032 0.032
Pumpkin (Cucurbita
pepo L)
Thanga H E (Central
and North
America)
C HG Y Food, medicine a) Leaves: edible vegetable;
eaten as a spinach when
cooked with the roots; eaten
with porridge; medicine for
a) Leaves: cooked with
pumpkins and flowers as a dish;
b) Flowers: dried and used as a
vegetable [6,7].
NCU0076, 103,
134, 182, 191
0.065 0.161
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Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Table 1 Plant species cited by informants among Vhavenda communities in the Limpopo Province of South Africa (Continued)
Scientific and family name Vhavenda name Habit BO Status CS AP P Use value Description Literature on Vhavenda
ethnobotanical use
Voucher
numbers
UVI RFI
treating birth pain
1
b) Seeds:
edible; c) Calabash; d) Skin of
pumpkin: used to make an edible
dish named thopi when mixed
with porridge
2
.
Ebenaceae
Bluebrush, Star-Apple
Monkey Plum (Diospyros
lycioides Desf)
Muthala T N C/W HG Firewood, Food,
Shade
a) Fruits: salads
1
;Wood:
firewood
1
a) Roots: used to make tshiunza
a dish given to babies with
porridge and ntswu; a nutritious
fluid of plants used to feed
children who cannot yet eat
soft porridge; epilepsy b) Stems:
used as lashes by herd boys and
teachers [18,21].
NCU0026, 148,
170
0.097 0.097
Magic Guarri (Euclea
divinorum Hiern)
Mutangule T N W HG Firewood,
medicine, food
a) Fruits: edible fruits; b)
Branches: toothbrush; c) Wood:
firewood
1
; d) Roots: stomach
problems.
a) Fruits: edible fruits; beverage;
b) Branch: toothbrush; c) Roots:
purgative; stomach aches;
purification of blood; general ill
health; c) Prevent water
contamination [6,13,16,52,53].
NCU0168 0.097 0.032
Euphorbiaceae
Cassava (Manihot
utilissima Pohl)
Mutumbula Shr E (South
America)
C HG Food a) Leaves: cooked with soft
porridge for babies; aids
digestion
1
; eaten during times
of hunger or drought.
a) Leaves: edible vegetable;
eaten with porridge and stored
for future use; b) Roots: tuber
eaten after prolonged boiling or
central root core is removed
prior to cooking as it is believed
to be poisonous [6].
NCU0102 0.032 0.032
Castor Oil (Ricinus
communis L.)
Mupfure H E (Europe,
India,
Tropical
Africa)
C HG I Medicine a) Seeds: oils mixed with other
medicines because of sticky
substance; polishing leather;
(b) Leaves: dried and crushed
to make a snuff
1
.
a) Roots: toothache; (b) Leaves:
purgative; used to treat the
disease tshiliso; thought to be
caused by witchcraft; topical
treatment of internal pains and
injuries; c) Seed: purgative; oil
from the seed made for mixing
medicines; earache; softening
and polishing leather; d) Fruits:
used as slingshot balls; causes
diarrhoea and emesis but will
cure coughs; worms; laxative;
tonic; earache; menorrhagia; f)
Leaves and stems: stings; bites
of insects [6,9,14].
NCU0051 0.032 0.032
Forest Fever Berry
(Croton sylvaticus Hoscht)
Mulathoho T N C/W HG Y Shade, medicine,
firewood
a) Shade
1
;b)Leaves: pleurisy
1
;c)
Wood: firewood
1
.
No known records NCU0047 0.097 0.032
Fabaceae
Ana Tree, Apple Ring,
Winter Thorn(Faidherbia
albida (Delile) A. Chev)
Muhoto T N C HG Y Food, medicine a) Fruits: eaten by cattle
1
;b)Bark:
venereal disease
1.
.
a) Bark: anti-malarial [10]. NCU0104 0.065 0.032
Constant and Tshisikhawe Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine (2018) 14:56 Page 10 of 28
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Table 1 Plant species cited by informants among Vhavenda communities in the Limpopo Province of South Africa (Continued)
Scientific and family name Vhavenda name Habit BO Status CS AP P Use value Description Literature on Vhavenda
ethnobotanical use
Voucher
numbers
UVI RFI
Apple-Leaf (Philenoptera
violacea (Klotzsch)
Schrire)
Mufhanda T N C HG Firewood,
medicine, c
a) Stems: medicine for protecting
the homestead and yard
1
;
diarrhoea; b) Wood: firewood
1
.
a) Bark: treatment of ticks; b)
Entire plant: diarrhoea; c) Roots:
gastrointestinal disorders [9,54].
NCU0120 0.129 0.032
Common Coral Tree,
Lucky Bean Tree
(Erythrina lysistemon
Hutch)
Muvhale T N C/W HG Construction,
medicine, cultural,
food
a) Fruit: edible fruits; b)Wood:
fences for construction
1
;c)Bark:
enhance the immune system
1
;d)
Cultural: tombstone for
traditional graveyards
a) Planted in graveyard; b) Bark:
toothache; antibacterial
compound; improved sexual
performance; relieving oedema;
c) Wood: firewood; d)
windbreak; e) ornamental
[6,10,11,16].
NCU0029, 164 0.129 0.065
Cork bush, Silver Bush,
Rhodesian Silver-Leaf
(Mundulea sericea (Willd.)
A. Chev.)
Mukundandou T N W HG Firewood,
medicine
a) Roots: protection against
witchcraft; b) Wood: firewood
a) Roots: protection against
witchcraft; aphrodisiac; to
regulate sex of unborn child; b)
Strong medicine to evade or
subdue; kunda = to conquer +
ndou = elephant referring to
the strongest animal; c) Wood:
firewood [6,9].
NCU0042,
NCU0081
0.065 0.065
Cowpeas (Vigna
unguiculata (L.) Walp)
Munawa H N C HG Y Food, medicine a) Leaves: edible vegetable;
relish eaten with porridge; b)
Fruits: eaten with soft porridge
and mixed with jugo beans;
groundnuts; maize which has
been grounded; and the
powder of grounded peanuts
to make a traditional dish
named Tshidzimba
a) Shoots, leaves, and unripe
fruits: cooked as a side dish; b)
Seeds consumed like other
legumes [7].
NCU0183 0.065 0.032
Flame Thorn, Flame
Acacia (Senegalia
alemquerensis (Huber)
Seigler & Ebinger.)
Muluwa Shr N W HG Firewood, crafts a) Sapling stems: split into strips
and used to make weaving
baskets named mufaro which
are used to present food for
rituals and to serve food for the
Khosi
2
; b) Wood: firewood
a) Roots: Aphrodisiac; b) Flexible
saplings: decorticated and
longitudinally split into thin;
band-like strips for weaving
baskets; winnowing and storage
baskets; c) branches: hedge
fencing around cattle enclosures
and homesteads; d) Wood: fire
wood [6]
NCU0027 0.065 0.032
Kiaat, Bloodwood,
Paddle-Wood, Sealing-
Wax Tree, Transvaal Teak
(Pterocarpus angolensis
DC)
Mutondo T N W CL Domestic utensils,
medicine
a) Wood: carving household
materials such as dishes; desks
and tables; b) Roots: treating
sores on the skin
1
.
a) Bark: acceleration of blood
formation; heavy menstruation;
miscarriage; childbirth; piles;
menorrhagia; venereal disease;
gonorrhoea; haematuria,
bilharzia; b) Wood: carving for
doors; door frames; spoons; tool
handles furniture and other
decorative objects; c) Roots:
amenorrhoea; headache;
venereal diseases; piles;
amenorrhoea; haematuria;
bilharzias; treat pulsating
anterior fontanelle in babies; d)
Fruit: whooping cough [6,9,55].
NCU0039 0.065 0.032
Constant and Tshisikhawe Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine (2018) 14:56 Page 11 of 28
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Table 1 Plant species cited by informants among Vhavenda communities in the Limpopo Province of South Africa (Continued)
Scientific and family name Vhavenda name Habit BO Status CS AP P Use value Description Literature on Vhavenda
ethnobotanical use
Voucher
numbers
UVI RFI
Lowveld Bauhinia (
Bauhinia galpinii N.E.Br)
Mutswiriri Shr N C HG Food a) Roots: eaten as food with
soft porridge for young babies
b) Fruits: edible fruit
1
.
a) Roots: used with an infusion
of other medicines to make a
soft porridge named tshiunza
for young babies as their main
staple food; diarrhoea;
enhanced sexual performance;
stomach worms; stomach pain;
infertility; b) Saplings: wattles in
construction of roofs and
courtyard walls; Bark and root:
stomach spasm [6,9,11].
NCU0001 0.032 0.032
Monkey Pod, Eared
Senna (Senna petersiana
(Bolle) Lock)
Munembenembe T N W HG,
F/W
Food, Medicine a) Seeds pods: edible and eaten
during times of drought or
hunger; b) Roots: toothache.
a) Pods: eaten but not very
palatable and picked during
times of hunger of food
shortage; b) Roots: mouthwash
and toothache; gonorrhoea;
syphilis; stomach ache; sterility
and barrenness; dysmenorrhoea;
or syncope; epilepsy; asthma;
toothache [6,9,11].
NCU0137,
NCU0169
0.065 0.097
Weeping Wattle, African
Black Wattle, African
Blackwood (Peltophorum
africanum Sond)
Musese T N C/W HG Y Firewood,
medicine
a) Bark: ulcers on the body;sore
throats
2
;Wood: firewood
1
; c) The
species is found close to rivers.
a) Bark: anthelmintic; stomach
troubles; colds; coughs; chest
complaints; eye sicknesses; rash
of the tongue in small children;
b) Root and bark: intestinal
parasites; tuberculosis; c)
Caterpillars on the plant are
fried and eaten or stored for
future use; d) Leaves: used to
cover the body during rituals; e)
Roots: sores, ulcers, and blisters
of the oral cavity; sore throats;
venereal disease; f) Entire plant:
menorrhagia, [6,9,55].
NCU0006, 16,
43, 141, 160
0.065 0.161
Gentianaceae
Big Leaf, Cabbage Tree,
Fever Tree, Forest Big-
Leaf, Tobacco Tree
(Anthocleista grandiflora
Gilg)
Mueneene T N C/W HG Y Medicine, cultural a) Bark: high blood pressure; b)
Leaves: used to cover maize
grains to encourage
germination when malt is
prepared; used to cover female
bodies during rituals; c)
Important for storing water
close to rivers.
a) Bark: malaria; diarrhoea;
diabetes; high blood pressure;
venereal disease; b) Stamped
bark soaked in water with seeds;
especially cereal grains; to make
the grains produce abundantly
when sown; c) Leaves: used to
cover millet grains to encourage
germination when malt is
prepared; worn to cover bodies
during rituals; nutrition for cattle
d) Important water tree
[6,9,16].
NCU0044 0.065 0.032
Lauraceae
Avocado Tree (Persea
americana Mill.)
Makatapiere T E (South
Central
CHGC/
N
Y Food, commercial,
medicine, shade,
a) Fruits: edible fruits; trees are
grown in small-scale orchards
No known records. NCU0064, 98,
146, 162
0.194 0.129
Constant and Tshisikhawe Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine (2018) 14:56 Page 12 of 28
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Table 1 Plant species cited by informants among Vhavenda communities in the Limpopo Province of South Africa (Continued)
Scientific and family name Vhavenda name Habit BO Status CS AP P Use value Description Literature on Vhavenda
ethnobotanical use
Voucher
numbers
UVI RFI
Mexico) firewood, cultural and sold commercially; b) Leaves
and stem: stripped; ground and
mixed to make a snuff as well as
type of bicarbonate of soda for
seasoning vegetables
1
; ground
and mixed with Amaranthus
hybridus to be used as a snuff
ingredient
1
; c) used to treat
diarrhoea
1
; d) Wood: firewood
1
.
Malvaceae
Bladder Hibiscus (Hibiscus
Trionum L)
Mandande H E (Europe) W HG C/
N
Food a) Leaves: edible vegetable;
eaten with porridge and
mixed with other vegetables.
a) Leaves: edible vegetables
and cooked with porridge [6,7].
NCU0129, 50 0.032 0.032
Cross-berry, Four Corners,
Four-Corners (Grewia
occidentalis L)
Mulembu T N W HG Food a) Leaves: edible vegetable
and eaten with porridge.
a) Leaves: edible vegetable and
eaten with porridge; b) Roots:
syphilis; venereal disease;
bladder ailments [6,56].
NCU0028 0.032 0.032
Meliaceae
Cape Ash, Dogplum
(Ekebergia capensis
Sparrm)
Mutobvuma T N W HG Y Firewood,
construction, shade
a)Wood: carving to make
drums
1
; firewood
1
;b) Bark:
headaches.
a) Bark: headaches; emetic;
heartburn; chest complaints;
b) shade and beauty [6,10].
NCU0011,
NCU0052
0.032 0.032
Thunder Tree, Forest
Mahogany, Forest Natal
Mahogany, Cape
Mahogany (Trichilia
dregeana Sond)
Mutuhu T N C/W HG Y Medicine a) Bark: STIs such as gonorrhoea
and syphilis
1
; b) The tree is found
in the Chiefs palace and used to
guard against bad spirits
1
.
a) Fruits: cooked with
vegetables as a condiment;
eaten with milk; b) Fruits and
seed: cooking oil; polishing
womens leather clothes; polish
furniture; c) Bark: used as an
enema for general cleaning;
kidney troubles which cause
impotence; d) ornamental; e)
Buried close to graveyards to
counter erosion when graves
are buried [9,14,17].
NCU0008 0.032 0.032
Menispermaceae
Kidney Leaf (Cissampelos
torulosa E.Mey. ex Harv.
& Sond)
Lukandululo C N W HG Medicine a) Leaves and stem: flu
1
.a) Leaves and stem: sthroats;
dysentery; diarrhoea; spiritual
cleansing; b) Leaves: edible
vegetable cooked with other
vegetables [6].
NCU0030 0.032 0.032
Moraceae
Cape Fig, Broom Cluster
Fig, Bush Fig, Cape Wild
Fig, Fire Sticks (Ficus sur
Forssk)
Muhuyu T N C/W HG Food, shade a) Planted at the Chiefs palace
for shade
1
; b) Fruits: edible fruits
are eaten fresh or dried.
a) Fruit: tuberculosis; b) Root:
diarrhoea [6].
NCU0009, 34,
166
0.065 0.097
Common Wild Fig (Ficus
thonningii Blume)
Muumo T N W HG Y Shade, food a) Found in the Chiefs palace for
shade
1
; found at the foot of a
mountain;b) Fruits: figs are also
eaten when ripe.
a) Fruits: figs are edible when
ripe; beverage; b) Latex: used for
birdlime; c) semi-parasitic plant
growing on the tree is used to
NCU0056 0.065 0.032
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Table 1 Plant species cited by informants among Vhavenda communities in the Limpopo Province of South Africa (Continued)
Scientific and family name Vhavenda name Habit BO Status CS AP P Use value Description Literature on Vhavenda
ethnobotanical use
Voucher
numbers
UVI RFI
treat insanity [6,13].
Red-Leaved Rock Fig,
Rock Fig (Ficus ingens
(Miq.) Miq.)
Tshikululu T N W HG Food a) Fruits: figs are eaten when
ripe by humans and animals.
a) Fruits: eaten when ripe but
preferred by primates; contains
analgesic compounds [6,10].
NCU0195 0.032 0.032
Myrtaceae
Waterberry Tree
(Syzygium cordatum
Hoschst.ex C.Krauss)
Mutu T N C/W HG Y Firewood,
medicine, shade,
drink
a) Found in wetlands and stores
water; b) Fruits: beverage; c)
Leaves and roots: aids stomach
digestion; d) Bark: sore throats
1
;
e) Fruits: eaten when ripe; f)
Wood: firewood
1
.
a) Fruit: eaten when ripe; b)
Leaves: treating for stomach
aches; colds and fevers; c)
Leaves and bark: diarrhoea;
wounds; d) Roots: headache,
amenorrhoea [6,9,56].
NCU0045, 58,
88, 159, 161
0.129 0.161
Woodland Waterberry,
Waterpear (Syzygium
guineense (Willd.) DC)
Mutawi T N W CL Food a) Fruits: ripened fruits; b) Found
in forests and mountains.
a) Fruits: edible fruits are used
by young people [6].
NCU0041 0.032 0.032
Red Guava (Psidium
guajava L.)
Mugwavha T E (Central
and South
America)
C/W HG I Domestic utensils,
food, drink,
medicine
a) Fruits: beverage; jelly; b)
Leaves: stop bleeding wounds;
c) Stem: brooms
1
a) Fruit: food; b) Whole plant:
shade tree; c) Roots, leaves, bark:
wounds; venereal disease
[9,14,15].
NCU0117, 135,
32, 66, 110,
149, 167
0.129 0.161
Ochnaceae
Yellow-peeling tree
(Brackenridgea
zanguebarica Oliv)
Mutavhatsindi T N W F/W Medicine a) Roots, stem, bark and leaves:
medicine to protect
homesteads and territories from
enemies; b) Bark: Added to other
medicines to enhance its
potency
1
.
a) Roots: wounds; swollen
ankles; amenorrhoea, worms;
mental illness b) Roots, stem,
bark, and leaves: used magically
to protect homesteads and
territories; c) The species
discourage opponents in
sporting events; offers
protection against witchcraft;
protects people [6,9,10,57,58].
Mentioned in
survey but
species
specimen not
collected.
0.032 0.032
Olacaceae
Blue Sour Plum, Tallow
Wood (Ximenia
americana L. var.
microphylla Welw. ex
Oliv)
Mutuanzwa T N W HG Medicine, food a) Fruits: edible when ripe; b)
Bark or powder of the root bark
is used to treat diarrhoea.
a) Fruits: eaten when ripe;
beverage; b) Bark: remedy for
dysentery in children; diarrhoea
and febrifuge in adults; c) Semi
parasite or epiphyte associated
with this plant; used to attract
people who do want to return
home from their places of work
far away; d) Roots: menorrhagia,
infertility; venereal disease,
headache due to indigestion,
blood in faeces, cough, eye
diseases [6,9,13].
NCU0089 0.065 0.032
Oxalidaceae
Fishtail Sorrel, Transvaal
Sorrel (Oxalis semiloba
Sond)
Mukulungwane H N W HG Y Food a) Leaves: chewed to remove a
foul taste in the mouth.
a) Leaves: chewed by a person
suffering from a tart or sour
feeling in the mouth; usually
after eating unripe fruit; b)
NCU0101 0.065 0.032
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Table 1 Plant species cited by informants among Vhavenda communities in the Limpopo Province of South Africa (Continued)
Scientific and family name Vhavenda name Habit BO Status CS AP P Use value Description Literature on Vhavenda
ethnobotanical use
Voucher
numbers
UVI RFI
Whole plant or leaves: treatment
of haemorrhoids; eye frops
[6,11].
Pedaliaceae
Devils Thorn (Dicerocaryum
eriocarpum (Decne) Abels)
Museto H N W HG Medicine a) Thorn: rub along the gums to
encourage teeth to develop in
young children
1
.
a) Leaves: expulsion of placenta
and easy delivery; b) Leaves and
stem: soap substitute; quicken the
expulsion of hanging placenta in
cattle and humans; important
medicine for a blood disease in
cattle known as mali (black
quarter evil) [6,9,10,12].
NCU0188 0.032 0.032
Phyllanthaceae
Coastal Goldenlead (Bridelia
micrantha (Hochst.) Baill)
Munzere T N C/W HG Y Food, medicine a) Fruits: edible fruits are eaten
and are black in colour; b) Found
close to rivers and cultivated fields;
c) Bark: bolsters the immune system
2
.
a) Leaves: eaten when ripe; b)
Bark: burns; gonorrhoea;
venereal disease; infected
wounds; toothache; abortion;
c) Long straight branches are
laid across the rivers to make
bridges; building huts; d)
Roots and bark: stomach
aches; tapeworms [6,9,55].
NCU0004, 15,
165
0.065 0.097
Phytolaccaceae
Forest InkBerry (Phytolacca
octandra L)
Thebe H E (North
America)
W HG Food, commercial a) Leaves and roots: cooked together
and eaten with porridge; b) Leaves:
eaten dry to make a type of biltong to
be eaten during the winter months
2
;
also during times of drought and
hunger
2
; species is commercialised
and sold in informal markets
2
.
a) Leaves: cooked and eaten
with porridge; spice; b) Leaves
and shoots: dried; burnt and
mixed with a snuff to serve
as a stimulant as well as to
give flavour [6].
NCU0017, 37,
48, 127, 132,
145, 153
0.065 0.194
Poaceae
Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor
(L.) Moench)
Nkhwe G E (Asia) C HG Food, cultural a) Seeds: ground into a powder and
used in a ritual as an offering to the
ancestors in a biting ritualnamed
u luma indicating the season for
ripening of the first vegetables or
fruits
1
.
a) Stem: cultivated for their
sweet stems [59].
NCU0096 0.065 0.032
Polygonaceae
Starstalk (Oxygonum
dregeanum Meisn.)
Muthanyi H N W HG Food a) Leaves: edible vegetable eaten
with soft porridge.
a) Leaves: edible vegetable;
spice; b) Leaves and shoots:
dried; burnt; mixed with snuff
to serve as a stimulant and to
give flavour [6]
NCU0192 0.032 0.032
Proteaceae
Broad-Leaved
Boekenhout (Faurea
saligna Harv)
Mutango T N C HG Household utensils,
crafts
a) Wood: used to construct
household utensils and crafts
a) Leaves: used to treat divhu or
devhu; an illness suffered by a
man who had sexual
NCU0083 0.065 0.032
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Table 1 Plant species cited by informants among Vhavenda communities in the Limpopo Province of South Africa (Continued)
Scientific and family name Vhavenda name Habit BO Status CS AP P Use value Description Literature on Vhavenda
ethnobotanical use
Voucher
numbers
UVI RFI
intercourse with a woman after
an abortion or miscarriage; b)
Bark: vagina ulcers; used to
wood: workable and durable; c)
Roots and bark: venereal
disease; bilharzia; d) Roots:
cough [6,9,33].
Macademia Tree
(Macadamia ternifolia
F.Muell)
Mutevu T E
(Australia)
C CL Food a) Nuts: ground into a powder
and eaten with vegetables and
porridge
1
.
No known records 0.032 0.032
Rhamnaceae
False Buffalo Thorn, River
Jujube (Ziziphus rivularis
Codd)
Mulalantsa T N C/W HG Firewood, Food,
Medicine
a) Bark: harvested from the
eastern and western sides of the
plant
1
; ground and used to treat
sores on the skin
1
; b) Fruits: eaten
fresh or dried and sometimes
eaten with porridge
1
; c) Wood:
firewood
1
.
No known records NCU0122 0.097 0.065
Rubiaceae
Rock-Alder (Afrocanthium
mundianum (Cham. &
Schltdl.) Lantz)
Mutomboti T N W HG Food a) Fruits: edible fruit is known as
thomboti.
a) Fruits: edible fruits; b) Leaves:
remedy for illness known as
divhu (a disease caused by
sexual intercourse with a
woman who has had an
abortion or miscarriage) [17].
NCU0025 0.032 0.032
Strawberry Bush, Quinine
Berry, Far Far Tree
(Cephalanthus natalensis
Oliv)
Murondo T N W HG Food a) Fruits: ripened fruit is eaten. a) Fruits: eaten when ripe; b)
Leaves: eye problems in cattle
[6,10,12].
NCU0172 0.032 0.032
Wild Medlar (Vangueria
infausta Burch. subsp.
infausta)
Muzwilu T N W HG Food, medicine a) Fruits: eaten when ripe or
dried; b) Stem: short sticks are
crafted from the stem and
nailed to the fence of the yard
and are thought to protect the
homestead.
a) Fruits: eaten fresh or dried;
also enjoyed with milk when
soaked in water; b) Roots and
bark: enhance fertility in
women; c) Sticks: nailed all
around the fence of a yard to
protect the homestead; d)
Roots: ulcers in the oral cavity
[6,9].
NCU0031, 35 0.065 0.065
Wild Oleander, African
Teak (Breonadia salicina
(Vahl) Hepper & J.R.I.
Wood)
Mutulume T N C/W HG Y Cultural a) Tree used to store water
1
;b)
Vhavenda proverb: when you are
chased by a lion who catches
your foot; you pull away; it does
not come out; like the root of the
mutulume
1
.
a) Roots: tachycardia [9] NCU0010 0.032 0.032
Rutaceae
Adelaide Spice Tree,
Small Knobwood
(Zanthoxylum capense
Munungu T N C/W HG Y Medicine a) Bark: ground and licked to
treat common colds and flu.
a) Roots and stem bark: sore
throats; chest complaints; boils;
pimples and blood poisoning
NCU0055 0.032 0.032
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Table 1 Plant species cited by informants among Vhavenda communities in the Limpopo Province of South Africa (Continued)
Scientific and family name Vhavenda name Habit BO Status CS AP P Use value Description Literature on Vhavenda
ethnobotanical use
Voucher
numbers
UVI RFI
(Thunb.) Harv) [6].
Lemon Tree (Citrus limon
(L.) Osbeck)
Tshikavhavhe T E (Asia) C HG C/
N
Food a) Leaves: used to make a tea
which can be drunk and used
as a medicine for stomach
ache and menstrual pain
1
.
a) Roots: Venereal disease [6,9]. NCU0074 0.032 0.032
Sapindaceae
Litchi (Litchi chinensis
Sonn)
Nombelo T E (Asia) C HG Food, drink a) Fruits: eaten during times of
hunger
2
; used to make a juice
and alcoholic beverage
No known records NCU0072,
NCU0163
0.065 0.065
Sapotaceae
Red Milkwood (Mimusops
zeyheri Sond)
Mububulu T N W HG Y Food, drink Fruits: eaten when ripe and
sometimes soaked in milk to
make a milkshake.
a) Fruits: edible when ripe; can
be soaked in milk or water to
make a beverage; dried and
stored for future use; b) Root
and stem bark: abdominal
complaints [6,13].
NCU0033 0.065 0.032
Wild Plum, Transvaal Milk
Plum (Englerophytum
magalismontanum
(Sond.) T.D Penn)
Munombelo T N W HG,
CL
Y Firewood, domestic
utensils,
commercial, food,
medicine
a) Wood: cooking spoons;
firewood
1
;b) Fruits: eaten when
ripe; good for nutrition for
children; beverage from the
fruits used to relieve
constipation; c) Species is found
near wetlands.
a) Fruits: edible; juice; fermented
beverage; b) Roots: remedy for
abdominal pains; c) A semi
parasite or lichen of this plant is
used as an ingredient of
medicines; prepared and burn
to invoke ancestral spirits during
malombo (Vhasenzi) or mbila
(Vhalemba) cults [6,13].
NCU0038, 61,
86
0.161 0.097
Solanaceae
Black or Common
Nightshade (Solanum
nigrum L)
Muxe H E (Europe) W HG Food a) Leaves: cooked and eaten
with porridge and other
vegetables.
a) Leaves: cooked and eaten
with porridge; with meat or
other vegetables; malaria and
dysentery; anal are a known
analgesic effects on toothache;
b) used as a cholagogue; c)
Roots and leaves: wounds
[6,7,15].
NCU0108 0.032 0.032
Ulmaceae
White Stinkwood (Celtis
africana Burm. f)
Mumvumvu T N C HG Y Medicine a) Stem of branches: used to
make magical sticks which
are driven into the ground to
protect against witchcraft.
a) Bark: magical properties;
nose and ear drops;
toothache; b)
Branches: used to protect
the homestead [6,9].
NCU0106 0.032 0.032
Urticaceae
Fever Tea, Lemon Bush
(Lippia javanica (Burm.f.)
Spreng))
Musudzungwane Shr N W HG Domestic utensils,
medicine
a) Leaves: used to make a tea
which is used to treat common
colds and to boost immunity;
leaves are crushed and sniffed to
treat nose bleeds and used as
appendages to block nose
a) Leaves: coughs; flu and
headaches; general body
sickness; malaria; dysentery;
diarrhoea; anthelmintic; asthma;
tick toxicant; b) Roots: burnt and
pounded to produce a
NCU0093, 124 0.065 0.065
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Table 1 Plant species cited by informants among Vhavenda communities in the Limpopo Province of South Africa (Continued)
Scientific and family name Vhavenda name Habit BO Status CS AP P Use value Description Literature on Vhavenda
ethnobotanical use
Voucher
numbers
UVI RFI
bleeds
1
; mosquito repellent;
malaria; b) Stems: brooms
1
.
medicine that is applied cuts
and sprained joints; dislocated
joints [6,9,12,13,60]
Mountain Nettle (Obetia
tenax Friis)
Muvhazwi H N C/W HG,
CL
Food, medicine a) Leaves: cooked and eaten
with porridge as a nutritious
meal; b) Stem: used to treat
snake bite wounds.
a) Leaves: cooked and eaten
with porridge; b) An epiphyte or
semi parasite growing on the
plant is used for treating snake
bite; c) Bark: source of fibre
cordage; ox-whips; mats; thatch
ing; game traps; and sieves for
straining beer [6,7].
NCU0097,
NCU0143
0.065 0.097
Stinging Nettle (Urtica
dioica L)
Dzaluma H E (Europe,
Asia,
Western,
Northern
Africa)
W HG Food a) Leaves cooked and seasoned
with salt; fresh tomatoes are
added to make the relish which
is then eaten with porridge
a) Leaves: cooked and eaten
with porridge [7].
NCU0018, 23,
50, 75, 128
0.065 0.161
Verbenaceae
Birds Brandy, Birds Beer
(Lantana rugosa Thunb)
Tshidzimbambule Shr N W HG Food a) Fruits: the purple berries are
eaten when ripe.
a) Fruits: eaten when ripe; b)
Leaves and stem: treat
troublesome eyes; c) Leaves:
bronchial infections; abdominal
complaints; anti-emetic; eye in
juries d) Roots: fever [6,9,11].
NCU0036,
NCU0173
0.032 0.065
Viteceae
Wild Grapes (Rhoicissus
tomentosa (Lam.) Wild &
R.B.Drumm)
Ndirivhe C E (Europe) C HG Food a) Fruits: consumed for food. a) Fruits: preferred by monkeys
but is also eaten by people in
Vhavenda; usually eaten out of
hunger because it is not very
palatable and has a sickly sweet
taste; quenches thirst when
eaten [6]
NCU0091 0.032 0.032
Family/scientific name/local name; Habit (Cclimber, Ggrass, Hherbaceous, Shr shrub; Ttree); BO biogeographic origin (Nnative, Eexotic); Status (Wwild, Ccultivated, C/W cultivated and wild); CS collection sites
(HG home garden, CL cultivated land, F/W evergreen forest/deciduous woodland); AP alien plants (Iinvasive, C/N casual/naturalised); Ppropagation in home gardens (Yyes, Nno); Use value; Description (entirely
new plant use records are indicated in italics by the superscript 1and partially new records of plant uses are indicated in italics by superscript 2); Literature on Vhavenda ethnobotanical use; Voucher numbers;
UVI (Use Value Index); RFI (Relative Frequency Index)
Constant and Tshisikhawe Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine (2018) 14:56 Page 18 of 28
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0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
50
Climber Grass Herb Shrub Tree
seiceps tnalp fo rebmuN
Native Exotic
Fig. 2 Number of exotic and native plant species separated by habit in the Vhavenda community, Limpopo Province, South Africa
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
Climber Grass Herb Shrub Tree
seiceps tnalp fo rebmuN
Exotic Cultivated Exotic Wild Native Cultivated Native Wild
Fig. 3 Number of exotic and native cultivated and wild species separated by habit in the Vhavenda community, Limpopo Province, South Africa
Constant and Tshisikhawe Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine (2018) 14:56 Page 19 of 28
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Cultural practices associated with Vhavenda plants
The Vhavenda integrate a range of strategies for protect-
ing plant resources including prohibitions against certain
plants from being used, the promotion of sustainable
harvesting practices and the propagation of plant species
to support ecological restoration (Table 2). The most
common strategy for managing plant resources included
taboos preventing trees from being cut down, used as
firewood or taken back to the homestead for 11.9% of spe-
cies. The following trees were prohibited from being cut
down: Anthocleista grandiflora Gilg, Breonadia salicina
(Vahl) Hepper & J.R.I. Wood, Bridelia micrantha (Hochst.)
Baill, Combretum molle R.Br. ex G.Don, Ekebergia capensis,
Englerophytum magalismontanum,Ficus sur Forssk,Mun-
dulea sericea (Willd.) A. Chev, Pterocarpus angolensis DC
and Sclerocarya birrea (A.Rich.) Hochst. The tree Mundu-
lea sericea is prohibited from being used as firewood in
homesteads where cattle are present, and Celtis africana
cannot be planted in the homestead. Sclerocarya birrea
fruits can only be harvested when they have fallen to the
ground;otherwise,theculprits were believed to experience
a fever or snakes would appear in their homesteads. Brack-
enridgea zanguebarica Oliv is prohibited from entering
Vhavenda homesteads, and a failure to adhere to the taboo
results in sterility among household members. Brackenrid-
gea zanguebarica is also prohibited from being used for
firewood, hedge fencing, building work or wood carving.
The Vhavenda have developed selective harvesting
practices, for example, plants are taken from specific
areas and it is prohibited from returning to the same
area in a year allowing the plants to recover. Only the
tender leaves of Amaranthus hybridus,Cucurbita pepo,
Momordica balsamina L, Momordica boivinii Baill and
Phytolacca octandra L are selected allowing the leaves
to reach maturity. Cucurbita pepo is only harvested after
the flowering of the plant, indicating the time for
harvesting when the vegetable has reached maturity.
The leaves of Cucurbita pepo and Momordica boivinii
0 0.05 0.1 0.15 0.2 0.25
Urtica dioica
Amaranthus hybridus
Annona senegalensis
Combretum molle
Amaranthus hybridus
Ziziphus rivularis
Croton sylvaticus
Rauvolfia caffra
Carica papaya
Euclea divinorum
Diospyros lycioides
Ekebergia capensis
Momordica boivinii
Philenoptera violacea
Sclerocarya birrea
Psidium guajava
Syzygium cordatum
Erythrina lysistemon
Englerophytum magalismontanum
Persea americana
Brachylaena discolor
Use Value Index
seiceps tnalP
0 0 .05 0.1 0.15 0.2 0.25
Brachylaena discolor
Sclerocarya birrea
Ficus sur
Amaranthus hybridus
Vigna unguiculata
Senna petersiana
Englerophytum magalismontanum
Bridelia micrantha
Carica papaya
Diospyros lycioides
Persea americana
Cleome gynandra
Urtica dioica
Psidium guajava
Peltophorum africanum
Syzygium cordatum
Cucurbita pepo
Bidens pilosa
Phytolacca Octandra
Colocasia esculenta
Amaranthus hybridus
Relative Frequency Index (RFI)
seiceps tnalP
a
b
Fig. 4 aUse Value Index (UVI) and (b) Relative Frequency Index (RFI) of plants citied by the Vhavenda, Limpopo Province, South Africa
Constant and Tshisikhawe Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine (2018) 14:56 Page 20 of 28
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must not be harvested or touched by menstruating
women; otherwise, it is believed that the vegetable will
shrink in size. The wood of Pterocarpus angolensis is
often placed in home gardens to prevent menstruating
women from entering the garden. Similar beliefs are also
extended to the harvesting of fruits for Sclerocarya bir-
rea where only elder women who have experienced
menopause are permitted to harvest the fruits. The
bark from trees such as Ziziphus rivularis is harvested
from the eastern side of the tree, due to a belief that
bark harvested from this side has the highest nutri-
tional level of all sides and the wound is covered with a
mixture of soil and water to aid the recovery of the tree.
Many of the practices described traditional healers to
harvest plants for medicines were conducted in a man-
ner to prevent the destruction of an entire tree, for ex-
ample, only the horizontal edges of tap roots were
removed from each side of the plant and the remaining
roots covered back over with soil.
Of the 84 plant species identified, 34.5% of the species
seeds were stored and saved for propagation in home nur-
series and were mainly native (82.8%) compared to exotic
(17.2%) species (Table 1). This practice is motivated by the
need for individuals to grow important herbs or trees for
food or their medicinal value; however, groups of women
were also observed developing nurseries in their home
gardens for the restoration of indigenous montane forests
close to sacred groves and river valleys.
Cultural institutions associated with Vhavenda plants
In the villages of Tshidzivhe, Lwamondo and Tshiendeulu,
the Khosi and Mukoma continue to play an important role
in monitoring compliance of rules to harvest indigenous
plant species in an area under his jurisdiction and the
reporting of unsustainable harvesting practices. The Khosi
is also consulted by traditional healers prior to harvesting
trips undertaken by those who desire firewood or medi-
cines from the forest. Often, the Khosi or Mukoma uses
this traditional system to monitor plant populations, and
if overharvesting or ill behaviour is observed, individuals
are called to the Khosispalace and issued with a sanction
in the form of a fine.
The agriculture cycle of the Vhavenda is imbued with a
form of wisdom tied the contemporaneous life cycles of
different species interlinked with knowledge of their envir-
onmental requirements and seasonality, social norms, ta-
boos and ceremonies to indicate rules for knowing when
to cultivate, plant and harvest. The timing of agriculture
cycles for soil preparation, planting and cultivation are de-
termined by dzima which refers to different seasons deter-
mined by the phases of the moon. The first dzima occurs
in September (khubvumedzi) or October (tshimedzi)
where the land is cleared, the soil is tilled and seeds are
sown. Public rituals and ceremonies are integrated into
the agricultural practices of the Vhavenda in the villages
of Tshidzivhe and Tshiendeulu, for example, one inform-
ant described the ritual of usukareferring to the mixing
Table 2 Traditional practices for managing plant resources in targeted villages
Traditional practices Duthuni Tshidzivhe Vuvha Lwamondo Mashau Tshiendeulu
Consultation of the Khosi or Mukoma to seek permission before harvesting plants X X X X
Penalty for cutting down trees and the payment of a fine of ZAR 1000 (75USD) X
Stem bark is harvested on the eastern side of the plant X X
Only the lateral roots of plants are collected X X X X X
Soil is covered back over harvested roots X X
Propagation of plant species in home gardens X X X
Taboos preventing trees from being cut down, used as firewood or
being placed in the homestead
XX XX XX
Edible fruits from trees are only harvested when the fruits have fallen
to the ground or ripened
XX
Some species are only harvested for their tender leaves X X
Only the deadwood if trees is collected for firewood X X X
Consultation with the ancestors before harvesting a plant X
Women are not allowed to collect plants during menstruation X X
Plants harvested only from specific areas X X
Prohibitions from harvesting plants from the same area each year X X
Some species are only planted and harvested during certain seasons
following ritual ceremonies by Makhadzi or traditional leaders.
XX
Species only harvested when the flowers are present indicating the
maturity of the plant
X
Legend: X indicates the presence of traditional practices for managing plants in a village
Constant and Tshisikhawe Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine (2018) 14:56 Page 21 of 28
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
of seeds which were mixed with a medicine and sown into
the perimeters of the field before the ploughing season to
enhance soil fertility. Informants reported that seeds were
also doctored before planting and rain-making rituals
were conducted to enhance the crop yield.
In January (phando), the second dzima commences in
summer (tshilimo) where vegetables and crops are har-
vested, and a second round of planting commences.
Other rituals were performed to give thanks to the an-
cestors after the harvest, for example, January was often
indicative of the ripening of wild fruits and vegetables
which were consumed after the first fruit rituals named
utungula or u lumisa were performed as thanks to the
ancestral spirits. When the crops are ready for harvest-
ing, the Makhadzi picks a sample of each vegetable or
fruit that are cooked with herbs. She performs a ritual
where a libation of unfermented beer is poured into clay
pots as an offering to ancestral spirits and to inform that
cultivation is ready; this is named u luma the biting of
the first fruit. The fruits of the Marula Tree (Sclerocarya
birrea) are often harvested during this time when the
fruits have fallen to the ground indicating the time for
harvesting. A third dzima commences from May (shun-
dunthule) onwards during the winter period (mavhuya-
haya) where the second round of crops are harvested,
and a rest period takes place until September where the
fields are left fallow and domestic livestock graze on the
remains of the harvested crops. Traditionally, this period
was also marked by ritual ceremony in July named thev-
hula a form of thanks giving to share the final harvests
with the ancestral spirits.
Knowledge acquisition and barriers for knowledge
transmission
Plant knowledge and management practices were reported
to be transmitted from relatives (grandparents and par-
ents) (48.4%), self-taught through time spent planting and
harvesting plants on the land (19.4%), through apprentice-
ships with traditional healers (16.1%), initiation schools
(9.7%) and clan gatherings (6.4%). Acquired plant know-
ledge from everyday interactions was taught through rela-
tives by spending time accompanying family on plant
harvesting trips, planting and collecting plants for food
and during meal preparation. Some individuals also speci-
fied that songs and fables were taught by family members
to illustrate of forms of appropriate conduct and were
often imbued with lessons in ecology and proper ways of
respecting one another. Others taught themselves how to
identify plants through time spent planting and harvesting
or sought the guidance of more knowledgeable individuals
in the village. Traditional healers learnt about plant medi-
cines through apprenticeships with more experienced
healers. Formalised cultural institutions such as initiation
schools where girls and boys learn about the laws of life,
the environment, sexuality, gender responsibilities and re-
spect for the elderly also play a role in transmitting
plant-based knowledge. Others claimed plant knowledge
was learnt during clan gatherings and ritual ceremonies.
Interviews with elders identified that taboos and belief sys-
tems were considered important for encouraging individ-
uals and communities to follow traditional customs and
laws, for example, clan gatherings would occur at the Kho-
sispalace where individuals were reminded how to ob-
serve local taboos, rituals and practices. In turn,
traditional leaders play a prominent role in reviving rituals
to set an example for others during communal celebra-
tions and to act as role models for the rest of the
community.
Interviews with elders revealed a disjuncture between
knowledge exchange between elders and youth and a loos-
ening of more formalised learning platforms for know-
ledge sharing about plants, taboos and social norms.
Initiation schools, clan gatherings and communal cere-
monies such as the vegetable and first fruits ceremonies
are infrequent and only observed in villages that are iso-
lated and maintain their traditions. The interchanges be-
tween knowledge holders, the place where knowledge is
shared and the novice who is able and willing to experi-
ence such memories are few. There are fewer skilled ex-
perts on the landby local people spending more time in
the classroom at school or university, in the town centre,
or conducting business away from home. Traditional lead-
ership roles of the Khosi and Mukoma have changed with
traditional leaders spending less time in their communities
and fewer clan gatherings being held in villages resulting
in partial knowledge of village affairs and issues on the
ground. Traditional healers may no longer consult with
the Khosi before harvesting and firewood trips. This is ob-
servable where people collect plant material in the ab-
sence of members of the tribal authority and do not
observe the taboos and traditional cultural practices.
Observations by interviewees identified how cultural
practices and beliefs are re-evaluated internally by young
generations. As education becomes a primary facet of
growing up in Venda, school and university education
has devalued cultural institutions and traditional systems
of authority over land and natural resources. New roles
exist in the community for youth who have returned to
their homes from university to exercise household
decision-making power and challenge the authority and
traditions of their elders. The emergence of new ideals
among youth and adults associated with acquiring
wealth and status has led to a form of economic stratifi-
cation and lessening of communal traditional values and
responsibilities. Informants stated that Christianity was
originally initiated through mission education, and their
teachings have influenced perceptions of practices and
beliefs associated with ancestral spirits. The main
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Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
observable impact is the demeaning of local cultural
practices, beliefs surrounding taboos and rituals associ-
ated with ancestor veneration challenging the medicinal,
magical and religious aspects of Vhavenda life.
Discussion
Characterisation of documented plant species
Fabaceae represented the most important plant family
with the highest diversity of plant species recorded
among the Vhavenda. Similar studies in the region have
highlighted Fabaceae as the most important family for
medicinal plants [10,11,33] and the treatment of live-
stock diseases [12] whilst others have reported the im-
portance of the Apocynaceae for the use of plants for
traditional beverage-making plants [13]. The result is
unsurprisingly considering Fabaceae represents the third
largest family of angiosperm plants with over 20,856 spe-
cies documented worldwide [34]. The most frequently
recorded plant species found in this study are trees
followed by herbs, which is similar to other ethnobotan-
ical studies on the Vhavenda [12,13,33]. Trees and
herbs have also been recorded as the most dominant life
forms used by other cultural groups such as the Bapedi
in the Limpopo Province [14]. The preference for trees
and herbs among the Vhavenda may reflect the ease of
collecting herbs both in the wild, through their cultiva-
tion in home gardens and the all-season availability of
trees, providing a continuous supply of ecosystem ser-
vices for local people [35]. The Vhavenda possess a
long-term accumulation of learnt knowledge of the use
values of biologically diverse indigenous plant species as
evidenced through the dominance of mainly native spe-
cies (73.8%). There were preferred places for plant gath-
erings although many of the collected species used for
vouchering were mainly identified in home gardens and
cultivated lands. Although the majority of informants
continue to harvest wild plant species from forests and
woodlands, the relatively low frequency of these species
for vouchering may also relate to the declining presence
of forest and woodland cover in the region due to the
establishment of pine and eucalyptus plantations and
residential housing expansions [36]. Many species docu-
mented in this study were wild (54.8%) compared to cul-
tivated species (20.2%). In the Vhembe District, other
researchers also documented a dominance of wild plant
species used by the Vhavenda because the properties of
wild plants are perceived to be more potent compared
to cultivated species for medicinal purposes [12]. It is
also important to note that some individuals also gath-
ered wild plants along trails between residential areas,
cultivated lands, forests and woodlands. Other studies
have shown a change in the collection of plants in com-
munal lands to collecting species associated with dis-
turbed sites located closer and within residential areas
[37,38]. The presence of both wild successional and cul-
tivated species highlights the elevated importance of dis-
turbance regimes for plant utilisation and management.
The Vhavenda use a relatively lower number of exotic
plants (26.2%) but have managed to domesticate and
cultivate a range of exotic trees in home gardens and
small-scale orchards, for example, Macademia ternifolia
and Persea americana are in demand within local mar-
kets, and as a means of improving yields and incomes
for rural farmers. Carica papaya,Citrus limon,Litchi chi-
nensis and Psidium guajava arefavouredasdomesticfruit
trees. Exotic cultivated herbs such as Amaranthus hybri-
dus,Colocasia esculenta and Cucurbita pepo are often
consumed as vegetables and have become a vital compo-
nent of the local diet and economy. Two invasive species
used by the Vhavenda, Psidium guajava and Ricinus com-
munis,have also been documented by other researchers
as part of Vendas repository of useful plants [14,15]. Des-
pite the relatively low utilisation of exotic and invasive
species, their use is also indicative of the positive role of
widely dispersed species in the process of ethnobotanical
adaptation as new species become introduced over time.
To our knowledge, new ethnobotanical literature for six
new species not previously documented in the scientific lit-
erature are used by the Vhavenda including Athyrium
filix-femina,Croton sylvaticus,Litchi chinensis,Macadamia
ternifolia,Persea americana and Ziziphus rivularis.In
addition, 68 new and 14 partially new uses of Vhavenda
plants were also identified for a variety of species providing
a more complete insight into the pattern of plant use in the
Vhavenda ethnobotanical record. New documented species
records and use values indicate that ethnobotanical know-
ledge of the Vhavenda is incomplete particularly regarding
the utilisation of exotic species which is largely overlooked.
Plant species are harvested not only for food and medicine
but also for sources of firewood, shade, cultural and spirit-
ual purposes, drink domestic utensils, commercial use,
charcoal production, construction, crafts and as indicator
species for understanding soil fertility. Other studies on the
Vhavenda have highlighted similar uses although there has
been an inherent bias towards studies of plants for food [7,
8], medicines [912] and other cultural and spiritual pur-
poses [16,17].
The native Brachylaena discolor was cited as having
the highest number of uses for firewood, construction,
crafts, domestic utensils, charcoal, medicine and its cul-
tural use. The wood is favoured for carving spoons,
fences, huts and poles as well as roofs, wall posts and
tool handles [16]. The wood is also used to provide a
support for the neck to correct bad posture in children
and to make threads for ties. The leaves are used to
make a medicine to treat roundworm [16]. Persea ameri-
cana was cited as having the highest number of uses for
food, medicine, shade, firewood and its commercial and
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Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
cultural value. Persea americana are being increasingly
cultivated by emerging farmers in community orchards
to support local livelihoods. Although tropical fruit pro-
duction is not traditionally part of Vhavenda culture cur-
rently, the Vhembe District represents the second largest
district to produce mangoes, avocadoes, macadamia nuts
and bananas with the Limpopo Province being the lar-
gest exporter of avocadoes in the country [24]. The spe-
cies most frequently cited by informants included
Amaranthus hybridus and Colocasia esculenta, both
exotic to South Africa that have become naturalised in
South Africa and are now favoured as vegetables and for
their nutritional value. Amaranthus hybridus is thought
to bolster the immune system and alleviate high blood
pressure. The ethnobotanical records for these species
demonstrate similar uses, for example, Amaranthus
hybridus is a popular leafy vegetable, the leaves are eaten
with pumpkin leaves and flowers and eaten with Corch-
orus tridens L, the species is also used to test suitability
of babys type of food during first 34 days after birth. If
thebabyshowssymptomsofdiarrhoea,itisgivena
soft porridge named khongodoli instead of ntsu a li-
quid food [68]. Colocasia esculenta has previously
been documented as a favoured leafy vegetable among
the Vhavenda [7].
Cultural practices and institutions for plant management
and conservation
The current study identifies a range of species-specific ta-
boos associated with ten plant species to prevent them
from being cut down, used as firewood and taken inside
homesteads. These species are important as they are also
favoured for their use as firewood, edible fruits, famine
foods and medicines. Other studies have also documented
similar taboos preventing the same trees from being cut
down, for example, Anthocleista grandiflora maintained
the status of the territory,Combretum molle is a favoured
shade tree and Ekebergia capensis attracts rain [16]. Ta-
boos among the Vhavenda have also been implemented to
prohibit certain trees from being misused because of me-
dicinal and magical beliefs associated with them. Sacred
trees used to protect territories or homesteads named u
vhea mudiare tabooed, for example, Philenoptera viola-
cea is not used for firewood because of a belief that burn-
ing it inside the homestead can lead to the dissolution of
marriage [6,16]. Some species have traditionally been
used to protect against invasion by other tribes and
against natural disasters. Similar species are also tabooed
because they are used to protect families inside the home-
stead, for example, Celtis africana is used to protect a
family against witchcraft but is not to be planted inside
the homestead [16,39]. The association of taboos with
species that have traditionally been protected by the Vha-
venda is also well documented, for example, Sclerocarya
birrea are protected by the Vhavenda for their edible
fruits, use as famine foods during times of hardship, medi-
cines and shade [6]. Taboos associated with Sclerocarya
birrea are enforced through beliefs such that violators or
the community experience illnesses or other punishments
emanating from their actions [6]. Sclerocarya birrea
should not be cut down because it is believed to hold the
land together and if removed will prohibit the rain from
falling [16]. Only male trees of Sclerocarya birrea are cut
down, and individuals face heavy fines if the tree is felled
without the permission of the Khosi [39]. Taboos have
continued to preserve tree species throughout Africa, for
example, among the Bolero in Malawi traditional norms
and practices for protecting sacred tree species have re-
sulted in the protection of Faidherbia albida for its role in
moisture retention and enhancing soil fertility for crop
production during drought [40].
The Vhavenda carry out a number of practices that
seek to promote sustainable harvesting practices, for ex-
ample, extraction of the bark from the eastern side of a
shrub or tree has also been observed among other Vha-
venda researchers [6] and the Bapedi [35] due to a belief
that bark harvested on this side of this tree is more po-
tent for medicinal purposes. Other researchers have sug-
gested that this method prevents ring barking of the
tree, and because the tree receives sunlight from the
eastern and western side of a tree, this supports faster
healing [41,42]. The harvesting of only the tender leaves
of selected plant vegetables and flowering of pumpkins
indicating the maturity of the vegetable as observed in
this study has also been documented among the Man-
theding community in the Limpopo Province of South
Africa [43]. The following cultural practice can also be
associated with life history taboos which are applied
when a cultural group bans the use of certain vulnerable
stages of a species life history based on its age, sex or re-
productive status [44]. In these cases, vegetables are har-
vested to allow them to reach maturity, bear seed and
grow into the next season. The act of refilling soil over
harvested roots of medicinal plants among the Vhavenda
has also been observed among the Shona of Zimbabwe
which is strengthened by a taboo suggesting that a fail-
ure to adhere to the practice will result in worsening
sickness of the patient [45]. Other researchers have
highlighted a number of taboos associated with Bracken-
ridgea zanguebarica among the Vhavenda, for example,
harvested roots or bark of this tree is prohibited from
entering the homestead and women who touch the plant
may experience non-stop menstruation [39]. The species
is thought to cause health problems for people who har-
vest the roots or bark without following the correct pro-
cedures [39]. Segment taboos occur when a cultural
group bans the utilisation of a species for specific time
or age, sex or social status [44]. Segment taboos
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Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
associated with women, children, menstruating females
and parents of new-borns are common [44]. The prohib-
ition of women harvesting plants during menstruation is
not specific to the Vhavenda but is also encountered
among African groups such as the Bapedi who believe
that menstruating women will decrease the fertility of
food crops, which may originate from cultural beliefs
surrounding human health risks [3,44].
Plant propagation through the cultivation of herbs and
climbers and medicinal plants in home gardens has
played a role in the conservation of indigenous vegeta-
tion. For example, the Kei-Apple (Dovyalis caffra
(Hook.f. & Harv.) Sim) and Oval Kei Apple (Dovyalis
zeyheri (Sond.) Warb) still survive in areas of the Sout-
pansberg that were previously occupied by the Vhavenda
[46]. Propagation of indigenous fruits and vegetables
through dispersal of seeds in the homesteads for use by
family members has also been observed among the
Mantheding community in the Limpopo Province of
South Africa [43]. However, among the Vhavenda, the
motivations for plant propagation have a range of impli-
cations for the conservation of wild indigenous plants to
support ecological restoration projects in the region.
The various strategies employed by the Vhavenda to
protect their plant resources provide in situ management
methods for sustaining plant resources.
Traditional leaders in the study continue to play an im-
portant role in extending authority to monitor compliance
of social norms and rules governing the harvesting of indi-
genous plant species. Similar roles have also been observed
in other regions of the Limpopo Province where trad-
itional leaders monitor indigenous plants use in villages
through the sanctioning of fines and penalties for
non-compliance [3,43]. Similarly, specialists such as trad-
itional healers and female regents (Makhadzi) are signifi-
cant in supporting institutional memory through the
enactment of ritual ceremonies associated with plant util-
isation and management. Cultural practices such as the
performance of rituals to ancestral spirits through offer-
ings of beer and food to give thanks for the years harvests
or prior to harvesting trips promote a value system that
enforces a respect for all living forms. Traditionally, the
Khosi or Mukoma declare the Marula season open for har-
vesting and it was often customary to perform a ritual be-
fore the Marula is brewed to make mukumbi,abeer[16].
Households can then brew their own beer, and samples
are taken to the traditional leader for tasting which are
cleansed by medicines overseen by the Makhadzi before
tasting and then offered to the ancestors [19]. Thanksgiv-
ing ceremonies after the harvesting period are also per-
formed, for example, the Makhadzi performs the thevhula
ceremony where unfermented beer is poured into clay
pots as an offering to the ancestral spirits [19]. The cere-
mony is also used to ask for appeasement in terms of other
phenomena that have disturbed harmony within the com-
munity including disease, bad harvests and natural disas-
ters and to call the rain for the next seasons harvest [19].
Similar cosmological beliefs have also been observed
among the Bolero in Malawi where rituals and offerings
are made to God and the ancestors for rain. The cooper-
ation of the ancestors is ensured through offerings, par-
ticularly of beer and food. When the ancestral spirits are
aggrieved, usually through breaching of a moral code (or
social contract), anger is believed to manifest in communal
hardships through drought; therefore, rituals are held in
the village to call upon the ancestors to deliver rain [40].
Changing dynamics of knowledge transmission in Venda
Plant knowledge is mainly perceived to be transmitted
vertically (from parent to offspring) through learning by
doingfrom everyday interactions with relatives from
helping parents to plant and harvest different species,
gathering plants in the forest for food, medicines and
firewood as well as preparing plant materials for meals.
Other popular forms of knowledge acquisition among
the Vhavenda also include oblique transmission through
formal apprenticeships with traditional healers, initiation
schools and clan gatherings. This follows other studies
on knowledge acquisition suggesting that learning stages
take place through hands-on experience and observation
often reinforced through apprenticeships with
knowledgeable elders [47,48]. From an intergenerational
perspective, informants highlight the role of declining
traditional platforms for knowledge exchange between
elders and youth observed through the lessening of
storytelling, initiation ceremonies, clan gatherings, com-
munal rituals and ceremonies. These social mechanisms
allow for cultural internalisation and as knowledge car-
riersto enable the remembrance of rules, taboos and
practices associated with plant use and management to
be inculcated. Traditional cultural practices conducive to
biodiversity conservation are no longer practised owing
to a lack of responsibility among tribal leaders and com-
munity members to encourage the uptake of cultural
practices and adherence to traditional rules and regula-
tions as has been reported in other African studies [16,
39]. These cultural institutions play an important role in
passing on institutional memory and supporting com-
munal action; however, their decline also undermines
the continuation of plant-based knowledge and manage-
ment practices for utilising and protecting plant re-
sources on communal lands.
Elders also highlight the interplay of changing value sys-
tems among the youth through the introduction of west-
ern education systems and new religious beliefs that have
led to a lack of plant-based knowledge, less time spent on
the land and adherence to moral codes, rituals and taboos.
Formal education has been associated with less time spent
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Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
in the bushand negatively correlated with indigenous
knowledge [47]. In this study, informants identified the
schooling system as a causal factor driving changing value
systems among younger generations as education eclipses
traditional forms of knowledge transmission. Intergenera-
tional frictions materialise through perceptions of local
and indigenous knowledge as inferior to knowledge gained
through formal education among the youth and observed
rebellions against rules of conduct including adherence to
taboos [16]. Continuity in the methods of interaction and
engagement with plants and the land through the presence
of knowledgeable elders and apprentices on the land is in-
trinsically tied with the continuity of the knowledge itself.
Therefore, a lack of elders and youth engaging with the
land and plants in daily life disrupts this system of know-
ledge acquisition. Similarly, changing religious beliefs can
create epistemological and intergenerational frictions [40].
Emerging tensions are historically grounded, and our
case study identifies a pattern of past colonialism and
apartheid that has led to a transformation of traditional
leadership structures and the introduction of new belief
systems. Firstly, the youths lack of consideration for
traditional leaders authority is associated with the belief
that traditional leaders complied with the demands of
the National Party as a way of holding onto power;
therefore, younger generations often associate these
structures as entrenched in the old systems of apartheid
[19]. Secondly, on the arrival of the Christian missionar-
ies during the colonial era, their teachings aimed to ac-
culturate the Vhavenda by advocating monotheism and
depicting ancestral spirits, deities and other gods of the
Vhavenda as false [19]. These frictions have demeaned
local cultural practices such as consultation with ances-
tral spirits, traditional healing, thanksgiving rituals and
myths and taboos of the Vhavenda [17]. The institution
of the role of the Makhadzi is also changing, for ex-
ample, few people will submit themselves to the ritual
practices associated with ancestor veneration, thanksgiv-
ing and initiation ceremonies and would rather consult
with Christian religious leaders for guidance [19]. The
impact of these processes is too complex to unravel here
but may explain some of the root causes of current ten-
sions and barriers influencing the erosion of traditional
forms of knowledge transmission.
Conclusion
The Vhavenda of South Africa maintain a complex
knowledge-practice-belief system surrounding the util-
isation, management and protection of plant resources.
The records of new plant use documented in this study
and the elaboration of new uses of well-documented
species are useful for providing a more comprehensive
insight into the patterns and practices of plant use
among the Vhavenda. Their knowledge of plant uses is
extensive including a diversity of native, exotic, wild and
cultivated species. Knowledge holders cultivate and col-
lect a variety of species in home gardens cultivated
lands, montane forests and deciduous woodlands dem-
onstrating an extensive knowledge base perhaps reflect-
ing the socio-cultural context of relative isolation and
long-term settlement of the Vhavenda in the region. The
dominance of indigenous plant species represented in
ethnobotanical accounts suggests that plant knowledge
assimilation may begin with common and readily avail-
able plants; however, the recent popularity of exotic tree
species also demonstrates a form of adaptation to new
introduced species that have become incorporated into
the Vhavenda repository of useful plant species. Local
practices and institutions are also embedded in cultural
contexts and encoded in cosmologies and belief systems
that have ensured the sustainable use of plant resources.
Plant management strategies aim to sustain reliable and
continued supply of plant resources for food, medicine
and other uses through selective practices such as the
prohibition of certain plants from being used, the pro-
motion of sustainable harvesting practices and the
propagation of plant species.
The research highlights the continued importance of
indigenous and local knowledge for natural resource
management and overcomes assumptions that local
knowledge is merely anecdotal or strategic but is dy-
namic. The Vhavenda hold an extensive array of plant
knowledge and intact belief system that is largely deter-
mined in the context of social-cultural change by how
epistemological and intergenerational frictions are nego-
tiated by individuals and communities and how different
knowledge forms are largely accepted, integrated and
adapted. The encouragement of hybrid knowledge
co-production through the development of collabora-
tions between state-sponsored management, conserva-
tion experts, researchers and indigenous and local
knowledge holders can lessen the dominance of science
and positivism as the primary decision-making frame-
works for natural resource management on communal
lands. The formation of new partnerships and forums
for knowledge exchange between different stakeholders
can open the door for more inclusive processes to ex-
plore how science and other knowledge systems can
align with conservation efforts to enhance the productiv-
ity and biodiversity of communal land in South Africa.
Abbreviations
CBD: Convention of Biological Diversity; ILK: Indigenous and Local
Knowledge; IPBES: Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem
Services; RFI: Relative Frequency Index; SAPIA: Southern African Plant
Invaders Atlas; UVH: University of Venda Herbarium; UVI: Use Value Index
Acknowledgements
The authors wish to thank the Department of Science and Technology (DST),
National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Sustainable Places Research
Constant and Tshisikhawe Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine (2018) 14:56 Page 26 of 28
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Institute at Cardiff University for funding this postdoctoral research and the
Chiefs, headmen and residents of Duthuni, Tshidzivhe, Vuvha, Lwamondo,
Mashau and Tshiendeulu for their warm reception and collaboration during
the development of the project. We thank Mphatheleni Makaulule for her
significant role connecting NC with the Vhavenda communities through
collaboration with her organisation Dzomo La Mupo and acting as a
research assistant and translator during the fieldwork. We thank Mashudu
Dima for his insights on Vhavenda history, traditions and plant knowledge.
Finally, we are grateful to the anonymous reviewers comments who have
strengthened the content and structure of the manuscript.
Funding
The postdoctoral research was funded by the Department of Science and
Technology (DST), National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Sustainable
Places Research Institute at Cardiff University.
Availability of data and materials
Data on the ethnobotanical uses of plants is presented in this article in
Table 1. The social data emanating from the study is available from the first
author upon request.
Authorscontributions
NC conceived the study and wrote the manuscript. PT participated in its
design and coordination, identified the botanical specimens and assisted
with the review of the ethnobotanical literature. NC collected the data and
statistical analysis. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Ethics approval and consent to participate
All fieldwork was approved by the Research Ethics Committee of Cardiff
University in the UK. Informants signed agreement to participant in the
study was taken as informed consent.
Consent for publication
Informants signed agreement to publish the data emanating from this
research was obtained from a signed consent form approved by the
Research Ethics Committee of Cardiff University.
Competing interests
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
PublishersNote
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in
published maps and institutional affiliations.
Author details
1
SARChI Chair on Biodiversity Value and Change, School of Mathematical
and Natural Sciences, University of Venda, Private Bag X5050, Thohoyandou
0950, South Africa.
2
Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University,
33 Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3BA, UK.
3
Department of Botany, School of
Mathematical and Natural Sciences, University of Venda, Private Bag X5050,
Thohoyandou 0950, South Africa.
Received: 6 February 2018 Accepted: 13 August 2018
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... In addition, the children were not allowed to harvest it or touch it as the plant is only to be used by adults. Segment taboos for women, pregnant women, children, and menstruating females are common (Colding & Folke 2001, Sharma et al. 2021 and encountered for other plant species among African groups such as the Vhavenda and the Bapedi in South Africa (Constant & Tshisikhawe 2018, Ooko 2009, Rasethe et al. 2013. ...
... Knowledge was also acquired through oblique transmission from formal apprenticeships with farmers, friends, businesspeople, and traditional healers among the Kamba community, as well as clan gatherings during the life stage of moranism when they learn the tribal customs, cultural meetings in the bush, storytelling and herding in Maasai Community. This is consistent with some studies on knowledge acquisition of other plants, which reported that learning of plant knowledge took place through hands-on experience and observation that was, in turn, reinforced through apprenticeships with knowledgeable elders and relatives (Constant & Tshisikhawe 2018). ...
... This system of knowledge acquisition may be disrupted if the elders and next generation do not engage with the land and plants in daily life (Murphy et al. 2016). Local leaders and community members should encourage and facilitate the uptake of traditional beliefs, values and cultural taboos/practices and adherence to local regulations that are conducive to the sustainable use and management of East Africa Sandalwood (Constant & Tshisikhawe 2018). ...
Article
Full-text available
Background: In Kenya, the endangered East African Sandalwood, sourced mostly from limited natural stands, is widely used by local rural populations for multiple purposes including for nutraceutical and health benefits, but its potential for domestication and poverty alleviation are largely unknown. The purpose of this study was to identify current sources and uses of the plant, cultural values, taboos, and beliefs associated with its use and management, and how local knowledge of the plant is acquired and transmitted to younger generations, all with a view of contributing to its conservation and sustainable use. Methods: The data on demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, local knowledge of plant utilization, cultural beliefs, values, and taboos associated with the plant, and transmission of inter-generational knowledge were collected from May 2018 to November 2018. Data were collected from seven traditional healers and 384 household heads with knowledge of the plant, residing in sixty Kamba villages and thirty Maasai villages on the Eastern and Western sides of Chyulu Hills Ecosystem, respectively, using structured questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, and Focus Group Discussions. Results: Findings revealed that the plant was mainly sourced from the natural protected forests. The major uses were medicinal while knowledge on cultural values, taboos and beliefs related to East African Sandalwood were known by only 35% of participants. Plant knowledge was transmitted inter-generationally mainly by parents and grandparents (74%). Differences between ethnic group (p=0.000, X²=176.173), occupation (p=0.000; X²=122.615) and on-farm sources of income (p=0.000, X²=131.568) as well as ethnic group (p=0.000, X²=138.433), occupation (p=0.000, X²=113.999) and on-farm sources of income (p=0.008, X²=64.668) were statistically significant on current uses and the cultural values, taboos, and beliefs of the plant respectively Conclusions: The results should contribute to the on-going domestication, propagation, and sustainable conservation of the plant. Although the species is used for multiple purposes, its main value was found in medical applications and hence has a commercial potential in the alternative pharmaceutical sector. © 2021, Ilia State University, Institute of Botany, Department of Ethnobotany. All rights reserved.
... There is a growing body of research highlighting the positive role of African cultural practices and beliefs as an important complement to biodiversity conservation. For example, in some cultures, certain animal and plant species are valued as totems and protected through taboos that prohibit them from being hunted, killed, or consumed (Kideghesho 2009, Constant andTshisikhawe 2018). However, in this particular study, we consider cultural beliefs embedded in indigenous and local knowledge systems that pose challenges to conservation (Holmes et al. 2018). ...
... The association of taboos with particular tree species that have been protected by the Vhavenda is well documented. For example, the marula Sclerocarya birrea is protected for its edible fruits during times of drought, medicines, and shade (Constant and Tshisikhawe 2018). Taboos associated with S. birrea are enforced through beliefs where individuals or the community experiences illnesses or other punishments emanating from the violation of certain cultural protocols. ...
... Taboos associated with S. birrea are enforced through beliefs where individuals or the community experiences illnesses or other punishments emanating from the violation of certain cultural protocols. For example, S. birrea fruits can only be harvested when they have fallen to the ground; otherwise, the culprits were believed to experience a fever or snakes would appear in their homesteads (Constant and Tshisikhawe 2018). The Vhavenda carry out a number of practices that seek to promote sustainable harvesting practices, for example, extraction of the bark from the eastern side of a tree due to a belief that bark harvested on this side of this tree is more potent for medicinal purposes (Constant and Tshisikhawe 2018). ...
Article
Full-text available
Traditional cultural beliefs influence perceptions of animals and can result in persecution of wildlife. In Africa, stigmas against species associated with witchcraft can act as a barrier to the uptake of sustainable practices such as reducing crop damage through reliance on indigenous predators rather than pesticides to control rodent agricultural pests. One way of enhancing perceptions of wildlife to increase participation in ecologically based rodent management schemes is through environmental education. Low-intensity programs can produce positive attitudinal shifts, but their impact has not been assessed for species strongly associated with witchcraft. We tested whether a presentation on the natural history of owls in the Limpopo Province of South Africa could improve perceptions of these species and increase willingness to participate in the installation of owl boxes to increase owl populations and reduce rodent populations and crop damage. We used a pre- and post-survey to assess the perceptions of owls of 340 learners aged between 12 and 18 in four schools before and after listening to the presentation. Respondents that watched the presentation had more positive perceptions of owls than those that had not watched the presentation and were more willing to put up owl boxes near their home. Despite this shift, negative perceptions of owls still dominated responses due to cultural associations with the occult. These findings indicate that even low-intensity programs can be effective at enhancing perceptions of taboo wildlife. We suggest that environmental education programs featuring culturally taboo species should adopt a culturally sensitive approach to focus on the benefits these species provide.
... Combretaceae and Fabaceae, both with 9 species, are the most comprehensively used families, followed by Capparaceae, Malvaceae and Euphorbiaceae with 8, 7 and 6 species, respectively. Our results are consistent with other ethnobotanical studies conducted in southern Africa (Ribeiro et al. 2010;Bruschi et al. 2011Bruschi et al. , 2014Corrigan et al. 2011;Maroyi 2011Maroyi , 2017Amri and Kisangau 2012;Mahwasane et al. 2013;Constant and Tshisikhawe 2018;Mongalo and Makhafola 2018) in which Fabaceae is one of the most dominant families related to traditional uses. Such an assumption could be supported by the high species diversity of the Fabaceae family (Constant and Tshisikhawe 2018). ...
... Our results are consistent with other ethnobotanical studies conducted in southern Africa (Ribeiro et al. 2010;Bruschi et al. 2011Bruschi et al. , 2014Corrigan et al. 2011;Maroyi 2011Maroyi , 2017Amri and Kisangau 2012;Mahwasane et al. 2013;Constant and Tshisikhawe 2018;Mongalo and Makhafola 2018) in which Fabaceae is one of the most dominant families related to traditional uses. Such an assumption could be supported by the high species diversity of the Fabaceae family (Constant and Tshisikhawe 2018). Moreover, considering that Combretaceae, Euphorbiaceae and Fabaceae are mainly used for medicinal purposes, their recorded dominance could also be ascribed to their wide range of bioactive compounds (Amri and Kisangau 2012; Morais Lima et al. 2012). ...
Article
This study aims to document the Mozambican traditional knowledge related to the use of plants. An ethnobotanical survey was conducted in the Limpopo National Park (Gaza province, Mozambique). Data were gathered through field expeditions which involved interviews with five local healers, selected as key informants. 101 plant species, belonging to 49 families and 83 genera, related to traditional uses were recorded. For each species, vernacular name, use categories and used parts are reported. Most of the identified plants are used for medicinal purposes (94.1%) with an analogously extensive (44.1%) also directed to food use. Plants are also used for veterinary (14.7%), cosmetic (12.7%), and handicraft (12.7%) purposes. Whereas only few species are used as fuel (4.9%), several species (37.3%) are associated to local beliefs or mystical rituals. Roots are the most used part. To identify the most important plant species used by indigenous communities, an ethnobotani-cal value was calculated through Uses Totaled index. Based on such cultural index, the most valuable species are Euclea divinorum, Ximenia caffra, Elaeodendron schlechterianum and Peltophorum africanum. Our findings highlight the potential of Mozambique's flora for future conservation and development research aimed at identifying genetic resources which could also open the way to notable commercial perspectives, including through the Access and Benefit Sharing process.
... Traditional beliefs and rituals are used by rural communities to preserve indigenous plants [30][31][32][33]. Particularly, taboos are prescribed to safe-guard and protect some medicinal plant from over-harvesting. ...
... Due to increased harvesting for commercial purpose, it is becoming difficult to find the plant in the wild [29]. Given the increasing strain on the wild populations, the cultivation of medicinal plants is essential in ensuring their sustainability for the future generations [23,29,30,32,60]. In this study, the majority (70%) of the participants harvested the African ginger from the mountains for cultivation in their backyards ( Figure 5). ...
Article
Full-text available
Harvesting of medicinal plants in the wild has an impact on sustainability of medicinal plants, which leads to the need for intervention in terms of conservation strategies. Siphonochilus aethiopicus, commonly known as African ginger or wild ginger is used to cure a variety of health conditions/illnesses, such as coughs, colds, asthma, nausea, headaches and pains. This study explored the potential role of indigenous knowledge on the uses, sustainability, and conservation strategies for African ginger among two communities in Mpumalanga province. Qualitative method entailing in-depth interviews were used for this research. We used a non-probability sample (snow-balling) to recruit ten (10) participants that comprised of four traditional health practitioners, four knowledge holders and two herbalists, considered as experts on African ginger in the study area. The data was analysed using thematic analysis. The diverse indigenous knowledge on the uses of African ginger were divided into two categories (diseases and spiritual/cultural purposes) among the local communities. African ginger is indigenous to South Africa and the plant species in the wild is mainly lost to commercial trade. As revealed by the participants, the multiple uses of African ginger are major contributing factors exacerbating the demands for the plant. The uses of African ginger have resulted in the scarcity and possibly extinction of this plant species in the wild, which remain a major concerns to several stakeholders especially traditional health practitioners. Harvesting of the rhizomes of African ginger is recommended instead of the root given the relative ease and higher chances for survival and regeneration. To ensure the sustainable utilisation of African ginger, its cultivation was recommended by the participants. However, there is a need for further intervention to assess how the community members can be assisted with developing and adopting indigenous conservation protocols for the continuous sustainability of African ginger. In addition, it is pertinent to strongly discourage the indiscriminate destruction of natural habitats and create more awareness on the importance of designating protected areas among local communities.
... This medicinal plant knowledge is associated with indigenous people for particular areas (Pei, 2001;Masango, 2010). People with indigenous knowledge in most local communities are mainly the elders, herbalists and or traditional healers (Tshisikhawe & Constant, 2018). A traditional healer is a person well known within the community and surrounding areas, and who is competent to provide health care in the area, by using plants and animal material as well as mineral substances to administer to people. ...
... In the South African market 771 medicinal plants have been recorded in the trade, most of which are harvested from the wild. Traditional healers have been collecting and storing medicinal material according to tradition, beliefs and cultural taboos, and this ensured that plants were protected from over-harvesting (Tshisikhawe & Constant, 2018). However, some urbanised healers and people who collect to sell are less trained and unskilled and thus over-harvesting natural resources. ...
Thesis
The study focused on an investigation on the use, availability and traditional ecological knowledge of medicinal plants in Mangaung and Thabo Mofutsanyana district in the Free State province. A total of 48 traditional healers, muthi shops and street markets participated in this study. The investigation was carried out in 2018, and data were collected through the use of questionnaires and participants were located through snowball and convenience sampling. As compared to other provinces in South Africa, there is a lack of documented information on the harvesting, use, availability and storage of medicinal plants in the Free State Province of South Africa. Traditional knowledge has been declining from generation to generation, while the demand for medicinal plants are increasing. The absence of documented information records adds to the fragility of cultural knowledge in the Free State province. The results of the study revealed that 89 plant species from 72 genera represented by 43 families are used as medicinal plants in the study area to treat 56 ailments. The most commonly used families with more than two species were Asteraceae, Fabaceae, Hyacinthaceae, Apocynaceae, Geraniaceae, Amaryllidaceous and the remaining 37 families have two or one species used for medicinal purposes. The highest reported species were Pachycarpus rigidus, Dicoma anomala, Hypoxis hemerocallidea and Helichrysum caespititium. Roots and leaves were most harvested in the wild habitat and the growth type mostly harvested was perennial herbs followed by bulbs. The most reported method of preparation and route of administrating medicinal plant material was boiling of a powder in water to drink. The study found that there are many medicinal plants which are used to treat a wide spectrum of human ailments such as flu, headache, stomach pain, tooth ache and diarrhoea. The majority of plants reported were indigenous, listed under least concern status (LC) on the red data list and are easily available from the natural area. Knowledge sharing differ from traditional healers, muthi shops and street markets; some participants freely share the knowledge while others keep it secret.
... Eucalyptus leaves and Citrus limon fruits (Maroyi 2009). Indeed, several invasive alien plants, such as Australian Acacias, P. juliflora, O. ficus-indica, Eucalyptus species, and L. camara have been shown to support people's livelihoods, quality of life, and foster rural economic growth (Shackleton et al. 2011;Kannan et al. 2016;Constant and Tshisikhawe 2018), although negative impacts have also been reported (Ngorima and Shackleton 2019;Shackleton et al. 2019). The importance of P. guajava as a food source across all villages except for Murunwa could be attributed to the fact that (i) P. guajava fruits are nutritious with high vitamin C and fibre content (McCook-Russell et al. 2012), and (ii) the plant is widely distributed and near households thus making fruit collection easy. ...
... It is also possible that other commonly occurring native woody species in the study area e.g. Brachylaena discolor, Prunus africana, and V. karroo provide provisioning/regulating services (Dingaan and du Preez 2018;Constant and Tshisikhawe 2018;Ramarumo and Maroyi 2020) better than P. guajava. ...
Article
Full-text available
OBJECTIVES: To study the knowledge, beliefs and practices of doping in sports among physiotherapists. METHODS: This cross-sectional study was conducted amongst 390 physiotherapists working in different hospitals/clinics and teaching universities of Lahore with response rate of 94.61% (n=369). Modified Doping Use Belief tool was used to assess beliefs regarding use of performance enhancement drugs, other questions were used to check doping knowledge and practice of these drugs. SPSS v22.0 was used to analyze the data. RESULTS: Out of 369 respondents, 272 (73.7%) were females and 97 (26.3%) were males. Mean age was 27±4.4 years. In general knowledge about doping, 196 (53.1%) never studied sports course, 238 (64.5%) had no information about doping, 204 (55.3%) were not aware of banned substances, and 312 (84.6%) had information through media. Specifically about doping, 240 (65%), 174 (47.3%), 250 (67.7%), 238 (64.5%), and 229 (62.1%) had no knowledge about prohibited list, therapeutic use exemptions, procedures of anti-doping testing, anti-doping rule violation, and sanctions on anti-doping rule violations respectively. Majority (n=238; 64.5%) had scarcity of knowledge about health risks related to doping. Regarding beliefs, 281 (76.2%) and 259 (70.2%) had a disagreement on belief that performance-enhancing drugs/methods should be allowed for top-level athletes and all athletes respectively. In practice, 347 (94%) never offered any doping agent and 314 (85.1%) never had any experience with doping drugs. CONCLUSION: Physiotherapists had a low knowledge on doping. Majority of respondents showed positive belief of non-use of doping agents, and in practice majority had never practiced doping drugs.
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Background The traditional use of medicinal plants is an integral part of African culture and plays a major role in African societies. For centuries, plants have been used to cure diseases and till date, a vast majority of the African people especially in rural communities depend on the use of medicinal plants for the treatment of various ailments. Main body The Cucurbitaceae family has a diversity of medicinally relevant species which also play significant roles in food security in Africa. While some are underutilised and are sourced from the wild, others are domesticated and cultivated for food. This review therefore highlights the significance of Cucurbitaceae species in Eastern and Southern African countries. The use of various species in the traditional food and medicine systems of these countries is documented. The review further discusses some poisonous species with close resemblance to edible plants. The fatal effect of consuming any part of such plant species like young or old leaves and unripe fruit is highlighted. Conclusion This review is thus a documentation of the crucial role of Cucurbitaceae species in food security, treatment of a variety of diseases and its negative effect on humanity and livestock.
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