The Botany Department at the University of Hawaii – Manoa is the focus for ethnobotany at this campus. There are additional resources and courses offered by other departments. The ethnobotany activities range from non-major introductory classes to graduate and faculty research in a variety of ethnobotanical disciplines. Conservation ethnobiology is a core focus.

General Information

Graduate programs at both the MS and PhD levels are available which focus on ethnobotanical topics.


Ethnobotany (BOT 105, 3 credits)
An introductory course discussing the role of ethnobotany in cultural studies with special emphasis placed upon uses of Hawaiian plants. Offered each Fall and Summers since World War I. Typically offered: Summer & Fall Semesters; Instructors: Chock, Ticktin and many guest lectures

Ethnobotany Lab (BOT 105, 1 credit)
An introductory laboratory course emphasizing hands-on learning about the roles of plants in cultures. Laboratory exercises are conducted in a garden setting as much as possible using examples from cultures and plants common in Hawai’i. Typically offered: Fall and Summer Semesters. Instructors: Chock, Ticktin.

Magic Mushrooms & Mystical Molds (BOT 135, 3 credits)
Impact of fungi in nature and on humankind. Selected historical events in which fungi played a significant role, their activities as decomposers and pathogens, and their uses as sources for mind altering drugs in religious ceremonies and in food and beverage production in various societies. Typically offered: Fall semesters. Instructor: Wong.

Cultural Biogeography (GEOG 409, 3 credits)
Coevolution of human societies and plants over the last 10,000 years. Foraging, farming and urban societies economies; spread and modification of selected plants; issues of preservation of genetic resources and traditional plant knowledge. The form and function of gardens.

Culture and Environment (GEOG 330, 3 credits)
Introduction to environmental aspects of cultural geography, cultural ecology, cultural landscape; cultural appraisal of environment.

Ecological Anthropology (ANTH 415, 3 credits)
Relationship of humans with natural environment; role of culture in ecological systems. Pre: ANTH 200 or consent; Check with Department of Anthropology for next offering and instructor

Medical Anthropology (ANTH 425, 3 credits)
Social and cultural aspects of medicine; the relationship of medicine to the beliefs, social systems, ecological adaptations, and cultural changes of human groups. Typically offered: Fall Semesters.

Food, Health, & Society (ANTH 427, 3 credits)
How human groups identify, collect, create, and transform foods, how they shape those into dietary behaviors, and the influence of those behaviors on health. Pre: ANTH 200 (or concurrent), or consent; Check with Department of Anthropology for next offering and instructor.

Psychoactive Drug Plants (BIOL 440, 3 credits)
Taxonomy, ecology, biochemistry, distribution, cultural history, and contemporary use of mind-altering drug plants; examples from primitive, traditional, and modern societies. Pre: junior standing, one semester of biological science, and either ANTH 200 or GEOG 151; or consent. Typically offered: Fall Semesters. Instructor: Merlin.

Advanced Ethnobotany (BOT 440, 3 credits)
Advanced studies of plant uses in cultural contexts focusing upon impacts of plant-culture interactions in development of cultures, cultivars, medicinals, ethnoecologies, ethics, and intellectual property. Lecture/discussion, term paper. Pre: BOT 105 & BOT 461 & ANTH 200 or consent. Typically offered: Spring Semesters. Instructor: Ticktin.

Medical Ethnobotany (BOT 442, 3 credits)
Survey and theory of plants used as medicines, cultural perspectives of herbal medicine, and the botanical/chemical basis of allopathic and naturopathic medicine. Lecture/discussion, term paper or project. Pre: BOT 440 & (BOT 470 or CHEM 272 or BIOC 341) or consent. Typically offered: Spring Semesters

Ethnoecology and Conservation (BOT 444, 3 credits)
Ecological implications of cultural uses of plants. Examines the biological basis for, and ecological effects of traditional and local resource management systems.

Hawaiian Ethnobotany (BOT 446, 3 credits)
Methods and techniques of handling and identifying plant materials used by early Hawaiians for house and canoe construction, clothing, household and fishing items, medicine, and food preparation. Reading, laboratory, and fieldwork. Pre: Bot 105 or 101, and consent. Typically offered: Spring Semesters. Instructor: Ticktin, Chock.

Cognitive Ethnobotany (BOT 448, 3 credits)
Survey and theory of human cultural perceptions of plants and plant environments and patterns of interactions that can be observed across cultures. Emphasis placed upon botanical classification systems, dynamics of knowledge about plants, and traditional education systems for learning about plants. Typically offered: Spring Semesters. (Not currently offered)

Ethnobotany Practicum (BOT 449, 1 credit)
Guided practical experience in ethnobotany field research methods in communities and laboratories. Integration of research results into publications and presentations in a variety of formats for scientific and other communities. Typically offered: Each Semester. Instructor: All Ethnobotany Faculty Members. (Not currently offered)

Quantitative Ethnobotany (BOT 640, 3 credits)
Modern ethnobotanical field research project design, execution, data analysis, and documentation methods. Intended for students preparing to conduct field research studies. Lecture/discussion, term paper. Pre: BOT 440 or consent. Typically offered: Fall Semesters

Ethnoecological Methods (BOT 644, 3 credits)
Field techniques for assessing the ecological effects of cultural uses of plants. Emphasis on documenting traditional and local patterns of plant use and measuring the effects on plant individuals, populations, communities, and landscapes. Pre: BOT 444 & BOT 640 or consent. Typically offered: Spring Semesters. Instructor: Ticktin.


Tamara Ticktin (Botany Department);
Mark Merlin (Botany Department);
Al Keali’i Chock (Botany Department);
Lyndon Wester (Geography Department);
Heather McMillen (Botany Department);

Other Links

Conservation Ethnobiology Field School
There is an annual Conservation Ethnobiology Field School which is sponsored, in part, by the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
This Field School teaches core skills needed by field researchers, particularly those who will pursue ethnobotanical or conservation-related activities.


BOT 105 Ethnobotany Video Modules

BOT 640 Quantitative Ethnobotany Project

BOT 105 Plant Family Characteristics

BOT 442 Out of context medicines

Bot 446 Hawaiian Ethnobotany

BOT 612 Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Climate Change on Islands