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PLANTS + PEOPLE Lunchtime Talks: Exploring the versatile uses and ethnobotany of the calabash trees in Caribbean Islands

The calabash tree (Crescentia cujete L.) is a species of flowering plant that belongs to the trumpet creeper (Bignoniaceae) botanical family. A native tree to the Tropical Americas, calabash trees has a wide distribution that extends from Mexico to the Brazilian Amazon to the Caribbean islands. More recently, they have made their way to Tropical Africa and Indonesia. These plants are moderate size trees that produce round fruits that vary in shape and size, with a thin hard shell and soft gelatinous white pulp. The fruit pulp has several medicinal purposes previously reported, while the fruit’s lignified outer shell is used in a variety of daily and material uses. Calabash trees have been of cultural importance for many human groups in the past - before Pre-Columbian times - and still in the present. In the Caribbean, rich histories, cultures, and traditions have preserved knowledge about uses of these plants. I will present preliminary results from my latest visit to several Caribbean islands in the Greater Antilles. With a particular focus on versatile ethnobotanical uses, I aimed to address the following questions: 1) How do people perceive, utilize, and select calabash trees in across Caribbean islands? 2) Who are the people that are currently in close interaction with these plants? 3) Do the employ any management/selective breeding practices? 4) Are people always in contact with C. cujete or in its absence do they utilize other closely related Crescentia species? If so, how are other Crescentias used and managed? 5) Is traditional knowledge of this plant the same or different across islands? And what explains these similarities or differences?

Tuesday, 09/10/19


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Free with admission

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UC Botanical Garden

200 Centennial Drive
Berkeley, CA 94720

Phone: 510-643-2755
Website: Click to Visit