Plant use of the Motherland: Linking West African and Afro-Caribbean Ethnobotany

Medicinal and magic plant use in Suriname, Ghana, Benin and Gabon



This research is being conducted by the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, section National Herbarium of the Netherlands in the period 2010-2015. It is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO-Vidi-Vernieuwingsimpuls). The research team consists of Tinde van Andel (postdoc researcher), PhD students Alexandra Towns and Diana Quiroz, and several international MSc and BSc students. Medicinal and magic plant use will be compared between the Suriname Maroons and three of their ancestral countries in West Africa.This project is a follow-up of the project: "Medicinal Plants of Suriname: Changes in Plant Use after Migration to the Netherlands", funded by NWO-ALW Open Competition (2005-2009).


Some of the questions that we hope to answer during this five-year project are:

What are the similarities and differences in medicinal and ritual plant use between West Africa and the Caribbean?

How did African slaves find new plants in the unknown New World forests to cure themselves and worship their African Gods?

Did they search for similar families, genera or morphological characteristics as the plants they remembered from Africa?

How African is Afro-Caribbean ethnobotany?




Oso dresie means `home remedy┬┤ in Sranantongo, the local language in Suriname. It refers to medicinal plants and other traditional remedies, used for centuries by Suriname┬┤s inhabitants.