Ethnobotany collection

Ethnobotany is a branch of ethnobiology, human science that studies the relationship between human societies and the plant world. It focuses on plants which are known, named and used by Human beings.


These collections, which began in the early 20th century, concern the relationship between human societies and the plant world. Their botanical specimens, gathered among specific communities, wear cultural information. They are evidence of local knowledge. They come with rich documentation (archives, field notes, images and specialized publications). Tools and objects which are related are gathered into the “ethnoecology” section of the collections.

Several major groups constitute the core of these collections, which count roughly 100,000 references.

  • Voluminous, historical herbaria assembled by the laboratory’s founders, Auguste Chevalier (until 1956), Roland Portères and Jean-François Leroy. Some concern wild species of domesticated plants (coffee plants in particular);
  • Plant groups, both wild and cultivated, gathered in the field and related to ethnobotanical studies of given societies: Southeast Asia (collected by Haudricourt, Barrau, Friedberg, Macdonald, Revel), Central Africa (collected by Thomas, de Garine, Bahuchet, Breyne, Peeters), Peru (collected by Friedberg);
  • Major collections of cultivated plants in the form of herbaria and seeds, bagged or bottled. The largest of these comprises African cereals: sorghum, millet, fonio and African rice, and also includes Asian rice and maize;
  • Samples of plant material (fibre, wood from five continents —20,000 samples—seeds, flours, etc.). The core of this group comes from the various colonial exhibitions of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Specimens available for consultation are cultivated plants, seeds and vegetal material and ethnobotanical herbaria.


These collections are currently undergoing major restoration and removal, including treatment and preparation, a new inventory and catalogue, and the centralizing of data. Part of the herbaria will be integrated into the collection vascular plants, after numerization. Wood samples will be integrated into the Xylotheque.

Ethnobotany collections are located in the Jardin des Plantes.
A rich collection of tools and objects made of plant material, previously gathered in the former ethnobotany laboratory, are now part of the ethnoecology collections, as well as ethnozoological objects (related to the animal world) and ethnology collections. All are located in the Musée de l’Homme.
Description and history of the ethnobotany collection are described in :
Bahuchet S., Blanc J., Hoare C., Juraver S., Kourdourli M. & Pennec F. 2019 - Des hommes et des plantes. Les collections d’ethnobotanique du Muséum, état des lieux et projet. Revue d’ethnoécologie [En ligne], 16 ;


  • Julien Blanc, Senior Lecturer, Scientific Director : jblanc [@]
  • Flora Pennec, Research Engineer, Scientific Manager : flora.pennec [@]
  • Simon Juraver, conservation technician : simon.juraver [@]

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