Plant Diversity ›› 2021, Vol. 43 ›› Issue (03): 239-247.DOI: 10.1016/j.pld.2020.12.008

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An ethnobotanical study of forage plants in Zhuxi County in the Qinba mountainous area of central China

Jun Yanga, Jifeng Luoa, Qiliang Gand, Leiyu Kea, Fengming Zhangc, Hairu Guoa, Fuwei Zhaob, Yuehu Wanga,c   

  1. a Key Laboratory of Economic Plants and Biotechnology, Yunnan Key Laboratory for Wild Plant Resource, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, 650201, China;
    b Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences, Ministry of Ecology and Environment, Nanjing, 210042, China;
    c Key Laboratory for Plant Diversity and Biogeography of East Asia, Yunnan Key Laboratory for Fungal Diversity and Green Development, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, 650201, China;
    d Zhuxi Qiliang Institute of Biology, Zhuxi, 442300, China
  • Received:2020-04-30 Revised:2020-12-21 Published:2021-06-28
  • Contact: Fuwei Zhao, Yuehu Wang
  • Supported by:
    We are grateful to all informants in Zhuxi County, Hubei Province, for their kind help in the duration of our field surveys. All traditional knowledge in this paper belongs to its informants, whose rights to their traditional knowledge should be respected. This research was funded by the Biodiversity Investigation, Observation and Assessment Program, Ministry of Ecology and Environment, The People's Republic of China and the Yunnan Innovative Talents Program, China (No. 2018HC009).

Abstract: In the Qinba mountainous area of Central China, pig farming has a significant impact on the growth of the rural economy and has substantially increased farmer incomes. Traditional knowledge plays an important role in the selection of forage plant species for pig farming by local people. This study aimed to identify the forage plants used for pig feeding and to catalog indigenous knowledge regarding their use. During 2016 and 2017, ethnobotanical surveys and inventories were conducted in Zhuxi County, Hubei Province, China. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews, key informant reports, free listings, guided field walks, and participatory observations with 77 households in 16 villages in 13 towns/townships. The obtained data were analyzed using a relative frequency citation (RFC) index. Overall, 145 wild forage plants from 91 genera and 31 families were recorded. The most cited families were Asteraceae, Polygonaceae, Urticaceae, Amaranthaceae, Fabaceae, Cruciferae, Caryophyllaceae, and Lamiaceae. Whole plants (75.9%) and tender leaves (12.4%) were the most frequently used parts of the plants. Most of the forage plants were herbaceous (88.9%). Almost all forage plants could be collected throughout the year (62.7%). Raw and cooked were the two main preparation methods. The most frequently cited species were Taraxacum mongolicum, Bidens pilosa, Sonchus oleraceus, Pilea verrucosa, and Pilea pumila var. obtusifolia. A total of 14 species were identified as the top forage plants in Zhuxi County based on their RFC values (RFC value greater than 0.5). Local people possess rich traditional knowledge about the utilization and management of forage plants for pig feeding. However, the maintenance of this traditional knowledge may be seriously threatened by changes in pig feeding modes and the lack of successors. Appropriate strategies and action plans have been suggested for the conservation of traditional knowledge associated with biodiversity and the sustainable use of forage species resources. These include 1) taking targeted measures to protect forage resources and associated traditional knowledge; 2) strengthening research on the forage plants with the highest RFC values for nutritional value, digestibility, other functions, and ecological status; and 3) enhancing the identification of poisonous forage plants.

Key words: Qinba mountainous area, Zhuxi county, Ethnobotany, Traditional knowledge, Pig forage plants