Students taking Dr. James Affolter’s horticulture class entitled “Herbs, Spices, and Medicinal Plants” visited the Latin American Ethnobotanical Garden on Nov. 10, 2014 to complete a field trip activity. Associate Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Institute at the University (LACSI) of Georgia, Paul Duncan, heads up the garden’s initiatives and has been a guest lecturer in Doctor Affolter’s class on numerous occasions.
“Used for instruction, outreach, and research here at UGA and throughout the north Georgia community, it provides us with a wonderful resource to teach people about ethnobotany – the scientific study of people and their relationships with plants – and the need for conserving the highly sophisticated knowledge indigenous Latin Americans possess about their natural environment.” said Duncan.
No other Latin American Studies program in the United States has an on-campus garden dedicated expressly to Latin American plants. It was officially inaugurated in 2000 and the brainchild of Dr. Brent Berlin and Dr. Elois Ann Berlin, UGA emeritus faculty in the department of anthropology.
“Herbs, Spices, and Medicinal Plants” serves as a class for students to gain an introduction into the field of horticulture, but also as a way to explore the nutritional and medicinal benefits of nature.
Students were charged with the task of identifying and tasting approximately one dozen plants found at the Latin American Ethnobotanical Garden. Among these, Poliomentha longiflora, otherwise known as Mexican oregano, and Stevia rebaudiana, the natural sweetener used by the Guarani people of Brazil and Paraguay for many hundreds of years.
“We talk about several themes related to Mayan medicine and other systems of traditional medicine in Latin America during the class. Being able to visit the garden and walk among the plants brings the subject to life in a way that PowerPoints and DVDs can’t begin to match” said Affolter.
Chelsea Gray, a fourth year student from Atlanta, describes the experience as “enlightening.” The activity required becoming familiar with the plants, their appearance, various benefits, and country of origin. “I’ve passed the Latin American Gardens so many times and never thought to go inside. UGA’s campus has so many hidden treasures and it’s pretty cool that HORT3440 is helping me discover them” said Gray.
The LAEG was created and continues to be maintained thanks to the generous and on-going support provided by the Exposition Foundation, the Murphy Foundation, the Frances Wood Wilson Foundation, the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the UGA physical plant.
The Latin American Ethnobotanical Garden is free and open to the public year-round for the community to enjoy.
Written by Nicole Waites
University of Georgia 2015
Advertising, Grady College
Public Relations Intern at LACSI