Box 2.1 The value of ethnobotanical voucher specimens In a presentation to the 15th annual conference of the Society for Ethnobiology, held at the Smithsonian Institution in 1992, Eugene Hunn noted :
... the voucher specimen is the link between two bodies of information, that of Western biological science and that of the ethnoscience of the native culture the ethnobiologist seeks to document. For example, Sahaptin-speaking Indians of the Columbia Plateau employ a plant they call chalu'ksh for a variety of purposes, nutritional, medicinal and as a fish poison. This fact remains an ethnographic particularity, however, until it can be established that chalu'ksh means Lomatium dissectum (Apiaceae). On the basis of this equation it is possible to compare a segment of Sahaptin ethnoscientific knowledge with a corresponding segment of Western botanical systematics, phenology, ecology and pharmacology. This equation also makes possible comparisons with the ethnoscientific traditions of other cultures within the range of this species. The resulting synthesis is of greater value than the sum of its parts, the disconnected bits of ethnographic detail we would otherwise have to deal with.