The study of people and their interaction with plants is broadly defined as ethnobotany. The essay further down this page gratefully accepts fact-checking in order to supply the citations, quotations, links and references.
Man's/Wife's best friend (Vegetative Republic)
This essay traces the development of modern Cannabis sativa, starting in the orient millennia ago, as an example of ethnobotany, of great importance to the modern world.
Primate family tree
A chart furnished by Frans de Wals in his groundbreaking Bonobo: the forgotten ape (1996) indicates that the orangutan diverged from the common ancestor (with humans, etc.) about 14 million years ago; the gorilla 10 million; the human vs. chimp-and-bonobo divide occurred 6 million years ago (and chimp and bonobo divided from each other about 3 million years ago).
Orangutans, gorillas and bonobos are believed to be almost entirely vegetarian, whereas studies by Goodall and others over the last three decades show that chimpanzees may eat as much as 20% of their diet from meat sources, mainly monkeys and termites.
A National Geographic publication, The Great Apes (published about 1996) has a four-picture spread showing (a) an alpha (boss) chimp, nicknamed "Brutus" by the researchers, watching the trees and presumably picking out a vulnerable monkey to be pursued; (b) a group of chimps standing around on the forest floor tearing a captured monkey apart and distributing limbs to different hunting-party members; (c) Brutus comfortably seated holding head and shoulder of a monkey, prior to spending several hours chewing it (for lack of cookstove technology to soften the meat), and (d) a female chimp with a piece of monkey, which according to the text had been given her by Brutus-- for Chimpgod knows what services-- thus clarifying the origin of "money" (i.e. the key is the "k" in "monkey").
Human (cooked-meat) predatorism
It is said that humans first began domesticating fire in Africa 1.8 million years ago in order to cook-- and preserve a few days longer-- the meat of large animal carcasses hunted down by groups of men and possibly dogs. (Since which time, men are cooked-meat animals while chimps are raw-meat animals; similarly dogs are cooked-meat animals whereas wolves are raw-meat animals.) This permitted larger population groups to consume large meat animals hurriedly thus reducing waste; through cooking, a carcass could be fully consumed before spoilage occurred.
As this technology spread around the world, women went out woodgathering for the cooking fires, and a tree ring, or line beyond which there still was some wood to gather, would begin receding from each human habitation. Eventually each clan or village would exhaust the cooking fuel in its immediate neighborhood and have to move on to new quarters (slash and burn). In this way desertification began on a hitherto unknown scale, speeding up further about ten thousand years ago with the development of animal husbandry, or the institutional enslavement of captive herds of meat animals.
Large animal extinction and birth of animal husbandry
Just recently, in December 2008, news arrived of studies showing that a large comet or asteroid struck the earth, possibly in North America near the Great Lakes, about 13,000 years ago as attested by the finding of huge numbers of nanodiamonds in the corresponding geological layer. Missing from higher layers are any remainders of mastodons, woolly mammoths, etc. Perhaps it can be surmised that into the resulting vacant environmental niche throughout the northern hemisphere somewhat smaller mammals, such as the ancestor of today's oxen or beefcattle, expanded. This enabled northern human populations to expand because these animals were somewhat easier to catch, slaughter, butcher etc.
By about 10,000 years ago a fateful change had occurred, whereby instead of hunting down animals on an occasional basis (such as the buffalo until recently in North America), humans, especially in Eur-Asia, learned to lure and grain-feed herbivores, leading to capture and enclosure and a corresponding interest in raising feed grains for the resulting proprietary herds, i.e. the famous and beloved agricultural revolution. This greatly accelerated the slash-and-burn process, converting forest to grasslands to feed the beefcattle, and leading to other developments such as group competition for resources to feed expanding human and domestic animal populations with a corresponding arms race and tendency toward a warlord or despotic social system.
Cannabis and the cooking revolution
Now the women had more work to do than ever, cooking not only meat for bigger families and villages but also the feed grains for which humans too had acquired a taste. Species such as wheat evolved quickly under dietary use and became the "staff of life".
In due order it was discovered that a few woody-stem plant species, particularly the annual herb Cannabis, were able to produce biomass fast enough to keep up with the cookstove depredations, and when women dragged stalks of cannabis to the house, shaking seeds loose along the way, "plantations" of cannabis ("hampsteads" etc.) grew up, especially first in southern Asia, providing stove fuel and other useful products contributing to the growth of immense human populations such as those in China and India. (Cold-climate dwellers found the cannabis stalks useful in housing construction, especially "thatchers" who learned to use them for roofing.)
Genetic convergence of human and cannabis species
As a bonus, over the course of time cannabis growing on human-waste dungpiles developed into strains which were sensitive-- and responsive-- to animal hormone residues in the human fertilizer. In this way the species "learned" to produce answering-hormones which could attach to what are known today as "cannabinoid receptors" in the human brain, and when stalks and leaves containing these substances were burned in the family stove, and the smoke (containing cannibinoid vapors) inhaled by Mom and the kids, profound religiobotanic concepts were protomeditated resulting in today's beautifully bound canon (i.e. cannabin) of Holy Scriptures full of admonitions like "In the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat bread" (i.e. it gets hot and smoky in Mom's kitchen).
Within the lifespan of humans living today, a latter-day technology grew up breeding strains of (vegetable) Cannabis, alias Dagga, with the desired characteristic of producing large amounts of the above cited response-hormones, just as humans have also bred strains of (animal) Canis, alias Dog-- to the point that today you can get a dog any shape, color and size from two pounds to 300.Treedesigner 02:14, 3 January 2008 (UTC)
News about cranberries
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080110123918.htm --Remi 01:40, 14 January 2008 (UTC)