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Latin American Ethnobotanical Garden


The LAE Garden was created as a space primarily for graduate students to investigate the horticultural requirements of the medicinal plants most widely used by the Tzeltal and Tzotzil Maya of highland Chiapas, Mexico.  It became an important element of a longstanding research program led by emeritus UGA professors Brent and Elois Anne Berlin, carried out collaboratively with researchers at the Colegio de la Frontera Sur in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.  The focus of the program was to encourage cultivation of these plants in Maya communities to improve primary health care and promote economic development.  See a sample of a few medicinal plants used by the Chiapas Maya below.

Botanical Ink Drawings by Nicolas Hernández Ruíz

Ruíz is a self-taught artist and resident of Chiapas, Mexico.​​​​​ While this collaboration as structured ended in the early 1990s, research today related to the ethnoscientific knowledge of peoples in traditional societies has never been more extensive and important.  In the Berlins’ 1996 monograph, Medical Ethnobiology of the Highland Maya of Chiapas, Mexico, they “…present evidence that confirms the scientific bases of traditional medicine.  Our data show that the highland Maya have developed herbal remedies based on an astute understanding of the signs and symptoms of common disease conditions.”  Further, according to, Wilder et. al. (2016) “with the accelerating losses of biodiversity, habitats, and native languages, indigenous knowledge—­including the study of traditional ecological knowledge of species and landscapes maintained by native nations—has become ever more significant” (499).

The Latin American Ethnobotanical Garden continues to be a UGA resource for research.  Over the last twenty years, students of anthropology, ecology, entomology, horticulture, and plant biology have made use of the garden for their undergraduate and graduate research projects.  

Berlin, E.A. & Berlin, O.B. (1996). Medical Ethnobotany of the Highland Maya of Chiapas, Mexico: The Gastrointestinal Diseases. Princeton University Press

Wilder, B.T., O’Meara, C., Monti, L., and Nebhan, G. (2016) The Importance of Indigenous Knowledge in Curbing the Loss of Language and BiodiversityBioScience, Volume 66, Issue 6, Pages 499–509, 

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