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Native plants

Hat made from leaves
Fall 2017

The people’s plants

The Dominican boy had a leaf draped over his head, secured with a length of vine. Anthropologist Marsha Quinlan was intrigued.

“I asked him, ‘Is that a hat?’” she recalls. “And he explained that, no, he woke up with a headache and the leaf makes your head feel better. And I thought that was so cool!”

Quinlan was a graduate student at the time, on her first trip to the Caribbean island of Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic). And that was the moment she realized she had to delve further into ethnobotany.

How people around the world use plants for food, … » More …

Smoking Place in Idaho
Fall 2017

Holy smokes

The straggly plant is easy to dismiss. Narrow leaves and white, trumpet-like flowers, fade easily into Northwest fields and roadsides. But Nicotiana attenuata, commonly known as coyote tobacco, contains medicinal and ceremonial properties long revered by Native American cultures.

For thousands of years, coyote and other types of wild tobacco have provided what many consider a versatile healing remedy and meditative, spiritual channel to the Creator. Much of the botanical lore was muddled, however, with the arrival of Europeans and subsequent cultural upheaval.

At Washington State University, researchers Shannon Tushingham and David Gang ’99 PhD are using a combination of archeology and high-end molecular chemistry … » More …

Spring 2008

Kathleen Sayce: Keeping a heritage alive

Wielding loppers, Kathleen Sayce cuts through brambles smothering a parcel in the heart of historic and otherwise tidy Oysterville on southwest Washington’s Willapa Bay.

Between a leaning red alder and a mangled Sitka spruce, Sayce (’78 M.S. Bot.) opens a narrow trail through native bittersweet, salmonberry, and red elderberry plants. With verve, she hacks invasive ivy and blackberry vines. In the center of the thicket she unveils shredded food wrappers, perhaps the plunder of black bears living on Long Beach Peninsula.

The science officer at ShoreBank Pacific, Sayce—-sporting a sheen of perspiration and bug repellant—-is no buttoned-down banker. She is the only working biologist or … » More …