Ben-Erik van Wyk | Nigel Gericke: PEOPLE’S PLANTS

People’s Plants
A Guide to Useful Plants of Southern Africa
Ben-Erik van Wyk . Nigel Gericke
Pretoria (Briza Publications). 2000. ISBN 1 875093 19 2 (351 pages)

People’s Plants is a photographic guide to the useful plants of southern Africa. It is the first fully illustrated ethnobotanical handbook for southern Africa. Traditional and contemporary uses of more than 650 plants are described and illustrated in 20 chapters, each dealing with a specific category of plant use:

°FOODS & DRINKS – (1) cereals, (2) seeds & nuts, (3) fruits & berries, (4) vegetables, (5) roots, bulbs & tubers, and (6) beverages

°HEALTH & BEAUTY – (7) general medicines, (8) tonic plants, (9) mind & mood plants, (10) women’s health, (11) wounds, burns & skin conditions, (12) dental care, (13) perfumes & repellents, and (14) soap plants & cosmetics

°SKILLS & CRAFTS – (15) hunting & fishing, (16) dyes & tans, (17) utility timbers, (18) fire-making and firewood, (19) basketry, weaving & ropes, (20) thatching, mats & brooms

Plants and plant-derived products of special cultural and/or commercial significance are highlighted. Key references for further reading are provided for each of the 20 categories of plant use. More than 530 excellent photographs are included, showing the plants, plant products and the way in which they are used.

This fascinating book is a must for anyone interested in useful plants, new crop plants, medicinal plants, new product development, ecotourism, rural development, traditional crafts, African culture, ethnobotany, and botany in general.


Ben-Erik van Wyk is a professor of Botany; he taught at the Rand Afrikaans University in Johannesburg. He is an authority on systematic botany and indigenous plant use.

Nigel Gericke is a medical doctor and an authority on medical ethnobotany. He has a natural products consultancy in Cape Town.

Both authors passionately believe that there has to be a concerted effort to develop novel products of exceptional quality from selected “people’s plants” for regional and global markets. They want to encourage a new breed of eco-entrepreneurs to harness the synergies between indigenous knowledge systems, scientific research and modern technologies to drive sustainable development in the southern African region for the benefit of all its peoples.

Liberation Processes in pre- and post-colonial Southern Africa (LiPSA)
– Dr. Ben Khumalo-Seegelken, Convenor –


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