The ethnobotany of the Midzichenda tribes of the coastal forest areas in Kenya: 1. General perspective and non-medicinal plant uses

M. Pakia, J. A. Cooke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

4 Citations (Scopus)


The coastal forests of Kenya represent a rare and threatened forest type, rich in biodiversity, with an estimated flora of over 3 000 plant taxa, of which about 550 taxa are endemic. The existing forest patches include sacred kaya forests, which are the historical forest village homes of Midzichenda tribes. Living in the kaya forest villages, the Midzichenda have had diverse experiences over generations, giving rise to a rich traditional knowledge of plants. This paper presents some of this traditional knowledge of plants among three Midzichenda tribes: Duruma, Giriama and Digo. The plant resources found in the forest areas are significantly important to the Midzichenda for basic domestic needs, cultural obligations and to understand their natural environment. In addition some forest plant resources are traded at a low scale by some members of the community. The plant usage is based on 'fitness' for purpose, as well as on traditional virtues (faith, traditions and taboos) in the Midzichenda social system. There is a significant relationship between utility and labelling of plant taxa, but utility is not the only basis used in the traditional plant classification. Some traditional preparation procedures of plants for usage are important and can be justified by orthodox science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-381
Number of pages12
JournalSouth African Journal of Botany
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2003


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Plant Science

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