Ethnobotanical Leaflets 12: 713-18. 2008.
Ethnobotanical Applications of some Floral Species in Bayelsa State, Nigeria
*Gordian Chibuzo Obute and Ekiye, Ebiare
Department of Plant Science & Biotechnology
University of Port Harcourt
Port Harcourt, Nigeria
*E-mail: [email protected]
Issued 12 September 2008
The focal point of this study was documentation of indigenous uses/knowledge of the thinning populations of the valuable flora in parts of the Niger Delta. Forty-Eight plant species belonging to twenty-four taxonomic families were found to have various ethnobotanical applications among the indigenous people of Bayelsa State. Some of these still enter the local economy through the services provided by the products. Harvesting of flora for these purposes was observed to be unsustainable because of lack or presence of weak institutional and legal framework and enforcement for sustainability. This study also highlights the implications of forest fragmentation and over harvesting leading to depletion of vegetation resource base and consequently the loss of the knowledge about useful species along with their ethnobotanical applications.
Ethnobotany -- the interface between indigenous people and their use of plants around them is a significant facet of “Biological Diversity” consideration. Defined as the variety of life on earth, encompassing the plants, animals and microorganisms and the ecological complexes which they are part of; biodiversity conservation has become a topical global issue. From prehistoric times, human existed by gathering fruits, seeds, leaves and roots of plants, and hunted animals that eventually depend on plants for their existence. Other needs afforded humans by plants include shelter, clothing, medicines, aesthetics, craft etc. Indeed plant and plant products remain the primary base upon which all modern civilization was built. Bayelsa State bestrides much of Africa’s largest wetland and Nigeria’s thriving petroleum business but has no formalized properly managed forest or wood industry. Even so, much of the timber from these parts services a huge proportion of the global wood needs via the Western axis of Nigeria. Pressures from environmental degradation, forest fragmentation, and unsustainable arable land use, urbanization and industrialization (Obute and Osuji, 2002; Obute 2005; Ayodele, 2005) are fast depleting much of Nigeria’s tropical rain forests and are thus reducing the biodiversity of the country. Apart from this, several non-timber forest products (NTFPs) from the state informally service a wide range of clientele, local and abroad. For instance, the indigenous people in Sagbama area of Bayelsa State collect many wild plants or plant parts and process these into various products. Potential ethnomedicinal or other ethnobotanical uses of some of these plants are largely yet to be discovered and documented. In the recent past there has been renewed interest in sustainable management of natural resources like plants (Cunningham, 1994). Although the economic value of some trees (Cunningham, et al,. 2002) attract attention to them, the best of documented interest in people and plants is largely for plants with medicinal value (Gill, 1988; Cunningham, 1994;; Ndukwu and Nwadibia, 2003; Ayodele, 2005; Obute, 2005). In the current use of plant resources, Obute (2005) noted that the overexploitation of wild populations and lack of conservation programmes are two interlocking problems dealing with sustainable management of plant resources especially in the southern parts of Nigeria. This study is aimed at providing data on the application of some flora of Bayelsa State by the aborigines to solve economic, recreational, medicinal, construction and sundry needs. The effort is another contribution to the documentation and provision of records of indigenous knowledge, use and conservation of these plants.
GEO-CLIMATIC DESCRIPTION OF BAYELSA STATE
Sagbama area of Bayelsa State located in the southern butt of Nigeria in the deltaic spread of the River Niger in West Africa. It has a tropical climate with high rainfall levels ranging between 2,000 – 4,000mm per annum. The terrain elevation is about 6 – 15m above sea level and most parts are flooded most part of the year. The soil type is the alluvial deposit type and is thus rich with organic matter for luxuriant growth of flora. It is a high biodiversity value area resulting from the diverse plant groups, which concomitantly attracts other mobile life forms.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Field trips were undertaken to different villages and local government areas in Bayelsa State such as; Patani, Adagbabiri, Ogboloma, Kpetiama and Sagbama, Ekeremo, Brass, Yenagoa, and Ogbia Local Government Areas. Structured oral interviews administered to the folks directly involved in the use of forest products.
Pictures were also taken showing standing trees, felled trees, stumps, logs, sawed planks and finished products and the indigenous plants which were observed during these field trips were identified with the aid of Floras (Dalziel, 1937; Hutchinson and Dalziel, 1958), manuals (Keay, 1989) and Herbarium specimens in the University of Port Harcourt were employed in identification of not so easily identified species. Voucher specimens of these are deposited n the UPH-Herbarium.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The investigation revealed that a total of 48 species, distributed into different and some similar genera and 24 unrelated angiosperm families are used for a wide range of applications in Bayelsa State, Nigeria. In utilizing these plants several activities that are a bane to conservation of species are carried out howbeit, through ignorance rather than by design. Below in Table 1 are highlights of some the uses to which some plants are put in this part of the world.
Table 1. Checklist of floral species folk identification and uses in Bayelsa State
FOLK KNOWLEDGE OF THE FLORA AND GOVERNMENT CONTROL
The indigenous people of this area have a working folk taxonomy of the plants they have long been associated with. Plants could be identified by vernacular names with ease though the younger folk appear totally uninterested in the plant resources around. Some of the loggers interviewed revealed that the only touch with government officials is at the level where concession or permit is given a major logger who now dispenses portions to the lesser loggers. Non-timber forest products are harvested by any who can since there are no limits. The general belief is that the resources can never run out since according to them the forests are so vast that it is unthinkable to finish its largesse. However, pressure from deforestation, bush burning, migrant farmers, industrialization and urbanization combine to yield a harvest of biodiversity depletion and loss. Pictorial highlights of the ethnobotanical uses of some plants from Bayelsa State are presented in the following plates:
Although synthetic products are competing with plant products to meet the needs of the people, the forests are still under enormous pressures fro anthropogenic activities that deplete forest resources. That some of the species have gone extinct was confirmed by the users themselves who bemoan the disappearance of certain types of plats used for several purposes.
The inputs made our interviewees, Chief Okolo B. (Chairman Trees for Nigeria), Mr. Pere Esuku, Chief. Fresh Esuku, Mrs. Margaret Esuku, Mr. Onyinke Kentebe, Chief and Daniel Onyinbrakemi are especially acknowledged.
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Cunningham, A.B., Ayuk, E. Franzel. S., Duguma, B. and Asanga, C. 2002. An economic evaluation of medicinal tree cultivation: Prunus africana in Cameroon. Peoples and Plants Working Paper 10, UNESCO, Paris.
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Keay, R. W. J. 1989. Trees of Nigeria. Clarendon Press Oxford.
Ndukwu, B.C and Ben Nwadibia, N.B 2003. Studies on ethnomedicinal applications of condiments and spices in the Niger delta area of Nigeria. Ethnobotanical Leaflets. http://www.siu.edu/~/leaflets/ndikwu.htm
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