Global Ethnobotany Class with Kathleen Harrison

Course | July 12 | 10 a.m.-4 p.m. |  UC Botanical Garden

 Botanical Garden

Ethnobotanist Kathleen Harrison will share wide-ranging botany and history, with hands-on examples, images and stories about plant and mushroom uses from around the globe. She will describe some uses and techniques of native peoples.

We review a little basic botany, along with the fungi. We will look at how human cultures throughout history have understood, managed and employed nature for the benefit of people too. How and where do these methods continue to live now? What might be remembered or reintroduced to help balance? With respect for indigenous knowledge, and all ancestral ways, we consult the long history of global plant lore for insights into how to help balance the future.
Topics include herbalism, the deep history of food plants, from foraging to early agriculture, TEK (Traditional Ecological Knowledge), nature mythology, visionary species and shamanic traditions, and ways to experience the world through an alive, nature-based worldview. We will walk in the Garden, and observe examples and the ethnobotany principles that living plants display.

Theme of each of four parts:

April 5: What is ethnobotany and why is it important?
We begin with an overview of the spectrum of the plant-culture relationship and its timeless patterns, as seen via many worldviews. This includes both scientific and folk taxonomies, basic botany and a plant’s traits that shape the way it is used.


May 3: The ethnobotany of foods, herbal medicine, and material culture.
We will track plant stories and from ancient foraging through the domestication of plants and early agriculture. Understand global principles of herbal medicine, as an example of the revitalization of hidden knowledge. Learn how ‘things’—shelter, textiles, vessels, tools, and more—are made, using techniques that are repeated in similar habitats.


June 7: Ritual, symbolism, shamanism, and vision-seeking traditions.
Culture gives layers of meaning to everything in nature, including plants’ names, uses and ways of encoding knowledge to hand it on. Ritual, initiation, and shamanic healing are part of this. Powerful plants and fungi help humans balance between spirit and matter. We will look at some key psychoactive species and their ever-changing influence.


July 12: Evolving ethnobotany – Recent history and possible futures of biodiversity and the life of knowledge.
Much has been lost with the languages, migrations, and habitats, yet clues to ways of knowing and doing are still alive. Some are being revitalized, others changing into another form. What do we as humans know and how do we show it? How to cultivate an ethnobotanical worldview. Stories and your accumulated questions will shape this discussion.


Instructor Bio:
Kathleen Harrison, M.A., is an ethnobotanist with decades of experience in research, fieldwork, and teaching. She taught international field courses for various universities, and now teaches through the nonprofit she co-founded, Botanical Dimensions. She curates its Ethnobotany Library in Occidental, in Sonoma County. Her intermittent fieldwork, since the 1970s, has included projects with indigenous people in Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, and Hawaii. Kat travels with her “ethnobotanical eye” wherever she goes, and looks for patterns of knowledge that cultures hold and transmit. “Each one of us has plant knowledge in our ancestral backgrounds,” she says. She particularly likes to focus her learning and teaching on the lore of plants and fungi as handed down in story, craft, art, and ritual.

 $350 / $325 UCBG Members Ticket price is for all sessions of this four-part class; classes can not be registered for individually

  Register online or by calling 510-664-7606

 gardenprograms@berkeley.edu