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The ethnobotany and descriptive ecology of bitterroot, lewisia rediviva pursh (portulacaceae), in the Lower Thompson River Valley, British Columbia : a salient root food of the Nlaka’pamux First Nation Bandringa, Robert W.

Abstract

Bitterroot, Lewisia rediviva Pursh, is a geophytic, leaf-succulent perennial endemic to the arid, intermontaine grasslands of western North America. Its fleshy tap root has been and remains an important food stuff for many indigenous groups, including the Nlaka'pamux First Nation in the Lower Thompson River Valley of British Columbia. Among the Nlaka'pamux, bitterroot's high salience as a root food vegetable is evidenced by its practical use as a powerful foodstuff delicacy and medicinal morsel. This is further heightened by traditional beliefs and mythologies linking it to human ancestry. Ethnobotanical texts of the Nlaka'pamux encode an array of sophisticated management strategies and harvesting techniques that have enhanced this plant resource. The surrounding anthropogenic influences were identified and openly weighed in direct connection with the autecology of the species throughout the Lower Thompson River Valley. Descriptive ecological sampling was undertaken at the floristic level alongside a number of environmental variables in order to evaluate the local status and community characteristics of bitterroot. The gathered data exhibited high levels of variability within and between populations, signifying adaptation to a disturbance regime likened to long-term, human-induced manipulation. These ethnobotanical and ecological findings serve to promote an integrated mediation of the cultural and vegetational aspects of the species.

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