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  • Economic Botany 55(1) p. 129166. 2001q 2001 by The New York Botanical Garden Press, Bronx, NY 10458-5126 U.S.A.

    PLANT RESOURCES OF THE TEHUACA N-CUICATLA NVALLEY, MEXICO1

    ALEJANDRO CASAS, ALFONSO VALIENTE-BANUET, JUAN LUIS VIVEROS,JAVIER CABALLERO, LAURA CORTE S, PATRICIA DA VILA,RAFAEL LIRA, AND ISELA RODRGUEZ

    Casas, Alejandro, Alfonso Valiente-Banuet, Juan Luis Viveros (Instituto de Ecologa,Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Apartado Postal 27-3, Xangari 58089, Morelia,Michoacan, Mexico), Javier Caballero, Laura Cortes, (Jardn Botanico, Instituto de Biol-oga, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. Apartado postal 70-614, Mexico, D.F.04510, Mexico), Patricia Davila, Rafael Lira, and Isela Rodrguez (Unidad de Biotecnol-oga y Prototipos, Escuela Nacional de Estudios Profesionales Iztacala, Universidad Na-cional Autonoma de Mexico, Avenida de Los Barrio, s. n., Los Reyes Iztacala, Tlalnepantla,54090 Estado de Mexico). PLANT RESOURCES OF THE TEHUACA N-CUICATLA N VALLEY, ME XICO.Economic Botany 55(1):129166, 2001. Information on richness of plant resources, and theirforms of use and management in the biosphere reserve Tehuacan-Cuicatlan, Mexico is an-alyzed. This 10 000 km2 region hosts nearly 2700 vascular plant species, and it is acknowl-edged as one of the arid areas with the highest floristic diversity in North America. Theseven indigenous ethnic groups that live in this region have cultural roots that date backalmost 10 000 years. Based upon ethnobotanical and floristic studies, as well as bibliograph-ical sources, a total of 808 useful plant species were identified, most of them (90%) beingnative, and 44 species being endemic to the region. A total of 681 species are wild plants,109 are weeds and ruderal plants, and 86 are domesticated crops. However, it was notedthat considerable overlap exists between the species of these 3 categories. For example, whilewild and ruderal plants (706 species) are foraged by both humans and domestic animals, 59species of this group are also managed in situ. On the other hand, 168 wild, ruderal anddomesticated species are cultivated. The Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Valley is one of the richestregions of Mexico in plant resources. Local knowledge on use and management of plants isa valuable source of information for designing conservation and social development strate-gies for the biosphere reserve.RECURSOS VEGETALES DEL VALLE DE TEHUACA N-CUICATLA N, ME XICO. Se analiza informacionsobre la riqueza de recursos vegetales, as como sus formas de uso y manejo en la reservade la biosfera Tehuacan-Cuicatlan, Mexico. Esta region, con una extension de 10 000 km2,alberga a cerca de 2700 especies de plantas vasculares y es reconocida como una de laszonas aridas con mayor diversidad florstica de Norteamerica. Incluye ademas a siete gruposetnicos indgenas con una historia cultural iniciada hace aproximadamente 10 000 anos.Con base en estudios etnobotanicos y florsticos, as como informacion bibliografica, seidentificaron un total de 808 especies de plantas utiles, la mayor parte de las cuales (90%)son nativas y 44 son endemicas para la region. Un total de 681 especies son silvestres, 109son arvenses y ruderales, y 86 son domesticadas, con algunas especies presentando al mismotiempo condicion de silvestres, arvenses y domesticadas. En total, 706 especies de plantassilvestres, arvenses y ruderales son forrajeadas tanto por humanos como por animales do-mesticos en las areas donde se encuentran, pero 59 de ellas son tambien manejadas in situ,mientras que 168 especies silvestres, arvenses y ruderales, as como domesticadas, son cul-tivadas. El Valle de Tehuacan es una de las regiones de Mexico con mayor diversidad derecursos vegetales. El conocimiento indgena sobre uso y manejo de las plantas locales esuna fuente de informacion valiosa para el diseno de estrategias de conservacion y desarrollosocial para la reserva de la biosfera.Key Words: domestication; ethnobotany; Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Valley; Mixtec; Popoloca; Nahua.

    1 Received 21 June 1999; accepted 1 September 2000.

  • 130 [VOL. 55ECONOMIC BOTANY

    Throughout a cultural history of nearly10 000 years (Flannery 1986; Wenke 1990;MacNeish 1992), human groups inhabiting theMexican territory have developed complexforms of interaction with plants. The spectrumof interactions includes foraging of wild orweedy plants, different forms of managing insitu communities and populations of wild andweedy plants, as well as cultivation and selec-tion of plant variants adapted to specific envi-ronments and human cultural requirements (seeBye 1993; Hernandez-Xolocotzi 1993; Caballe-ro 1995; Casas and Caballero 1996; Casas et al.1996, 1997a,b). Currently, Mexico, and specifi-cally the cultural area known as Mesoamerica,is recognized as one of the more important cen-ters of plant domestication in the world (Harlan1975; Hawkes 1983). The importance of thisarea is explainable in terms of its long and richcultural history, as well as its plant diversity,which is amongst the highest in the world.

    A result of such history of human interactionswith plants are the nearly 5000 to 7000 speciesof useful plants that at present have been iden-tified within the Mexican territory (Caballero1984; Casas, Viveros, and Caballero 1994), aswell as an incalculable amount of infraspecificvariation that can be associated with human ma-nipulation. This extraordinary variation of usefulplants is undoubtedly an important source of ge-netic resources for satisfying the requirements ofan ever-developing society. At present, only fewof these species (maize, beans, cocoa, squashes,chili peppers, avocado, among others) are im-portant plant resources utilized throughout theworld. However, thousands of other useful plantspecies are utilized at only regional or local lev-els, but could become important in wider areas.Although these numbers may be impressive,there are probably still hundreds of other usefulplant species to be discovered. Compiling an in-ventory of Mexican plant resources, therefore,continues to be a research priority in Mexico.Many areas with high levels of biodiversity, aswell as many indigenous communities, have yetto be explored, whereas the risk of loss of bothnatural areas and indigenous cultures is increas-ing.

    The Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Valley deserves spe-cial attention since both biological and culturalaspects suggest that this region could be amongthe richest of Mexico in plant resources. As sug-gested by the plant and animal inventories, this

    10 000 km2 area (see Fig. 1) has probably thehighest biological diversity for an arid zone inNorth America. Davila et al. (1993) recorded2703 flowering plant species, with nearly 30%of them being endemic to the area. Valiente-Banuet et al. (n.d.) reported 29 vegetation typesin the valley, whereas Rojas-Martnez and Val-iente-Banuet (1996) reported 34 species of batsand Arizmendi and Espinoza de los Monteros(1996) identified 91 species of birds in the re-gion. In addition, the Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Valleyalso possesses important human cultural diver-sity, including Nahua, Popoloca, Mazatec, Chin-antec, Ixcatec, Cuicatec and Mixtec indigenousethnic groups. These peoples still maintain astrong presence in the region since nearly 30%of the approximately 650 000 inhabitants of theValley are speakers of at least one of these in-digenous tongues (Instituto Nacional Indigenista1992a,b). The historical presence of thesegroups and probably other extinct indigenouspeoples in the area appears to be very long.MacNeish (1967, 1992) reported the earliest ev-idence of human occupation of the area fromstrata of approximately 12 000 years ago, al-though more recent studies (see Hardy 1996)suggest that human occupation may have begunnearly 10 000 years ago. Because of the dry en-vironment of the Tehuacan Valley, MacNeishand other archaeologists were able to reconstructa reasonably complete chronology of humansubsistence in Mesoamerica, and this was basedupon some of the oldest remains of plant do-mestication and agriculture so far discovered inthe New World (MacNeish 1967, 1992; Smith1967).

    The Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Valley, therefore,represents an important scenario for the inter-action of biological and cultural diversity over along period of time, and this has resulted in theaccumulation of a vast indigenous knowledgeresource base with respect to the utilization ofnative plants. Paradoxically, relatively few eth-nobotanical reports have been published for theregion. Among the ethnobotanical studies pub-lished on Tehuacan-Cuicatlan are articles onuseful plants by Miranda (1948) and Smith(1965, 1967), as well as the preliminary reporton plant resources of the region by Casas andValiente-Banuet (1995) and the ethnobotanicaldata on columnar cacti by Casas et al. (1997a)and Casas, Caballero and Valiente-Banuet(1999). However, more comprehensive infor-

  • 2001] 131CASAS ET AL.: PLANT RESOURCES OF THE TEHUACA N-CUICATLA N VALLEY

    Fig. 1. Study area. The Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Valley. 1 5 Ajalpan; 2 5 Coxcatlan; 3 5 Rancho el Aguaje; 45 San Rafael; 5 5 Cuicatlan; 6 5 Tequixtepec; 7 5 Chazumba; 8 5 Tehuacan; 9 5 San Lorenzo; 10 5 Coapan;11 5 San Juan Raya; 12 5 Los Reyes Metzontla; 13 5 Zapotitlan de las Salinas; 14 5 Tecamachalco.

    mation and therefore exhaustive studies are stillrequired. Such studies are crucial to improve un-derstanding of agricultural origins and plant do-mestication in the region. In addition, these stud-ies could reveal information about strategies oflocal environmental management that could helpin designing conservation efforts. Plant utiliza-tion as related to biological conservation is animportant issue because the region is now a bio-

    sphere reserve, created by government decree inSeptember 1998.

    Accordingly, this research focuses on to as-sessing the richness of useful plants in the Te-huacan-Cuicatlan Valley, their uses and forms ofmana

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