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Henrik Balslev

Exotic plants used by the Hmong in Thailand

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  • Varangrat Nguanchoo, Chiang Mai University
  • ,
  • Prasit Wangpakapattanawong, Chiang Mai University
  • ,
  • Henrik Balslev
  • Angkhana Inta, Chiang Mai University

Exotic species are an integral part of the plants used by many ethnic groups, but they usually receive little attention and have been considered alien to the ethnobotanical data. Here, we analyze the plants used by Thai Hmong refugees that are not native to their current habitats in Thailand. We attempt to understand the sources of this knowledge. Do people maintain the original traditional knowledge related to exotic species when they migrate to a new region, or does new knowledge originate from acculturation? We interviewed 16 specialist Hmong informants in Nan province, Thailand, about their traditional knowledge of 69 exotic species used. Acquisition of this knowledge has a long history; several species are the same as plants used by the Hmong in China and other countries, others are globally useful species which have become part of the pool of species that the Hmong have developed local knowledge about. However, migration also involves the integration of local knowledge from other cultures, and also adapts them to function in urban settings. This includes using closely related exotic taxa that replace some of the species they used in their original homelands. The migrants’ traditional knowledge in their new habitats is more complicated and also involves the development of local knowledge that is entirely new.

Original languageEnglish
Article number500
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • Acquisition, Adaptation, Ethnobotany, Immigration, Non-native plants, Traditional knowledge, Transmission

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