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Floresta e Ambiente

Print version ISSN 1415-0980On-line version ISSN 2179-8087

Floresta Ambient. vol.26 no.3 Seropédica  2019  Epub May 23, 2019

http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/2179-8087.093217 

Original Article

Conservation of Nature

Knowledge and Use of the Flora in a Quilombola Community of Northeastern Brazil

Janaina Araújo dos Santos1 
http://orcid.org/0000-0003-0218-3034

Andréa Pereira Silveira2 
http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6785-5319

Vaneicia dos Santos Gomes1 
http://orcid.org/0000-0002-2357-992X

1Faculdade de Educação, Ciências e Letras do Sertão Central – FECLESC, Universidade Estadual do Ceará – UECE, Quixadá/CE, Brasil

2Faculdade de Educação de Itapipoca – FACEDI, Universidade Estadual do Ceará – UECE, Itapipoca/CE, Brasil

ABSTRACT

An ethnobotanical survey was carried out in the Quilombola Community of Serra do Evaristo in the municipality of Baturité, Ceará state, Brazil. We interviewed 41 residents who provided information on the plants used, the types of use, the preparation methods, the purchase location of the plants and their knowledge source. One hundred and fourteen species belonging to 53 botanical families were recorded. Six types of use were reported, with most species being used for medicinal purposes (43% of the species), followed by food (25%), decoration (23%), construction (5%), domestic fuel (3%) and ritualistic purposes (3%). The most cited species were Musa paradisiaca L. (banana), Zea mays L. (corn), Phaseolus vulgaris L. (bean), Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck (orange), Melissa officinalis L. (common balm), Aloe vera (L.) Burm.f. (aloe vera), Cymbopogon citratus Stapf. (lemon grass), Mentha sp.(mint) and Psidium guajava L. (guava). The knowledge and use of the plants is part of a cultural heritage passed down through families, and has been helping the survival and maintenance of the Quilombola identity in the studied community.

Keywords: ethnobotany; traditional populations; afro-descendants

1. INTRODUCTION

Ethnobotany includes the study of human societies, their ecological, symbolic and cultural interactions with plants, as well as how these societies interpret and manage their knowledge (Boscolo et al., 2015). Ethnobotanical studies are important, especially in Brazil, since its territory houses one of the richest floras in the world (Lewinsohn & Prado, 2002) and includes many traditional communities of different ethnicities (Diegues & Viana, 2004).

Traditional communities are groups that have conquered, or are struggling to conquer a public identity that consists in the use of low impact environmental techniques and cultural traits different from other forms of social organization (Medeiros & Albuquerque, 2012). Brazilian legislation has recognized traditional peoples since the Constitution of 1988; however, it was not until the Federal Decree No. 6,040 of 2007 (Brasil, 2007) that the legislation gave them more attention by establishing the National Policy for the Sustainable Development of Traditional Peoples and Communities (Política Nacional de Desenvolvimento Sustentável dos Povos e Comunidades Tradicionais).

Brazil has a wide range of traditional communities, but those best known include: the Indigenous, Quilombola, Ribeirinho, Seringueiro, Castanheiro and Gypsy communities; among those of lesser expression are the Quebradeiras de Coco, the Fundo de Pasto and the Faxinalenses populations (Grzebieluka, 2012). These diverse traditional communities have cultures rich in customs and beliefs, which have been historically constituted and maintained through struggles and resistance. For example, the Quilombos arose from the need of fugitive slaves to organize themselves into autonomous communities (Treccani, 2006). However, the concept has been broadened and Quilombos are defined as “every black rural community that groups slave descendants living from a subsistence culture where cultural manifestations have a strong link with the past” (Diegues & Viana, 2004, p. 266).

This strong bond with the past enables these peoples with a wealth of knowledge about local biodiversity. However, this knowledge is susceptible to external pressures, and modifications may occur either through the loss of empirical knowledge and genetic heritage or by the expansion of the local repertoire (Alencar et al., 2014; Almeida-Neto et al., 2015); once lost, it becomes difficult to recover (Albuquerque & Andrade, 2002). For this reason, it is important that traditional knowledge is documented, as these data can be used to ensure environmental services combining the maintenance of biodiversity with improvement in the quality of life of their inhabitants, in addition to contributing to the permanence of the cultural identity of these peoples (Diegues, 2000).

Considering the importance of the Quilombola people based on the ethnical and cultural point of view, the objective of this study was to document the knowledge and use of the flora by a Quilombola community of Northeast Brazil. Thus, from the ethnobotanical point of view, we analyzed: i) which plants are used by the Quilombola community of Serra do Evaristo in Baturité-Ceará, the types of use, the parts used, preparation methods, the purchase location of the plants, the knowledge origin and the transfer form of the traditional knowledge; and ii) what is the importance of these plants for the community.

2. MATERIAL AND METHODS

2.1. Description of the study area

The study area is located in the Baturité massif, Ceará state, northeastern Brazil, a mountainous complex, 70 km from the coast (4°19' S, 38°53' W). The geographic position of this mountain massif promotes orographic rains on the windward slope due to the action of the coastal winds that bring high humidity (900 mm/year to 1400 mm/year). On the other hand, a rain shadow forms on the leeward slope, resulting in pluviometric indexes below 700 mm/year (Mantovani, 2006). Due to the mountainous relief and the altitude, the windward and leeward slopes have different climates and vegetation. The windward side is under the influence of colder and more humid climate (Aw – warm subhumid climate with average annual temperatures between 20 and 26 °C), where vegetation of the Evergreen Seasonal humid forest and Semi-deciduous dry forest predominate (IBGE, 2012), with biota composed of elements from both the Atlantic forest and the Amazonian forest. The leeward slope has a drier climate (BSh – semi-arid hot, with average temperatures of 27 °C), resembling vegetation of the Deciduous dry forest and Steppe Savannas called Caatinga (IBGE, 2012), a deciduous prickly vegetation that is predominant in northeastern Brazilian plains (Araújo et al., 2006).

2.2. Characterization of the community

The Quilombola community of Serra do Evaristo, in the municipality of Baturité, is located on the windward slope of the massif at an altitude of 533 m (Oliveira et al., 2016). It is composed of approximately 560 inhabitants distributed across 135 families that mainly live on family agriculture (Maciel et al., 2016). The vegetation is a Submontane Semi-deciduous Seasonal Forest with an average annual precipitation of 1079 mm (Araújo et al., 2006).

We initially conducted an interview with the community leader to obtain information about the history and description of the community, which is useful information for understanding the knowledge and relationship that the community maintains with the local flora, as well as information about the knowledge and use of the local flora.

Regarding his self-knowledge, the community leader stated that:

The concept of Quilombo understood by the community is characteristically contemporary, where the historical records do not report rebel groups that came to live in the mountains, but rather groups that develop resistance mechanisms and struggle to maintain and reproduce their practices and ways of life on a daily basis (Community Leader).

This description is in agreement with the modern concept that seeks to break the binomial fugitive-resistance in the definition of quilombo (Schmitt et al., 2002). However, the community leader clarified that not all members of the community recognize themselves as Quilombola, by stating that

If the community is the entire population of the territory, not everyone accepts themselves as blacks, quilombolas or remnants of quilombos. What we are experiencing is a process of affirming our identity. If the community to which we refer goes to the Association, it recognizes itself as such, so much so that there has been a reformulation in its social status to include a specific article on self-recognition (Community Leader).

Despite the self-recognition not being unanimous, this community is in agreement with Maciel et al. (2016), having traces of African culture clearly respected and reflected in its form of organization, way of life and living cultural traits such as the São Gonçalo dance and its typical cuisine with mungunzá salgado, papaya marmalade and cocada. But is it also true for the knowledge and use of plants? To answer this question, we will describe the procedures for collecting and analyzing data regarding ethnobotanical research in the community.

2.3. Data collection and analysis

The non-probabilistic “snowball” technique with linear sampling was used. This technique consisted of the indication made by the community leader of a first local expert, a Quilombola individual recognized as holding knowledge about the flora. This individual then suggested another participant, so that the sample grew in a linear rhythm until no further indications were made. We interviewed eight local experts. In order for the sample to include a larger number of community members, we applied the snowball technique with other quilombola members who were not recognized as local experts, but who made use of the plants for various purposes. The criteria to participate in this group were: being over the age of eighteen, recognizing themselves as quilombola, having a fixed residence in the community for more than ten years and indicating only one member per family.

The snowball technique is suitable for ethnobotanical research, since it enables creating a chain of references when accessing a subgroup of individuals who hold knowledge about the flora that one intends to study (Albuquerque & Lucena, 2004). A sample of about 20 to 30 participants is adequate, since after that number the information starts to repeat and the lists become stable (Almeida & Bandeira, 2010). Therefore, we consider the snowball sampling conducted with 40 quilombola subjects as satisfactory (eight local experts and 32 members of the Quilombo), who together with the community leader corresponded to 41 participants and make up 35% of the Quilombola families of Serra do Evaristo.

Data were collected through a semi-structured questionnaire divided into two topics: 1) socioeconomic data; and 2) ethnobotanical data, in which was solicited the name of plant, type of use, part used, form of use, purchase location of plant, and knowledge source. The species mentioned were recorded in a field diary and photographed to aid in botanical identification carried out according to the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (APG IV, 2016). Identification was carried out by consulting the specialized bibliography and by comparison with the collections in the Prisco Bezerra Herbarium (EAC) of the Federal University of Ceará and the Rodolfo Teófilo Herbarium (HERT) of the State University of Ceará. The control botanical material (collector Santos, J.A. – numbers 1 to 150) was deposited in the Herbarium of the College of Education, Sciences and Arts of the Central Sertão of the State University of Ceará (FECLESC-UECE). The names of families, genera, species and authors were confirmed through consultation with the Tropicos Botanical Garden (Tropicos.org, 2017) and the Brazilian Flora Species 2020 List (JBRJ, 2017).

3. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

3.1. Socioeconomic profile

Most families survive on family agriculture, with an emphasis on banana cultivation, although some young people work in civil construction in Fortaleza and other larger cities. The information was obtained from 41 quilombola subjects, with significant female participation, being 32 women and 9 men. These data confirm the predominance of women as holders of ethnobotanical knowledge (Carneiro et al., 2016) and are directly related to the way of living of the communities, in which women have greater knowledge about plants used for food and medicines, while men are more familiar with forest plants (Silva & Bündchen, 2011).

The study participants were between 18 and 76 years old, and the most frequent age group was between 40 and 60 years old (39% of the study subjects). Regarding the educational level, 95% consider themselves literate and 5% said they are illiterate. This age group and schooling are frequent in ethnobotanical studies with traditional communities. According to Silva & Bündchen (2011), there seems to be a greater accumulation of knowledge and a willingness to share information among more advanced age groups.

3.2. Ethnobotanical information

A total of 114 species were identified, distributed among 53 families with the most reported being: Fabaceae (9 species), Lamiaceae (7 species), Asteraceae (7 species), Rutaceae (5 species), Anacardiaceae (4 species), Asparagaceae (4 species), and Euphorbiaceae (4 species). The number of species was similar to those registered in another ethnobotanical study in northeastern Brazil, which found 86 species in a quilombo in Bahia (Almeida & Bandeira, 2010), and 108 species in a rural community of Pernambuco (Albuquerque & Andrade, 2002).

The plants were distributed into six categories of use, among which medicinal use stood out as the most numerous, with 48% of the mentioned species, followed by food (25%), decoration (23%), construction (5%), domestic fuel (3%) and ritualistic categories/purpose (3%) (Table 1). The greater expressiveness of medicinal plants is a frequent result in ethnobotanical studies carried out in rural communities of different ethnicities (Albuquerque, 2005) and also in Quilombola communities (Almeida & Bandeira, 2010).

Table 1 Species cited as M = medicinal, F = food, O = ornamental, C = construction, DF = domestic fuel and R = ritualistic, by the Quilombolas of Evaristo mountain, Baturité, Ceará state. 

Family/Species Popular name Growth form Indication (part used and preparation form)
Acanthaceae
Justicia pectoralis Jacq.
Anador Herb M – fever and pain (leaf/tea)
Alismataceae
Echinodorus macrophyllus (Kunth) Micheli
Chapéu-de-couro Herb M – fracture (leaf/tea)
Amaranthaceae
Alternanthera brasiliana (L.) Kuntze
Doril Herb M – fever and pain (leaf/tea)
Amaranthaceae
Dysphania ambrosioides (L.) Mosyakin & Clemants
Mastruz Herb M – fracture and flu (leaf/juice)
Amaranthaceae
Beta vulgaris L.
Beterraba Herb M – anemia (root/syrup)
Amaryllidaceae
Allium ascalonicum L.
Cebolinha branca Herb M – colic, poor digestion (stem/tea)
Amaryllidaceae
Allium schoenoprasum L.
Cebola palha Herb F (stem e leaf)
Amaryllidaceae
Allium sativum L.
Alho Herb M – hypertension (leaf/juice)
F (leaf)
Anacardiaceae
Myracrodruon urundeuva Allemão
Aroeira Tree M – inflammation (stem/maceration and tea)
C (stem)
Anacardiaceae
Anacardium occidentale L.
Cajueiro Tree M – inflammation (stem/maceration)
F (fruit and pseudofruit)
Anacardiaceae
Mangifera indica L.
Mangueira Tree M – inflammation (stem / maceration)
F (fruit)
Anacardiaceae
Spondias purpurea L.
Seriguela Tree F (fruit)
Annonaceae
Annona muricata L.
Graviola Shrub F (fruit)
Annonaceae
Annona squamosa L.
Ateira Shrub F (fruit)
Apiaceae
Coriandrum sativum L.
Coentro Herb F (leaf)
Apiaceae
Daucus carota L.
Cenoura Herb M – anemia (root/juice)
Apiaceae
Foeniculum vulgare Mill.
Erva-doce Herb M – soothing (seed/tea)
Apocynaceae
Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don
Boa-noite Herb O
Apocynaceae
Nerium oleander L.
Flor de São José Herb O
Apocynaceae
Plumeria rubra L.
Jasmim-de-São-José Shrub O
Araceae
Dieffenbachia seguine (Jacq.) Schott
Comigo-ninguém-pode Herb O
Araceae
Caladium bicolor (Aiton) Vent.
Coração-de- Jesus Herb O
Araceae
Zantedeschia aethiopica L.
Copo-de-leite Herb O
Arecaceae
Cocos nucifera L.
Coqueiro Tree M - moisturizer (fruit/juice)
F (fruit)
Arecaceae
Dypsis lutescens (H.Wendl.) Beentje & J.Dransf.
Palmeirinha Shrub O
Arecaceae
Phoenix roebelenii O'Brien
Palmeirinha Shrub O
Asparagaceae
Sansevieria cylindrica Bojer ex Hook.
Lança-de-São-jorge Herb O, R
Asparagaceae
Dracaena fragrans (L.) Ker Gawl.
- Herb O
Asparagaceae
Dracaena marginata hort
- Shrub O
Asparagaceae
Dracaena reflexa Lam.
- Herb O
Asteraceae
Achillea millefolium L.
Dipirona Herb M– pain and fever (leaf/tea)
Asteraceae
Lactuca sativa L.
Alface Herb M – hypertension (root/tea)
F (leaf)
Asteraceae
Lychnophora ericoides Mart.
Arnica Shrub M – muscle pain and fracture (seed/juice)
Asteraceae
Artemisia vulgaris L.
Artemísia Herb M – pain, fever, anemia (leaf / tea and syrup)
Asteraceae
Acanthospermum hispidum DC.
Delegado Herb M – cough, flu, expectorant (root/syrup)
Asteraceae
Baccharis crispa Spreng.
Carqueja Herb M – lose weight (leaf/tea)
Asteraceae
Calendula officinalis L.
Calêndula Herb M – inflammation (flower/tea)
Bignoniaceae
Handroanthus impetiginosus (Mart. ex DC.) Mattos
Ipê-roxo Tree M – inflammation (stem/tincture)
O, C (stem)
Bixaceae
Bixa orellana L.
Urucum Shrub F (seed)
Brassicaceae
Nasturtium officinale L.
Agrião Herb M - infection and inflammation (leaf / tea and syrup)
Brassicaceae
Brassica juncea L.
Mostarda Herb M - hypertension, heart disease (seed / tea)
Bromeliaceae
Ananas comosus (L.) Merr.
Abacaxi Herb F (fruit)
Caricaceae
Carica papaya L.
Mamoeiro Tree M - constipation (fruit/juice)
F (fruit)
Combretaceae
Terminalia catappa L.
Castanhola Tree F (fruit)
Commelinaceae
Tradescantia zebrina Heynh.
Zebrina Herb O
Crassulaceae
Bryophyllum pinnatum (Lam.) Oken
Corama Herb M - flu, inflammation (juice/ointment)
Crassulaceae
Kalanchoe blossfeldiana Poelln
- Herb O
Cucurbitaceae
Cucurbita sp.
Abobora Herb F (fruit)
Cucurbitaceae
Sechium edule (Jacq.) Sw
Chuchu Climber F (fruit)
Cucurbitaceae
Cucumis anguria L.
Maxixe Herb F (fruit)
Cupressaceae
Thuja occidentalis L.
Tuia Shrub M – anticancer (leaf/tea)
Euphorbiaceae
Manihot esculenta Crantz
Macaxeira Shrub F (root)
Euphorbiaceae
Codiaeum variegatum (L.) Rumph. ex A.Juss.
Pingo-de- ouro Shrub O
Euphorbiaceae
Croton sp.
Marmeleiro Tree C (stem), DF (stem)
Euphorbiaceae
Jatropha gossypiifolia L.
Pião-roxo Shrub R (branches)
Fabaceae
Amburana cearensis (Allemão) A.C.Sm.
Cumaru Tree M – flu and sinusitis (stem/tea)
Fabaceae
Anadenanthera colubrina (Vell.) Brenan
Angico Tree C (stem), DF (stem)
Fabaceae
Erythrina velutina Willd.
Mulungú Tree O
Fabaceae
Hymenaea eriogyne Benth.
Jatobá Tree M – flu and inflammation (stem/tea)
Fabaceae
Mimosa adenophylla Taub.
Jurema Tree DF (stem)
Fabaceae
Mimosa caesalpiniifolia Benth.
Sabiá Tree C (stem), DF (stem)
Fabaceae
Senna occidentalis L. Link
Manjerioba Shrub M - constipation (flower/oil)
Fabaceae
Vicia faba L.
Fava Herb F (seed)
Fabaceae
Phaseolus vulgaris L.
Feijão Herb F (seed)
Lamiaceae
Plectranthus amboinicus Lour.
Alfavaca Herb M – sinusitis (leaf/tea)
Lamiaceae
Plectranthus neochilus Schltr.
Boldo Shrub M – colic, poor digestion (leaf/tea)
Lamiaceae
Melissa officinalis L.
Cidreira Herb M – soothing (leaf/tea)
Lamiaceae
Mentha sp.
Hortelã Herb M – worms and flu (leaf/tea and juice)
Lamiaceae
Ocimum basilicum L.
Manjericão Herb M – ear pain (leaf/juice)
Lamiaceae
Solenostemon scutellarioides (L.) R.Br.
Coração-magoado Herb O
Lamiaceae
Plectranthus sp.
Malvarisco Herb M – cough, flu (leaf/tea)
Lauraceae
Cinnamomum sp.
Canela Shrub M – soothing (stem/tea)
Lauraceae
Persea americana Mill.
Abacateiro Tree F (fruit)
Laxmanniaceae
Cordyline sp.
- Herb O
Lythraceae
Punica granatum L.
Romã Tree M – inflammation (fruit/maceration)
Malpighiaceae
Malpighia emarginata D.C.
Acerola Shrub F (fruit)
Malvaceae
Abelmoschus esculentus L. (Moench)
Quiabeiro Herb F (fruit)
Malvaceae
Hibiscus schizopetalus (Dyer) Hook.f.
Hibisco crespo Shrub O
Malvaceae
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L.
Hibisco Shrub O
Marantaceae
Calathea sp.
- Herb O
Meliaceae
Azadirachta indica A. Juss
Nim Tree O
Moraceae
Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam.
Jaqueira Tree F (fruit)
Moraceae
Brosimum gaudichaudii Trécul
Inharé Shrub C (stem), DF (stem)
Moraceae
Ficus benjamina L.
Benjamin Tree O
Musaceae
Musa paradisiaca L.
Bananeira Herb F (fruit)
Myrtaceae
Eucalyptus sp.
Eucalipto Tree M – headache, flu and sinusitis (leaf/tea)
Myrtaceae
Psidium guajava L.
Goiabeira Shrub M – diarrhea and cramps (leaf/tea)
F (fruit)
C (caule)
Nephrolepidaceae
Nephrolepis exaltata (L.) Schott
Samambaia Herb O
Olacaceae
Ximenia americana L.
Ameixa Tree M – inflammation (stem/maceration and tea)
Passifloraceae
Passiflora edulis Sims
Maracujazeiro Climber M – soothing (fruit/juice)
F (fruit)
Pedaliaceae
Sesamum indicum L.
Gergelim Herb M – hypertension, heart disease (seed/tea and juice)
Plantaginaceae
Plantago major L.
Tanchagem Herb M – inflammation (leaf/tea and syrup)
Plantaginaceae
Scoparia dulcis L.
Vassourinha Herb M – inflammation and urinary tract infection (root/maceration)
R (branches)
Poaceae
Cymbopogon citratus Stapf.
Capim-santo Herb M – soothing (leaf/tea)
Poaceae
Zea mays L.
Milho Herb F (seed)
Polygonaceae
Antigonon leptopus Hook. & Arn.
Amor-agarradinho Climber O
Rosaceae
Malus pumila Mill.
Maçã Tree M – lack of appetite and slow intestine (fruit juice and tincture)
Rubiaceae
Genipa americana L.
Genipapo Tree M – anemia (fruit/juice and tincture)
Rubiaceae
Morinda citrifolia L.
Noni Shrub M – gastritis, cancer, osteoporosis (fruit/juice and tincture)
Rubiaceae
Ixora coccinea L.
- Shrub O
Rutaceae
Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck
Laranjeira Shrub M – colic, poor digestion and cholesterol (fruit/tea and juice)
A (fruit)
Rutaceae
Citrus aurantifolia (Christim.) Swingle.
Limoeiro Shrub M – colic, poor digestion (fruit/tea and juice)
F (fruit)
Rutaceae
Citrus reticulata Blanco
Tangerina Shrub F (fruit)
Rutaceae
Murraya paniculata (L.) Jack
Jasmim laranja Shrub O
Rutaceae
Ruta graveolens L.
Arruda Herb M – ear pain (leaf/juice)
R (branches)
Solanaceae
Capsicum frutescens L.
Pimenta Herb M – tumors (leaf/maceration)
F (fruit), O
Solanaceae
Capsicum annuum L.
Pimentão Herb F (fruit)
Solanaceae
Solanum lycopersicum L.
Tomateiro Herb F (fruit)
Verbenaceae
Duranta erecta Linn
- Shrub O
Violaceae
Pombalia calceolaria (L.) Paula-Souza
Ipepaconha Herb M – flu, sinusitis and worms (root/syrup)
Xanthorrhoeaceae
Aloe vera (L.) Burm.f.
Babosa Shrub M – gastritis, flu, injury, cancer (leaf/syrup and tincture)
Zingiberaceae
Curcuma longa L.
Açafroa Herb M – fever and measles (stem/tea)
Zingiberaceae
Alpinia zerumbet (Pers.) B.L.Burtt & R.M.Sm.
Colonia Herb M – hypertension, heart disease (leaf/tea)
Zingiberaceae
Zingiber officinale Roscoe
Gengibre Herb M – influenza, sinusitis and respiratory inflammations (root/tea)

The most reported species in this study were: banana – Musa paradisiaca L. (6.30%), corn – Zea mays L. (5.55%), bean – Phaseolus vulgaris L. (3.52%), orange – Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck (3.52%), common balm – Melissa officinalis L. (2.99%), aloe vera – Aloe vera L. (2.88%), lemon grass – Cymbopogon citratus Stapf. (2.77%), mint – Mentha sp. (2.67%) and guava – Psidium guajava L. (2.67%), reinforcing the importance attributed to food and medicinal uses by the Quilombola subjects in this study. The high percentage of citations for cultivated species is of concern for the conservation of local biodiversity. Banana cultivation, for example, is highly detrimental in rugged reliefs and is not recommended for the Serra de Baturité. According to Freire & Nogueira (2006), in addition to banana crops not adequately protecting the soil against the natural climate actions, there is a tendency for ablation of the superficial horizons and to impoverish the soil nutrients.

However, the species richness and variety of uses (Table 1) also shows that the Quilombola peoples of Serra do Evaristo maintain vast knowledge of exotic and native plants and use them for different purposes. This relationship of knowledge and use can be a link for conserving local biodiversity, provided that these native resources are used sustainably and the crops are used sparingly, taking into account sustainable practices. Maciel et al. (2016) found that the Quilombola community of Baturité conserves the local knowledge and flavors through the maintenance of dances and traditional foods. These data, along with the high plant richness recorded in this study, reinforce the role of Quilombola communities in the conservation of local knowledge, as highlighted by Silva & Andrade (2005).

The most cited medicinal species were: common balm – Melissa officinalis L. (7%), aloe vera – Aloe vera (L.) Burm.f. (7%), lemon grass – Cymbopogon citratus Stapf. (7%), mint – Mentha sp. (6%), aroeira – Myracrodruon urundeuva Allemão (6%), lobster bush – Plectranthus neochilus Schltr. (5%), spurflowers – Plectranthus sp. (4%), common rue – Ruta graveolens L. (4%) and mastruz – Dysphania ambrosioides (L.) Mosyakin & Clemants (3%). The use of exotic plants in the popular pharmacopoeia generally takes place through cultivation in the surroundings of the residences, a practice that can contribute to diminishing the pressure of using native species. At the same time, it solves the issue of the seasonal unavailability of phyto resources (Albuquerque & Andrade, 2002; Alencar et al., 2014), a striking characteristic of seasonal climate vegetation, as is the case of the Semi-deciduous Seasonal Forest under study. Exotic species are used to treat specific health problems for which native species are not available or (when) there are no associated native species, which led to the hypothesis of diversification (Albuquerque, 2006) and opposes the hypothesis of acculturation, which predicted a loss of native knowledge with the presence of exotic medicinal plants (Amorozo, 2002). We agree with the hypothesis of diversification, and we understand that the exotic species listed by the Quilombola peoples of Baturité are important for the local culture, for diversifying and for expanding the repertoire of medicinal plants.

The therapeutic indications mentioned by the participants were: flu and sinusitis (30%), soothing/calming agent (17%), inflammation and injury (16%), colic, poor digestion and constipation (12%), pain and fever (7%), earache (5%), cancer (5%), hypertension and heart disease (4%), fracture (2%), cholesterol, anemia and verminoses (2%). Similar results were recorded by Gomes & Bandeira (2012), in which the most representative categories were those related to digestive and respiratory system diseases. Giraldi & Hanazaki (2010) argue that the lack of treated drinking water may partially explain the high amount of therapeutic indications for digestive system diseases.

Among the vegetable parts most used for medicinal purposes, the most cited were leaves (32 citations), followed by fruits (9), the stem (9), roots (7), seeds (4) and flowers (2). Results recorded by Silva & Bündchen (2011) and Gomes & Bandeira (2012) in their studies also showed that leaves are the most used plant organ in folk medicine. These authors argue that the likely explanation for leaf usage is due to this part of the plant being easy to collect and available almost all year round in certain environments.

Seven types of preparation for medicinal plants were reported, in which tea was the most common (58% of the citations), followed by juice (20%), syrup (13%), dye (7%), oil (1%) and ointment (1%). The predominant preparation was infusion, 40% (put boiling water on the utilized plant part), followed by maceration, 8% (crushing part of the vegetable and placing it in cold water), tisanes, 6% (making herbal teas by placing the utilized part in boiling water), and decoction 3% (boiling the utilized part); thus corroborating Carneiro et al. (2016) and Silva et al. (2016), who state that tea predominated among the home medicines in small communities of Ceará.

As a family farming community, the percentage of species that serve as food corresponded to 25% of the species reported, including some species that have been cited as food and for medicinal purposes, such as: mango (Mangifera indica L.), coconut (Cocos nucifera L.), lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.), papaya (Carica papaya L.), garlic (Allium sativum L.), guava (Psidium guajava L.), orange (Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck), key lime (Citrus aurantifolia (Christim.) Swingle.) and chili pepper (Capsicum frutescens L.) (Table 1). Participants listed leaves, roots, fruits, and grains, and reported that they are mostly grown by direct cultivation in local backyards. According to Pasa et al. (2005), backyards are spaces that play an important role in people’s lives, as they are located close to the residences and are constituted by perennial and temporal species, through which the population has a low dependence on external products.

The decoration category received the third highest percentage of species cited (24%), distributed in herbaceous, shrub and arboreal growth forms (Table 1). The decoration category is usually one of the most cited in studies in rural and urban backyards (Silva et al., 2017), and although this study did not specifically focus on to the ethnobotany of backyards, the fact that this category corresponded to an expressive number of species evidences the concern of the residents of the Quilombola community of Serra do Evaristo with embellishing their environment.

For the construction and domestic fuel categories, only woody species were reported, corresponding to a total of seven species for construction and four species for domestic fuel (Table 1). The species reported for construction were: common rue (Myracrodruon urundeuva Allemão), pink trumpet tree (Tabebuia impetiginosa Mart.), marmeleiro (Croton sp.), sabiá (Mimosa caesalpiniifolia Benth.), angico/wilco (Anadenanthera colubrina Vell. Brenan), inharé (Brosimum gaudichaudii Trec.) and guava (Psidium guajava L.). These species are used for building houses, animal pens/stalls, producing artifacts for agriculture and fences for demarcating territory. For domestic fuel, the species reported were: angico/wilco (Anadenanthera colubrina Vell. Brenan), sabiá (Mimosa caesalpiniifolia Benth.), marmeleiro (Croton sp.), and jurema (Mimosa adenophylla Taub.), in which wood with a longer combustion time are preferably chosen. According to Moura (2007), the choice of the appropriate wood allows individuals to carry out several activities at once, without having to exclusively focus on cooking.

The ritual category/purpose had four species cited: bellyache bush (Jatropha gossypiifolia L.), castor bean (Ricinus communis L.), common rue (Ruta graveolens L.) and licorice weed (Scoparia dulcis L.), used for of healing, blessing and dancing rituals to invoke rain, generally using the branches of the plants (Table 1). Using plants for prayers, dances and blessings is common in traditional communities (Albuquerque et al., 2007).

Regarding knowledge acquisition, 62% of the participants reported that it was acquired orally from relatives, 25% orally from family members and other members of the community, 12% from oral and written reports from relatives and in training courses. The predominance of vertical oral transmission has been pointed out as a pattern in small communities (Carneiro et al., 2016), reaffirming that the family represents the main source of knowledge transmission. We can attribute the high percentage of knowledge transmission involving other members of the community (25% in this study) to the fact that the group recognizes themselves as a Quilombola community.

4. CONCLUSION

We conclude that the Quilombola community of Serra do Evaristo in Baturité, Ceará state, has a rich immaterial heritage related to the knowledge and use of 114 plant species used for medicinal, food, decoration, construction, domestic fuel and ritualistic purposes. We have also found that this knowledge is preserved/passed down in the community as a way to keep its culture alive and its recognition as a Quilombola community.

Ethical approval: All Quilombola individuals participating in this research signed the clear and informed consent form (ICF) and were reserved the right to withdraw from the study at any time, and their anonymity was assured, as recommended by Resolution 510/96 of the National Health Council (Brasil, 2016).

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Received: September 08, 2017; Accepted: April 26, 2018

Andréa Pereira SilveraUniversidade Estadual do Ceará – UECE, Faculdade de Educação de Itapipoca, Av. Monsenhor Tabosa, s/n, Coqueiro, CEP 62500-000, Fortaleza, CE, Brasil e-mail: andrea.silveira@uece.br

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