Accessibility / Report Error

Edible plants used in Brazil during the 16th and 17th century according to historical reports

Bernardo Tomchinsky Lin Chau Ming About the authors


This work aimed to study the edible flora in Brazil during the 16th and 17th centuries from analyses of texts of 18 authors who visited the country during this period. The cited plants were identified by similarity through the descriptions and images in the studied texts, area of ​​occurrence, popular name, and the analysis of other botanical studies. In all, 827 citations of food plants were found in the texts studied; it was possible to identify 183 species belonging to 61 different botanical families; 37 citations weren’t possible to identify. Of the plants identified, 55% are native to Americas, including Brazil and other american countries, 8% are endemic to Brazil, 37% are exotic to Americas and for two plants it wasn’t possible to find their origin. From this data it is possible to say that during the 16th and 17th century there was the use of a great cornucopia of plant species by the brazilian population, especially cassava, pineapple, genipap, sweet potato and corn. The presence of exotic and naturalized species native to the Americas shows the exchange of germplasm that already existed among pre-columbian populations. During the 16th and 17th century there was an intense exchange of plants with other regions of the world promoted by Europeans, which resulted in the introduction of many cultivated and exotic species that became important in the brazilian diet. Finally we can say that many of those plants used during that time are now neglected.

Key words:
historical ethnobotany; history of Brazil; germoplasm exchange; edible plants

Instituto de Pesquisas Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro Rua Pacheco Leão, 915 - Jardim Botânico, 22460-030 Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil, Tel.: (55 21)3204-2148, Fax: (55 21) 3204-2071 - Rio de Janeiro - RJ - Brazil