Jansen, Spices and medicinal plants in Ethiopia, 1981

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Jansen, Spices and medicinal plants in Ethiopia
Jansen, Spices and medicinal plants in Ethiopia, 1981
Spices and condiments

P. C. M. Jansen

Laboratory of Plant Taxonomy and Plant Geography,
Agricultural University, Wageningen

Spices, condiments and medicinal plants in Ethiopia,
their taxonomy and agricultural significance

Joint Publication of the College of Agriculture, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, and the Agricultural University, Wageningen, the Netherlands

Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation

Wageningen - 15 April 1981

The author graduated on 10 June 1981 as Doctor in de Landbouwwetenschappen at the Agricultural University, Wageningen, the Netherlands, on a thesis with the same title and contents.


Jansen, P.C. M., 1981. Spices, condiments and medicinal plants in Ethiopia, their taxonomy and agricultural significance. Agric. Res. Rep. (Versl. landbouwk. Onderz.) 906, ISBN 90-220-0767-7, (xii) + 327 p., 28 figs, 39 photographs, 10 tables, 468 refs, glossary of pharmacological, medical, veterinary terms, indexes of common and scientific plant names. Also: Doctoral thesis, Wageningen.

The book is the third in a series of publications on useful plants of Ethiopia. It describes 12 spices and condiments and 13 medicinal plants, both from a taxonomie and an agricultural viewpoint.

The extensive botanical description of each taxon is accompanied by a full-page drawing, relevant photographs, lists of synonyms, literature and names, and details on taxonomic problems, geographic distribution, ecology, husbandry, uses and chemical composition.

Numerous other spices, condiments and medicinal plants of Ethiopia that are not treated in detail are listed separately.

Date of publication 15 April 1981


This book is the third volume of a series on useful plant of Ethiopia, and deals with pice condiments and medicinal plants.

The first volume of this series dealt with the pulses (Westphal, 1974) and the second one with the agricultural systems (Westphal, 1975).

The author of this book was in Ethiopia from March 1975 to July 1977, attached to the College of Agriculture at Alemaya of the Addis Ababa University. He was a cooperator in a technical cooperation project between the Addis Ababa University and the Agricultural University at Wageningen. Numerous collection trips were made, notably in the southern part of Ethiopia. The political circumstances did not allow travel in the north. Relevant plants of the cultivated and wild flora of Ethiopia were collected (in total ca 7000 specimens) and information about use and agricultural aspects were carefully noted and observed. Numerous seed samples (mainly collected on markets by the author and by previous collectors in the project) were sown in Ethiopia and at Wageningen in order to study and conserve the different growth stages of the plants.

From January 1974 to April 1977, the work was sponsored by the Netherlands University Foundation for International Cooperation (NUFFIC); from April 1977 to April 1978 by the International Technical Assistance Department of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DTH); from April 1978 to October 1979 by the Netherlands Foundation for the Advancement of Tropical Research (WOTRO). All this time, the Laboratory of Plant Taxonomy and Plant Geography (headed by Professor Dr H. C. D. de Wit), the Department of Tropical Crop Science (Professor Dr Ir J. D. Ferwerda) of the Agricultural University at Wageningen, and the Plant Science Department of the College of Agriculture at Alemaya (headed by Dr Dejene Makonnen) of the Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, provided all possible facilities and assistance. The present book appears as a joint publication of those three institutions.

The financial support of the Stichting (Trust) 'Landbouw Export Bureau 1916/1918' to publish this book is gratefully acknowledged.



From 1965 to 1977, ca 30 000 herbarium specimens (dried or preserved in spirits) of Ethiopian plants were collected from all over Ethiopia by staff of the Laboratory of Plant Taxonomy and Plant Geography of the Agricultural University at Wageningen.

In 1967, E. Westphal started a project to survey useful plants of Ethiopia. His collections and those of his successors showed that Ethiopia was remarkably rich in useful plants. He particularly studied the Ethiopian pulses (Westphal, 1974) and the agricultural systems in Ethiopia (Westphal, 1975). My study concentrated on spices, condiments and medicinal plants of Ethiopia.

This book is based on the herbarium material to which I contributed about 7000 specimens in the years 1975-1977, on observations in the field and on literature. The method of working and the arrangement of the text are similar to those in Westphal's book on pulses. To obtain a complete collection of all stages of growth of the spices and condiments, seed samples, collected mainly from markets from ali over Ethiopia, were sown. The growing plants were studied and all relevant stages were collected and stored in the WAG herbarium (for the codes of herbaria see p. 5). A duplicate set of all specimens is stored in the ACD herbarium. At Wageningen, the samples were mainly grown in a greenhouse (a few in the open air) and in Ethiopia all samples were grown at Alemaya (alt. ca 2000 m) and a selected group at Melkassa (alt. ca 1500 m, garden of the Institute of Agricultural Research near Nazareth). So, plants from the same seed were grown in three habitats and it was hoped that the plants would show their variability.

By careful observations, comparisons and measurements of all material thus obtained, a detailed description could be made of each species.

It would perhaps have been better if more widely different localities in Ethiopia (e.g. between 0-1000 m alt., and 2500-3000 m alt.) had been compared. The limited time available for the project, and problems of distance and manpower (cultivation and collection are time-consuming) made this impractical.

The medicinal plants (except Lepidium sativum) were not grown. Their descriptions are based on material and observations from plants growing in the wild only. Especially in Hararge province, the author gathered much information on medicinal plants. All oral information obtained was based on and documented by specimens of plants collected on the spot. The students Jemal Omar and Yeshie Haile often assisted me with this work.

An excellent general introduction to agriculture in Ethiopia was prepared by Westphal in 1975 in the second volume of this series. That publication is also a rich source of data on the geography, climate, soils, natural vegetation, ethnic groups and


languages, markets, food and nutrition. It is unnecessary to repeat those data in this book.

In this book, 12 spices and condiments (Chapter 2) and 13 medicinal plants (Chapter 3) are described in detail; Chapter 4 lists numerous other spices and medicinal plants used in Ethiopia.

Each species is treated as follows:

  • An etymological explanation of the scientific name of the plant (mainly based on Backer, 1936);
  • The author of the species and the original publication;
  • The type specimen of the species;
  • A list of synonyms. It should be noted that those lists are usually far from complete and are based mainly on literature. It was beyond the scope of this work to investigate the correctness of all synonyms cited in the literature;
  • A chronological list of literature about the species. Pure taxonomic literature already indicated with the synonyms, is not always repeated in this list. The references are usually abbreviated. A full citation can be found at the end of the book under Bibliography. The main aspect of each publication is indicated (e.g. tax., agric., chem.) but such indications hardly ever indicate all information in the source;
  • Local names. In the literature, they are spelt in various ways. I tried to give all variants but not all spellings. The main source for the local names (besides my own information) is Cufodontis, 1953-1972. The language or area in which the names are used is given in parentheses (e.g. Amarinia, Gallinia, Tigrinia);
  • Trade names are given only in English, French and German;
  • The geographic distribution of the species in Ethiopia and elsewhere;
  • A detailed description of the species, accompanied by one or two original botanical drawings and sometimes photographs;
  • Taxonomic notes. The typification is explained; literature on the taxonomy of the species is reviewed; the variability of the Ethiopian material is indicated; material on which the description is based is cited; other examined material, not usually used for description, is cited separately. The variability of the species was often considerable but cultivars were not circumscribed. In my opinion, cultivars can only be distinguished if it is proved by experiments that the designated cultivar breeds true in all important characteristics. As no data were available on numerous agricultural aspects (e.g. disease resistance, yield, water requirements) and on the behaviour of the plants after more than one generation of cultivation, the ultimate naming and distinction ought to be postponed until such data become available. The present work is intended as a base for such research on cultivars;
  • Ecology. The altitudinal range and various botanical data are given;
  • Husbandry, if the species is cultivated;
  • Uses. The information was usually subdivided into culinary uses (spices mainly), medicinal uses (spices and medicinal plants), and miscellaneous uses (e.g. the usefulness of the wood);
  • Chemical composition, taken from the literature.

For botanical terms, the following works were consulted: B. D. Jackson, A


glossary of botanic terms. 4th ed. 1971; G. H. M. Lawrence, Taxonomy of vascular plants. App. Illustrated glossary of taxonomical terms. 1963; W. T. Stearn, Botanical Latin. 2nd ed. 1973.

In the heading 'literature' the following abbreviations are used in parentheses: tax. = taxonomy; agric. = agriculture; bot. = botany; chem. = chemistry; phytop. = phytopathology.

For cited specimen, collector's name are abbreviated a follows: WP = E. Westphal & J. M. C. Westphal-Stevels; SL = C. J. P. Seegeler; Bo = J. J. Bo ; PJ = P. C. M. Jansen.

If no herbarium is cited, the specimens are present both at the herbarium of the Laboratory of Plant Taxonomy and Plant Geography at Wageningen (WAG) and at the herbarium of the College of Agriculture at Alemaya, Ethiopia (ACD). For other herbaria, the code of 'Index Herbariorum' are used:

  • B Berlin, Germany: Botanisches Museum.
  • BM London, Great Britain: British Museum (Natural History).
  • ETH Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: National Herbarium.
  • FI Firenze, Italy: Herbarium Universitati Florentinae Istituto Botanico.
  • FT Firenze, Italy: Erbario Tropicale di Firenze.
  • G Genève, Switzerland: Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques.
  • G-DC Genève, Herbier De Candolle, see G.
  • HBG Hamburg, Federal Republic of Germany, BRD: Institut für Allgemeine Botanik.
  • K Kew, Great Britain: The Herbarium and Library.
  • KR Karlsruhe, Federal Republic of Germany, BRD: Landessammlungen für Naturkunde.
  • L Leiden, Netherlands: Rijksherbarium.
  • LINN London, Great Britain: The Linnean Society of London.
  • LZ Leipzig, German Democratie Republic, DDR: Sektion Biowissenschaften der Karl-Marx-Universität, Bereich Taxonomie/Okologie.
  • P Paris, France: Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Laboratoire de Phanérogamie.
  • P-JU Paris: Herbier Jussieu, see P.
  • TUB Tübingen, German Democratie Republic, DDR: In titut für Biologie I, Lehrbereich spezielle Botanik.

The following signs and abbreviations need explanation:

  • dates day-month-year (after a specimen or herbarium) seen by the author
  • al. alii: others
  • alt. altitude Code International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (1978)
  • comb. nov. combinatio nova: new combination of name and epithet
  • c.s. cum suis: with collaborators
  • e.g. exempli gratia: for example
  • f. (after a personal noun) filius: son; (before an epithet) forma: form
  • f (after a collection number) female


  • fl(s) flower(s)
  • fr(s) fruit(s)
  • holo. holotype
  • herb. herbarium
  • IAR Institute of Agricultural Research, Ethiopia
  • JECAMA Imperial Ethiopian College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts (old name for College of Agriculture, Alemaya)
  • lecto. lectotype
  • m male
  • nom. cons. nomen conservandum: name conserved in International Code of Botanical Nomenclature
  • nom. nud. nomen nudum: name unaccompanied by a description or reference to a published description
  • nom. rej. nomen rejiciendum: rejected name
  • pers. comm. personal communication
  • prop. proposita: proposed
  • prov. province
  • s.l. sensu lato: in a broad sense
  • s.n. sine numero: without a number
  • s.s. sensu stricto: in a narrow sense
  • sp. species
  • spp. species (pl.)
  • ssp. subspecies
  • t. (tab.) tabula: plate
  • var. variety