Use groups

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How can we classify uses?

Classifying uses in groups is a common and convenient practice. But such uses are very diverse, and group names are vague; around a core which is quite easy to define, similar uses are aggregated, up to cases which are difficult to decide. In fact, the delimitation of use groups depends on perceptions and practices of social groups, which differ according to languages and cultures, but also between diverse social groups sociaux in a given population. This explains why there is no international consensus in this field, even coming from technology or anthropology.

We must stress the fact that a given species may have many uses. A same organ can be used with different purposes; e.g., les soybeans are as well a pulse, an oil crop and a protein source for food or feed. The same product can be used in different economic sectors: e.g., turmeric and saffron are both food colorants and textile dyes.

There is a pragmatic standard recognized in applied or economic botany: Cook, F.E.M., 1995. Economic Botany Data Collection Standard. Prepared for the International Working Group on Taxonomic Databases for Plant Sciences (TDWG). Kew, Royal Botanic Gardens. x + 146 pp. £15. ISBN 0947643710. Lists can be downloaded at TDWG Uses. This standard is implemented in particular by SEPASAL. It fits classical databases with a hierarchical structure. We dedicate a page to its analysis and criticism.

Another standard is used by the PROSEA and PROTA encyclopedias; see PROTA standard. It is more adapted to textual databases, and fits the usual use groups to be found in production and trade. Our classification is derived from the PROTA standard. See Help:Classification of uses.

Another problem when documenting uses is whether we sort uses by use group first, or by plant part first. We may also consider the product as collected, or the end product as elaborated through a transformation process (a sap is first a sweet beverage, and it can become a sugar or an alcoholic drink, and later a vinegar or a distilled alcohol).

List of use groups followed on this site

Human food

Non-food uses

Novel uses