What’s in a name? – Exploring the definition of ‘Cultural Relict Plant’

In Anna Andréasson, Anna Jakobsson, Elisabeth Gräslund Berg, Jens Heimdahl, Inger Larsson & Erik Persson (eds.), Sources to the history of gardening. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. pp. 289-299 (2014)
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When working with garden archaeology and garden archaeobotany, the plant material is of great importance. It is important to be able to identify which plants have grown in a particular garden and which have not, which of the plants you find in the garden today that are newly introduced or have established themselves on their own, and which plants that may be remnants of earlier cultivation. During the past two years, my colleagues and I have been involved in a project that deals with the latter kind of plants, that is, plants that were once actively cultivated and that have survived in their original place of cultivation until the present time(Persson, Ansebo & Solberg, this volume). When we started the project we simply called the plants we worked with ‘relict plants’. This is also the term that has been used unofficially in this field of research for some time. It was in no way an official term, however, and as it turned out, the term already had a different meaning in botany that was both older and better established. We were therefore in need of a better name for the plants we worked with. To single out the plants we were working with, we used the following working definition: “Plants that were once, but are no longer cultivated in a certain area, and where a part of the population still exists even though it is no longer actively maintained”. Although we still think this is a decent approximation, we have realized that there are several complicating factors we have had to think more about. We thus needed both a better name and a better definition. Both these tasks became important parts of the project.

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Erik Persson
Lund University


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