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Ethnobotany ( from " ethnology " — study of culture [ 1 ] and " botany " — study of plants ) is the scientific study of the relationships that exist between people and plants . Ethnobotanists aim to document, describe and explain complex relationships between cultures and (uses of) plants, focusing primarily on how plants are used, managed and perceived across human societies. This includes use for food, clothing, currency, ritual, medicine, dye, construction, cosmetics and more. [ 2 ] [ edit ] History of ethnobotany Though the term "ethnobotany" was not coined until 1895 by the US botanist John William Harshberger , the history of the field begins long before that.