Ethnobotany and Domestication in Xoconochtli, Stenocereus stellatus (Cactaceae), in the Tehuacan valley and La Mixteca Baja, Mexico

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Abstract

Ethnobotanical information is presented on use, management, folk nomenclature and classification of the 'xoconochtli' (Stenocereus stellatus) as well as on the role of this plant in subsistence of the Nahua, Mixteca and Popoloca peoples from the Tehuacan Valley and La Mixteca Baja in Central Mexico. Among all three groups, S. stellatus was used for various purposes but mainly for its edible fruits. Different variants of this species were distinguished, named and classified by indigenous people according to characteristics of the fruit; particularly size, color and flavor of the pulp, spininess and thickness of the peel. Wild plants characteristically had small red sour fruits with many spines and thick peel, while individuals selected for cultivation usually differed in one or more of these characters. Three general forms of interaction between people and this species were found: 1) gathering of useful products from the wild; 2) management of wild populations in situ which involves the sparing and enhancing of individuals with more desirable characteristics and the removal of others during clearance of the land for agriculture; and 3) cultivation, mainly in home gardens, by propagation of vegetative parts from desirable individuals. Fruit yields per individual and per population were measured and compared in wild, managed in situ and cultivated populations from the Tehuacan Valley and La Mixteca Baja. Wild and cultivated individuals from La Mixteca Baja yielded more than wild and cultivated individuals from the Tehuacan Valley. Within each region, fruit yields were similar in wild and managed in situ populations but significantly larger in cultivated populations. Forms of management of this plant species are discussed in terms of availability of products and demand for them in the local economy.

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Casas, A., Pickersgill, B., Caballero, J., & Valiente-Banuet, A. (1997). Ethnobotany and Domestication in Xoconochtli, Stenocereus stellatus (Cactaceae), in the Tehuacan valley and La Mixteca Baja, Mexico. Economic Botany, 51(3), 279–292. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02862097

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