Wild food plants and wild edible fungi of Heihe valley (Qinling Mountains, Shaanxi, central China): herbophilia and indifference to fruits and mushrooms

Yongxiang Kang, Łukasz Łuczaj, Sebastian Ye, Shijiao Zhang, Jin Kang


The aim of the study was to investigate knowledge and use of wild food plants and fungi in Han (i.e. Chinese) nationality villages in central China, including famine plants used in the respondents' childhood. A valley adjacent to the extremely species-rich temperate forest vegetation of the Taibai Nature Reserve was chosen. Eighty-two people from 5 villages took part in the study. Altogether, 159 wild food plant species and 13 fungi folk taxa were mentioned by informants. The mean number of freelisted wild foods was very high (24.8; median – 21.5). An average respondent listed many species of wild vegetables (mean – 17, me- dian – 14.5), a few wild fruits (mean – 5.9 and median – 6) and very few fungi (mean – 1.9, median – 1), which they had eaten.

Over 50% of respondents mentioned gathering the young shoots or leaves of Celastrus orbiculatus, Staphylea bumalda and S. holocapra, Caryopteris divaricata, Helwingia japonica, Pteridium aquilinum, Pimpinella sp., Amaranthus spp., Matteucia struthiopteris, Allium spp., Cardamine macrophylla and Chenopodium album. Only one species of fruits (Schisandra sphenanthera) and none of the mushrooms were mentioned by over half of the respondents. Although very diverse, it can be noted that the use of wild vegetables has decreased compared to the second half of the 20th century, as informants listed several plants which they had stopped using (e.g. Abelia engleriana) due to the availability of cultivated vegetables and other foodstuffs. On the other hand, the collection of the most well-known wild vegetables is maintained by selling them to tourists visiting agritourist farms, and restaurants.


ethnobotany; ethnomycology; wild edible plants; non-timber forest products; mycophobia; food security

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