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Three’s a charm – identification of medicinal plant species traded at Tanzanian markets using a combination of literature, molecular and morphological methods.
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Abstract [en]

In Tanzania large parts of the population rely on traditional medicine for their primary healthcare and medicinal plants are commonly traded. Several studies on medicinal plants have been performed in Tanzania, but identifying medicinal plants sold on local markets is challenging since vendors trade sterile leaves, barks and roots, which are often sold in powdered form to increase shelf life and to allow mixing on the spot. Vernacular names might match multiple scientific species or have not been linked to a scientific species or genus. To identify vouchers that lack sufficient morphological characters, literature could be used for identification or medicinal plant vendors are accompanied into the field to collect medicinal plant vouchers for morphological identification, but this is time-consuming, season-dependent and might lead to misrepresentation of the plants that are actually present at the local markets. In this study, we identify medicinal plants sold at the Dar-es-Salaam and Tanga markets using a tied approach of DNA barcoding, literature and morphology and look at cases of over- and under-differentiation. In total 873 single ingredient medicinal plants samples corresponding to 452 ethnospecies were purchased from the herbal markets in Dar-es-Salaam and Tanga. The samples were analysed using literature, morphology and matK, rbcL and nrITS barcoding. Out of the 873 market samples 661 could be identified up to at least family level using literature and morphology, and 535 yielded a DNA barcode for at least one of the three markers. Combining the three methods a total 509 identifications could be made showing a diversity of 91 plant species in 124 genera spread over 65 plant families. Out of the 212 samples that were unidentifiable based on morphology and literature, 39 could be identified up to species level, 28 up to genus level and 55 up to family level using DNA barcoding. Analysis of the market samples revealed eighty cases of over- and under-differentiation. Afzelia quanzensis Welw. (Leguminosae), Zanthoxylum spp. (Rutaceae), Allophylus spp. (Sapindaceae) and Albizia anthelmintica Brongn. (Leguminosae) were the most obvious cases of over-differentiation, since they were traded under eight to twelve vernacular names in one to five different local languages. The most obvious case of under-differentiation was mwingajini (Swahili), which matched to a variety of scientific species in five different plant families.   This study shows that using a tied approach increases the identification success of medicinal plants sold on local market and corroborates findings that DNA barcoding be successfully applied for the identification of material that is unidentifiable based on morphology and literature. Results of this study can be used as a basis for quantitative market surveys and to investigate conservation issues associated with trade in medicinal plants.

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URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-355179OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-355179DiVA, id: diva2:1225437
Available from: 2018-06-27 Created: 2018-06-27 Last updated: 2018-06-27
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Citation style
  • apa
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