Knowledge about ritual plants used by herbalist from the markets of Quito, Ecuador: contributions on their conservation status.
In Ecuador there are 5.172 useful plant species, 20% are used in so-called social uses that include rituals, beliefs, myths and religious practices. We consider all this within a single category, the ritual category. The reason of this investigation was to describe and compile the purpose of the ritual use, related to various beliefs in plants used by herbalists in Quito markets, without forgetting the biological-scientific side that this implies. We also respond to some questions. We looked for yerbateros in the markets: Central, San Roque, Cotocollao, Santa Clara and San Francisco. In these places we interviewed 32 yerbateros, based on direct observation and the interview-purchase method. We calculated two indices : The Use Value (For one species across all informants) (UVs) and the Informant consensus of Friedman (IF). We reviewed the conservation and distribution status of the species. We found 90 species of ritual plants in 43 botanical families. Asteraceae (12%) and Lamiaceae (11%) stand out among the most used families. Among the plants with the greatest cultural acceptance there were Ruta graveolens and Ambrosia arborescens. 82% of the plants came from the Ecuadorian Sierra, 9% from the Coast and 8% from the Amazon. 40% of the plants found were introduced, 59% were native, one specie was endemic. Two species are extinct in the wild (EW) and one specie is endangered (EN). The herbalist knowledge does not increase significantly with age and experience (p > 0.05), nor are they different between markets (p > 0.05). In conclusion, based on the collected purposes of use, new ritual uses for various species are described. The introduced species of european origin have a strong influence in ritual practices, while many native species are little known and their use is less remarkable.