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Abstract

"i climbed a fig tree, on an apple bashing spree, only pears fell free": economic, symbolic and intrinsic values of plants occurring in Slovenian folk songs collected by K. štrekelj (1895-1912).

Abstract

In this study we examine the occurrence of plants and their symbolic, economic, and intrinsic values in Slovenian folk songs. We have analyzed songs published by the ethnologist Karel Štrekelj between 1895 and 1912. Of the 8686 songs studied, plants occur in 1246 (14%) of them. A total of 93 plant taxa were found, belonging to 48 plant families. Grapevine is the most frequently mentioned species, followed by rosemary, wheat, carnation, and lily. About half of the taxa belong to cultivated plants (52%), followed by wild plants (42%). Exotic plants (i.e., not growing in the area) are mentioned only occasionally (6%). Half of all citations (49.3%) refer to the symbolic values, such as religion, love, death, economic status, or human qualities. More than a third of the citations (36.7%) are associated with plant's usefulness, especially consumption, while only a small percentage of citations (14.0%), relate to environmental representation. Several verses show how our appreciation of some plants, especially those used as food, has changed over the centuries. Folk songs have turned out to be interesting sources of information, and although they cannot be fully trusted as historical documents, they can still be used as sources for understanding the relationship between people and plants.