Within the Horticultural Scientific Circle, students can develop their interests by participating in the projects of the sections listed below:
- Section on Plant Biotechnology
- Section on Natural Basics of Horticulture
- Section on Medicinal Plants
- Section on Ornamental Plants
- Section on Ethnobotany
Individual sections bring together HSC members with specific interests, allow them to broaden their knowledge and give them the opportunity to conduct their own research. The supervisor of the Circle is Dr. Dawid Olewnicki.
Ethnobotany is a scientific discipline that studies the place of plants in human culture and the interaction between plants and humans. John W. Harsberger, a professor of botany at the University of Pennsylvania in the US, first named this kind of research and inquiry in 1895. Ethnobotany has since evolved into dozens of varieties dealing with herbal medicine, food plants, plant diets, psychoactive species, the use of plants in cosmetology, construction, archeobotany, phytomelioration, and even some of the basics of bioart and many other aspects of human contact with plants. Currently, the interest in interdisciplinary studies on plants in culture and human economy is growing rapidly and separate fields of study, courses and discussion groups devoted to the broadly understood ethnobotany are being created. This growing interest in plants in our lives is gaining with new reports on the discoveries of the subtle sensory abilities of plants that have been transferred from the realm of myth to the area of scientific research, as well as with the perception of a potential in plants that can protect people from the products of their own activities: water contamination, soil and air, and many diseases and aging. In addition to the current that is considered to be scientific due to the form of published data and the university envelope of publications, there is a pop-culture version of ethnobotany which focuses on a certain group of plants, in particular, these are hallucinogenic and other plants, specific to spiritual practices of different cultures and times, and plant stimulants in including many so-called spices and regional cuisines built around them. There are many dangers in both pop culture and scientific approaches to ethnobotany. Collecting as much historical and biogeographic information as possible and compiling a list of the uses of a given plant with maps of the ranges and places of the species occurrence in the world do not make the text ethnobotanical yet, although it usually meets the criteria for awarding points for publications, so important in a scientific career. Likewise, by dealing solely with the psychoactive properties of plants, a whole host of other interactions and influences that humans and plants have lived through have been escaping our sight and narrowing our experience for thousands of years. As usual, the middle route seems to be the right one, in which data is collected and processed reliably and critically, but also the contact with the tested plants and their products (including cultural products), and above all, it is not forgotten that it is “Unscientific” data, derived from the vital and spiritual practice of indigenous cultures and from nameless “indigenous sources”, have created ethnobotany and many new trends in the study and application of plants. The essence of ethnobotany is the identification and understanding of the mechanisms governing communities of people and plants. These mechanisms have often had serious effects on a global scale, from wars over drugs and hallucinogens, through economic and civilization changes resulting from the use of cotton, potatoes, sugar cane, quinine and corn, to the emergence of new forms of culture, art and technologies based on stimulation with plant psychological substances and discovering the senses and communication of plants. In the book, classic for this area of interest, The seeds of change. Six plants that changed the face of the world, its author, Henry Hobhouse, perfectly described the history of the cinnamon tree (and quinine obtained from it), the cultivation of sugar cane, tea bush, cotton, potato and cocaine bush. Hobhouse not only collected historical facts, but also carefully traced the cultural conditions and mechanisms that caused that, as he stated: fellow man. The important and largely overlooked factor in the historical process is not man, but plants /…/. The quoted book was published in 1985 (the Polish edition was published in 2001) and at the present time of the total destruction of the natural environment, I would add to the basic activities of ethnobotanists participation in the protection of plants and their cultural aspects.