Fall 2017 Newsletter
AMAH MUTSUN ETHNOBOTANY
By Sara French, AMLT Research Associate
Ethnobotany is the study of the human relationship with plants. Each AMLT newsletter will highlight a native plant that is used by the Amah Mutsun. We hope you enjoy learning more about the useful and culturally significant plants all around us.
Mutsun name: mamakwa
English name: California wild rose
Scientific name: Rosa californica
The wild rose grows in spiny thickets throughout California, often in moist areas and along stream banks. The shrubs are usually three to four feet tall but can easily grow head high. The flower is pink to white with five petals that are 10-20 mm long. In the center of the petals there are many stamens, attached to a superior ovary. After the rose loses its petals, the urn-shaped hypanthium matures to a brilliant red, and this fruit is referred to as a rose hip.
The Amah Mutsun people traditionally use rose hips as an internal medicine and as a wash for scabs and sores. Rose hips have a sweet and pleasant flavor, and they can be eaten fresh, dried, or used to make tea. Rose hips are a nutritious wild fruit, full of vitamin C, calcium, beta-carotene, and antioxidants. Flavonoids and triterpines are compounds with medicinal properties found in the plant. Rose hips are harvested at the end of fall, and some tribes consider the flavor of the fruits to be best after the first freeze.