Ethnobotanical Study in Martinique of the Species Behind the Local Plant Name Bwa Kaka

  • Elodie Drane Groupe BIOSPHERES, Université des Antilles
  • Marie Feliot-Rippeault Groupe BIOSPHERES, Université des Antilles
  • Juliette Smith-Ravin Groupe BIOSPHERES, Université des Antilles
  • Odile François-Haugrin Groupe BIOSPHERES, Université des Antilles
Keywords: Folk medicine, Vernacular name, Ethnobotanical knowledge erosion, Solanum triste Jacq., Petiveria alliacea L.


Several scientific studies have reported that the sustainability of Traditional Knowledge (TK) is threatened by modernization. Plants of local pharmacopeias at the forefront of this phenomenon are those that are more discreet. Based on these observations, we focused on the case of a vernacular name attributed to a medicinal plant in Martinique: bwa kaka. It is reported in the literature as being highly sought after by the local population but there is a lack of information about plant species behind the denomination. To identify species that correspond to bwa kaka and to record the uses associated with them, a literature review of authors in the creolophone regions from the seventeenth century to the present day was performed, followed by an ethnobotanical survey among 80 people. A use value (UV) index was calculated. It was also determined whether there was convergence of uses between these different species. Additionally, this article examines the sociocultural (age, sex, residence) factors that could influence the answers. We found that ten species were called bwa kaka. Solanum triste was the most cited species, followed by Petiveria alliacea. Among these two, P. alliacea had the most cultural significance based on the calculated UV. Designated uses for each species were not significantly distinct according to Fisher’s Exact Test but they were significantly different depending on the sex of the interviewee. The number of uses cited was not correlated with the age of the interviewee.

Author Biographies

Elodie Drane, Groupe BIOSPHERES, Université des Antilles
Elodie Drané is a PhD candidate at the Université des Antilles. Within this context, she aims to contribute to the phytochemical and ethnobotanical characterization of species of local pharmacopeia. She also evaluates the medicinal properties of these species in relation to their local uses. Her research interests are on innovative methods of valorizing vegetal species that combine social and environmental sustainability challenges. 
Marie Feliot-Rippeault, Groupe BIOSPHERES, Université des Antilles
Dr. Marie Feliot-Rippeault is a lecturer in social and environmental psychology at the Université des Antilles and a researcher in BIOSPHERES research group. Her research deals with the relationships between the environment and social behavior. She focuses on social representation of eco-friendly behaviors and social adaptive behaviors of groups in isolated and confined environments, such as micro insular islands. She has worked on a methodological study of traditional medicine representations and practices in Martinique, in order to establish an existing shift between West-Indian population speeches and the Medicinal and Aromatic Plants practices.
Juliette Smith-Ravin, Groupe BIOSPHERES, Université des Antilles
Dr. Juliette Smith-Ravin is a Professor in Biology and Molecular Biology. She is the Head of the research group BIOSPHERES. Her main research interests are in the isolation and caracterization of plant and marine biomolecules from our regional biodiversity.
Odile François-Haugrin, Groupe BIOSPHERES, Université des Antilles
Dr Odile Marcelin is a lecturer in biochemistry and biotechnology at the Université des Antilles and a researcher in BIOSPHERES research group. Her main research interests are on tropical plants. Her work promotes the use and scientific knowledge of medicinal and aromatic species.


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How to Cite
Drane, E., Feliot-Rippeault, M., Smith-Ravin, J., & François-Haugrin, O. (2018). Ethnobotanical Study in Martinique of the Species Behind the Local Plant Name Bwa Kaka. Ethnobiology Letters, 9(2), 136-149.
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