Use of native tree species by a Hispanic community in Panama

Use of native tree species by a Hispanic community in Panama


Forest provide countless resources yet many of them go unreported since they are used locally and never make it to national or international markets. This study examines the uses of wild plants by a small farming community in central Panama as a case-study for timber and non-timber forest products used by tropical, nonforest-dwelling, nonindigenous peoples.

Goals & Methods

The goal of this study is to identify the plants that are collected in their wild state, which is defined by plants that are regenerating on their own and are not planted or managed by humans, and used by the local community. The study took place in Las Pava, Panama and was conducted over a three month period between July and September 1992. The authors observed which wood was used to build houses and other structures and also interviewed locals about medicinal and edible plants that were often gathered. 

Conclusions & Takeaways

The community reported the use of 119 noncultivated plant species, the majority of which (108) were tree species. Firewood was of high importance and was often collected in nearby secondary forests. The study concludes arguing that tropical, nonforest-dwelling, nonindigenous peoples oftenr rely heavily on their surrounding ecosystems, particularly forests, to provide support their livelihoods. 


Aguilar S, Condit R. Use of native tree species by an hispanic community in Panama. Economic Botany. 2001;55:223–235. doi:10.1007/bf02864560.


  • Center for Tropical Forest Science, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute