Few regions in Europe are deeper steeped in mythology than the Caucasus, and few have drawn more interest by botanists and anthropologists alike. It would indeed be impossible to define the Caucasus with any one singular term, given the historic, cultural, economic, religious and ethnical diversity of the region.
The Greater and Lesser Caucasus ranges form one of the most important biodiversity hotspots, and also a cradle for human plant use, where human agricultural activities date back at least 6000 years, with an astounding human diversity. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote in the 5th century BCE that “Many and all manner of nations dwell in the Caucasus,” and Strabo, at the beginning of the first century CE reported of 70 “tribes” in the region, each of which had its own language. The Roman chronicler Pliny the Elder wrote that the Romans needed 130 interpreters to do business in the Caucasus. The Armenian and Kartvelian (to which Georgian belongs) language families are among the oldest in the world.
This incredible diversity, and the importance of the region e.g. as transit area for the silk-road, reflects also in the use of plants, and while many species have shared used in different parts of the Caucasus, humans have also developed a wide range of distinct ways to use plant resources, be it for food, medicine, or utensils and tools.
The combination of a wide variety of ecosystems, fostering a huge botanical diversity, together with ancient plant use practice, and the breathtaking hospitality of its peoples, makes the Caucasus an ethnobotanists’ dream destination. While ethnobotanical research in the region was quite prominent in the earlier 20th century, little research in the field has been published from the region since the 1940s. Given the lack of recent publications on human plant use in the wider Caucasus, the present volume is a very timely compilation of the most important wild plant species used in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Sakartvelo (Republic of Georgia).