The Useful Wild Plants (UWP) Project sets a standard for studying plant uses throughout the world. The multi-volume work titled The Useful Wild Plants of Texas, the Southeastern and Southwestern United States, the Southern Plains, and Northern Mexico is the definitive economic botany study for the southern half of the United States and northern Mexico. More than two decades of intensive interdisciplinary research have gone into the project. Nothing comparable has been done elsewhere. Researchers say similar work should be done in other regions throughout the world.
Our first goal is to complete and publish a comprehensive multi-volume encyclopedia that describes over 4,000 Texas plants, discusses in detail their past, present, and future value, and provides color photographs and distribution maps for each species. Due the the tireless efforts of many professionals and lay volunteers Volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4 are available now and Volume 5 is underway. Plans for future information output call for an interactive database available by subscription, digital products, and on-site land use consultation.
What Are Useful Wild Plants?
- They’re the trees, flowers, and grasses, the vines and the bushes and even the weeds in your lawn.
- They’re what our ancestors ate before we had supermarkets.
- They’re what our great grandparents used to doctor the family, put food on the table, and make their tools.
- They’re what we’ll use in the future as renewable sources of oil, fuel, food, pharmaceuticals, and more. They are our vital link to life and they are our most important resource for our future.
Our mission is to advance stewardship of the wild and naturalized plants of Texas and surrounding regions. To that end we are dedicated to the sensitive tasks of promoting the economic development of underutilized renewable native botanical resources in an ethical and responsible manner and preserving wild plant populations and their habitats from extinction. Through the formation of a comprehensive information base we:
- Document human uses of regional botanical resources from early man to the most recent advances in scientific research;
- Explore untapped applications for botanical resources in nutritional, pharmaceutical, industrial, and domestic use;
- Advance interdisciplinary research by encouraging and participating in cooperative projects among scientists including economic botanists, anthropologists, agronomists, chemists, nutritionists, medical scientists, pharmacognocists, and industrialists;
- Teach about the indispensable function of plants in fragile life ecosystems and the crucial, but often unnoticed, role that plants play in our daily experience;
- Preserve endangered plants and habitats through conservation efforts.
Concerns Addressed by the Project
- Educational restructuring – Biological literacy is becoming a necessity for all who live on the planet. This information fills a learning void in primary, secondary, and college level curricula.
- Medical Advances – Many of the miracle medical cures now taken for granted originated from plants. This project targets hundreds of species not yet being investigated for their medical and pharmaceutical value.
- New Foods – All of our prized domestic fruits, vegetables, and grains were once no more appealing than underbrush seen along the roadside. Horticulturalists have barely scratched the surface of food potential of plants around the world, and the plants of Texas are no exception. This region is home to several hundred promising food plants and contains species, some of limited distribution, that can play important roles in improving our mainstay crops. This project targets these plants for future research.
- Alternative Economies – This project catalogs thousands of business startup ideas at all economic levels that are solidly based on sustainable and replenishable resources.
- Loss of Species Diversity – This information, once it is in the hands of its waiting audience, will be a tool for assessing development impact and sustainability, and for planning resource protection.
- Land Use Diversification – The Useful Wild Plants Project identifies new economic resources based on plants, thereby providing incentives to maintain natural cover and cease destructive land management practices.
For the Useful Wild Plants Project to reach its full potential, widespread participation is a must! Every botanical nook and cranny of this region is represented, thus affecting agriculture, business, industry, and individuals in every microeconomic sector. You can play a significant role in helping preserve information on the uses of the native plants of Texas and surrounding regions.
- For more information about how you can participate in this important, one-of-a-kind project, visit the Membership, Volunteer, and Weedfeed
- For details about ordering Volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4 visit the Encyclopedia and Encyclopedia Order Form
- For a sample listing of interesting articles from Useful Wild Plants publications, visit the Newsletter page.
- Instant Participation Opportunity: See how many of the questions in our short Plant Quiz you can answer.