Ethnobiological Media Archive

Maguey, 1930, Mexico

What we love about plants
a series of short ethnobotanical films

Each of the films in this series presents an ethnobotanist, or other plant-lover, explaining what they love about a particular plant and pointing out the qualities of that plant. Each film will last approximately 2-5 minutes.

The purposes of this series are

  • to provide an introduction to some interesting plants
  • to provide an introduction to ethnobotanists
  • to share the love; and
  • to provide an easy exercise in making ethnobotanical film

Composing an episode

The script should more-or-less follow the following form:

  1. Introduce self: I'm [your name here] and I ...
  2. Transition: e.g. One of the things I've been working on is ...
  3. Introduce plant: What I love about [this plant] is ...
  4. Wrap up
    I'm David Strauch and I work for the ethnobotany track at the University of Hawai‘i producing videos like this one. I'm interested in the ecological impacts of plant use; I've looked, for example, at the various species used to make chopsticks. Some disposable chopsticks are made of tropical or temperate old-growth trees, but others are made of bamboo; you can see here [showing chopstick] the grain that is typical of bamboo.

    What I love about bamboo is that it's easy to see some of the major characteristics of the family it belongs to, the grass family, without using a microscope. Here you can see that the stems between the nodes — the internodes — are hollow, which make it useful for making containers or musical instruments. It even makes this lovely music while it's growing. And you can see the way the plant spreads through underground rhizomes. Standing in a bamboo grove like this one is like standing in a gigantic lawn — a lawn that is huge both in space and in time — bamboo stands can take decades to mature before they bloom. But the stems grow up fast, and bamboo is increasingly used as a sustainable replacement for slower growing hardwoods. It's a beautiful wood, and a beautiful plant to see growing. Although there are hundreds of species of bamboo, we have only one folk taxon in English for it, so I can think of bamboo as "one" of the plants I love.

    Shot list: chopsticks, split bamboo, container, flute, bamboo knocking in wind, rhizomes
    Title list: Genus species identification, link to

Filming an episode

As a filmmaker you're going to want to make sure you have all the pieces you need — the coverage — for putting together the final film:

1) An "establishing shot" or shots
This shows the context of the presentation — e.g. forest, kitchen, arboretum, lab.
2) The "master shot"
The presentation should be shot at medium close distance in order to show the speaker and what they are talking about. Keep the frame around the speaker; details can be added later with:
3) "B-Roll"
Get close up shots of the plant, focussing on all elements which the speaker discusses, and anything else in the scene you like.