Knowledge transmission patterns at the border: Ethnobotany of Hutsuls living in the Carpathian Mountains of Bukovina (SW Ukraine and NE Romania)

Giulia Mattalia*, Nataliya Stryamets, Andrea Pieroni, Renata Sõukand

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Cross-border research is a novel and important tool for detecting variability of ecological knowledge. This is especially evident in regions recently divided and annexed to different political regimes. Therefore, we conducted a study among Hutsuls, a cultural and linguistic minority group living in Northern and Southern Bukovina (Ukraine and Romania, respectively). Indeed, in the 1940s, a border was created: Northern Bukovina was annexed by the USSR while Southern Bukovina remained part of the Kingdom of Romania. In this research, we aim to document uses of plants for food and medicinal preparations, discussing the different dynamics of Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) transmission among Hutsuls living in Ukraine and Romania. Methods: Field research was conducted using convenience and snowball sampling techniques to recruit 31 Hutsuls in Ukraine and 30 in Romania for participation in semi-structured interviews regarding the use of plants for medicinal and food preparation purposes and the sources of such knowledge. Results: The interviews revealed that, despite a common cultural and linguistic background, ethnobotanical knowledge transmission occurs in different ways on each side of the border. Family is a primary source of ethnobotanical knowledge transmission on both sides of the border; however, in Romania, knowledge from other sources is very limited, whereas in Ukraine interviewees reported several other sources including books, magazines, newspapers, the Internet and television. This is especially evident when analysing the wild plants used for medicinal purposes as we found 53 taxa that were common to both, 47 used only in Ukraine and 11 used only in Romania. While Romanian Hutsuls used almost exclusively locally available plants, Ukrainian Hutsuls often reported novel plants such as Aloe vera, Aronia melanocarpa and Elaeagnus rhamnoides. Knowledge related to these plants was transferred by sources of knowledge other than oral transmission among members of the same family. Therefore, this may imply hybridization of the local body of knowledge with foreign elements originating in the Soviet context which has enriched the corpus of ethnobotanical knowledge held by Ukrainian Hutsuls. Conclusions: While ethnobotanical knowledge among Romanian Hutsuls is mainly traditional and vertically transmitted, among Ukrainian Hutsuls there is a considerable proportion of LEK that is transmitted from other (written and visual) sources of knowledge. This cross-border research reveals that despite a common cultural background, socio-political scenarios have impacted Hutsul ethnobotanical knowledge and its transmission patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Article number391
JournalJournal of ethnobiology and ethnomedicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2020


  • Biocultural diversity
  • Ecological Knowledge
  • LEK
  • Minority groups
  • TEK
  • Wild food plants
  • Wild medicinal plants


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