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  • Open Access

Ethnobotanical uses in the Ancona district (Marche region, Central Italy)

Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine201915:9

https://doi.org/10.1186/s13002-019-0288-1

  • Received: 27 July 2018
  • Accepted: 21 January 2019
  • Published:

Abstract

Background

The study is a survey of the traditional uses of plants in the Ancona district, in the Marche region, Central Italy.

Methods

The information derives from ethnobotanical investigations conducted with an open questionnaire among the rural population in three areas of the Ancona district that are representative of the socio-economic and environmental assets of the entire district: the Mount Conero area on the Adriatic coast; the municipality of Osimo, as an inland hilly area; and the ‘Gola della Rossa–Frasassi’ area, in the Apennines.

Results

A total of 120 informants cited 195 species. The ethnobotanical data concern medicinal (122 species), food (119), veterinary (53), superstitious/religious (61), cosmetic (30), domestic (27), dyeing (17), recreational (17), repellent (15), craft (10), and miscellaneous (29) uses, along with inclusion in local sayings and proverbs (25). The species with the greatest number of categories of use here was Sambucus nigra L. Among the other species with the greatest numbers of categories of use, there were Matricharia chamomilla L., Salvia officinalis L., Urtica dioica L., Papaver roheas L., and Rosa canina L. For each use, comparisons with national and regional literature were made.

Conclusions

Some uses are commonly known across the three areas; others are sectoral and are new for the Marche region. The survey increases our present-day knowledge of the traditional local uses of plants in the Marche region, in terms of medicinal and food uses, and of ethnobotanical aspects as a whole, which will allow many of these uses to be preserved in the future.

Keywords

  • Ethnobotany
  • Traditional local knowledge
  • Wild plant uses
  • Marche region
  • Italy

Background

The use of wild plants in Italian rural communities was a common practice, especially in the traditional sharecropping rural society of Central Italy that was largely based on self-sufficiency through self-consumption [1]. In this kind of society, in addition to the most common kind of uses as medicines and food, a lot of plants were used for many different aspects of daily life, such as craft work and home tools. However, the rural culture that included the knowledge of the use of spontaneous plants began to fragment from the second half of the twentieth century due to the progressive depletion of the population of the countryside, and to urbanisation and widespread industrialisation [24]. The use of sharecropping contracts ended in 1964 also in the Marche region, and this led to changes in the production structure, with the spread of large-scale agriculture that was disconnected from the territory itself. This contributed to the loss of identity of the rural society, and of its knowledge and traditions. Research such as the present study can contribute to the conservation of the knowledge related to traditional practices, which are now fragmented and remain almost exclusively with older people [5].

The present study collected and analysed the knowledge of ethnobotanical uses that are still widespread in the Ancona district, and considers not only medicinal and food uses, but also veterinary, superstitious/religious, cosmetic, domestic, dyeing, recreational and repellent uses, and craft uses for wood, and cases where plants are mentioned in sayings and proverbs. Three areas among the rural populations of the Ancona district that are representative of the socio-economic and environmental assets of the entire district were chosen for this study: the Mount Conero area on the Adriatic coast; the municipality of Osimo, as an inland hilly area; and the Gola della Rossa–Frasassi area, in the Apennines.

The aims were thus to
  • Collect the traditional knowledge about wild plant uses that still remains in the population of central Marche;

  • Compare data collected with the literature on regional and national ethnobotanical surveys;

  • Identify new uses according to the Ancona district.

Methods

Survey areas

These ethnobotanical studies were conducted in three different areas in the Ancona district (Marche region, Central Italy). The Ancona district is one of the five provinces of the Marche region, and it includes a small area of the Apennines (34%), and wider hilly inland areas with flat stretches and an extended coastline, which together account for the remaining two thirds of the territory [6, 7]. The three areas of this study were thus designed to fall into each of these three sectors: the Mount Conero area on the Adriatic coast; the inner hilly area of the municipality of Osimo; and the Apennine area of Gola della Rossa–Frasassi (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1
Fig. 1

Map showing the three study areas: 1, Mount Conero area; 2, Osimo area; 3, Gola della Rossa–Frasassi area

The area of Conero Park

The Mount Conero area extends along a coastal strip in a central position of the Marche region, and it includes part of the municipalities of Ancona, Camerano, Sirolo, and Numana. On the basis of the bioclimatic indices of Rivas-Martinez et al. [8], the territory of Mount Conero belongs to the Mediterranean macrobioclimate, with a pluviseasonal oceanic climate, upper meso-Mediterranean thermotype, and low subhumid ombrotype [9]. The territory is mainly hilly, and Mount Conero is the highest peak (572 m a.s.l.). Thirteen percent of the territory is urbanised [10], and 50% is dedicated to agriculture [11]. The economic enterprises are mostly tourism and manufacturing [12].

This area includes the Mount Conero Regional Natural Park (Parco Naturale Regionale del Conero), which covers a total area of 5914 ha, and is characterised by different habitats of high floristic and geological value. These include three Sites of Community Importance (SCI) and one Zone of Special Protection (ZSP). The prevailing plant landscape in the central core of Mount Conero is constituted by woods of evergreen sclerophylls that alternate with reforestation with conifers and deciduous forests. Along the cliffs above the sea, there is rupiculous vegetation and Mediterranean scrubland. The more internal hilly areas mainly comprise agricultural landscapes that are mixed with oak woods (Quercus pubescens Willd.), hygrophilous vegetation along the water courses, and broom shrubs (Spartium junceum L.) that colonise the abandoned fields. The flora includes 1169 entities [9], some of which here reach the northern limits of their distribution along the western Adriatic coast, including Ampelodesmos mauritanicus (Poir.) T. Durand and Schinz, Coronilla valentina L. and Euphorbia dendroides L. In this area, the ethnobotanical surveys were conducted in the municipalities of Camerano, Sirolo (a hamlet of San Lorenzo, Coppo) and Numana, and in the hamlets of Poggio and Massignano in the municipality of Ancona.

The area of the municipality of Osimo

The municipality of Osimo extends over 10,600 ha, and the territory is mainly hilly (highest peak, Monte della Crescia, 361 m a.s.l.), and it alternates with valleys near the Musone River. The macrobioclimate is temperate with a sub-Mediterranean variant, lower mesotemperate thermotype, and lower humid ombrotype [8]. This territory is predominantly agricultural, with marginal environments that are characterised by natural and semi-natural vegetation, with some residual woods that were the subject of recent studies [13, 14], and some riparian areas. Osimo has a population of 34,918 inhabitants (ISTAT 2017) and is classified as ‘level 2’ in terms of its degree of urbanisation (ISTAT 1 January 2018) [15]. The local enterprises are mainly based on manufacturing [12], and cultivation covers 7310 ha. In this area, the ethnobotanical surveys were conducted in the hamlets of Campocavallo, Passatempo, San Sabino, Padiglione, San Paterniano, and San Biagio.

The area of Gola della Rossa–Frasassi

The third area is located in the mountain sector of the province of Ancona, and it falls partly within the Regional Natural Park of the Gola della Rossa–Frasassi. The territory is mainly mountainous (highest peak, 1093 m a.s.l.) and consists of the two limestone gorges ‘Gola di Frasassi’ and ‘Gola della Rossa’, and includes also Scappuccia Valley and Valdicastro Valley. The bioclimate is temperate of the sub-Mediterranean variant, upper mesotemperate thermotype, and lower humid ombrotype [8]. The vegetation of the mountain areas is mainly mixed deciduous forests that are dominated by hornbeam and flowering ash, and at higher altitudes, beech and grasslands with shrubs. The calcareous gorges with southern exposure host Mediterranean sclerophyllous woods and rupiculous vegetation, with the presence of endemic species, including Moehringia papulosa Bertol., which is endemic to the Marche gorges [7]. In the lower areas of the valleys, the landscape is agricultural, with cultivated fields alternating with small residual woody nuclei, with hedges, shrubland, and margin vegetation. The population is mainly concentrated in the urban centres of the park, with the production activities located at the bottoms of the valleys, as relatively fragmented agricultural activities. In the area of Gola della Rossa–Frasassi, the ethnobotanical surveys were conducted in the hamlets of Castellaro, Trivio, Forchiusa, Serralta, Sasso, Montirone, and Sant’Elena, and in the municipality of Serra San Quirico.

Ethnobotanical research methods

The ethnobotanical surveys were conducted in the small towns and rural villages of the three areas in the Ancona district between 2008 and 2011, and involved a total of 120 people, defined as the ‘informants’. These informants were not chosen completely at random within the territories, but were chosen through selection of individuals who according to their ages (more than 50 years of age) or cultural or social backgrounds would have knowledge of the plant uses, either directly or as passed down by their families. This was achieved by means of word of mouth from some known contacts to identify relevant informants, using the ‘snow-ball sampling’ method [16].

The informants were initially introduced to the aims and methods of the interviews, and then asked for their consent to proceed. Before proceeding with the interviews, it was ascertained that the informants were native to the particular survey area, in terms of being born and raised there. During the interviews, the informants were asked open questions, such as “Which plants were used, and for what use? How were these plants used, who collected them, and where and when? Were there sayings or proverbs related to any specific plants?” Data were also collected on the informants, in an anonymous form, as year of birth, initials of name and surname, gender, level of education, and work activity. Italian was used as the language of the interviews. Table 1 includes the local names of the plants that were collected, where sometimes the local names were different across the three study areas.
Table 1

The species of ethnobotanical interest in the Ancona district

Scientific name

Family

Local names

Parts used

Uses

References for similar uses

Acer campestre L.

Sapindaceae

 

Wood

Craft: handles, tools [37]

 

Whole plant

Mix: supports for grapevine [37]

 

Achillea collina (Becker ex Rchb.f.) Heimerl

Asteraceae

Millefoje, stagnasangue (g)

Flower

Food: fried flower in salted batter

 

Leaves

Med: infusion as cicatrizer [27]

 

Aerial part

Sup/rel: stems in pocket, against haemorrhoids

 

Adonis annua L. ssp. cupaniana (Guss.) C. Steinberg

Ranunculaceae

 

Leaves, flowers

Med: infusion as diuretic [37]

 

Aesculus hippocastanum L.

Sapindaceae

Castagna selvatica

Fruit

Sup/rel: under the pillow against colds [37]

 

Agrimonia eupatoria L.

Rosaceae

Erba de andata (o)

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion as digestive

 

Food: leaves for filling fresh pasta

 

Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle

Simaroubaceae

 

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion as anti-diarrhoea

Similar use of bark in [27]

Vet: for feeding silkworms

 

Wood

Craft: handles, tools

Dom: firewood

 

Alliaria petiolata (M.Bieb.) Cavara and Grande

Brassicaceae

Agliaria (o), erba aglina (g)

Leaves, flowers

Med: infusion to treat cough [27]

 

Leaves

Food: to flavour salads [30, 34], roasted meat; piadina filling

To flavour various dish in [27]

Vet: in dairy cow feed

 

Allium cepa L.

Amaryllidaceae

 

Bulb

Med: fresh bulb cut in half rubbed on the skin as disinfectant to heal insects bites [23, 26]

 

Sup/rel: bulbs cut in half with spoonful of coarse salt on top to predict the weather [23]

 

Allium neapolitanum Cirillo

Amaryllidaceae

Cipollotto del diavolo (o)

Bulb

Med: raw bulbs eaten as vermifuge

Similar use of Allium sativum L. in [4, 21, 37]

Food: raw in salads [34]

 

Vet: bulbs macerated in wine to heal rabies in dogs

 

Sup/rel: bulbs in necklaces to protect against devil’s eye

Similar use of. Allium sativum L. in [21, 37]

Rep: bulbs macerated in water against aphids

 

Flowers

Food: sautéed flowers to season pasta

 

Dom: flowers used in floral decorations

 

Allium sativum L.

Amaryllidaceae

 

Bulb

Med: one raw bulb or four bulbs boiled in milk and eaten to heal intestinal warms [23, 33]; one bulb under the pillow to heal intestinal warms in children [4, 23]; bulb poultice with olive oil or beeswax to heal calluses [23, 26]; rubbed fresh bulb to heal insects bites [21, 26]

 

Prov: ‘se voi l’aio grosso, a Natale lo devi avè posto

 

Aloysia citriodora Palau.

Verbenaceae

Cedrina (g)

Leaves

Cosm: leaves in bath water to perfume the skin [23]

 

Dom: dry flowers in floral decorations

 

Amaranthus retroflexus L.

Amaranthaceae

 

Flowers

Dom: dry flowers in floral decorations

 

Ampelodesmos mauritanicus (Poir.) T.Durand and Schinz

Poaceae

Saracco (c)

Leaves

Mix: leaves used to make string and rope [22]

 

Anagallis arvensis L.

Primulaceae

Centocchio (o)

Aerial part

Med: decoction of aerial part to heal cough [27]

 

Vet: aerial parts with leaves of Urtica dioica L. and dry bread for feeding laying hens [37]

 

Apium graveolens L.

Apiaceae

Acquaiola (o)

Aerial part

Med: infusion of aerial part as digestive and diuretic [30]; leaf pack as emollient*

*Similar use against bruises [37] or to treat chilblains [23]

Cosm: leaf pack to treat dry skin

Similar use for healing skin complaints and chilblains [23, 37]

Sup/rel: fresh plant eaten as aphrodisiac; against devil’s eye [30]

 

Arbutus unedo L.

Ericaceae

 

Fruits

Food: fruit eaten raw or preserved in alcohol to make a liquor [4, 21, 27]

 

Arctium minus (Hill) Bernh.

Asteraceae

 

Leaves

Med: leaves in pack on feet as diaphoretic to heal bronchial diseases (correlated to fever) [36]

 

Cosm: leaf juice rubbed on scalp to heal dandruff; leaf decoction to heal acne

Similar use to heal hair loss [25]

Stems

Food: boiled stems as side dish [36, 38]

 

Artemisia vulgaris L.

Asteraceae

Erba di S. Giovanni (g)

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion to regularise menstruation [37]

 

Food: some raw leaves in salads

similar uses in soups [37] and for Artemisia absinthium L. [30])

Sup/rel: on St. John’s night, stems of Artemisia vulgaris L., Ruta graveolens L., Rosmarinus officinalis L., and Lavandula sp. in the pocket or under the pillow to protect against witches; protect during a travel

 

Rep: leaves macerated in water against plant caterpillars

 

Arum italicum Mill.

Araceae

Erba biscia (o)

Leaves

Med: leaves applied as antirheumatic [37]

 

Vet: leaf decoction as diuretic for pigs

Roots as feeding for pigs [21]

Dom: boiled leaves for washing clothes, pots [37]

 

Whole plant

Sup/rel: plant brings bad luck

 

Arundo donax L.

Poaceae

Canna (o, c, g)

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion as diuretic [37]

 

Mix: dry leaves smoked as tobacco substitute [4]

 

Twigs

Sup/rel: Arundo donax L. and Olea europaea L. twigs to make a cross to protect fields [23]

 

Craft: to make a support for knitting pins, to make ‘raganella’ [37]

 

Recr: to make whistles [37]

 

Mix: to support plants in the orchards, to make baskets [37]

 

Asparagus acutifolius L.

Asparagaceae

Sparaghi (c), asparagina (c, g)

Shoots

Med: eat boiled shoots as diuretic [4, 30]; shoots decoction together with Elymus repens (L.) Gould. as diuretic

 

Food: boiled shoots as side dish [30], seasoning for risotto and omelettes [21, 30], [4, 41, 44, 48]

 

Dye: boiling water used to dye fishing nets green

 

Aerial part

Dom: dry plants used in floral decorations [36]

 

Avena sativa L.

Poaceae

Venella (g)

Seeds

Med: infusion and wraps to heal rheumatic pain [37]

 

Aerial part

Vet: dry plants to feed rabbits, horses, cattle [36]

 

Ears

Recr: ears pulled by girls and boys, and counted to forecast number of children or husbands [37]

 

Barbarea vulgaris R. Br.

Brassicaceae

Crescione (g)

Leaves

Food: raw leaves in salads

In soups [30, 44]

Bellis perennis L.

Asteraceae

Pasquetta (o), margherita (g)

Leaves

Med: raw leaves eaten as depurative [4]; wrap of raw leaves to treat sores [37]

 

Food: raw leaves in salads [4, 39, 42]; in soups [39, 41]

 

Flowers

Sup/rel: infiorata [4]

 
    

Recr: flowers used to make necklaces and for ‘m’ama non m’ama’ game [37]

 

Borago officinalis L.

Boraginaceae

Boraggine, borragine (c, o, g), borragia (g)

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion to heal cough [25, 31] as depurative [25]; leaf wraps to heal sores and reddened skin*

*Emollient in [30]

Food: leaves raw in salads [27], boiled as side dish [41, 44], seasoning for pasta and risotto [4, 44], filling for fresh pasta or pies [4, 21, 42], soups [4, 21, 27, 41, 45], omelettes [27, 41, 42], fried [4, 21, 44], fried with mozzarella and anchovy rolls

 

Cosm: leaves in bath water to clean skin

Emollient properties in [30, 43]

Flowers

Food: flower used to flavour vinegars*; in fresh salads

*Leaves used to flavour wine [25]

Dye: flowers used to dye clothes blue; colour is strongest if flowers are just harvested [37]

 

Brassica oleracea L.

Brassicaceae

Cavolo, verza (g)

Leaves

Med: fresh leaves used to make wraps to heal rheumatic pain [4, 26, 31]

 

Vet: fresh leaves used to make wraps to heal bruises [37]

 

Calendula officinalis L.

Asteraceae

Calenda (o, g)

Flowers

Med: macerated flowers in the wine used to heal chilblains; ointment with olive oil and flowers used as emollient [26]; ointment with flowers used as cicatrizer

The use is similar to the lenitive one and to heal rheumatic pains in [26, 33, 43]

    

Food: flowers for seasoning risotto

 

Sup/rel: flowers used in ‘infiorata’ [37]

 

Calepina irregularis (Asso) Thell.

Brassicaceae

Erba del tacchì (o)

Leaves

Food: leaves boiled to make omelettes

In soups [39]

Whole plant

Sup/rel: brings good luck

 

Flowers

Mix: flowers used to decorate churches for marriages

 

Calystegia sepium (L.) R.Br.

Convolvulaceae

Campanella (o)

Leaves

Med: leaf decoction used as laxative [25, 27]

 
   

Flowers

Mix: flowers used in wedding bouquets

 

Campanula rapunculus L.

Campanulaceae

Lattughella (g)

Leaves

Food: raw leaves in salads [4, 21, 24, 39]

 

Cannabis sativa L.

Cannabaceae

Canapa (c)

Aerial part, stems

Mix: to make string, cord [23]

 

Capsella bursa pastoris (L.) Medik.

Brassicaceae

Cimino (o)

Leaves

Med: leaf decoction to heal menstrual pain [25]

 

Food: raw leaves in salads or boiled in vegetable mixtures as side dish [4, 39]

 

Whole plant

Sup/rel: brings good luck

 

Carex pendula Huds.

Cyperaceae

Cannucciaia

Stems

Mix: stems used to make seats for straw chairs [36]

 

Castanea sativa Mill.

Fagaceae

Castagna (g)

Fruits

Food: fruit frequently eaten, roasted, cooked under ashes, boiled with laurel leaves; flour used to make bread and cakes (‘castagnaccio’) [21]

 

Celtis australis L.

Cannabaceae

Olmo bianco (o), spaccasassi (g)

Leaves

Med: leaf decoction as anti-inflammatory of oral cavity [31]

 

Vet: leaves for feeding the cattle

 

Fruits

Food: fruit used for flavouring grappa

 

Sup/rel: fruit used for making rosaries

 

Recr: fruit used to make necklaces; fruit used with blowpipes [36]

 

Ceratonia siliqua L.

Fabaceae

Carruba, carrobie (c)

Seeds

Food: seeds eaten as sweets or used to make sweets with onion [35, 48]

 

Twigs

Mix: young twigs to make ties

 

Cercis siliquastrum L.

Fabaceae

 

Flowers

Food: flowers fried in sweet batter [37]

 

Chelidonium majus L.

Papaveraceae

 

Latex

Med: latex used as cicatrizer [31]; latex dissolved in water for internal use to heal heartburn [25]

 

Aerial part

Dye: plant used to dye clothes yellow [37]

 

Chenopodium album L.

Amaranthaceae

Spinacio selvatico (g)

Leaves

Food: leaves boiled and served as side dish, like spinach [39, 41]

 

Chenopodium bonus-henricus L.

Amaranthaceae

Buon enrico, spinacio selvatico (g)

Leaves

Med: boiled leaves put on burns as emollient

Similar use in [37]

Food: boiled leaves in vegetable mixtures, for seasoning risotto, filling fresh pasta; raw leaves with pine nuts, walnuts, oil; boiled as seasoning [39, 48]

 

Cichorium intybus L.

Asteraceae

Grugni (c, g), grugni selvatici, grugni campagnoli (g)

Leaves

Med: leaves decoction as depurative and diuretic [21, 43]; as anti-anaemic [23];

 

Food: raw young leaves in salads [4, 39, 41, 42, 45], boiled in vegetable mixture as a side dish [4, 21, 39, 41, 44, 45], boiled to fill fresh pasta [21], boiled and preserved in oil [48]

 

Vet: leaves for feeding rabbits to heal intestinal worms

 

Roots

Food: roasted roots as surrogate for coffee [37]

 

Sup/rel: roots have protective value

 

Whole plant

Dye: to dye clothes in yellow

 

Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop.

Asteraceae

 

Roots

Med: chew raw roots against toothache [37]

 

Leaves

Food: leaves boiled and sautéed as side dish [39]

 

Citrus limon (L.) Osbeck

Rutaceae

 

Flowers

Med: flowers decoction to heal cough [37]

 

Cosm: flowers decoction to treat oily skin

Fruits used to heal skin disease [26]

Dom: flowers used to perfume rooms and surroundings [37]

 

Fruits

Dom: fruit juice used with salt and vinegar to clean pots [37]

 

Clematis vitalba L.

Ranunculaceae

Vitalbe, vitalbene, vitarvene (c), barba dei frati, barba dei vecchi, vitalla (g)

Leaves

Med: leaf decoction as diuretic [37]

 

Mix: dry leaves smoked as tobacco substitute [37]

 

Shoots

Food: boiled young shoots as side dish [39], to season risotto, to make omelettes [4, 39, 41, 44, 45], to preserve in oil

 

Stems

Mix: young stems used to make string [4, 37]

 

Flowers

Dom: flowers used in flora decorations [36]

 

Clinopodium nepeta (L.) Kuntze.

Lamiaceae

Mentuccia (c, o, g), menta (o, g), menta selvatica (g)

Leaves, flowers

Med: poultice of leaves as emollient [27, 37]

 

Food: leaves used to flavour meat, vegetables, omelettes, soups [4, 34, 39, 41, 44]

 

Cosm: leaves chewed to heal bad breathe

 

Whole plant

Prov: ‘Chi vede la mentuccia e non ne sente l’odore non vede la Madonna quando muore

 

Convolvulus arvensis L.

Convolvulaceae

Campanelle (g)

Leaves

Med: crushed fresh leaves applied to skin to heal pimples [37]

 

Flower

Food: flowers sucked as snack

 

Cornus mas L.

Cornaceae

Grugnale (o, g)

Shoots

Med: shoot infusion as febrifuge [37]

 

Fruits

Food: fruit used to flavour grappa [23, 42]; fruit eaten raw [37, 42, 45]

 

Flowers

Cosm: flowers decoction to heal oily skin

 

Wood

Craft: wood used to build boats

 

Prov: ‘Sei un grugnale

 

Cornus sanguinea L.

Cornaceae

Sanguinella (g)

Wood

Craft: handles, tools [37]

 

Corylus avellana L.

Betulaceae

 

Fruits

Food: fruit eaten fresh or to make cakes [37, 41, 42]

 

Whole plant

Sup/rel: plant protects against lightning

 

Cota tinctoria (L.) J.Gay.

Asteraceae

Falsa camomilla, camomilla tinta (g)

Flowers

Sup/rel: flowers used in ‘infiorata

 

Dye: flowers in boiled water to dye wool yellow [37]

 

Crataegus monogyna Jacq.

Rosaceae

Biancospino, porcospino, albero delle Perelle (g)

Leaves, flowers

Med: flowers and leaf infusion to heal heart problems, as anti-hypertensive [21, 23, 42]

 

Fruits

Med: dry fruit heated in little bag and used to heal rheumatic pains

 

Food: fruit eaten raw, to make jams, liqueurs [37, 41, 42]

 

Vet: fruit poultice used to heal ‘spallone’ in cattle (bruising caused by ‘giogo’-yoke)

 

Wood

Dom: wood used to light fires and heat the oven, with Olea europaea L. branches. It was said to give bread a good aroma [36]

 
    

Sup/rel: plant had religious value, because it flowered from the stick of Giuseppe d’Arimatea

Other magic uses in [37]

Crepis vesicaria L.

Asteraceae

Grugno porcino (g)

Basal rosette

Food: leaves boiled in vegetable mixture as side dish [4, 34, 39, 41, 44]

 

Crithmum maritimum L.

Apiaceae

Paccasassi, spaccasassi (c)

Leaves, shoots

Food: leaves boiled in water and vinegar and preserved in olive oil [24, 39, 48]

 

Cruciata laevipes Opiz

Rubiaceae

Erba croce (o)

Leaves

Med: leaf juice drank as vermifuge* [37], leaf decoction to heal intestinal obstructions

 

Roots

Dye: roots used to dye wool red

 

Cydonia oblonga Mill.

Rosaceae

 

Fruits

Food: fruit used to make jams [37, 41], sometimes with grape berries

 

Dom: some fruits put in fruit basket to perfume the kitchen [4, 37]

 

Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.

Poaceae

Gramaccia (c, g)

Roots

Food: raw roots eaten in salads [5]

 

Aerial part

Vet: plant really liked by pigs

Veterinary food use for ruminants and horses [4]

Plant

Prov: ‘Essere cattivo come la gramigna

 

Daucus carota L.

Apiaceae

 

Roots

Med: roots crushed and poultice, used to heal burns [26, 27]

 

Food: roots eaten and boiled as side dish in famine period [23, 39]

 

Stems

Mix: stems used to tie sheaves [36]

 

Dioscorea communis (L.) Caddick and Wilkin

Dioscoreaceae

Viticella (g)

Shoots

Food: shoots boiled and used to make omelettes [24, 39, 44]

 

Diplotaxis erucoides (L.) DC.

Brassicaceae

Rughetta (o), fiore bianco (c), carrugola selvatica, carrugola, carrucola (g)

Leaves

Med: raw leaves eaten as digestive

 

Food: raw leaves in salads; boiled as side dish [34, 39, 41, 44]

 

Diplotaxis tenuifolia (L.) DC.

Brassicaceae

 

Leaves

Med: raw leaves eaten as digestive

 

Food: raw leaves for seasoning pizza, salads; boiled for seasoning pasta [4, 34, 39, 41, 42, 45]

 

Echium vulgare L.

Boraginaceae

Erba viperina (g)

Leaves

Food: leaves of basal rosette boiled in vegetable mixtures as side dish [39, 44]

 

Elymus repens (L.) Gould.

Poaceae

Gramaccia (c, g); gramigna, grano delle formiche (o)

Roots

Med: root decoction as depurative [4, 31, 43, 44]

 

Seeds

Food: seeds used for flavouring bread

 

Ears

Recr: children play with ears, detaching them one by one to see if desire comes true

 

Aerial part

Med: decoction to heal abdominal pain; crushed plant put on forehead to heal nose bleed

 

Whole plant

Prov: ‘Le donne molto feconde sono come la gramaccia’, ‘Esse taccati come la gramigna

 

Equisetum arvense L.

Equisetaceae

Coda cavallina (c)

Aerial part

Med: stem decoction used as footbath to heal excessive perspiration [4]

 

Shoots

Food: young shoots fried or boiled to make omelettes [37, 44, 45]

 

Equisetum telmateia Ehrh.

Equisetaceae

Coda cavallina (g)

Aerial part

Med: stem decoction used as footbath to heal excessive perspiration [4]; stem decoction instilled in nose to heal nosebleed [26] or inhaled against nosebleed

 

Cosm: to reinforce nails, fingers were put in stem decoction [26]. Stem decoction used to purify skin [36]

 

Dom: stems used to polish kitchenware [23]

 

Shoots

Food: young shoots fried or boiled to make omelettes [37, 44, 45]

 

Eucalyptus camaldulensis Dehnh.

Myrtaceae

Ocalitto (o)

Leaves

Med: leaf decoction as antipyretic [37]

 

Food: leaves used to flavour grappa

Similar use for E. globolus Labill. [36]

Vet: leaves rubbed on animals to heal parasites

Similar use for E. globolus Labill. [36]

Dom: flowers, fruit, and twigs used in floral decorations [36]

 

Rep: leaves used in the house against anopheles [37]

 

Euonymus europaeus L.

Celastraceae

 

Wood

Craft: wood used to make spindles [37]

 

Euphorbia helioscopia L.

Euphorbiaceae

Latte del diavolo (o)

Latex

Sup/rel: latex has protective value

 

Euphorbia lathyris L.

Euphorbiaceae

 

Whole plant

Rep: species planted in orchards to kept them clear from rats [24]

 

Euphorbia peplus L.

Euphorbiaceae

Tortumaio (c)

Latex

Med: fresh latex on wounds as cicatrizer

To heal warts in [26]

Ficaria verna Huds.

Ranunculaceae

Botton d’oro (g)

Leaves

Med: crushed leaves to heal arthritis pain

 

Ficus carica L.

Moraceae

Figo (o, c)

Latex

Med: latex used to heal warts and calluses [4, 21, 26, 37]

 

Cosm: latex appears to be used to be more tanned

 

Fruits

Fruits are eaten raw or used to make jams [21, 41, 42, 45]

 

Shoots, twigs

Sup/rel: shoots put in St. John’s water [37]

 

Twigs

Sup/rel: twigs used to make crosses to put out of the doors during St. John’s night

 

Mix: twigs used to stir milk to curdle it [37]

 

Whole plant

Sup/rel: plant has protective value

 

Prov: ‘Anno ficaio, poco granaio’, ‘Non vale un fico secco

 

Foeniculum vulgare Mill.

Apiaceae

Finocchio selvatico (c, o, g), finocchio cavallì (c), finocchietto (g)

Roots

Med: root infusion as diuretic [37]

 

Seeds

Med: seed infusion as galactagogue [23], digestive [25], as anti-anaemic [23], to heal colics

 

Food: to flavour bread [37]

 

Leaves, seeds

Food: to flavour pork, suckling pig (‘porchetta’), rabbit, sea and land snails, olives, for boiling chestnut [4, 21, 23, 30, 37, 39, 42, 44, 45]

 

Vet: leaves put in cattle feed to heal abdominal bloating

Similar use of leaves for food use [37]

Flowers

Food: to flavour baked mushrooms, olives [37]

 

Fragaria vesca L.

Rosaceae

Fragola selvatica, fragolina di bosco (g)

Fruits

Food: fruit eaten as fresh fruit or in jams [37, 44]

 

Fraxinus ornus L.

Oleaceae

Ornello

Leaves

Food: leaves used as substitute for tea

Similar use for the fruit [37]

Fumaria officinalis L.

Papaveraceae

Erba de purghe (o)

Leaves

Med: leaves and aerial parts crushed and used as emollient [25]

 

Food: some leaves in soups

Similar use of the ‘fruit’ [36]

Sup/rel: burning leaves has protective value

 

Galium aparine L.

Rubiaceae

Attaccamà (o)

Leaves, stems

Med: leaf and stem infusions as depurative and anti-inflammatory

 

Mix: leaves and stems used as rennet for milk

Similar use for Galium sp. [37]

Gentiana lutea L.

Gentianaceae

 

Roots

Food: roots notoriously used in liqueurs in the Apennine area [27, 37]

 

Geranium dissectum L.

Geraniaceae

Sbrandello (o)

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion as anti-haemorrhoidal

The same use for Geranium robertianum L. [37]

Dye: dye in brown

 

Hedera helix L.

Araliaceae

 

Leaves

Med: leaf infusions as decongestant and to heal menstrual pain [37]

 

Cosm: leaf decoctions used to stain hair [21]

 

Dye: leaf decoction used to revitalise dark colour and to dye green [4, 37]

 

Whole plant

Sup/rel: plant has protective value

 

Hedysarum coronarium L.

Leguminosae

Lupinella (o, c, g), lupina (g)

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion as galactagogue

 

Vet: leaves in feeding of livestock [37]

 

Flowers

Sup/rel: ‘infiorata’ [23]

 

Leaves, shoots, flowers

Food: leaves and flowers raw in salad [37], boiled in vegetable mixtures [41], peeled stems eaten as snack [24]

 

Helianthus tuberosus L.

Asteraceae

Topinambur, girasole selvatico (g)

Tuber

Food: boiled tubers to season risotto [39, 44]

 

Helminthotheca echioides (L.) Holub

Asteraceae

Speraina (c), speragne, sporagne, crispigne, grugni (g)

Leaves

Food: basal rosette boiled alone or in vegetable mixtures as side dish, used for filling ‘crescia’ and ‘piadina’ [21, 30, 34, 39, 44]

 

Humulus lupulus L.

Cannabaceae

Luppero (g)

Shoots

Food: young shoots boiled and used to make omelettes [27, 39]

 

Hypericum perforatum L.

Hypericaceae

Scacciadiavoli, erba di S. Giovanni (g)

Flowers

Med: flowers in olive oil, then put in the sun, as cicatrizer, against burns [4, 21, 23, 26]

 

Food: flowers for flavouring grappa [37]

 

Dye: flowers used as yellow dye [37]

 

Aerial part

Sup/rel: in St. John’s water [37] for various ritual uses during St. John’s night (see Artemisia vulgaris)

 

Hypochaeris achyrophorus L.

Asteraceae

Cosce di vecchia (o)

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion as diuretic

The same use for Hypochaeris radicata L. [37]

Food: leaves boiled and used to make omelettes (‘they are sweet’)

Similar use for Hypochaeris radicata [21, 34, 37]

Whole plant

Vet: pigs eat the roots, leaves given to cattle as galactagogue

 

Inula conyza (Griess.) DC.

Asteraceae

 

Stems

Rep: plants hung up in the granaries to keep rats away [27]

 

Jasminum officinale L.

Oleaceae

Gelsumì (o)

Flowers

Med: flowers decoctions to heal cough

 

Cosm: flowers in bath water to relax [36]

 

Dom: flowers used to decorate house

 

Whole plant

Sup/rel: plant has protective value

 

Juglans regia L.

Juglandaceae

 

Leaves

Sup/rel: some leaves put in St. John’s water [23, 36]

 

Fruits

Food: fruit eaten as dry fruit, for seasoning pasta, for flavouring bread. Fruit harvested in St. John’s night to make ‘nocino’ [4, 37, 42]

 

Whole plant

Sup/rel: plant has some negative effects [4, 37]

 

Prov: ‘Noce, croce’; ‘Beati chi ha ‘rcacciato noce e ulive perchè non se vanga e non se zappa

 

Juniperus communis L.

Cupressaceae

 

Fruits

Food: fruit for flavouring grappa [23]

 

Cosm: fruit chewed against halitosis

Similar to the Juniperus oxycedrus L. use [27]

Juniperus oxycedrus L.

Cupressaceae

Ginepro (c)

Fruits

Med: fruit chewing to heal inappetence [23]; fruit juice eaten to heal stomach acid, fruit poultice on skin to heal sores

 

Food: for flavouring roast meat, liqueurs [21, 37]

 

Vet: crushed fruit added to water as galactagogue for cattle

Used cited for Juniperus communis L. [37]

Sup/rel: fruit in the St. John’s water

 

Laurus nobilis L.

Lauraceae

Laru (o), alloro, baccarolo (g)

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion as digestive [21, 37]

 

Food: leaves used to flavouring meat (‘spiedini’, ‘fegatelli’, meat sauces) and fish, in boiling water of chestnuts [21, 30, 41, 42, 44, 45]

 

Cosm: leaves in bath water to relax [37]

 

Sup/rel: leaves in St. John’s water [36]

 

Rep: some leaves in pots where figs were kept to keep worms away; leaves on doors to keep cockroaches away

Similar uses [4, 21, 37]

Twigs

Recr: twig crackling in fire

 

Whole plant

Sup/rel: plant on the house entrance protects against lightning [37]

 

Lavandula sp.

Lamiaceae

Spigonardo (o), lavanda (c, g) spighette (c), spighetto (g)

Flowers

Med: flowers in water to clean wounds [23], flowers macerated in alcohol to heal louse; to encourage sleep in children, dried spikelets placed near beds

 

Vet: some spikelets in feed of dairy cows to flavouring the milk

 

Cosm: flowering tops macerated in water to perfume skin [26]

 

Sup/rel: spikelet in St. John’s water; ‘infiorata’ [4, 37]

 

Dom: dry spikelets into drawers to perfume clothes; in floral decorations [37]

 

Leaves

Med: fresh leaves chewed to heal gingivitis [4, 37]

 

Whole plant

Prov: ‘Una buona raccolta vale più di un campo di grano

 

Leopoldia comosa (L.) Parl.

Asparagaceae

Cipollaccio (g)

Bulbs

Food: bulbs eaten raw in salads or boiled, to make omelettes [39, 41]

 

Ligustrum vulgare L.

Oleaceae

 

Twigs

Mix: twigs used to make string in the grapevines [37]

 

Linum usitatissimum L.

Linaceae

Lino coltivato

Seeds

Med: seed poultice applied to chest as decongestant, to heal cough [23]

 

Food: seeds for flavouring bread

 

Lunaria annua L.

Brassicaceae

Erba della luna, monete del papa (o), soldi, pianta dei soldi, dollari (g)

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion as diuretic

 

Food: boiled leaves in vegetable mixtures

 

Fruits

Dom: dried plant with siliquae used to decorate house

 

Mix: flowers used to make wedding bouquets

 

Whole plant

Sup/rel: where plant grows, there it brings richness

 

Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill.

Rosaceae

Melette selvatiche (g)

Fruits

Food: fruits eaten raw, cooked, in jams [37, 42]

 

Vet: wasted fruit were given to pigs

 

Prov: ‘Dare le mele ai porci

 

Malva sylvestris L.

Malvaceae

Malva, malbe (c), malbe (g)

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion as laxative [21, 30], relaxing, depurative [4], for intimate washing; chewing leaves to heal toothache [4, 22, 26]; wrap of boiled leaves to heal skin diseases [4, 26], sores; wrap of boiled leaves put on chest (with ‘pancotto’) to heal bronchitis [23]

 

Food: raw [30, 39] or boiled [30, 39, 41, 44] leaves in salads and vegetable mixtures; boiled leaves for seasoning risotto

 

Vet: leaf infusion to heal cattle diarrhoea and as digestive; raw leaves as feed to increase milk production in dairy cows [37]

 

Flowers

Med: flowers decoctions to heal sores [21, 26, 37]

 

Food: flowers used to make refreshing drink

 

Sup/rel: flowers in St. John’s water [4]

 

Stems

Med: stem used as laxative suppositories for children

 

Food: stem raw in salads

 

Whole plant

Prov: ‘Bocca malva, scappa ortiga’, ‘La malva da tutti i mali salva

 

Matricaria chamomilla L.

Asteraceae

Capumilla (c)

Flowers

Infusion: flowers infusion as sedative [4, 23], digestive, depurative [4], to heal haemorrhoids [37]; flower poultice for eye inflammation [4, 21, 23], flowers poultice put on forehead against headaches [36]

 

Food: flowers used for flavouring liqueurs [37]

 

Cosm: flowers infusion to lightening hair [4]

 

Sup/rel: flowers used in ‘infiorata

 

Dye: flowers to dye wool yellow [37]

 

Recr: necklaces and bracelets with flowers

Similar use for Bellis perennis L. [37]

Dom: flowers to perfume drawers

 

Prov: ‘Il tappeto di camomilla più è calpestato e più scintilla

 

Medicago lupulina L.

Fabaceae

Erba nera (o)

Flowers, leaves

Med: leaf and flowers infusion as lenitive and emollient

 

Vet: leaves and flowers as feed for livestock

 

Medicago sativa L.

Fabaceae

Erba melica (c)

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion as tonic

 

Vet: leaves and flowers as feed for livestock [37]

 

Melissa officinalis L.

Lamiaceae

 

Leaves and flowers

Med: leaf infusion as sedative, depurative [37]

 

Food: leaves and flowers raw in salads, for flavouring meat [30, 42]

 

Cosm: leaves and flowers in water to tone skin [37]

 

Rep: dry leaves in drawers to kept moths away

 

Mentha x piperita L.

Lamiaceae

 

Leaves, flowers

Med: leaf infusion as depurative; leaf juice in vinegar to heal vomiting [37]; fresh leaves to heal insect bites [26, 30]

 

Food: leaves raw in salads, to make sauce for meat, risotto, syrup [4, 30, 41, 42, 44, 45]

 

Sup/rel: some protective uses attributed to the plant

 

Misopates orontium (L.) Raf.

Scrophulariaceae

Borsa del pastore, sacca del pastore (c)

Aerial part

Food: leaves raw in salads or boiled in vegetable mixtures

 

Morus alba L.

Moraceae

Moro (g)

Leaves

Vet: leaves to feed livestock in winter, to feed silkworms [37]

 

Flowers

Dom: flowers use in floral decorations

 

Morus nigra L.

Moraceae

Moro (o)

Roots

Med: root juice against scorpion poison

 

Fruits

Food: raw, in jams, for flavouring grappa [4, 37, 41, 42, 45]

 

Sup/rel: unripe fruit as amulet

 

Leaves

Med: leaves in packs to heal skin inflammations [37]

 

Dye: plant used to dye wool yellow [37]

 

Myosotis arvensis (L.) Hill

Boraginaceae

Non ti scordar di me (o)

Aerial part

Med: leaf packs on tired eyes

Similar to the use cited for M. ramosissima [37]

Vet: leaves to feed livestock

 

Nigella damascena L.

Ranunculaceae

 

Seeds

Food: seeds use to flavour bread

Similar use for pastries [36]

Flowers

Dom: dry flowers in floral decorations

 

Ocimum basilicum L.

Lamiaceae

 

Leaves, flowers

Med: leaf and flowers infusion as sedative, galactagogue, bactericide, anti-inflammatory [27]

 

Cosm: leaves in water bath as skin tonic and purifier [26]

 

Sup/rel: dry leaves to make incense

Funeral use [37]

Rep: plants near the windows to keep mosquitoes away [4]

 

Olea europaea L.

Oleaceae

Ulìo (o)

Leaves

Med: leaf decoction as hypotensive [4, 21, 33]; packs of leaves boiled in water on chest as decongestant

 

Sup/rel: some leaves on windows to protect against hailstorms

Similar use in [32]

Oil

Med: oil to heal burns [21, 26, 33], rheumatic pain; hot oil (heated in half eggshell on embers) to heal earache [24], hot oil for rubbing on chest against bronchitis [21, 33], hot oil to heal calluses

 

Vet: oil rubbed on animals that had lost hair [37]

 

Cosm: oil pack on hair

 

Dom: oil used in lamps and to make detergents and soaps [37]

 

Twigs

Sup/rel: use of oil to heal devil’s eye [37], for protective use in the field see Arundo donax; twigs used in predictive ritual

 

Wood

Dom: wood use as fire starter in oven (see Crategus monogyna) [37]

 

Whole plant

Prov: ‘Il nonno la pianta, il babbo la raccoglie, il nipote ci si scalda

 

Origanum majorana L.

Lamiaceae

 

Leaves and flowers

Med: leaf infusion to heal cough [25]; infusion in wine to heal intermittent fever

 

Food: flavouring [21, 41]

 

Origanum vulgare L.

Lamiaceae

Menta bastarda (o)

Leaves and flowers

Med: leaf decoction with internal use as digestive and antispasmodic [27, 44], external use to heal lice

 

Food: flavour vegetables, pizzas [4, 23, 39, 45]

 

Sup/rel: dry leaves in pocket as necklace to protect against devil’s eye

 

Ornithogalum umbellatum L.

Asparagaceae

Lacrime della madonna (g)

Whole plant

Sup/rel: where plants grown there is protection of the Madonna

 

Ostrya carpinifolia Scop.

Betulaceae

Carpino (g)

Leaves

Med: leaves macerated as anti-catarrhal

 

Vet: leaves as feed for livestock [37]

 

Wood

Craft: handles, tools [4, 37]

 

Pallenis spinosa (L.) Cass.

Asteraceae

 

Whole plant

Mix: in the garden, as decorative

 

Papaver rhoeas L.

Papaveraceae

Rosoletta, rosolaccio (o), papola (c), papatelle, papaverella (g)

Leaves

Med: cooking water as depurative

 

Food: basal rosette boiled in vegetable mixtures, as seasoning for polenta [4, 21, 34, 39, 41, 42]

 

Vet: leaves as feed for hens to increase egg laying [31]

 

Seeds

Food: for flavouring bread

 

Flower

Med: flower infusion to enhance sleep [4, 21], in enema to heal haemorrhoids

 

Cosm: petals used for make-up [26]

 

Sup/rel: flowers used in ‘infiorata’ [4]

 

Recr: children played guess the colour of the still closed flower: white, pink or red, saying ‘frate, monaca o cappuccino?’ (monk, nun, or Capuchin?) [4]; flowers used to make ‘ballerine’ (dancers) by folding down petals and tieing them with blade of grass; calyx used to make stamps for the skin

 

Whole plant

Prov: ‘Il rosso del campo è la vergogna del contadino

 

Parietaria officinalis L.

Urticaceae

Erba murale, erba vetriola (c), erba vitriola (g)

Leaves, aerial part

Med: crushed leaves to heal bruises [23, 26], leaf infusion as diuretic [4], fresh leaves to heal bites, burns, furuncles [4, 21, 26, 36]

 

Food: leaves boiled in vegetable mixtures, as seasoning for pasta, in soups (also with Urtica dioica L. leaves) [34, 37, 44]

 

Dom: plant used to clean flasks/bottles [4]

 

Passiflora caerulea L.

Passifloraceae

 

Fruits

Food: food eaten as fresh fruit

 

Flowers

Dom: flowers used in floral decorations

 

Pastinaca sativa L. subsp. urens (Req. ex Godr.) Celak.

Apiaceae

Erba sellerina (g)

Whole plant

Rep: plants left to grow near orchards to keep thieves away

 

Pelargonium sp.

Geraniaceae

 

Whole plant

Rep: used to put some plants on the window sill to keep mosquitoes away

 

Petroselinum crispum (Mill.) Fuss

Apiaceae

Erbetta (o, g)

Leaves

Med: crushed leaves to heal insect bites [4, 31]; leaf infusion or eat large amount of leaves to abort [37, 43]; leaf infusion on the skin to heal sunburn

 

Cosm: leaf infusions for lightening skin spots

 

Seeds

Med: seed infusions as diuretic [37]

 

Whole plant

Sup/rel: plant has negative effects and predictive uses

 

Prov: ‘Stare in mezzo come il prezzemolo

 

Phaseolus vulgaris L.

Fabaceae

 

Seed

Med: seed decoctions as diuretic, anti-diabetic, anti-hypertensive [27]

 

Sup/rel: dried beans as good-luck amulet

 

Picris hieracioides Sibth. and Sm.

Asteraceae

 

Leaves

Med: cooking water as diuretic

 

Food: leaves boiled in vegetable mixtures as side dish [4, 21, 30, 34, 39]

 

Pimpinella anisum L.

Apiaceae

 

Seeds

Med: seed infusion as galactagogue [36]; antispasmodic [37]

 

Food: seeds commonly used in Marche region to make liquors [23]

 

Pinus pinea L.

Pinaceae

 

Young cones, buds

Med: buds infusion to heal respiratory affections [21, 37]

 

Seed

Food: seeds for seasoning pasta, to make cakes

 

Bark

Dye: bark used by fishermen to dye their fishing nets red [24, 36]

 

Pitch

Cosm: pitch used to make sort of hair spray

 

Mix: resin used to make turpentine

 

Plantago lanceolata L.

Plantaginaceae

Lingua di cane (o, c), orecchie di pecora (o), recchie d’asino, recchiole (c), orecchie di pe’, centonervi (g)

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion as anti-diarrhoeal; leaf packs to heal insects bites [4, 21, 33] and sprains [4, 31], as haemostatic

 

Food: raw leaves in salads, boiled leaves in vegetable mixtures, in soups [39, 48]

 

Vet: leaves as feed for hens and rabbits [4, 21]

 

Dye: leaves to dye clothes green

 

Ears, stems

Recr: kids competed for those who throw the ear farthest away: stems used to make cricket cages [4]

 

Plantago major L.

Plantaginaceae

 

Leaves

Food: boiled leaves in vegetable mixtures [39, 48]

 

Polygonum aviculare L.

Polygonaceae

Erba dei centonodi (c)

Stems

Mix: stems used to make ties

 

Populus alba L.

Salicaceae

 

Twigs

Vet: young dried twigs given to rabbits and sheep in winter

 

Portulaca oleracea L.

Portulacaceae

Sportellacchia, porcellana (c), erba grassa, procacchia, procaccia (g)

Leaves

Med: fresh leaves chewed to heal gingival inflammation; crushed leaves to heal pimples [30, 43]

 

Food: raw leaves in salads, soups; boiled leaves pickled in vinegar [4, 34, 36, 39, 42, 44, 48]

 

Primula vulgaris Huds.

Primulaceae

 

Leaves, flowers

Food: raw leaves and flowers in salads [39]

 

Prunus avium (L.) L.

Rosaceae

Cerase Selvatiche, cerase (g)

Fruits, peduncles

Med: peduncles infusion as depurative and laxative [37]

 

Food: fruit eaten as fresh fruit

 

Leaves

Cosm: leaf infusion to rehydrate skin

 

Rep: some to keep fleas away from hen-house [29]

 

Wood

Dom: wood used as light starter

 

Whole plant

Sup/rel: predictive value attributed to plant

 

Prunus cerasus L.

Rosaceae

Visciola (g)

Fruits

Food: fruit put under sugar and commonly used to make ‘vino di visciola’ (sour cherry wine) [37]

 

Prunus dulcis (Mill.) D.A.Webb

Rosaceae

 

Leaves

Med: leaves and epicarp decoction to heal cough [26, 36, 37]

 

Sup/rel: predictive value attributed to plant

 

Prunus spinosa L.

Rosaceae

Prugnolo, brugnolo (c, g), scancio (g)

Fruits

Med: cooked fruit as anti-diarrhoeal [30]

 

Food: raw fruit eaten as snack (only after first frost period); to make jams, liqueurs

 

Pulicaria dysenterica (L.) Gaertn.

Asteraceae

Mentastro (o)

Aerial part

Med: plant infusion as anti-diarrhoeal [37]

 

Rep: plants burned in the hen-house to kill parasites [37]

 

Punica granatum L.

Lythraceae

 

Fruits

Med: fruit were eaten raw to heal diarrhoea or heated with honey to heal cough [37]

 

Food: fruit eaten raw [41, 42]

 

Sup/rel: fruit were used in a propitiatory ritual

 

Quercus ilex L.

Fagaceae

Elce (o)

Acorns, bark

Med: decoction as anti-diarrhoeal and anti-inflammatory [37]

 

Acorns

Food: roasted acorns as a surrogate for coffee, milled acorns to make bread [5, 37]

 

Vet: acorns to feed pigs [37]

 

Quercus pubescens Willd.

Fagaceae

Quercia, cerqua (g)

Leaves

Med: leaves smoked against malaria

 

Mix: dried leaves of Quercus pubescens as tobacco substitutes [37]

 

Acorns

Vet: acorns to feed pigs: to prepare mash (‘berò’) with barley, corns, and water; rabbits: as medicinal feed for rabbits with diarrhoea [23, 37]

 

Galls

Recr: galls used as marbles

 

Whole plant

Prov: ‘La cerqua ha fatto sempre la ghianda’, ‘Se u primu de maggio me gela i pia, poca ghianda magna u porcu mia

 

Quercus robur L.

Fagaceae

Quercia, midullo (g)

Acorns

Vet: acorns to feed pigs [37]

 

Recr: half cut acorns used as dolls ‘eyes

 

Galls

Recr: galls were used as marbles

 

Wood

Craft: wood used to make various tools and furniture, to make kneading tables, manger (‘greppia’) for livestock

Similar uses referred to Quercus sp., [37]

Ranunculus bulbosus L.

Ranunculaceae

Bottoncino d’oro (g)

Leaves

Med: fresh leaves to heal cold sores

Similar use for Ranunculus velutinus Ten. [26, 37]

Ranunculus velutinus Ten.

Ranunculaceae

 

Leaves

Med: crushed leaved in packs to heal sciatica

Similar use for Ranunculus bulbosus L. [37]

Food: leaves boiled in vegetable mixtures

Similar use for Ranunculus bulbosus L. [37]

Raphanus raphanistrum L.

Brassicaceae

Senapi (c)

Leaves

Food: leaves boiled in vegetable mixtures [4, 21, 39, 41, 44]

 

Reichardia picroides (L.) Roth

Asteraceae

Caccialepre (c, g), scaccialepre, caccialè (g)

Leaves

Med: leaves eaten or in infusion as depurative [21, 37]; refreshing [37], diuretic, analgesic, anti-scorbutic; fresh crushed leaves to heal toothache and headache [43]

 

Food: leaves raw in salads, boiled in vegetable mixtures [4, 21, 30, 34, 37, 39, 41, 44]

 

Robinia pseudoacacia L.

Fabaceae

Scarpette della madonna (o), cascia (g)

Flowers

Med: flowers decoction sedative [30]

 

Food: flowers fried in sweet batters; for flavouring grappa [4, 30, 42, 45]

 

Sup/rel: flowers used in St. John’s water; in ‘infiorata’ [4, 37]

 

Mix: flowers used in floral decorations in churches

 

Leaves

Vet: some leaves for feeding rabbits (‘for other animals they are poisonous’)

Leaves in fodder [37]

Seeds

Sup/rel: dried seeds used to make rosaries

 

Roots

Mix: roots used to make ties

 

Wood

Dom: wood used as firewood [37]

 

Rosa canina L.

Rosaceae

Rosa selvatica (c, o, g), rosa di macchia (o)

Fruits (pseudo-fruits), without internal hair

Med: fruit infusion as febrifuge

 

Food: fruit used to make jams (sometimes with apples) [4, 44]

 

Vet: fruit for feeding hens

 

Cosm: crushed fruit as beauty mask

 

Recr: fruit to make necklaces [37]

 

Leaves

Med: fresh leaf infusion to heal wounds, as cicatrizer

 

Flowers

Med: petals macerated in vinegar to heal insect bites; petal infusion as laxative, diuretic [37]

 

Food: petals used to make liquors [37]

 

Sup/rel: flowers used in St. John’s water; ‘infiorata’ [4]

 

Cosm: petals in infusion for a month in water to make water rose [26]

 

Dom: perfume for the house

 

Rosmarinus officinalis L.

Lamiaceae

 

Leaves, flowers

Med: leaf infusion with wine and honey as tonic [4, 25, 30]; leaf decoction as digestive [21, 42]; leaf and flowers pack as cicatrizer; plant was smelled as tonic

 

Food: leaves and flowers for flavouring, for filling ravioli [30, 41, 42, 44, 45]

 

Vet: some leaves for feeding dairy cattle to flavour their milk

 

Cosm: leaf decoction to shine hair; in bath water and in ointments as skin tonic [26]

 

Sup/rel: plant has predictive value; for protective use on St. John’s night, see Artemisia vulgaris

 

Rubus ulmifolius Schott

Rosaceae

Spino, more (g)

Leaves

Med: leaves decoction to heal oral cavity inflammations [4, 25]

 

Fruits

Food: fruit eaten raw, for making jams (sometimes with strawberries), for flavouring grappa [4, 41, 44]

 

Whole plants

Prov: ‘Il rovo dice < Nella terra meglio io covo>’ [4]

 

Rumex obtusifolius L.

Polygonaceae

Rombice (o, g)

Roots

Med: root decoction as tonic

 

Leaves

Med: leaf pack to heal burns [21]

 

Food: boiled leaves in vegetable mixtures [39]

 

Rumex pulcher L.

Polygonaceae

 

Roots, leaves

Med: roots and leaf decoction as anti-diarrhoeal

Similar use for Rumex crispus L. [37]

Leaves

Vet: for feeding livestock [21]

 

Ruscus aculeatus L.

Asparagaceae

Piccasorci (g)

Shoots

Food: boiled young shoots to make omelettes [4, 24, 41, 44, 45]

 

Ruta graveolens L.

Rutaceae

 

Leaves

Med: plant sniffed as vermifuge [4, 23]; a leaf a day eaten to strengthening eyesight [37]; raw leaves eaten to heal stomach ache; pack with leaf decoction to heal tired eyes [4]

 

Food: some raw leaves in salads [23], for flavouring meat, fish, liqueurs

 

Vet: plant can cause intestinal problems for cattle

 

Sup/rel: leaf in the pocket has protective use; for protective use on St. John’s night, see Artemisia vulgaris

 

Rep: some plants planted near orchard to keep parasites and rats away [21, 23]

 

Prov: ‘La ruta fa venir la vista acuta

 

Salix alba L.

Salicaceae

Moia (g)

Twigs

Mix: twigs used to make ties and baskets [23]

 

Salix viminalis L.

Salicaceae

Vimini, vengo (c), vimine, vincio (g)

Twigs

Mix: twigs used to make ties [37]

 

Salsola soda L.

Amaranthaceae

Roscani (o)

Leaves

Med: raw leaves or in decoction as depurative and refreshing

 

Food: boiled leaves as side dish

 

Salvia officinalis L.

Lamiaceae

 

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion is used as stomachic [27, 36], digestive [21], hypotensive [21], to heal diarrhoea

 

Food: raw leaves flavouring meat, fried [4, 21, 37, 41]

 

Vet: leaves as feed for dairy cattle for flavouring their milk

 

Sup/rel: plant related to some magic rituals

 

Cosm: fresh leaf rubbed on teeth as whitening, for refreshing breath [4, 26, 37]

 

Dom: dried leaves to perfume linen

 

Prov: ‘La salvia salva

 

Salvia verbenaca L.

Lamiaceae

Salvia selvatica (o, g), betonica, bettonica, brettonica, vettonica (c)

Leaves

Med: crushed fresh leaves to heal wounds [21, 31], as cicatrizer [27], dried leaves smoked to heal headache; leaf infusion with honey and lemon as digestive

 

Cosm: fresh leaves rubbed on teeth as whitening

Similar use for Salvia officinalis L. [37, 26, 4,]; as toothpaste [37]

Dye: leaves used as yellow dye

 

Whole plant

Sup/rel: plant used as protective against devils eye [37]

 

Prov: ‘Sa più cose della Bettonica

 

Sambucus nigra L.

Adoxaceae

Albero delle streghe (o)

Flowers

Med: flowers infusion to heal cough [21, 27, 33, 37]

 

Food: flowers fried in sweet batter [4, 30]

 

Dom: for ripening apples, they were alternated with elder flowers [37]

 

Leaves

Med: boiled leaves to heal abscesses [4, 21, 31]

 

Rep: leaf decoction to keep ants away [36]

 

Shoots

Cosm: shoots put in olive oil and exposed to sun to make cream for chapped hands

Similar use with medulla [25]

Fruits

Vet: crushed fruit infusion used to improve colour of cow tails

 

Dye: fruit used to dye clothes blue and violet, in boiling water [37]

 

Mix: crushed fruit boiled in vinegar to make ink [37]

 

Wood

Craft: to make handles, tools [37]

 

Recr: empty wood used to make blowguns [4]

 

Whole plant

Sup/rel: thought that plant had seven virtues, so it had to be respected by bowing seven times in front of it [37]

 

Prov: ‘Spogliati quando il sambuco si veste’ [4]

 

Sanguisorba minor Scop.

Rosaceae

 

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion as anti-diarrhoeal* [25, 37], to heal wounds and burns

 

Food: raw leaves in salads [4, 30, 34, 39, 42]

 

Vet: leaves as galactagogue feed for livestock [37]

 

Prov: ‘L’insalata non è bella se non c’è la pimpinella’ [4]

 

Saponaria officinalis L.

Caryophyllaceae

 

Aerial part

Cosm: leaf decoction to wash hair [37]

 

Satureja montana L.

Lamiaceae

 

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion to heal oral cavity inflammation [21, 37]

 

Food: for flavouring meat, omelettes [21, 37], vinegar

 

Scabiosa columbaria L.

Caprifoliaceae

Erba di campo (g)

Leaves

Food: boiled basal rosette as individual side dish [39]

 

Silene latifolia subsp. alba (Mill.) Greuter and Burdet

Caryophyllaceae

Boccon di pecora (o)

Leaves

Food: boiled leaves (with corn cake) [37, 39]

 

Vet: some leaves in livestock feed

 

Silene vulgaris (Moench) Garcke

Caryophyllaceae

Consigli, colcigli (g)

Leaves

Food: boiled leaves as individual side dish for risotto, omelettes [24]

 

Flowers

Recr: children played to make flower burst to produce biggest noise [37]

 

Sinapis alba L.

Brassicaceae

Rapetta (o, g), rapacciola (g)

Seed

Med: poultice of seeds as anti-rheumatic

 

Food: to flavour apricots in vinegar

 

Prov: ‘Far venire al senape al naso

 

Leaves

Food: raw leaves in salads [39, 41, 44, 48]

 

Vet: some leaves in livestock feed [37]

 

Solanum tuberosum L.

Solanaceae

 

Tuber

Med: some slices as emollient to heal burns [23]

 

Sonchus arvensis L.

Asteraceae

Grespigno (c)

Leaves

Food: basal rosette raw in salads or boiled in vegetable mixtures [37, 39, 42]

 

Vet: leaves as galactagogue for rabbits

 

Sonchus asper (L.) Hill

Asteraceae

Grespigna, grispigna (o), crispigne, grispigne, grespigne (g)

Leaves

Med: leaves as galactagogue [37]

 

Food: boiled leaves in vegetable mixtures, soups, for filling ravioli [34, 39, 41, 42, 44]

 

Roots

Food: roasted roots used as substitute for coffee

 

Sonchus oleraceus (L.) L.

Asteraceae

 

Leaves

Med: leaf cooking water as diuretic [27]; leaf decoctions to heal kidney stones [25]

 

Food: boiled leaves in vegetable mixtures [4, 34, 39, 41, 44]

 

Sorbus domestica L.

Rosaceae

Sorbo, sorba (g)

Fruits

Med: fruit decoctions as blood depurative

 

Food: raw fruits, for jams [37, 41, 42, 45]

 

Spartium junceum L.

Fabaceae

 

Flowers

Sup/rel: flowers in St. John’s water; in ‘infiorata’ [4, 23]

 

Vet: crushed flowers against parasites in livestock

Similar medicinal use [26]

Stems

Mix: stem used to make ties and fibres [37]

 

Whole plant

Sup/rel: magical qualities were attributed to the plant because it resists fires

 

Stachys annua (L.) L.

Lamiaceae

Erba ella madonna (c)

Leaves

Med: leaves infusion used to wash face to heal headache

Similar use for Stachys sp. [26]; Stachis recta [21]

Whole plants

Sup/rel: plant used to protect against envy and bad luck [24]

 

Stachys officinalis (L.) Trevisan

Lamiaceae

 

Aerial part

Dye: plant used to dye wool yellow

 

Tanacetum balsamita L.

Asteraceae

Caciarola (g)

Leaves

Food: leaves used for flavouring omelettes [39]

 

Tanacetum parthenium (L.) Sch. Bip.

Asteraceae

Matrecara, erba amara (c)

Leaves

Med: raw leaves to heal headache [38]; leaf infusion digestive [37]

 

Food: leaves to make sweet pancakes [37]

 

Flowers

Med: eat flowers or flower decoction as vermifuge [37]

 

Food: flowers used for flavouring vinegar

 

Whole plants

Rep: plants left grow up near granaries to keep rats away

Similar use [37]

Taraxacum campylodes G. E. Haglund

Asteraceae

Soffione (o, c, g), pisciacane (o, c, g), dente di leone (c), cicoriella (g)

Roots

Med: roots decoction as depurative [37], diuretic, and laxative

 

Food: roasted roots as coffee substitute [37]

 

Leaves

Food: basal rosettes raw in salads, boiled in vegetable mixtures as side dishes [4, 34, 37, 39, 41, 42, 44]

 

Vet: leaves as feeding for livestock [37], in particular for healing meteorism

 

Flowers

Recr: children express wish and blow the achens [37]

 

Thymus vulgaris L.

Lamiaceae

 

Leaves

Med: leaf ointment as decongestant and expectorant [21]

 

Rep: dried leaves as repellent for moths in drawers

 

Tilia cordata Mill.

Malvaceae

Tijo (o)

Flowers, bracts

Med: flowers and bracts infusion to heal cough [23]; in bath water as sedative for babies [37]; in pack for tired eyes

 

Tragopogon pratensis L.

Asteraceae

 

Leaves

Food: young leaves boiled as individual side dishes or to make omelettes [24]

 

Trifolium pratense L.

Fabaceae

Pane del latte (o)

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion as expectorant [27, 37]

 

Vet: feed for livestock [37]

 

Flowers

Food: fried flowers in salt batter

Different food uses of flowers [35, 42]

Aerial part

Recr: depending on where leaves are oriented, guess where the storm is coming from

 

Trifolium repens L.

Fabaceae

 

Leaves, flowers

Med: leaf infusion as anti-rheumatic [37]

Guarrera 2006

Food: leaves and flowers sautéed with onion and potatoes as side dish; flowers for flavouring bread

Different food use in [35]

Vet: feed for livestock

Similar use for T. pratense [37]

Triticum turgidum L.

Poaceae

 

Seeds

Med: boiled or hot wheat on skin as anti-rheumatic [37]

 

Ears

Sup/rel: four ears as cross on St. John’s water; take some ears into the house as good luck talisman; stems and ears used in ‘festa del Covo’

 

Ulmus minor Mill.

Ulmaceae

Olmo, olmo viscio (g)

Leaves

Vet: leaves as winter feed for livestock (‘la fronda’) [24]

 

Branches, wood

Sup/rel: branches used for ‘forche di S. Giovanni’ (St. John’s forks) during St. John’s day

 

Craft: wood used to make many tools, like the stick to turn polenta [37]

 

Mix: young branches used to make ties [37]

 

Urospermum dalechampii (L.) Scop. ex F.W.Schmidt

Asteraceae

Grugno amaro, grugno (g)

Leaves

Food: basal rosette boiled in vegetable mixtures [4, 21, 34, 39, 41], sautéed, for filling ‘crescia’ and ‘piadina

 

Urtica dioica L.

Urticaceae

Urtiga (o), ortiga, erba cattiva (c), urtica (g)

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion as depurative [27, 37]; boiled leaves in pack to heal wounds [31]; crushed leaves in the nose to stop nose bleed [37]

 

Food: boiled leaves as individual side dishes or in vegetable mixtures, for seasoning risotto, gnocchi, for filling ravioli, to make omelettes [4, 21, 30, 34, 41, 42, 44, 45]; to make tea with peppermint

 

Vet: leaves for feeding hens, turkeys and geese [23, 33]; to increase egg laying;to heal digestion problem in cattle

 

Cosm: leaf infusions to heal dandruff, to prevent hair loss, to wash oily hair [26]

 

Sup/rel: leaves used in good luck practice

 

Dye: plant cooking water used to dye fishnets green [37]

 

Rep: leaf decoction to keep parasites away from orchard [21, 37]

 

whole plant

Prov: “Essere come l’erba cattiva

 

Valeriana officinalis L.

Caprifoliaceae

 

Leaves

Food: raw leaves in salads

 

Roots

Med: root macerate as sedative [37]

 

Plant

Sup/rel: plant is used to protect against devil’s eye

 

Verbena officinalis L.

Verbenaceae

Pianta per l’ematoma (c)

Leaves

Med: crushed fresh leaves on bruises [25]

 

Veronica persica Poir.

Plantaginaceae

 

Leaves

Food: some raw leaves in salads

 

Leaves, flowers

Cosm: infusion as refreshing for the face

 

Whole plants

Sup/rel: had to say an Ave Maria if plant was trampled; plant use as amulet during trips

 

Vicia faba L.

Fabaceae

 

Pod

Med: pods used to heal warts with a particular ritual: warts marked with a bean without a pronounced embryo, saying ‘Secchete fava, secchete porro’ (dry up beans, dry up wart!), after 40 days bean was thrown into well

Magic ritual to heal wounds in [37]

Vet: milled beans as feed for turkeys

 

Sup/rel: pod has predictive value [37]

 

Vicia sativa L.

Fabaceae

Vicia (o)

Leaves

Med: leaf pack on bruises [37]

 

Vet: for feeding livestock [37]

 

Seeds

Food: milled pods to make bread [36]

 

Viola alba Besser

Violaceae

Violetta (g)

Leaves

Med: leaf infusion as anti-cough [23, 43]

 

Food: raw leaves in salads [37]

 

Flowers

Food: to make jam (with apples) [48]

 

Viscum album L.

Santalaceae

 

Whole plants

Sup/rel: plant with fruit is considered lucky charm during Christmas period

 

Vitis vinifera L.

Vitaceae

 

Leaves

Med: leaf decoction to heal chilblains [27, 37], to heal diarrhoea; leaf pack as eye decongestant [36]

 

Mix: dried leaves as tobacco substitute [37]

 

Fruits

Med: fruit eaten as depurative

 

Wood

Wood: wood used in protective ritual

 

Wisteria sinensis (Sims) Sweet

Fabaceae

 

Flowers

Sup/rel: flowers used in ‘infiorata’ [37]

 

Zea mays L.

Poaceae

Granturco

Leaves

Dom: dried leaves to fill mattresses [4, 23]

 

Corncob

Recr: corncobs used for making dolls [37]

 

Corns

Vet: corns as feeding for hens [37]

 

Culm

Dom: dried culms to light the fire [37]

 

The table lists all of the ethnobotanical uses found for the three survey areas of the Ancona district. The information given includes name of the species, botanical family, local names, parts used, and types of use. The ‘references for similar use’ column reports similar use or the same use for a different part of the plant. The new uses are marked in bold, while the new food uses for the Marche region are in bold italic. In the column ‘local name’, o indicates the local name in the Osimo area, c in the Conero area, and g in the Gola della Rossa–Frasassi area

Med, medicinal uses; Food, food uses; Vet, veterinary uses; Cosm, cosmetic uses; Sup/rel, superstitious/religious uses; Dye, dyeing uses; Craft, craft uses; Recr, recreational uses; Dom, domestic uses; Prov, local sayings and proverbs; Rep, repellent uses; Mix, miscellaneous uses

During the interviews, observations were often made in the field to identify the species used; alternatively, fresh samples of plants or their pictures were shown to the informants. Voucher specimens are stored at the ‘Herbarium Anconitanum’ (ANC) of the Department of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences of the Polytechnic University of Marche (UNIVPM). Identification of the species was carried out on the basis of ‘Flora d’Italia’ [17], the updated nomenclature was based on online databases [18, 19] and the classification in botanical families was the one proposed by Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2016) [20].

Analysis of the data

The uses of plants that were revealed in the interviews were grouped into 12 categories: (1) medicinal; (2) food; (3) superstitious/religious; (4) veterinary; (5) cosmetic; (6) domestic; (7) dyeing; (8) recreational; (9) repellent; (10) craft uses (of the wood); (11) sayings and proverbs (in which the plants were mentioned); and (12) miscellaneous uses.

In more detail, these uses were defined along the following lines:
  1. (1)

    Medicinal uses: all uses related to treatment of human diseases, including food supplements and remedies against parasites (e.g. worms, lice).

     
  2. (2)

    Food uses: in addition to uses strictly related to human consumption, these included the use of aromatic species and those used as coffee and tea substitutes, or for the production of other drinks.

     
  3. (3)

    Superstitious/religious uses: these related to ritual practices integral to religion (e.g. the ‘infiorate, production of rosaries, ‘festa del Covo’) or to popular beliefs for the protection of the person, the animals, the house, and the fields.

     
  4. (4)

    Veterinary uses: species used to improve the health and growth of livestock [21], to defend against pests, to provide fodder [22], and to increase the productivity of livestock and poultry (e.g. production of milk and eggs).

     
  5. (5)

    Cosmetic uses: those concerning the aesthetic care of the body (e.g. skin, teeth, hair), and those used for make-up and perfumes.

     
  6. (6)

    Domestic uses: those for the care, cleaning and freshening of the home, and plants used as fuel, to preserve foods, and for production of light.

     
  7. (7)

    Dyeing uses: plants that were used to dye fabrics or work tools, such as for the nets used by the fishermen.

     
  8. (8)

    Recreational uses: those that were used for the production of toys and for hobbies.

     
  9. (9)

    Repellent uses: the species that were used to free environments from insects, rodents, and other vermin.

     
  10. (10)

    Craft uses of the wood: artisan uses of the wood from the plants, such as for the production of tools, furniture, poles (e.g. handles for brooms), and work tools.

     
  11. (11)

    Sayings and proverbs that mentioned the plants: situations in which the plants had become part of common usage for sayings and proverbs.

     
  12. (12)

    Miscellaneous uses: all those various uses that did not fall into the previous categories, such as supports for plants, production of rope and vegetable fibre, decorative (floral) uses (excluding domestic ones), and for smoking and ink production, as examples.

     

Choice of the reference bibliography

Various ethnobotanical studies were used as a reference to compare the uses defined in the three study areas in the present study. These articles concerned investigations conducted in the Marche region [2327], and also in other areas in Central Italy [4, 2834], and in the rest of Italy [21, 22, 3545], and in Europe [5, 4648].

Results and discussion

Table 1 gives the details of the information collected, in terms of the scientific names of the species, the local names (where known), the botanical families, and the categories of use, with explanations for the modes of use. Table 1 gives the new uses in bold text, and the new food uses for the Marche region are underlined. Moreover, the bibliographic references are given for each species, with the same or similar uses indicated, and with mention of the same parts of the plants or the different parts used. The focus here instead is only on the new uses, or those that are particularly unusual.

The flora of ethnobotanical interest in the Ancona district

In total, 195 species were recorded, as both herbaceous and woody plants for which there was at least one use of ethnobotanical interest. Of these, 184 are wild plants and 11 are cultivated, although used for purposes other than those for which they were cultivated. These 195 species belong to 60 families, among which the most represented were Asteraceae (13.3%), followed by Lamiaceae (7.2%), Fabaceae and Rosaceae (6.7%), and Brassicaceae (5.1%).

The informants

In total, 120 people were interviewed (30 in the Mount Conero area, 55 in the Osimo area, 35 in the Gola della Rossa–Frasassi area): 82 were women and 38 were men, with ages 32–97 years, and a mean age overall of 75 years. Of these, 65% had only attended primary school, 13% completed lower secondary school, 18% secondary school, and 4% had a university degree. For their occupations at the time of the interview or before they retired, 25% were farmers, 25% craftsmen, 16% housewives, and 15% factory workers.

Who gathers the plants

The data concerning the people who were involved in the collection of the plants were only recorded for the localities of Osimo and Gola della Rossa–Frasassi. Here, although the distributions between women, men, and children varied (Fig. 2), the gathering of the plants for the medicinal, food, superstitious/religious, domestic, and dyeing uses was the prerogative of women, while that for the wood and fruit were the task of the men. Generally, the children were mainly involved in the collection of plants for recreational uses, and sometimes for the fruit.
Fig. 2
Fig. 2

Grouping of the collectors according to age and gender for the areas of Gola della Rossa–Frasassi and Osimo

The oldest informant reported some particularities for the gathering of some species in the Conero area: Matricaria chamomilla L. could not be gathered by young boys; and those who collected Salvia officinalis L. had to wear a white tunic and could not use iron tools, which would have dishonoured the sacredness of the plants.

The uses of the species of ethnobotanical interest

With regards to the wild plant species used in these three areas of Ancona district, the analysis shows that the species with the greatest number of categories of use here was Sambucus nigra L. (i.e. its use was recorded for all 12 of the categories): the flowers had medicinal and food purposes; the fruit had dyeing uses and were also used in the veterinary sector (‘to revive the colour of the tails of the cows to sell’) and to produce ink; the wood was used to produce tools; and the entire plant had superstitious/religious uses, to name just a few. Among the other species with the greatest numbers of categories of use, there were Matricharia chamomilla L., Salvia officinalis L., Urtica dioica L., Papaver roheas L., and Rosa canina L. (with eight categories of use each). The categories of uses and relative percentages of species are listed in Fig. 3.
Fig. 3
Fig. 3

Relative numbers of the total species defined in terms of each category of use (in descending order) revealed in these three study areas

Medicinal uses

Of the 195 species considered, 122 had at least one medicinal use. The most used parts of the plants were the leaves, followed by the flowers (Fig. 4).
Fig. 4
Fig. 4

Parts of the plants used for medicinal purposes in terms of the numbers of species

The most common methods of medicinal use were infusions and decoctions, with the use of parts of the fresh plants. The most mentioned diseases were those that affected the skin and the gastrointestinal system, followed by those associated with the urogenital and gynaecological, respiratory, nervous, and cardiovascular systems. The species known for the same medicinal uses in all three areas were Borago officinalis L. against coughs; Elymus repens (L.) Gould. as a depurative; Asparagus acutifolius L. as a diuretic; Ficus carica L. to heal calluses; and Malva sylvestris L. as a laxative. The species with the highest number of different medicinal uses or used for the treatment of several different diseases were Malva sylvestris L. (12 different uses), Foeniculum vulgare Mill. (8 different uses), Matricaria chamomilla L., Olea europaea L., and Parietaria officinalis L. (6 different uses each).

The new uses that did not correspond to those in the literature included species used as depuratives and diuretics, like Lunaria annua L. leaves, Salsola soda L. leaves, Galium aparine L. leaves and stems, and Sorbus domestica L. fruit (as a blood depurative). The species used to assist digestion included leaves of Agrimonia eupatoria L., Diplotaxis erucoides (L.) DC, and Diplotaxis tenuifolia (L.) DC. The species used as tonics were Medicago sativa L. leaves and Rumex obtusifolius L. roots. Other new uses were described for Cruciata laevipes Opiz leaves to heal intestinal obstructions, Elymus repens (L.) Gould to heal nose bleeds, Hedysarum coronarium L. leaves as a galactagogue (to promote lactation), and Jasminum officinale L. flowers to heal coughs. In terms of skin diseases, the new uses referred to Medicago lupulina L. leaves and flowers as an infusion as a lenitive and emollient, Rosa canina L. fresh leaves as an infusion to heal wounds, as a cicatriser, Olea europaea L. hot oil to heal calluses, and Crataegus monogyna Jacq dry fruit heated in a small bag and used to heal rheumatic pain. An unusual way to heal arthritic pain was to put crushed leaves of Ficaria verna Huds. on the skin where a blister formed and then had to be pierced. Guarrera [37] also referred the use F. verna as a “blistering plant”.

Some uses were instead contradictory with those given in the literature, such as Vitis vinifera L. leaves as a decoction that was previously cited as a laxative [37], while in the Gola della Rossa–Frasassi area this was used to heal diarrhoea. Other new uses were similar to those previously cited in the literature, but did not necessarily fully correspond to them, with the details given in Table 1.

Food uses

There were 119 species with food uses, some of which were used in all three study areas for the same use: Asparagus acutifolius L. in omelettes; Cichorium intybus L. as leaves in boiled vegetable mixtures; Foeniculum vulgare Mill. to flavour meat, fish, and olives; Plantago lanceolata L. in boiled or fresh vegetable mixtures; Rosa canina L. fruit in jams, Salvia officinalis L. to flavour meats; and Urtica dioica L. for omelettes and boiled vegetable mixtures, or for seasoning risotto. Among these, Asparagus acutifolius L., Cichorium intybus L., Foeniculum vulgare Mill., and Urtica dioica L. were the most frequently cited species for food uses across the various communities in Italy [40]. Borago officinalis L. and Urtica dioica L. were the most versatile in the kitchen, with seven different preparations.

The most used parts were leaves, fruit, and flowers (Fig. 5), and Foeniculum vulgare Mill. was the species with the highest number of parts used.
Fig. 5
Fig. 5

Parts of the plants used for food purposes

Most of the species (i.e. 50 species) were boiled in vegetable mixtures, sautéed, and served as a side dish, to provide the so-called ‘foje’, which included: Cichorium intybus L., Malva sylvestris L., Papaver rhoeas L., Helminthotheca echioides (L.) Holub., Reichardia picroides (L.) Roth, and Taraxacum campylodes G. E. Haglund Plantago lanceolata L.. In some cases, these also included Capsella bursa pastoris (L.) Medik., Crepis vesicaria L., Echium vulgare L., Hedysarum coronarium L., Plantago major L., Rumex obtusifolius L., Silene vulgaris (Moench) Garcke, Sonchus arvensis L., Sonchus oleraceus (L.) L., and Urospermum dalechampii (L.) Scop. ex F. W. Schmidt.

Across the three study areas, Crithmum maritimum L. was only present on the rocky coasts of Mount Conero, where it was widely known: its food use as a “very delicious side dish” has already been documented by Guarrera [24]. The new uses that did not correspond to the literature consulted included some plants that were boiled in vegetable mixtures and served as side dishes, including Lunaria annua L. and Misopates orontium (L.) Raf., which was also used in fresh salads. The species that showed new uses in salads were Veronica persica Poir, and rhizomes of Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. as raw in salads (as collected for the Gola della Rossa–Frasassi area); these uses have only been referred to for Spain in famine periods [5].

Other new uses included fried flowers of Achillea collina (Beckser ex Rchb.f.) Heimerl in salted batter. In the literature, the use of this plant as fritters was reported in Sardinia [36], the use of flowers of A. ptarmica L. in salads for the Bologna area [42], leaves of Agrimonia eupatoria L. for filling fresh pasta, Calendula officinalis L. flowers in risotto, fruit of Celtis australis L. to flavour grappa, flowers of Convolvulus arvensis L. sucked as a snack, seeds of Elymus repens (L.) Gould and Linum usitatissimum L. for making bread, fruit of Passiflora caerulea L. eaten as fresh fruit, seeds of Sinapis alba L. to flavour pickled peaches, flowers of Tanacetum parthenium (L.) Sch. Bip. and Satureja montana L. for flavouring vinegar, flowers of Trifolium repens L. to flavour bread, leaves of Urtica dioica L. to make a tea, and Mentha sp., and Malva sylvestris L. flowers to make a refreshing drink. The pickling of leaves of Cichorium intybus L. (collected for Conero area) was referred to only the Mediterranean area for Cyprus [48], with roasted roots of Sonchus asper (L.) Hill. as a surrogate for coffee.

In addition to the new uses that are written in bold in Table 1, the new foods for the Marche region are underlined.

Superstitious/religious uses

Across the three study areas, 61 species had one or more superstitious/religious property. Many uses were already known in the literature for the Marche region and for the rest of Italy. However, other uses were not well described, and so it was difficult to find any correspondence with the literature.

Various uses were connected with the festivities of San Giovanni on 24 June, among which many were new. The preparation of ‘Acqua di San Giovanni’ (St. John’s water) was frequently cited, and it consisted of putting some vegetable parts and flowers in a basin of water, which was then left outside during the night of St. John (between 23 and 24 June). This water was then used to wash the face the following morning (with some reports indicating before dawn), to be free from the evil eye. Further, according to some informants in the area of the Gola della Rossa–Frasassi, the same water was thrown in a cross along the stairs and in the rooms. The species used were flowers of Hypericum perforatum L., Robina pseudoacacia L., Lavandula sp., Malva sylvestris L., Rosa canina L., and Spartium juniceum L.; leaves of Laurus nobilis L. and Juglans regia L.; shoots of Ficus carica L; and as a new use, berries of Juniperus oxycedrus L. Some of the informants indicated the use of four ears of Triticum turgidum L. placed above the St. John’s water, and this was also a use never reported before. Other rituals not previously described for the feast of St. John for the area of the Gola della Rossa–Frasassi consisted of preparing the so-called ‘forks of St. John’, with branches of Ulmus minor L. that were cut and stripped of the bark to be formed like the forks used with the straw, which were then placed outside the door as a good omen for the wheat harvest. Another new use, and for the same area, was to make a cross by tying some branches of Ficus carica L. together that were put outside the door on the night of St. John, to protect from witches. Stems of Artemisia vulgaris L., Ruta graveolens L., Rosmarinus officinalis L., and Lavandula sp. were put into the pockets or under the pillow to protect against witches during the night of St. John. The stem of Artemisia vulgaris L. provided protection when travelling.

Some flowers were used in the so-called infiorate, where drawings were designed on the ground along the streets where the Procession for Corpus Domini passed. The species used included Bellis perennis L., Calendula officinalis L., Lavandula spp., Robinia pseudoacacia L., Rosa canina L., Wisteria sinensis (Sims) Sweet, and Hedysarum coronarium L., with the new use recorded for Cota tinctoria L. J.Gay. and Matricaria chamomilla L.. Triticum turgidum L. was used (and indeed is still used) to create allegorical waggons and decorations for the ‘Festa del covo’, a religious celebration that is held in August in the Osimo area.

Some of the other new uses with no correspondence in the literature consulted included to keep the aerial parts of Achillea collina (Becker ex Rchb.f.) Heimerl in the pockets to protect against haemorrhoids. Conversely, plants of Arum italicum Mill. that grew near the house were weeded out to remove them, because the spots on the leaves were correlated to the blood of Jesus and the plant was believed to bring bad luck. Furthermore, some branches of Olea europaea L. were held in the hand to find lost things, with a prayer to Sant’Antonio (‘Sacre Sponzole’) recited. Also, a large stock of Vitis vinifera L. wood was burnt on the fire on Christmas Eve, and then allowed to burn slowly every day until 6 January, with the still-burning logs placed in the vineyard while reciting the phrase ‘Vita mia non te ‘rrugà, t’ho portato u ceppu de Natà’ (‘Oh my grapevine, don’t perish, I have brought you the Christmas log’).

The religious uses also included the production of rosaries, and the new plant use here was for seeds of Robinia pseudoacacia L.

Veterinary uses

Across the three study areas, 53 species had a veterinary use. Among the species that were administered as feed, new uses included Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle leaves, for feeding silkworms; leaves of Celtis australis L., for cattle; Medicago lupulina L., Myosotis arvensis (L.) Hill and Silene latifolia subsp. alba (Mill.) Greuter and Burdet leaves for various animals; Populus alba L. dried leaves as winter feed for rabbits and sheep; and Rosa canina L. fruit to feed hens.

Other species were administered as curative feed, with the new uses including Cichorium intybus L. leaves, to heal intestinal worms in rabbits; and Hypochaeris achyrophorus L. roots, as feed for pigs and leaves for cattle, as a galactagogue. An unusual use of the bulb Allium neapolitanum Cirillo was to macerate it in wine to heal rabies in dogs.

Some species were used as external curatives, such as Crataegus monogyna Jacq. fruit as a poultice was used to heal ‘spallone’ in cattle (bruising caused by the ‘giogo’-yoke). In the literature consulted, many other species were used to heal these kinds of diseases [37]. Some species were given as feed for dairy cattle to flavour their milk, including Alliaria petiolata (M.Bieb.) Cavara and Grande leaves, and Lavandula spp., Rosmarinus officinalis L., and Salvia officinalis L. A particular use in the Gola della Rossa–Frasassi area was to dye the tails of the cows to be brought to the market, to make them brighter, using an infusion of Sambucus nigra L. fruit.

Cosmetic uses

The cosmetic uses recorded included 30 species. Among the uses in terms of hair care, one that was new and particular related to lacquer made using Pinus pinea L. Here, the pitch was boiled and mixed with alcohol and then put into a spray container so that it could be sprayed on the hair as a kind of lacquer. Other new uses were for leaves of Clinopodium nepeta (L.) Kuntze that were chewed to heal bad breath, flowers for a decoction of Cornus mas L. to heal oily skin, and leaves and flowers as an infusion from Veronica persica Poir. to refresh the face. An unusual use of Ficus carica L. latex was recorded in the Osimo area, where it was used to darken the skin.

Domestic uses

Twenty-seven species had various domestic uses. Among these, some plants were used to light fires and for wood to feed fires. The new uses here were for Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle, Ceratonia siliqua L., and Prunus avium (L.) L.

Some other new uses also included domestic floral decorations, such as Allium neapolitanum Cirillo, Morus alba L., and Passiflora caerulea L. flowers in fresh floral decorations, and Aloysia citriodora Palau., Amaranthus retroflexus L., and Nigella damascena L. flowers and Lunaria annua L. stems with siliquae (dried seed pods) as dried floral decorations. Then there were the species used to perfume rooms and drawers, with the new and particular use reported for Rosa canina L., the petals of which were infused in water together with cloves and salt, to make a solution that was sprayed over the hot stove to spread the vapour through the kitchen and freshen it. Matricaria chamomilla L. flowers were also used to perfume drawers.

Other domestic uses concerned those for producing light, for detergents, and to preserve apples.

Dyeing uses

Dyeing uses were reported for 17 species. The new uses that did not correspond to any in the literature consulted included Cichorium intybus L., Salvia verbenaca L., and Stachys officinalis (L.) Trevisan to dye clothes yellow; Cruciata laevipes Opiz roots as a red dye; Geranium dissectum L. leaves as a brown dye; and Plantago lanceolata L. leaves as a green dye. The cooking water of Asparagus acutifolius L. shoots was used to dye fishing nets green (reported for the Conero area).

Recreational uses

In the three areas, 17 species had recreational uses. The new uses that did not correspond to any in the literature consulted included ears of Elymus repens (L.) Gould., which children used to detach them one by one to see if a desire would come true, and acorns of Quercus sp., which were used for dolls’ eyes, with the galls used for marbles. Leaves of Trifolium pratense L. were used to guess where a storm was coming from, which depended on the direction in which they were oriented.

Repellent uses

Fifteen species were cited in the three areas for their repellent uses against parasites or other damaging pests, to prevent harm coming to garden plants, or to the house, the granaries, and other stored food. The new uses here that did not correspond to others in the literature consulted included bulbs of Allium neapolitanum Cirillo and leaves of Artemisia vulgaris L., which were macerated in water to keep parasites away from the orchards; and leaves of Melissa officinalis L. and Thymus vulgaris L. put in the drawers to protect against moths. A very particular use was for some plants of Pastinaca sativa L. subsp. urens (Req. ex Godr.) Celak. that were left to grow around the orchards to keep thieves away, on the basis of their urticant (i.e. itching, stinging) effects.

Craft uses of wood

Ten species were cited where the wood was used to make tools for agricultural, kitchen and other work activities, and for various objects for the house and the stables, and for furniture. Among the most useful woods there were Acer campestre L., Ostrya carpinifolia Scop. and Quercus sp., while the use of Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle as wood for making various tools was new, as also for Cornus mas L. for making boats. Particular uses included Arundo donax L. stems to make ‘mazzarello’, a tool to support knitting pins, and Ulmus minor Mill. as wood to make the stick used to turn polenta.

Sayings and proverbs

Most proverbs and idioms in which plants or parts of plants were mentioned referred to events in the agricultural life, such as the crop phases and the seasons of the year. These included, for example, ‘ (‘Lots of figs, little wheat’: in a year where a lot of figs were produced, there would be low production of wheat). Other cases might associate a person’s behaviour with the characteristics of a given plant, such as ‘Essere come l’erba cattiva’ (‘To be like bad grass’), which actually referred to the nettle, which was known as ‘bad grass’ locally due to its sting. In other cases, the proverbs still summarise the uses or qualities of a plant, such as ‘La ruta fa venì la vista acuta’ (‘Rue improves the vision’), which refers to the use of the plant to improve the eyesight.

Miscellaneous uses

Twenty-nine species were classified as having miscellaneous uses, which included those that do not belong to the other categories defined here. Some of these related to species that were used to make various ropes or cords, for agricultural use and for the home. For these uses, there were Ceratonia siliqua L. and Polygonum aviculare L. stems, and Robinia pseudoacacia L. roots. New or unusual uses were also seen for the resin of Pinus pinea L. to produce turpentine and for the plants that were used for wedding bouquets, such as the flowers of Calystegia sepium (L.) R. Br. and Lunaria annua L., while the flowers of Calepina irregularis (Ace) Thell and Robinia pseudoacacia L. were used to make the bride’s bouquet.

The other uses included in this category were the species where leaves were used as tobacco substitutes, for curdling milk and to produce ink.

Local names

Some of the local names were different across these three study areas. For example, Plantago lanceolata L. was called ‘lingua di cane’ (dog’s tongue) and ‘orecchie di pecora’ (sheep’s ears) in Osimo, ‘orecchie d’asino’ (donkey’s ears) and ‘recchiole’ (little ears) in the Mount Conero area, and ‘orecchie di pecora’ (sheep’s ears) and ‘centonervi’ (a hundred nerves) in the Gola della Rossa–Frasassi area.

Sometimes, the same local name was indicated for different species and genera, such as ‘grugno’ for Cichorium intybus L., Helminthotheca echioides (L.) Holub and Urospermum dalechampii (L.) Scop. ex F.W.Schmidt; and ‘speragna’ for Helminthotheca echioides (L.) Holub and Picris hieracioides Sibth. and Sm.

The local names of the plants are given in Table 1.

Conclusions

The surveys carried out in these three study areas in the Ancona district led to the identification of ethnobotanical uses for 195 species, 184 of which were wild and 11 were cultivated. The three areas were different in terms of their economic and phytogeographic characteristics, but all of these areas were united in that they have suffered depopulation of the countryside since the 1960s, as for the rest of the Marche region and the whole of Central Italy in general. The consequence of this has been the disintegration of rural society and the loss of traditional local knowledge.

We believe that our survey can increase our present-day knowledge of the traditional local uses of plants, which now allows us to preserve this knowledge, not only in terms of medicinal and food uses, but also for ethnobotanical aspects as a whole. Some of the uses recorded here are common to all three survey areas and are also common to other areas of Marche and Central Italy, while others appear to be particularly unusual, and even new, with no previous mention of them in the literature.

The plants that were cited for medicinal uses were most numerous. Malva sylvestris L., Foeniculum vulgare Mill., Matricaria chamomilla L., Olea europaea L., and Parietaria officinalis L. were best known for their curative uses across the three study areas, which is in line with the rest of Italy. However, the medicinal uses of 19 species were new.

For food uses, those most noted were Asparagus acutifolius L., Cichorium intybus L., Foeniculum vulgare Mill., Plantago lanceolata L., Rosa canina L., Salvia officinalis L., and Urtica dioica L. Many food uses were similar to those mentioned in the literature, while among the most unusual here was the use of raw Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers. in salads (for the Gola della Rossa–Frasassi area), a use that has only been reported for Spain in periods of famine [5].

For the veterinary uses of plants, the most unusual was that to ‘revive’ the tails of cows that were due to go to the market, to make them brighter, which was provided by an infusion from the fruit of Sambucus nigra L.

The most diffuse superstitious/religious uses were those of St. Johns’s water and the infiorate. The high number of new superstitious/religious uses arises because only a few of the literature references consulted have referred to this type of use. Among the most significant new and unusual uses were the branches of Ulmus minor L. and Ficus carica L. that were used to make the so-called forks of St. John and the crosses to hang outside the house during the night of St. John, respectively.

Among the other new and unusual uses were the cosmetic use of the Pinus pinea L. pitch to make a hairspray, the domestic use of the petals of Rosa canina L. to produce a water with which to freshen the house, and the repellent use of the plants of Pastinaca sativa L. subsp. urens (Req. ex Godr.) Celak. to protect the garden from thieves.

In conclusion, we believe that the large and varied amount of data collected here is particularly useful for its contribution to the knowledge of how plants were used by the rural societies that were widespread throughout the Marche region until the second half of the 1960s. The uses of these plants were necessary to promote the self-sufficiency of these populations in terms of their domestic and agricultural practices, and their homecare, personal care and animal care, and for their own sustenance. At the same time, we would emphasise the need to identify more than one area within even just the Marche region (here as coastal, hilly, mountainous) to provide a more complete view of the traditional knowledge that was spread throughout the territory and to allow comparisons between such areas.

Declarations

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank those who contributed to the data collection for these surveys, and in particular S. Massaccese, C. Serini and K. Zajko, and all of the informants who agreed to take part in the survey.

Funding

Not applicable

Availability of data and materials

All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this article and in its Supplementary Material Table. Voucher specimens are stored at the Herbarium Anconitanum (ANC) of the Department of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences of the Polytechnic University of Marche (UNIVPM).

Authors’ contributions

The authors contributed equally to this work. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Prior oral informed consent was obtained from all of the study participants. Permission of the Ethical Committee was not required. Permission was not required to collect the voucher specimens, and no plant samples were collected in the areas under the protection of the Regional Park of Conero and the Regional Park of Gola della Rossa–Frasassi.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Department of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, Marche Polytechnic University, via Brecce Bianche, 60131 Ancona, Italy

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