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Plant Talk

Botánica Plants Have Deep Roots in Local Communities

Posted in History & People , Inside our Collections on October 15, 2020, by Rashad Bell

Rashad Bell, MLIS, is Collection Maintenance Associate in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of The New York Botanical Garden.


Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to honor the contributions of Hispanic Americans and their cultures, which have roots in Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Africa, and Central and South America.

One of those contributions is the botánica, a type of store that is common here in the Bronx. Many members of Hispanic communities rely on botánicas to provide plants and other products for their traditional health care practices and religious and spiritual needs. These stores sell a wide variety of medicinal herbs, candles, incense, statues, and other items. Spiritual and religious ceremonies with connections in the Afro-Caribbean and Christian religions and other spiritual beliefs use different plants and herbs for many purposes such as blessings, charms, rituals, and healing.

Here are a few of the herbs and plants sold at botánicas that are important in Hispanic-American culture, beautifully illustrated in historical collections held by NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library.

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