Ethnobotany, phenology and conservation of four species of the genus sansevieria thumb: Case of Nakuru and Maragua Districts, Kenya.
Khalumba, Mercelyne Luxen
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Many people especially in developing countries rely on wild collected plants for construction, fuel wood, medicine and many other purposes. Today there is often a decrease in the availability of wild plants resources due to increased human and animal populations and the effect of competition with other forms of land use. The destruction of the ecosystem and loss of genetic wealth are depriving man of the nature condition of life. The erosion of biodiversity is an irreversible process, and this has resulted in worldwide call for the conservation of biodiversity. Approximaterly 75 species constitute Sansevieria Thunb, a tropical terrestrial genus of Ruscaceae. About 41 of these species are found in East Africa, 21 in Kenya while 9 are endemic in Kenya. Information on ethnobotany, phenology and conservation status of these species in Kenya is limited and in order to conserve wild plants they must be carefully documented. It is in this light that the study of ethnobotany, phenology and conservation of the four Sansevieria species was considered important for investigation. The study was designed to find out: the use-value, the phenological pattern, indicator species and threats to conservation status of Sansevieria suffruticosa. N. E Br., Sansevieria parva. N. E. Br Sansevieria raffillii N. E. Br and Sansevieria ehrenbergii Schweinf.ex Bak growing naturally in Nakuru and Maragua districts. Data was collected by means of a questionnaire and observation schedules using random sampling technique. Data gathered was analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics. From field survey S. parva is highly valued for fodder for both domestic and wild animals; S. Suffruticosa and S. ehrenbergii are valued for fibres and soil conservation. The results indicate that leaves of S. suffruticosa and S. ehrenbergii are valued for treatment of ear-ache and open fresh wounds while their rhizomes are used to treat snakebite and stomach ulcers. The common method of extraction is squeezing the extracts to the affected area. The rhizome of S. raffillii was reported to be poisonous. The results indicate that the three Sansevieria fibre can be used in briquette production and weaving (51%). The study found out that the commonest plant species associated with Sansevierias are: Opuntia vulgaria (88%), Aloe nyeriensis (83%), Euphorbia candelabrum (78%), Cissus quadrangukaria (68%) and Aloe graminacollii (67%) and they belong to the following families, Cactaceae, Aloaceae, Euphorbiaceae, and Vitaceae. Field observation indicated that there was poor no regeneration from seeds. Field observation indicated that there was low regeneration level at a rate of S. ehrenbergii (5%) and S. raffillii (13%) young shoots per quadrat from the rhizome and none from seeds during the study period. The leaf size structure revealed that there were many mature plants S. ehrenbergii (90%), S. raffillii (86%) compared to juvenile ones (10% and 14% respectively) the the quadrats studied. The results also indicated that man is the main threat of Sansevieria species in the field, destroying over (80%), due to settlement, clearance for agricultural land and felling of firewood tree species. The information from this study could be useful in designing intervention conservation programmes and sustainable utilization of Sansevieria species. More research is needed to determine chemical compounds which lead to treatment of diseases such as ear-ache, snake bite remedy, skin infection and treatment of fresh wounds. Effective conservation would be achieved by having more research on Sansevieria products. The focus should be, on production of certain fibre products, better technologies for sustainable briquette production.