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CSUSM Community Ethnobotany Garden/Living Laboratory

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Mission Statement:

The CSUSM Community Ethnobotany Garden (EBG) is a collaborative outdoor living laboratory, dedicated to conducting hands-on field research to discover the scientific and cultural value of plants. Led by the Anthropology Department, the Ethnobotany Garden’s  mission is to cultivate, document, and celebrate the diverse uses of plants as taught by local plant knowledge bearers, medical practitioners, indigenous herbalists, ethnobotanists, migrant and immigrant communities, organic and native plant nurseries, health clinics, community-based organizations, community gardens, and other research collaborators. Through experiential learning delivered in Anthropology courses, we aim to preserve and promote ethnobotanical and medicinal knowledge while fostering an active appreciation for the natural environment. Follow us on Instagram.


Garden Highlights:

Collaboration and Community Engagement: The CSUSM Community Ethnobotany Garden thrives through active collaboration with diverse communities and stakeholders. Our garden's plant collection and ethnobotanical and medicinal knowledge are enriched by the contributions of local knowledge bearers and research collaborators.

Educational Tools and Resources: As an educational tool, the garden laboratory has facilitated the generation of valuable resources, including medicinal and ethnobotanical plant signage, databases, websites, exhibitions, videos, books, and posters. These resources showcase the knowledge documented, researched, organized, analyzed, written, and exhibited by students in partnership with participating communities. The EBG is an integral part of CSUSM’s Living Arboretum Campus.

Interdisciplinary Utilization: Beyond Anthropology courses, our garden laboratory is utilized by other campus departments for various studies, such as pollination studies, plant chemistry experiments, soil and water measurements, flora and fauna studies, photography, and social gatherings. This fosters a cross-disciplinary approach to learning and research.

Bonnie Bade

CSUSM Community Ethnobotany Garden Director: Bonnie Bade




Students planting trees


Students in Ethnobotany class

garden demonstration



student in garden






White Oak sign


Hands-on Experiential Learning at the University:

Practical Field Research: The CSUSM Community Ethnobotany Garden provides students with unique educational opportunities for hands-on field research. By engaging directly with communities and actively participating in the cultivation and documentation of plant knowledge, students gain practical experience that complements their classroom learning and results in educational elements of the garden.

Cultural Understanding and Respect: Through collaborative research with diverse communities, students develop a deeper appreciation for cultural diversity and traditional ecological knowledge. They learn to approach research and knowledge-sharing with respect, sensitivity, and ethical considerations.

Conservation and Sustainability: Experiential learning in the garden laboratory instills a sense of responsibility and stewardship toward the natural environment. By studying native and traditional plants and promoting sustainable practices, students contribute to conservation efforts and ecological awareness.

Community Outreach and Impact: The partnerships formed through the garden laboratory extend beyond the university, fostering meaningful connections with local communities. This outreach creates a positive impact by sharing knowledge, supporting community well-being, and promoting social and environmental justice.

The CSUSM Community Ethnobotany Garden serves as a living testament to the value of collaborative research, hands-on experiential learning, and the preservation of cultural and ecological knowledge. It is an educational space where diverse communities come together, creating a rich tapestry of learning and appreciation for the natural world. All are welcome to join us on this journey of education, discovery, and connection to the environment. The EBG is supported with a 2023 Partnership Award from The Wilderness Society.


Current Collaborative Research Projects Happening in the Garden:

Oak Cooperative Project: To address California oak tree endangerment due to drought and pests, the EBG plants acorns donated by local tribal communities, community gardens, and individuals each semester with the aim of establishing a repository of oak seedlings available to all who wish to plant oaks. Contact us if you’d like a tree or to donate locally-gathered acorns.

Mima Vernal Pool Replication: Vernal pools were once a major element of San Diego County’s ecosystems, providing food and medicine and nourishing rare and endangered species. The EBG works with The Wildreness Society to replicate vernal pools in the garden, using a local vernal pool site in San Marcos for seed and mud sourcing. The EBG also promotes awareness of this endemic ecosystem and aims to salvage what few vernal pool sites remain in the region. Contact us if you’d like to get involved.

De-Colonizing Your Diet: The EBG works with local indigenous and knowledge bearers to cultivate native food plants and raise awareness about their usefulness in food preparation. Mesquite, yucca, wild rose and other plants can make delicious meals and our community educators help to teach students about savory recipes using these important plants. For more information, contact the EBG to become involved.

Support by Donating to the Garden:

Your support and donations play a crucial role in the continued growth and success of the CSUSM Community Ethnobotany Garden. By contributing to the garden's mission, you directly impact:

Education and Learning: Your donation supports hands-on experiential learning for students, empowering them with practical skills, cultural understanding, and ecological awareness.

Cultural Preservation: Help us preserve and celebrate the valuable traditional knowledge of diverse communities, ensuring that their wisdom is passed down through generations.

Research and Collaboration: Your support enables collaborative research efforts with local communities and organizations, fostering meaningful partnerships that contribute to shared knowledge and community well-being.

Sustainability and Conservation: Donations contribute to the maintenance of the garden and its native and traditional plant collection, promoting sustainable practices and ecological stewardship.

Community Engagement: Your contribution helps us engage with a wider audience, offering educational opportunities, workshops, and events that promote inclusivity, diversity, and the celebration of our natural world.

Social Impact: By donating to the garden, you actively support social justice initiatives, community empowerment, and the promotion of ethical research practices.

Join us in our journey to create a vibrant, inclusive, and educational space that honors cultural heritage, promotes ecological awareness, and fosters meaningful connections between the university and its surrounding communities. Your donation makes a tangible difference in the lives of students, researchers, and local knowledge bearers, ensuring that the CSUSM Community Ethnobotany Garden continues to thrive and inspire for years to come.