Plants in the works of Cervantes

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Pardo-De-Santayana, M, Tardío, J, Heinrich, M, Touwaide, A, & Morales, R, 2006, 'Plants in the works of Cervantes', Economic Botany, vol. 60, no. 2, pp. 159-181.

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El Ingenioso Hidalgo, Don Quijote de la Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), is the best-known work of Spanish literature. We searched this and the other works of Cervantes for references to plants, plant communities, and products. These texts capture the customs, thoughts, beliefs, and traditions of Spanish culture in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. They also repeat literary themes of ancient Greek and Roman literature. Plant citations were grouped in three categories: plants as part of the environment, useful plants, and plants in symbolic expressions. A total of 150 species were registered, 102 of which appear in Don Quijote. The taxa with the highest frequency of occurrence are Vitis vinifera, Phoenix dactylifera, Triticum aestivum, Lauras nobilis, Rosa spp., Olea europaea, Quercus ilex, and Arundo donax. The number of references to plants and the variety of species seem to attest to a sound and intimate knowledge of plants, their relevance as a landscape feature, and their utility. Many edible, ornamental, technological, and medicinal plants are referred to either explicitly or implicitly. Several species are mentioned in a figurative sense through references to their symbolic meaning, in proverbs, idiomatic expressions, metaphors, or by mentioning them in comparisons and literary figures of speech.

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