The Society for Ethnobotany

Fostering research and education on the past, present, and future uses of plants by people.

Economic Botany

Author Instructions for ECONOMIC BOTANY

Current SEB Members can access Economic Botany issues by clicking the white login button found above and entering your SEB ID and Password. For help accessing Economic Botany please email

Thinking of submitting a paper? Please read Accelerating Peer Review: Ten Tips for Swift Publication for guidance, and follow instructions 1 to 22 in the text below.

Publication Charges: There are no page charges for publication in Economic Botany, but current membership in the Society for Ethnobotany by the corresponding author is a condition of publication. If you are not currently a member, your manuscript will go through the review process, but it will not be approved for publication until you are a member of the Society. Membership forms are available online

Economic BotanyEconomic Botany is a quarterly, peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Ethnobotany that publishes original Research Articles, Notes on Economic Plants, Review Articles, and Book Reviews on a wide range of topics dealing with the utilization of plants by people. Economic Botany specializes in scientific articles that address the botany, history, evolution, and changing cultural/biological status of useful plants, their modes of use, and their cultural significance. Papers including particularly complex technical issues should be addressed to the general science reader, who may not be familiar with the details of some contemporary techniques. Clear language is absolutely essential.

Limitations: Primarily agronomic, anatomical, or horticultural papers, and those concerned mainly with analytical data on the chemical constituents of plants, should be submitted elsewhere. Papers addressing issues of molecular or phylogenetic systematics are acceptable if they test hypotheses that are associated with useful plant characteristics. These studies are also appropriate if they can reveal something of the historical interaction of human beings and plants. Papers devoted primarily to testing existing taxonomies, even of plants with significant human use, are generally not appropriate for Economic Botany.

Papers that are essentially lists of useful plants from some part of the world are ordinarily not considered for publication. They may be publishable if this is the first description of their use in a particular culture or region, but this uniqueness must be specified and characterized in the paper. Even in such a special case, however, such a descriptive paper will require an analysis of the context of use of plants. How is plant use similar to or different from that of other cultures? Why is a particular species or group of species used? Is there a difference in use patterns between native and introduced species? Etc. Note that it is not a sufficient justification for publication to report that botanical knowledge is being lost in the region of study. And it is not necessary to explain to the readership of Economic Botany that "plant use is important."

Categories of Manuscripts

Research Articles: Manuscripts intended for publication in this category should address the cultural as well as the botanical aspects of plant utilization. Articles that deal in whole or part with the social, ecological, geographical, or historical aspects of plant usage are preferable to ones that simply list species identifications and economic uses. Papers dealing with the theoretical aspects of ethnobotany and/or the evolution and domestication of crop plants are also welcome. We most strongly support articles that state clear hypotheses, test them rigorously, then report and evaluate the significance of the results. Although in the past it is true that more descriptive papers were dominant in the journal, this is no longer the case. Research articles should not exceed 7000-8000 total words, including text (double-spaced and in 12 point font), figures, tables, and references. There is a preference for shorter over longer papers. The format and style of the submitted manuscript should generally conform to the papers published in the most recent issues of Economic Botany.  

Review Articles. Review Articles about broad and important topics are a staple of Economic Botany.  Our general goal is to publish one Review Article per issue. Reviews should address issues of historical or contemporary importance in ethnobotany and economic botany that will be of wide interest to our international readership. Review Articles should not exceed 10,000 words in length. We are looking for reviews that are highly synthetic and draw on current and foundational literature to address points that are novel and interesting. Our general standard is to publish reviews that would be of sufficient quality to appear in one of the Annual Review journals, such as Annual Review of Anthropology or Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. Since there is not an Annual Review of Economic Botany, we seek to fill this niche. Reviews that do not meet these criteria and are more of a summation of existing literature will not be published. Authors are encouraged to contact the editor-in-chief in advance to see if the topic is deemed appropriate.

Notes on culturally-important plants: This section of the journal is intended for the publication of short papers that deal with a variety of technical topics, including the anatomy, archaeology, biochemistry, conservation, ethnobotany, genetics, molecular biology, physiology or systematics of useful plants. A manuscript should concern one species or a small group of species related by taxonomy or by use. Illustrations should be designed to occupy no more than one printed journal page. Papers intended for publication as a Notes on culturally-important plants should not exceed 3500 words, including tables, figures, and references. Contributions should be modeled after recently published Notes in Economic Botany.

Book Reviews: Those wishing to contribute to this category should contact our book review editor, Wendy Applequist. Instructions for contributors and a list of books needing reviewers are available on the SEB web site.

Special Reports: Manuscripts submitted for publication under this category are usually solicited by the EIC. Authors wishing to contribute a special report to our journal should contact the editor directly.

Form of Manuscripts

Some matters of style: The journal has a very broad readership, from many countries, and many specialties, from students to the most senior scholars. Thus, the writing in submitted manuscripts should be clear and transparent. Acronyms that are not generally known by the international scientific community are discouraged. The Abstract is, in many ways, the most important part of the paper. It will probably have many more readers than any of the rest of the article. It should summarize the entire argument, and it should have one or two eminently quotable sentences which other scholars may use to summarize economically, in the authors' own words, the fundamental findings of the research reported. Abstracts should not exceed 200 words. In "Notes," which don't have abstracts per se, the first sentence, or the first paragraph, should serve in place of an abstract, and should have the same kind of quotable sentence or two that will allow subsequent scholars to use the authors' own words to state their own case. Papers that do not have such quotable sentences will require revision. In general, the Abstract, or the first paragraph of a Note, is the hardest part to write. Compose it with great care and attention.

Authors of Research Articles and Review Articles, whose work is carried out in a non-English speaking country, are strongly encouraged to include a second Abstract in the principal language in which the research was carried out, or in the language of the first author.  Because the editors do not have the resources to review the accuracy of the second Abstract, this will be the responsibility of the author(s).

It is often the case that authors use more references than is needed. On occasion, the Literature Cited section of papers is longer than the paper itself. Although there are cases where this may be appropriate (papers dealing with the history of some plant or group of plants, for example) ordinarily excessive citation should be avoided. The function of references is to facilitate the reader's understanding of the key elements of the paper by allowing them to follow up on important or unusual methods, studies or findings that are central to the current arguments set out in the manuscript. One need not cite any authorities for statements of common knowledge to the readership, like the location of Missouri, the color of the sky, or the function of chlorophyll. Unpublished and otherwise inaccessible material should not be cited in the narrative.

Although not a requirement for publication, it is often efficient to organize manuscripts into five sections: an Introduction, which ends with a clear statement of the problem to be addressed; the Methods used to address the problem; the Results of applying those methods to the requisite data; a Discussion of the relevance of the results, usually with reference to similar published research;  and a series of Conclusions, which reflect on the outcome of the study, assessing its importance and interest, and, perhaps, suggesting future avenues of research.

Papers should be double spaced everywhere. Use a common font (Times Roman is good), set at 12 points in size. Number the pages in the upper right hand corner. Number the lines in the manuscript consecutively (in Word, click on File| PageSetup| Layout| LineNumbers| AddLineNumbering| Continuous| OK). Put all Figure Captions together on the last page of the manuscript. On the first page, include a "short title" of the form "SMITH AND JONES: ATHABASCAN ETHNOBOTANY" with a maximum of 50 characters. Also indicate the total number of words in the manuscript.

Carefully indicate up to 3 levels of headings and subheadings. The easiest way to guarantee that your headings will be recognized correctly is to mark them <H1>, <H2> or <H3>, like this:


Do not justify the right margin. Do not submit the paper in two columns.

Figures and tables should be included in the text, about where you expect them to occur, as well as in separate files. Label the separate figures and tables as Figure 1, Table 1, etc.  In the text, use low resolution images. In the separate figures, use the higher resolution images you would expect to be published. Photographs must be at least 300 pixels per inch (ppi) at the size they are to be reproduced, while line drawings (maps, charts) must be at least 600 ppi, and preferably 900.

Appendices should also be submitted as separate files.  Usually these are published as Electronic Supplementary Material (ESM), and should be labeled as such in the manuscript.

High quality color photographs for possible use as the front cover are always welcome. These should be submitted as separate files, and titled appropriately.

If you include any equations more complicated than x = a + b , please use the Equation Editor. Put each equation on a separate line.

Ethical Guidelines: field research in the areas of ethnobotany and economic botany in the 21st century represents a collaborative effort between scientists and local people and communities. Given that considerable research in the past was carried out without sanction or prior informed consent, the Society for Ethnobotany (SEB) considers the ethical treatment of local collaborators to be of the highest priority. To this end, the SEB adopted the International Society of Ethnobiology (ISE) Code of Ethics in 2013. Details can be found on the SEB website: , and the ISE Code of Ethics site: . Authors are expected to be mindful of these guidelines when carrying out field research, and to make explicit statements in their submissions to Economic Botany about how these guidelines were followed in the field. Simple statements in your paper such as “we followed all ISE Code of Ethics Guidelines,” or “we followed all IRB guidelines,” are not sufficient. What is appropriate is a short paragraph outlining the basic ethical strategies that were used in the field, such as educated prior informed consent, clarity of objectives, respect for cultural norms, etc. Manuscripts that do not make provide clear statements about the degree to which ethical research standards were carried out will not be considered for publication.

Submissions: All papers are submitted for consideration through Springer’s online system Editorial Manager. If you have any difficulties with the system, please feel free to contact the Editor-in-Chief, Ina Vandebroek, by e-mail for assistance at

Peer Review: All articles published in Economic Botany receive peer review. Most Research Articles and Reviews Articles are ordinarily assigned to an Associate Editor who obtains two or more reviews of the paper (perhaps writing one him- or herself). The Editor-in-Chief (EIC) sometimes solicits additional reviews by specialists in the subject of a submission. Notes are usually reviewed by the EIC, an Associate Editor, and one further reviewer. The EIC uses these reviews to guide his decision about the article—to consider further with minor revision, to consider further with major revision and subsequent review, or to reject the paper. Some papers are rejected without peer review (desk reject) following a brief assessment by the EIC. Most desk rejects occur because: the central theme of the paper is outside the scope of the journal's subject matter; the paper is essentially a list of useful species; or the quality of the English is not sufficient to allow peer review.

The journal receives many more articles than it can publish. It is therefore the highest priority of the EIC and the Associate Editors to make editorial decisions as quickly as possible so that rejected articles can be submitted elsewhere. Many rejected articles are perfectly acceptable pieces of research, but are rejected because they are not of the broadest level of interest, or because other similar pieces of work have been published in the recent past. It is our goal to publish the highest quality papers of the broadest general interest to our international readership in the shortest time possible and, in particular, when we must reject a paper, we attempt to do so as quickly as possible in the context of a careful and deliberate review.

Submission Check List:  Before submitting your manuscript through Editorial Manager, please carefully go through this Check List for Submission. Given the increasing challenges of reviewing and editing manuscripts, particularly from authors whose first language is not English, it is crucial that all of the features in this list are adhered to. If the Check List requirements are not followed in the initial submission, your manuscript will be returned for correction and resubmission. If your resubmission continues to veer from the Check List, it will be rejected without further review.

  1. Research articles should normally not exceed 7000-8000 words, including text, figures, tables and references. In order to meet word length requirements, lengthy and/or non-essential tables are usually published online as Electronic Supplementary Material. These should be listed as Appendices.
  2. If your submission is a Note on Economic Plants, do not include an Abstract, and do not submit a manuscript that is longer than 3500 words, including all tables and references.
  3. Reviews should normally not exceed 10,000 words, including text, figures, tables and references. In most instances, you should clear your idea for a Review Article first with the editor-in-chief.
  4. If English is not your first language, use either a professional editing/translation service or have a native English speaker with a science background edit your manuscript thoroughly. We need to be stringent on this point; peer reviewers cannot review manuscripts that they cannot understand.
  5. Except in exceptional circumstances, vouchers specimens must accompany plant identification. Field identification of species by scientists or local specialists without vouchers is not acceptable.
  6. Remember to use American English rather than British English. Thus, fiber rather than fibre, color rather than colour, etc. Also, in American punctuation, “The comma goes inside the quotation marks,” as “do periods.”
  7. The abstract should not exceed 200 words.
  8. Authors are encouraged to include a second title and abstract in the dominant language where the research was carried out, or in the author’s first language. This is a suggestion not a requirement.
  9. Do not use footnotes or endnotes. Either include the material in the body of the narrative, or omit it.
  10. If your study focuses on one or a very few taxa, be sure to note the plant family name early in the narrative.
  11. Remember to include a running title in caps, e.g. “CASAS AND GOMEZ: VERACRUZ KITCHEN GARDENS, with a maximum of 50 characters.
  12. Abbreviations should be spelled out the first time they appear, such as “Bureau of Land Management (BLM),” and subsequently “BLM.” However, if the abbreviation is commonly used and understood, such as those for measurements (mm for millimeters, m for meters) or for eras (B.C.E. for Before Common Era or C.E. for Common Era), it is not necessary to spell them out the first time.
  13. You can include currency figures from the location of the study (such as Brazilian Reais or EU Euros), but all monetary values must also be converted to US dollars.
  14. Do not put tables in pdf or other formats that cannot be corrected at the editorial end.
  15. List the authority with each binomial the first time it is mentioned in the narrative, but not thereafter.
  16. Check the currency of scientific names in the online source “The Plant List.”
  17. Commonly used Latin phrases, such as et al., per se, and op. cit. are not italicized. However, in situ and ex-situ are italicized.
  18. In English, a period is used in decimals, not a comma. Thus, 5.25 not 5,25
  19. Use serial commas, thus-- “errors, confusion, and clarity.”
  20. Citations are listed “author-year” without a comma. List up to two authors (Jones and Nguyen 2007), but with more authors use et al. (Austin et al. 2010). List multiple citations alphabetically by author name (Anderson 2001; Brown 1999; Huang 2000).
  21. Following are referencing style examples:


Quave, C. L., and A. Saitta. 2016. Forty-five years later: The shifting dynamic of traditional ecological knowledge on Pantelleria Island, Italy. Economic Botany 70(4): 1-14.

Online journals:

Albuquerque, U. P. 2006. Re-examining hypotheses concerning the use and knowledge of medicinal plants: A study in the Caatinga vegetation of NE Brazil. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2: 30.


Balée, W. 2013. Cultural forests of the Amazon: A historical ecology of people and their landscapes. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press.


Andel, T., S. Ruysschaert, K. Van de Putte, and S. Groenendijk. 2013. What makes a plant magical? Symbolism and sacred herbs in Afro-Surinamese Winti rituals. In: African ethnobotany in the Americas, eds. R. Voeks, and J. Rashford, 247–284. New York: Springer. 

For other referencing issues, consult a recent issue of Economic Botany. Reference lists in submissions that are obviously cut and pasted, with little or no effort to follow the style in Economic Botany, will be returned without review.

  1. As a rule, all citations must refer to material that the general reader has access to, that is, it has been published or is in press. Material that is unpublished or in preparation should not be included. One or two ‘pers. obs.’ or ‘pers. comm.’ are acceptable, but use of these should be extremely limited.

The New York Botanical Garden Press
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 50-31790 (ISSN 0013-0001)
Printed By Springer

For permission to electronically scan individual articles of Economic Botany
please visit the editorial office and contact the Editor-in-Chief