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David W. Lee is Professor in the Departments of Biological Sciences and Environmental Studies at Florida International University in Miami. A native of eastern Washington State, he received his Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 1970. Most of his research in the past thirty years has been on the functional ecology of plants, particularly in tropical Asia where he has lived over seven years. This research has led to some sixty scientific publications, numerous more general articles, and two books on environmental issues in the Asian tropics. He presently is studying the seedling shade responses of Indian forest trees, the function of anthocyanins in leaves, and structural coloration in plants.

Abstract of paper given at Hinduism and Ecology conference:
Sacred Plants and Forests: Lessons from the Ramayana

The events of the Ramayana spanned the major ecosystems of India, which will be summarized in this presentation. The Ramayana mentions by name a large variety of plants (over 200 species), although the scientific identities of some are controversial. The plants are primarily (1) limited to the central and northern portions of the subcontinent; (2) important for medicinal and economic uses; (3) important as sacred plants today, and mentioned in other sacred texts. These descriptions of plants and forests tell us much about classical attitudes toward nature, and the Ramayana still may influence these attitudes in India and other areas of tropical Asia.

 

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