Economic Botany

About the Journal ECONOMIC BOTANY

Economic Botany

Economic Botany is a quarterly, peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Economic Botany which publishes original research articles and notes on a wide range of topics dealing with the utilization of plants by people, plus special reports, letters and book reviews. Economic Botany specializes in scientific articles on the botany, history, and evolution of useful plants and their modes of use. Papers including particularly complex technical issues should be addressed to the general reader who probably will not understand 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 which 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.

Likewise, papers which are essentially lists of plants utilized somewhere in the world are ordinarily not accepted 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 analysis to say that botanical knowledge is being lost. And it is not necessary to explain to this audience that "plant use is important."

Categories of Manuscripts
Special Reports: Manuscripts submitted for publication under this category should be of broad interest to the Economic Botany community, and be written in plain, non-technical language. Authors wishing to contribute a "feature article" to our journal should contact the editor directly.

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 which 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. Simply describing the use of some plant(s) usage by some people somewhere will ordinarily not be acceptable for Economic Botany any more. Research articles should not exceed 20 manuscript pages (or 5000-6000 total words), including text (double-spaced and in 12 point font), figures, and tables. There is a strong 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. A style guide is available, but its detail is only necessary for papers in final revisions before publication.

Review Articles. In the past, Review Articles about broad and important topics have been a staple of Economic Botany. Review articles have addressed the domestication of corn, coconuts in the new world, pollen as food and medicine, and many other topics. We believe there is a place for significant reviews in Economic Botany, but with modest frequency. We do not anticipate more that 2 or 3 reviews per year. Authors interested in writing a review can contact the editor in advance to see if the topic is deemed appropriate.

What we are looking for are 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.

Notes on Economic 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, if any, should be designed to occupy no more than one printed journal page. Papers intended for publication as a Note on Economic Plants should not exceed 8 to 10 double-spaced manuscript pages, including tables and figures. Contributions should be modeled after recently published notes in Economic Botany. The format of Notes has recently changed so use as a model only Notes from volumes 62 and after.

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 is available on the SEB web site.

Letters: Comments concerning material published in Economic Botany or statements regarding issues of general interest should be submitted directly to Robert Voeks, Editor in Chief.

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. This is part of the reason that clear and transparent writing is considered very important. Acronyms are discouraged; if they are standard in a particular specialty field, and if there are more than a few of them, authors should include a glossary of them in a small sidebar. The Abstract in Research Papers 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. 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 which will allow subsequent scholars to use the authors' own words to state their own case. Papers which 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. Write it with great care and attention. In addition, beginning with the first issue of 2010 (64-1), authors of Research 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.  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 the taxonomy 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 which are central to the current paper's arguments. 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. It is usually unnecessary to cite unpublished reports or dissertations which readers are unlikely to be able to obtain. Although not always necessary or desirable, it is often very efficient to organize an article with four classic parts, an Introduction which states the problem to be addressed, the Methods used to address the problem, the Results of applying those methods to the requisite data, 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.

Generally, submissions to the journal are too long. They often ramble on for pages without getting to the key issues. When such papers are published as presented, they are wasteful of Society resources, and of the limited time that subscribers have to devote to reading the work of others. They also deny to other Society members access to the limited number of pages which can be published in a year. Shakespeare wrote "Brevity is the soul of wit," or in this case, of good science. Notice that the journal Nature restricts "articles" to 5 journal pages, approximately 3000 words, no more than 50 references, and 5 or 6 small figures or tables. "Letters to Nature" which comprise the bulk of the journal are limited to 4 pages, approximately 2000 words, a maximum of 30 references, and 2 or 3 small figures or tables. We need not be quite that strict, but a shorter paper will always be preferred to a longer one of similar quality.

Style guide: For most matters of style, see a current issue of the journal. Manuscripts are different from published papers, of course, and should have the following characteristics.

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: Athabaskan Ethnobotany" with a maximum of 50 characters; also indicate on 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 can be included in the manuscript in small, or low resolution, formats for review. When a paper is accepted, high resolution images must be provided; 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. High quality color photographs for the cover are always welcome.

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

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, Robert Voeks, by e-mail for assistance at

General Matters: Publication in the journal is open to current members of the Society. If you are not currently a member, you will be asked to join before your paper is sent out for review. If a paper has two or more authors, the author submitting the manuscript for review is expected to hold a current SEB membership. Membership forms are available online ( Authors not fluent in English should have their paper thoroughly edited by a native speaker of English who is familiar with the scientific issues addressed in the paper.

Peer Review: All articles published in Economic Botany receive peer review. Most Research Articles are ordinarily assigned to an Associate Editor who obtains two reviews of the paper (perhaps writing one him- or herself). The Editor in Chief (EC) sometime solicits additional reviews by specialists he knows to be concerned about the subject of a submission. Some papers may receive 3 or 4 reviews. Notes are usually reviewed by the EC and one other reviewer, although occasionally they receive more reviews. The EC uses these reviews to guide his decision about the article - to accept as is, to accept with minor revision, to accept with major revision and subsequent review, or to reject the paper. Some papers are rejected without review following a close reading by the EC when he decides they are outside the scope of the journal's subject matter, or if they are simply unacceptable for other reasons.

The journal receives many more articles than it can publish. It is currently receiving over 200 manuscripts per year, of which it can only publish about 40 articles. Given this, it is of the very highest priority of the EC and the Associate Editors to make editorial decisions as quickly as possible so rejected articles can be submitted elsewhere; many rejected articles are perfectly acceptable pieces of work which are rejected only 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 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.

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