ENGLEWOOD — The Englewood Center for Sustainability’s ethnobotany program is part of the legacy left behind by one of its founding members, Tom Minnich.
Friends gathered Friday for a celebration of Minnich’s life at Buchan Airport Community Park, site of the ethnobotany program he worked so hard to create. Minnich died Oct. 7.
Ethnobotany is the study of relationships between plants and humans.
‘(Tom) had a strong background in using native plants for medical purposes,’ said Terry Redman, former president of Friends of Sarasota County Parks. ‘That’s a perfect location for something like that at the Buchan Park.’
Redman and Minnich served on multiple committees in the Englewood community.
‘I knew Tom very well,’ Redman said. ‘He’s going to be missed by a lot of different people. This has always been a goal of Tom’s. I’m glad to be able to help forward the mission.’
The Englewood Center for Sustainability, or EC4S, is a chapter of FSCP.
‘We started to seriously talk about (the ethnobotany program) in the last year,’ said EC4S committee chairman Don Musilli.
Rex Govorchin, Bobbie Marquis, Musilli and his wife Janet Landis have been working on it.
The program will encompass 5.5 acres spread throughout Buchan Airport Community Park near the EC4S buildings.
‘There will probably be plots that will be 10-by-12 (feet), 12-by-12 (feet) areas where we will have the ability to cordon off that area and water it and fertilize it as needed,’ Musilli said. ‘One of the sections is more toward the trail section. The other part is toward the back of the park area.’
While Musilli tries to secure grant money for the program, EC4S is accepting donations.
Elderberry, saw palmetto and slash pine are among the plants that will be used for the program — all are native to Florida. Elderberry is considered an antiseptic, Musilli said. Saw palmetto reportedly helps with prostate issues, and slash pine is used to disinfect wounds.
About 120 to 160 native Florida species have some medicinal capability, Musilli said. ‘Some of them, we can get through some of the Sarasota organizations; and others, we’re going to have to buy.’
Cristina Babiak is an Englewood physician who studied the value of plants in medicine. She teaches classes on herbal medicine.
‘I got into plant medicine because I was always a gardener,’ Babiak said. She helps patients rebuild after chemotherapy or prolonged illnesses, surgeries, long diarrhea illnesses and infections.
While Babiak recognizes the value of pharmacology, she said using plants as the basis for medicine is a practice that has lasted for centuries. It remained popular until around the early 20th century and was ‘revitalized’ in the mid-20th century.
Babiak recalled treating a injured man who competed in an IRONMAN competition. She used onions to help treat his wounds, and honey as an antibiotic.
‘I found it really fascinating and exciting when I learned about kitchen medicine for self-care,’ Babiak said. ‘Garlic and onions are powerful. They’re antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and very complex.’
Musilli said he hopes to have the ethnobotany program ready soon, and to have the plants in the soil.
‘The closer we get to the winter months, the more challenging it’s going to be,’ Musilli said. ‘If time runs out, we may have to look at March or April.’
For more information, go to http://www.ec4s.org or call 941-474-4659.