Cryptobotany is the study of plants which are not currently known to science, but which may have living examples. The field attempts to use myth, literature or unsubstantiated reports to facilitate discovery of unrecorded species.

As with cryptozoology, the undisciplined field is associated with fringe research conducted for peer or popular review. Folk legend and ethnic usage of plants, often as interdisciplinary research, is presented and developed for an unknown species, perhaps allowing those extant species to be collected or adequately identified. Any researcher or writer can identify as a cryptobotanist, the field is surveyed within cryptozoological or other journals or with varying degrees of scepticism as a protoscience.[1]

Many plants remain undiscovered or are yet to be classified, however cryptobotany usually 'targets' a reported plant with harmful or therapeutic interaction with people. Sources of data may be secondary or scant; reports may be of plausible or outlandish. [2]

Man eating plants, most frequently inhabiting the jungles of Africa in popular fiction, were in some cases based on initial reports of plants that could trap and kill a larger mammal. However, there are many unexplained, unconfirmed reports on file, especially from Latin America, that suggest the possible existence of still-undiscovered species of large carnivorous plants. The most comprehensive compilation and discussion of such reports currently in print can be found in British cryptozoologist Karl Shuker's book The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003).[3]

In China 2500 plants are described for medical uses, but cannot be identified as existing plants[citation needed].

Writers and researchers in the United States have been amongst those to seek reported or legendary plants; the 1950s and 60s saw a number of books and articles on the pyschedelic or mystical plants of South America. William Burroughs sought the telepathy inducing plant sometimes called 'Yage', finding and collecting other novel plant specimens, such as the telepathine bearing vine Banisteriopsis caapi. The ethnobotanists, Terence and Dennis McKenna, also entered the jungles of South America; taking the guidance of the local peoples to isolate species in use as hallucinogens. [4] Ethnomycology and the associated search for reported species were abundant, entering the popular culture of the time. The earlier books of Carlos Castenada detailed his search for various psychoactive mushrooms and plants, an overlap with a western religious tradition was proposed in Allegro's, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross.

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