My Plant Story – Bianca Correia

My Grandma’s Plant Knowledge
by Bianca Correia

As a science researcher, I can affirm that observation is one of the major tools we have to succeed in the scientific field. Even people who do not have a diploma but have the desire to discover and raise questions can be considered scientists. The popular knowledge about nature is also a great source that must be explored and used to develop science, and I am saying that because my plant history is totally based on popular knowledge, especially from my grandma!

When I was in my first year at college, I joined a cellular and molecular biology laboratory where we worked specifically with plant proteins, and my advisor asked me to pick a plant to work with. The thing is that the plant should be unique, which means that no one could have worked with this specific protein before. I was struggling trying to find one because I did not have many options and all the plants I tried working with had already been used. I have to admit that I got a little frustrated when I could not succeed on that. That was when my advisor told me to talk to my family, especially the older ones, to see if they would give me some suggestion. To my surprise (and relief), my grandma came up with the plant from which my older brother used to drink tea when he was feeling kidney pain.

I was like: “how could I not think about it before!” So, I did some research about the plant and I was happy to have finally found one. Over the weekend, my laboratory colleagues and I went to the place where the plant was and there we could meet some people who were living by the huge tree. When we started chatting, they started telling us other uses for the plant; it was a great conversation and we learned a lot from them!

Today I’m still working with this plant. I was able to develop some projects, and I’m really happy because it shows great promise for future projects. One of the most important things I learned from this is the value of empirical knowledge, and also that sometimes we just need to look and observe the world around us to make discoveries.