Wild plants have always been significant in every
culture of the Mediterranean region, being used for food, medicines,
fuel and many other purposes, as shown for example in the beautiful
illustration reproduced at the main page, taken from Dioscurides
De Materia Medica, first published in the first century AD.
In recent years there has been a considerable
increase in interest in the use of these wild plants, with
the result that the assumption that wild plant resources will
be available on a continuing basis has been challenged on
A concerted effort is now required to ensure
the survival of the useful and potentially useful wild plants
of the Mediterranean region. These plants are being threatened
simultaneously by increasing demand, increasing human population
and extensive destruction of plant-rich habitats, such as
the Mediterranean ecosystems, which include approximately
25,000 species; about half of which are confined to the area.
Today many plants face extinction or severe genetic
loss, but detailed information is often lacking. For most of the
endangered plant species no conservation measures have been taken.
Additionally, the knowledge on the use of plant genetic resources
by traditional societies is now threatened with extinction.
It is imperative that as much accurate information
as possible is collected and disseminated concerning both the plants
themselves and the use-related knowledge pertaining to them, both
traditional and modern. The collection of this information is an
essential prerequisite for the development of programmes for increasing
the utilisation of these plants in a sustainable manner. It is to
facilitate the achievement of this task that the MEDUSA network
was conceived, and the MEDUSA database
is being developed.