plants healing aloe veraThat soothing gel many of us reach for after a long day at the beach may well have had its origins in an aloe-vera plant, shown above, one of several species on display this summer in Wild Medicine: Healing Plants Around the World, at the New York Botanical Garden. Featuring the latest research on how the ancient healing properties of plants have impacted modern medicine, the presentation also explores the fascinating discipline of ethnobotany, or how and why interaction with plant life varies from culture to culture. (In addition to its help with burns, the aloe, for example, is used in the Dominican Republic to treat asthma, while in Puerto Rico it’s appreciated for its ability to alleviate symptoms of the flu.) Other medicinal plants that pack a powerful punch include the Pacific Yew tree (scientific name: Taxus brevifolia), below, whose bark yielded the discovery of a chemical, paclitaxel, that revolutionized the field of cancer treatment. (Wild Medicine appears through September 8.)

plants medicinal pacific yew tree