Botanists are an overlooked group of informants in ethnobotanical studies. The aim of this study was to assess their potential as sources of original ethnobotanical information. Wild food plants remembered by Polish botanists from their childhood were freelisted by 71 botanists. The results were compared with several ethnobotanical studies: three from the 21st century and one from the mid-20th century. The botanists listed 123 species (mean of 9.3 species per individual). Although the average number of personal freelists was slightly lower for botanists than for local key informants in two of the other studies (11 and 13, respectively), the total list of species was longer than in any other Polish ethnobotanical study. Two of the ethnobotanical studies supplied richer material on past famine plants, whereas the botanists mentioned many alien plants and plants from urban habitats not mentioned in the ethnographical study. It can be concluded that botanists are possibly the best source of information for studies of contemporary or new uses of plants, but are inadequate for uses that are dying out. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, 168, 334–343.