This study builds on earlier quantitative ethnobotanical studies to develop an approach which represents local values for useful forest species, in order to explore factors affecting those values. The method, based on respondents’ ranking of taxa, compares favourably with more time-consuming quantitative ethnobotanical techniques, and allows results to be differentiated according to social factors (gender and ethnic origin), and ecological and socio-economic context. We worked with 126 respondents in five indigenous and five immigrant communities within a forest-dominated landscape in the Peruvian Amazonia. There was wide variability among responses, indicating a complex of factors affecting value. The most valued family is Arecaceae, followed by Fabaceae and Moraceae. Overall, fruit and non-commercialised construction materials predominate but women tend to value fruit and other non-timber species more highly than timber, while the converse is shown by men. Indigenous respondents tend to value more the species used for fruit, domestic construction and other NTFPs, while immigrants tend to favour commercialised timber species. Across all communities, values are influenced by both markets and the availability of the taxa; as the favourite species become scarce, others replace them in perceived importance. As markets become more accessible, over-exploitation of the most valuable species and livelihood diversification contribute to a decrease in perceived value of the forest.