Native N American crops

David Ehrlich
Wed, 24 Mar 2010 14:40:55 PDT
Isn't wild rice of North American origin?

From: Jim McKenney <>
To: Pacific Bulb Society <>
Sent: Thu, March 18, 2010 6:41:06 PM
Subject: Re: [pbs] Native N American crops

Well Leo and Alberto, I think the answer to this one depends on how you
divide up the Americas!

For those who divide things up into North America and South America, then
both of you are right. 

I was thinking in terms of North America, Mesoamerica and South America.
That division is I think more common in biological discussions because of
the huge differences introduced by the Mesoamerican fauna. 

I'm pretty sure corn is known only as a cultivated plant; it is assumed to
be of southern Mexican origin (Mesoamerican in my division of the Americas
and thus not North American to my thinking).

Tobacco is trickier. More than one species of Nicotiana has been called
tobacco. There is a species native to North America, N. rustica, which has
been used for smoking. But the tobacco of modern commerce is derived from N.
tabacum, a plant of South American origin. 

Alberto mentioned cocoa and manihot. I would use the same argument for cocoa
( or vanilla or Capsicum) as I used for corn: Mesoamerican in origin (some
of the Capsicum might have originated farther south), not North American. 

Manihot (Manihot esculenta, tapioca, cassava, yuca - not to be confused with
yucca) is believed to be of Brazilian, or at least tropical South American
origin. The USDA Plants Profile map shows it naturalized in AL, FL, HI, MS,
TX, PR and the VI. 

As long as one accepts the division of the Americas into north, meso- and
south, then I’m on firm ground. 

Jim McKenney

Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone

My Virtual Maryland Garden


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