Digital History>eXplorations>Columbus & the Columbian Exchange>The Columbian Exchange>Origins of Plants


This map shows the sites of domestication for a number of crops.
Places where crops were initially domesticated are called centres of origin
This image is from the USDA.

Sources for more information:

Origins of Selected Plants
dandelions "Listed by John Josselyn in New-England’s Rarities, published in 1672, under the category: 'Of such plants as have sprung up since the English planted and kept cattle in New England.'
from Emergent vegetable of the Urban Ecosystem
barley "Barley has a very debatable origin. There are two different thoughts as to where barley was originally cultivated. J.R Hardin says that barley cultivation originated in Egypt. There is evidence of barley grains found in pits and pyramids of Egypt over 5000 years ago. There has also been ancient glyphs or pictorials showing barley dating back to 3000 BC. There have also been references to barley and beer making in ancient Egyptian and Sumerian writings. The other thought is that barley was originally cultivated in China around 1500-2000 BC. This is evident by ancient pottery found depicting the end of the famine by having barley fall out of the sky"
from Ethnobotanical Leaflets International Web Journal
white clover "First cultivated in northern Europe. Ladino clover, is a large form of white clover, originated near Lodi in the Po River Valley in northern Italy."
from University of Massachusetts Extension Service
Kentucky bluegrass "Kentucky bluegrass is native to practically all of Europe, northern Asia and the mountains of Algeria and Morocco. Although the species is spread over all of the cool, humid parts of the U.S., it is not native to North America. Apparently the early colonists brought seed of Kentucky bluegrass to this country in mixtures with other grasses."
from Richard L. Duble, Turfgrass Specialist, Texas A&M University
oats " from about 1000 BC in Central Europe. However, the Greeks and Romans of classical times were unimpressed, regarding oats as coarse, barbarian fare; and the Romans used them mainly as animal fodder, but did foster the growing of oats in Britain, where they were to become important as a food for human beings."
from The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson, Oxford University:Oxford, 1999, p. 547.
sugar and sugar cane "Sugar cane originated in New Guinea where it has been known since about 6000 BC. From about 1000 BC its cultivation gradually spread along human migration routes to Southeast Asia and India and east into the Pacific. It is thought to have hybridised with wild sugar canes of India and China, to produce the 'thin' canes. It spread westwards to the Mediterranean between 600-1400 AD. Arabs were responsible for much of its spread as they took it to Egypt around 640 AD, during their conquests. They carried it with them as they advanced around the Mediterranean. Sugar cane spread by this means to Syria, Cyprus, and Crete, eventually reaching Spain around 715 AD."
from Plant Cultures: Exploring Plants and People
rice "Scientists have found the oldest known domesticated rice. The handful of 15,000-year-old burnt grains was discovered by archaeologists in Korea. Their age challenges the accepted view that rice cultivation originated in China about 12,000 years ago. The oldest known rice was discovered by Lee Yung-jo and Woo Jong-yoon of Chungbuk National University in South Korea. They found the ancient grains during excavations in the village of Sorori in the Chungbuk Province."
from BBC News, October 2003
wheat "Wheat is believed to have originated in south­western Asia. Some of the earliest remains of the crop have been found in Syria, Jordan, and Turkey. Primitive relatives of present day wheat have been discovered in some of the oldest excavations of the world in eastern Iraq, which date back 9,000 years. Other archeological findings show that bread wheat was grown in the Nile Valley about 5,000 B.C. as well as in India, China, and even England at about the same time. Wheat was first grown in the United States in 1602 on an island off the Massachusetts coast."
from Dr. Lance Gibson, Iowa State University


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