Alphonse De Candolle-Origin of Cultivate Plants, Classes of Economic Plants, Regions of First Origin
Posted on : 02-01-2019 Posted by : Admin


Food is the basic need of human beings. Ancient people initially obtained their food from the wild plants and as the time passed by people started to cultivate the wild plants. The traditions of the ancient people played a very prominent role in origin of cultivate plants. The beliefs of these people gave a sense of divinity and holiness to plants. Hence people learned to take care of plants and agriculture came into existence. People began to cultivate all useful plants in vast restricted areas.

Ancient Greek and Roman naturalists like Theophrastus, Pliny, Elder and Galen laid down scientific foundation for the domestication of wild plants. Alexander von Humboldt also considered the origin of useful plants a big secret. Finally, Darwin’s evolutionary theory suggested that origin of useful cultivated plants occurred through natural selection and hybridization.


Alphonse De Condolle: Origin of cultivated plants

Alphonse Louis Pierre de Candolle was a Swiss botanist who worked on phytogeography. In 1883, he published his work “Origin of cultivated plants” based on the evidences from ancient literature and ethnological studies. His work consists of ancestral forms; regions of domestication and history of 247 species of cultivate plants.

According to Candolle, cultivated plants have originated sometime in the remote past from wild ancestors in rather restricted areas of the world. He also considered that each crop had a single region of origin. Candolle recognized six classes of economic plants. The following is the list of plants included in each class:

Class 1: Old world plants that have been cultivated for over 4,000 years

  • Millets: Setaria italic, Panicum miliaceum, Pennisetum typhoideum
  • Rice: Oryza sativa
  • Sorghum: Sorghum vulgare
  • Wheat: Triticum vulgare
  • Eggplant: Solanum melongenum
  • Apple: Pyrus malus

Class 2: Old world plants that have been cultivated for over 2,000 years

  • Oats: Avena sativa
  • Rye: Secale cereale
  • Sugarcane: Saccharum officinarum
  • Poppy: Papaver somniferum
  • Walnut: Juglans regia
  • Beet: Beta vulgaris

Class 3: Old world plants that have been cultivated for less than 2,000 years

  • Coffee: Coffea arabica
  • Lady’s finger: Abelmoschus esculentus
  • Parsely: Petroselinum crispum
  • Parsnip: Pastinaca sativa
  • Buckwheat: Fagopyrum esculentum

Class 4: New world plants that have been cultivated for more than 2,000 years

  • Maize: Zea mays
  • Kidney bean: Phaseolus vulgaris
  • Cocoa: Theobroma cacao
  • Sweet potato: Ipomea batatas
  • Tobacco: Nicotiana tabacum

Class 5: New world plants that have been cultivated before the time of Columbus

  • Cotton: Gossypium sps.
  • Potato: Solanumtuberosum
  • Guava: Psidium guajava
  • Avocado: Persea americana
  • Pineapple: Ananas comosus
  • Vanilla: Vanilla Planifolia

Class 6: New world plants that have been cultivated since the time of Columbus

  • Blackberry: Rubus biflorus
  • Cinchona: Cinchona sps.
  • Rubber: Hevea brasiliensis
  • Strawberry: Fragaria vesca
  • Plum: Prunus domestica

Today people have learned how to grow fruits with no seeds, stopped premature fruit falling, tremendously increased yield by plant breeding techniques, created new species, directed plants to flower according to a specified schedule, developed selective herbicides and produced specific drugs and vitamins.


Regions where first cultivated plants originated

Majority of the plants were cultivated first during historical times and hence have very poor evidence. The paleontological data is usually entirely unavailable for cultivated plants and archaeological data is very poor and fragmented.

In the beginning of nineteenth century the origin of most of the cultivated species was not known.  No species was common to the tropical regions of the two hemispheres before cultivation.

Strawberry, chestnut and mushrooms were common to northern regions of the world. A great number of species originated in Europe, India, West Asia, Brazil, Colombia,

In short the original distribution of the cultivate species was very unequal. There was no proportion with the needs of the man and the number of plants cultivate.


Whay are plants cultivated?

Various plants were cultivated for various useful properties the plant has. For example, plants were cultivated,

  • For their subterranean parts like roots, bulbs and tubers     
  • For their stems and leaves
  • For the flowers
  • For their fruits
  • For their seeds

The majority of plants more recently brought under cultivation are of less economic importance than those longer known. The discovery of new continents and increased facilities of transportation and communication between the peoples of world resulted in a more extensive use and distribution of existing varieties. Many valuable new races and varieties of species previously cultivated have been developed and efforts are constantly being made to improve existing varieties.

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