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Plant Domestication

Table of Dates and Places

By

Fig Tree in the Judean Desert of Israel

Fig Tree in the Judean Desert of Israel

Saul Adereth

The domestication of plants is one of the first steps in moving towards a full-fledged agricultural economy, although the process is by no means a one-directional movement. A plant is said to be domesticated when its native characteristics are altered such that it cannot grow and reproduce without human intervention. Domestication is thought to be the result of the development of a symbiotic relationship between the plants and humans, called co-evolution, because plants and human behaviors evolve to suit one another. In the simplest form of co-evolution, a human harvests a given plant selectively, based on the preferred characteristics, such as the largest fruits, and uses the seeds from the largest fruits to plant the next year.

The following table is compiled from a variety of sources, and detailed descriptions of the domesticates will be added to as I get to them. Thanks again to Ron Hicks at Ball State University for his suggestions and information.

See the Animal Domestication table for the latest on animals.

Plant Domestication

 
Plant Where Domesticated Date
Fig trees Near East 9000 BC
Emmer wheat Near East 9000 BC
Foxtail Millet East Asia 9000 BC
Einkorn wheat Near East 8500 BC
Barley Near East 8500 BC
Chickpea Anatolia 8500 BC
Bottle gourd Asia 8000 BC
Bottle gourd Central America 8000 BC
Rice Asia 8000 BC
Potatoes Andes Mountains 8000 BC
Beans South America 8000 BC
Squash (Cucurbita pepo) Central America 8000 BC
Maize Central America 7000 BC
Water Chestnut Asia 7000 BC
Perilla Asia 7000 BC
Burdock Asia 7000 BC
Broomcorn millet East Asia 6000 BC
Bread wheat Near East 6000 BC
Manioc/Cassava South America 6000 BC
Chenopodium South America 5500 BC
Date Palm Southwest Asia 5000 BC
Avocado Central America 5000 BC
Cotton Southwest Asia 5000 BC
Bananas Island Southeast Asia 5000 BC
Beans Central America 5000 BC
Opium Poppy Europe 5000 BC
Chili peppers South America 4000 BC
Amaranth Central America 4000 BC
Watermelon Near East 4000 BC
Olives Near East 4000 BC
Cotton Peru 4000 BC
Pomegranate Iran 3500 BC
Hemp East Asia 3500 BC
Cotton Mesoamerica 3000 BC
Azuki Bean East Asia 3000 BC
Coca South America 3000 BC
Sago Palm Southeast Asia 3000 BC
Squash (Cucurbita pepo ovifera ) North America 3000 BC
Sunflower Central America 2600 BC
Rice India 2500 BC
Sweet Potato Peru 2500 BC
Pearl millet Africa 2500 BC
Marsh elder (Iva annua) North America 2400 BC
Sorghum Africa 2000 BC
Sunflower North America 2000 BC
Bottle gourd Africa 2000 BC
Saffron Mediterranean 1900 BC
Chenopodium China 1900 BC
Chenopodium North America 1800 BC
Chocolate Mexico 1600 BC
Coconut Southeast Asia 1500 BC
Rice Africa 1500 BC
Tobacco South America 1000 BC
Eggplant Asia 1st century BC
Vanilla Central America 14th century AD

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