, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 129-146

Relationships ofAmaranthus caudatus

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Abstract

Three species ofAmaranthusare cultivated for their edible seeds:A. hypochondriacus L.,A. cruentusL., andA. caudatusL. The first two are native to Mexico and Guatemala, while the third originated in the Andes. Some authors recognize a fourth species,A. MantegazzianusPass. (A. edulisSpeg.), also from South America. Recent interest in amaranths as crops for improving Third World nutrition makes studies of relationships among amaranth species and intraspecific variation important. The weedy speciesA. hybridus L. (A. quitensisHBK) has been suggested as the progenitor ofA. caudatus, and it appears to be the closest wild relative of the crop. However, discovery of semidomesticated, darkseeded amaranths in Ecuador that are referable toA. caudatusraises some questions. The dark-seeded plants might represent a transitional form between the crop and its weedy progenitor, the product of independent selection of special forms ofA. hybridus, the result of introgressive hybridization between the crop and related weed, established escapes from cultivation, or remnants of the ancestor of the crop which may have been simply wildA. caudatusand notA. hybridus. Detailed morphological comparisons have been made among cultivated forms ofA. caudatus, the semidomesticate, andA. hybridus. Genetic data have been considered, and 2 mixed populations includingA. hybridusand the semidomesticate have been examined. Although all the other hypotheses cannot be eliminated, the dark-seededA. caudatusplants seem most likely to represent escapes from cultivation. Separate recognition ofA. Mantegazzianusdoes not seem warranted.

This paper is based on a portion of a dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the Ph.D. degree in the Department of Plant Sciences (now Biology) at Indiana University.