Economic Botany

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 99–108

Weeds and Domesticates: Evolution in the man-made habitat

  • J. M. J. De Wet
  • J. R. Harlan

DOI: 10.1007/BF02863309

Cite this article as:
De Wet, J.M.J. & Harlan, J.R. Econ Bot (1975) 29: 99. doi:10.1007/BF02863309


Weeds evolved, and are still evolving, within the man-made habitat in three principal ways: from colonizers through selection towards adaptation to continuous habitat disturbance; as derivatives of hybridization between wild and cultivated races of domestic species; and through selection towards re-establishing natural seed dispersal mechanisms in abandoned domesticates. Domesticates differ from weeds primarily in degree of dependency on man for survival. They evolved from wild food plants which were brought into cultivation. The process of domestication was initiated when man started to propagate plants in successive generations by means of seed or vegetative propagules. Phenotypic changes associated with planting and harvesting are species specific, and are brought about by natural selection under conditions of cultivation. Artificial selection by man during the domestication process is primarily responsible for subspecific variation in domestic species.

Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. M. J. De Wet
  • J. R. Harlan
    • 1
  1. 1.Crop Evolution LaboratoryDepartment of Agronomy University of IllinoisUrbana