, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 143-147

On the Origin of Almond

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Abstract

Almond, Amygdalus communis L., is an ancient crop of south west Asia. Selection of the sweet type marks the beginning of almond domestication. Wild almonds are bitter and eating even a relatively small number of nuts can be fatal. How man selected the sweet type remains a riddle. Also, the wild ancestor of almond has not been properly identified among the many wild almond species. Breeding experiment, which is the most critical test for identifying the wild progenitors of other crops, is ineffective in almond, because it is interfertile with many wild taxa. The so-called wild A. communis of central Asia cannot be regarded as a genuine wild form, but as a feral form, or remains of old afforestation. The wild taxa morphologically akin to almond, A. korshinskyi (H.-M.) Bomm. and A. webbii Spach, are also feral types occurring in the Middle East and southern Europe, respectively. The taxon A. fenzliana (Fritsch) Lipsky is the most likely wild ancestor of almond for three reasons: 1. It is a genuine wild type forming extensive thickets of large trees young seedlings and all the intergradations between them in nature; 2. Its morphology, and particularly the partially pitted grooved nut-shell are within the range of variation of almond, and 3. A. fenzliana is native of Armenia and western Azerbaijan in the Middle East where almond was apparently domesticated.