The Wild Ancestor of Phaseolus Vulgaris in South America

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Abstract

Scientific certainty that the common bean originated in the New World scarcely dates back a hundred years. After analyzing well preserved prehistoric Phaseolus vulgaris seeds from the graves of Ancon in Peru, Wittmack (1880 and 1888) concluded that the common bean was of South American origin. His conclusion differed from the established opinion among contemporary or earlier botanists who felt that the common bean had originated in Asia (Gibault, 1912). Linnaeus (1753), for example, assigned the origin of the common bean to India. He created two binomes — Phaseolus nanus (dwarf) and P. vulgaris (climbing) — but was not aware of a South American wild ancestor. He worked probably under the assumption that these two taxa existed in their homeland as two well differentiated species. In reality, these presumptive species were two conspecific landraces or primitive cultivars which had been introduced from the Americas indirectly to Sweden and had survived the adverse photoperiodic and climatic conditions of Uppsala. Consequently, the species denomination “P. nanus” was abandoned.