Economic Botany

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 136–151

Notes on wild coffea arabica from southwestern ethiopia, with some historical considerations

  • Frederick G. Meyer


Coffea arabica L., the Arabica coffee plant, long known as a cultivated plant only, is now being documented as a wild plant for the first time. This plant, more especially the beverage coffee, came into prominence soon after the beginning of the 16th Century in Cairo and a little later in Europe. Yemen was the traditional source of Mocha coffee until seeds of the plant were taken to Java at the end of the 17th Century to begin an important industry in that island country. Traditionally, Ethiopia has been regarded as the center of origin of the Arabica coffee plant, yet authentic records of wild plants based upon documented material are not available in the older collections. On a trip to Ethiopia in 1961-62, I made the first serious attempt to documentC. arabica from rain-forest areas of the country, where the plant occurs spontaneously in many places. An interpretation of field data tends to show:
  1. (1)

    That the Arabica coffee plant (C.arabica) is abundant as a spontaneous component of the rain-forest between 3000 and 6000 ft. alt. in parts of Kaffa and Illubabor provinces in southwestern Ethiopia.

  2. (2)

    That modern man’s role in the domestication ofC. arabica in rain-forest districts of Ethiopia may date from relatively recent times. In no way can coffee be considered a refined crop in these districts, as are some food plants of the area, such as sorghum, maize, Ethiopian mustard, and the pulse plants.

  3. (3)

    That genetic variability in coffee plants in rain-forest districts of Ethiopia probably is much greater than in coffee plants grown in Latin America and in other areas of the world whereC. arabica is cultivated. Yemen was the major germ plasm center of cultivated Arabica coffee until a decade or two ago. But the coffee plant is not a native of Yemen.



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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1965

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frederick G. Meyer
    • 1
  1. 1.United States National Arboretum, Crops Eesearch Division, Agricultural Research ServiceUnited States Department of AgricultureWashington, D.C.

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