Salads for everyone—a look at the lettuce plant
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The group of species from which lettuce originated is indigenous to the eastern Mediterranean Basin, probably Egypt.
Lettuce was most likely domesticated in Egypt, moving at an early date to Rome, Greece and later to China. It moved to the Americas shortly after their discovery, and as early as 1806 seedsmen listed more than a dozen cultivars from the United States.
Lettuce is a self-fertilized species which, under cultivation, has produced an abundance of variation, mostly in leaf size, shape, texture and color, and the arrangement of the leaves on the stem.
Variation in lettuce can be accounted for by early interspecific hybridization, and the protection of many mutants undesirable under natural conditions, but favorable under cultivation.
An analysis of the characters that separate these two species indicates thatL. sativa could be derived fromL. serriola by intensive selection.
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