Skip to main content

The sunflower (Helianthus annuus) in Mexico: further evidence for a North American domestication

Abstract

I have concluded that my initial verification of a specimen recovered from the San Andrés archaeological site in Mexico as domesticated sunflower was incorrect. The specimen in question is most likely the seed of a bottle gourd. As yet there is no compelling evidence that the sunflower was grown as a food crop in Mexico prior to European contact. In addition, the complete absence of any early historical record for the sunflower in Mexico argues against its presence in pre-Columbian times. Although no dates or boundaries can be set, the wild sunflower may have grown in northernmost Mexico in early times. A southward range expansion for the species is probably very recent, perhaps in the last few hundred years with the development of a modern road system. The widely used common names of the sunflower in Mexico are in Spanish or with Spanish words in them, which suggests that the sunflower is a post-contact arrival.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. Carbonized archaeological sunflower achene from San Andrés, Mexico: not available. Various difficulties prevented securing the photograph and permission to use it. In addition to the original source (Lentz et al. 2001) it may be seen in Smith (2006) as well as on http://www.pnas.org.cgi/content/full/103/33/12223. The achene as shown in the photo is 8.2 mm long. Originally it was slightly longer; the tip was broken off while it was at Indiana University.

References

  • Asch DL (1993) Common sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.): the pathway to its domestication. Paper delivered at 58th annual meeting, Society for American Archaeology, St. Louis, 17 May 1993

  • Bukasov SM (1930) The cultivated plants of Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia. Bull Appl Bot Genet Plant Breed 47:470–553

    Google Scholar 

  • Callen EO (1969) Diet as revealed by coprolites. In: Brothwell D, Higgs E (eds) Science in Archaeology, Basic Books, NY, pp 186–194

    Google Scholar 

  • Dressler RL (1953) The pre-Colombian cultivated plants of Mexico. Bot Mus Leaf Harv Univ 16:115–172

    Google Scholar 

  • Harter AV, Gardner E, Falush D, Lentz D, Bye R, Rieseberg L (2004) Origin of extant domesticated sunflowers in eastern North America. Nature 430:201–205

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Heiser C (1945) The Hopi sunflower. Missouri Botanical Garden Bull 33:163–166

    Google Scholar 

  • Heiser C (1951) The sunflower among the North American Indians. Proc Am Philos Soc 95:432–448

    Google Scholar 

  • Heiser C (1973) Variation in the bottle gourd. In: Meggers BJ, Aynesu ES, Duckworth WD (eds) Tropical forest ecosystems in Africa and South America: a comparative review. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington

    Google Scholar 

  • Heiser C (1998) The domesticated sunflower in old Mexico? Genet Resour Crop Evol 45:447–449

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Heiser C (2002) Letter. Econ Bot 55:470–471

    Google Scholar 

  • Heiser C, Smith DM, Clevenger SB, Martin WC (1969) The North American sunflowers. Mem Torrey Bot Club 22:1–218

    Google Scholar 

  • Lentz DL, Pohl MED, Pope KO, Wyatt AR (2001) Prehistoric sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) domestication in Mexico. Econ Bot 54:370–376

    Google Scholar 

  • Lentz DL, Pohl MED, Pope KO, Wyatt AR (2002) Letter. Econ Bot 55:471–472

    Google Scholar 

  • McDonald JN (1981) North American bison: their classification and evolution. University California Press, Berkeley

    Google Scholar 

  • Martínez M (1959a) Las plantas medicinales de Mexico. Ediciones Botas, Mexico

    Google Scholar 

  • Martínez M (1959b) Plantas útilis de la flora mexicana. Ediciones Botas, Mexico

    Google Scholar 

  • Martínez M (1979) Catálogo de nombres vulgares y científicos de plantas mexicanas. Fondo de Cultura Económica, Mexico

    Google Scholar 

  • Miksicek CH (1986) Paleobotanical identifications. Appendix 2. In: Demarest AA (ed) The archaelogy of Santa Leticia and the rise of Maya civilization. Middle American Research Institute, Publication 52, Tulane University, Publication, New Orleans

  • Patiño VM (1964) Plantas cultivadas y animales domesticos on America Equinocial. Tomo II. Plantas Alimenticias. Imprenta Departamental, Cali

    Google Scholar 

  • Pennington C (1963) The Tarahumar of Mexico. University Utah Press, Salt Lake City

    Google Scholar 

  • Pennington C (1979) The Pima Bajo of central Sonora, Mexico. University Utah Press, Salt Lake City

    Google Scholar 

  • Piperno DR (2001) On maize and the sunflower. Science 292:2260–2261

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Ramírez Celastino C (1991) Plantas de la regíon Nahuatl del centro de Guerrero. Centro de Investigaciones y Estudias Superiores en Antropología Social, México

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith BR (2006) Eastern North America as an independent center of plant domestication. Proc Nat Acad Sci 103:12223–12228

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • True RH (1912) Seeds and plants imported. Inventory no. 26. Entry no. 29984. US Dep Agric Bull 233, Washington, DC

Download references

Acknowledgements

G. Anderson, M. Crouch, P. Davila, G. Fritz, A. Ocampo, L. Rieseberg, M. Schell, and B. Smith.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Charles B. Heiser.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Heiser, C.B. The sunflower (Helianthus annuus) in Mexico: further evidence for a North American domestication. Genet Resour Crop Evol 55, 9–13 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10722-007-9300-z

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10722-007-9300-z

Keywords

  • Bottle gourd
  • Domesticated sunflower
  • Girasol
  • Helianthus annuus
  • Lagenaria siceraria
  • Maíz de teja
  • Mexico
  • North America
  • Plant domestication