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


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.

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  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 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.


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

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Correspondence to Charles B. Heiser.

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Heiser, C.B. The sunflower (Helianthus annuus) in Mexico: further evidence for a North American domestication. Genet Resour Crop Evol 55, 9–13 (2008).

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