Article ID: CBB415554806

Stalking Wild Maize: Taxonomy, Plant Exploration, and the Search for Corn’s Origins in South America (2024)


In the twentieth century, plant explorers in many countries were enlisted in the assembly of seed and plant collections that brought together hundreds and sometimes thousands of varieties of the same crop species. These collections were, and are, understood chiefly as the foundations for effective plant breeding. Crop seed collections, like other biological collections, were also essential tools of taxonomy; their study was both conditioned by and productive of evolutionary narratives about plant cultures and human natures. A search for Zea mays (maize or corn) and its wild relatives in South America in the 1940s revealed that developing taxonomies of cultivated plant species, especially accounting for distinct local forms of these crop plants, was a profoundly interdisciplinary enterprise. It was also a project conditioned by researchers’ expectations of the places, peoples, and plants that they would encounter. The taxonomy of maize, like other taxonomic enterprises, emerged as a mirror of those who taxonomized.

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Article Anne E. C. McCants; Anya Zilberstein (2024) Introduction. The Journal of Interdisciplinary History (pp. 297-304). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Larsson, Eleanor
Birkhead, Tim R.
Curry, Helen Anne
Harris, Stephen A.
Maroske, Sara
Matchett, Karin
Archives of Natural History
Environment and History
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Historical Records of Australian Science
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Bodleian Library
Oxford University Press
Biological specimens
Classification in biology
Collectors and collecting
Grain crops; Cereals; Grasses
Natural history
Mueller, Ferdinand, Baron von
Parkinson, Sydney
Rothschild, Lionel Walter
Krushchev, Nikita
Mahfouz, Naguib
Naumann, Johann Friedrich
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
15th century
16th century
18th century
United Kingdom
Great Britain
Soviet Union
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Zoological Society of London
Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne
Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland
University of Oxford (UK)
Finnish Museum of Natural History, Helsinki

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