Teosinte - Corn's Ancestor

Zea mexicana


This tiny "corn" cob is 4 cm long.  It is the seed pod of Teosinte, the ancient ancestor of modern corn.
Teosinte originated in Mexico and still grows wild in remote mountain areas of the Sierra Madre.

A tiny cob of Teosinte sits on a cob of modern Hopi Blue corn.

Link to a series of macro images of Teosinte seeds, pollen, silk and leaf structure.

Teosinte macro images 

Evolution from the tiny single rowed cob of Zea mexicana to the large multiple rowed corn of today took place over thousands of years. Corn became the staple food that fueled the creation of  the great Mesoamerican empires.

The people who constructed this 1500 year old Mayan temple at Xunantunich in Belize,
 revered corn and worshipped a corn god - Yum Kaax


Yam Kaax, the Mayan corn god.


Jared Diamond in his book "Guns, Germs and Steel" makes the case that the great civilizations of Mesoamerica, the Maya and Aztecs, flourished because of these people's long relationship with corn - thousands of years of mutation and human selection that catalyzed the evolution of Teosinte from a wild grass into modern corn.



Evidence supporting the Teosinte/Corn link has been found at 5000 year old sites in the Mexican highlands.

(5ooo Year Old Corn - National Academy of Sciences)

If you have any corn related images you would like to contribute to this site, contact me:
Images that would allow comparison of pollen, silk or leaf structure would be useful.

Page created by Wayne Campbell

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