The Biogeography of Cultivated Plants

The biogeography of cultivated plants is an area of research complicated by the fact that humans have taken these plants wherever they have migrated and so have carried them far from their origin. Of course there are limits to where cultivated plants will grow. Tropical sugarcane cannot withstand frost and so cannot be grown in the temperate zone. Temperate sugar beet is not normally grown in the tropics. Some cultivated plants are more plastic. Corn grows in the tropics, subtropics, and temperate locales. Accordingly, humans have carried it to virtually every region on Earth. Of the other grasses, oats, wheat, rye, and barley are temperate plants whereas millet and sorghum are fit for the tropics and subtropics. Initially a weed in wheat and barley fields, rye grew where the climate was too cold and dry for wheat.

Of legumes, peas, chickpeas, and soybeans are temperate plants, whereas beans, like corn, may be grown in the tropics, subtropics, and temperate locales. Peanuts are a crop of the tropics, subtropics, and warm temperate zones. Of roots and tubers, the potato is surprisingly a tropical crop, but one grown at cool elevations. Consequently, it does well in cool, temperate locales. Sweet potato, yam, and cassava are tropical and subtropical plants. The carrot is a temperate plant. Among fruits, citrus grows in the tropics and subtropics. Pineapple is a tropical crop. Watermelon is a crop of the subtropics and warm temperate zone. The tomato may be cultivated in the tropics, subtropics, and temperate region. Grapes and cherries are temperate crops, and the olive is grown in warm temperate regions. Bananas and plantains are tropical crops. Among vegetables, leafy greens are temperate crops that will bolt in hot weather. The seedpod okra may be grown in warm temperate regions and the subtropics. The ornamental tulip is a cool temperate plant, whereas the rose grows throughout the temperate zone. The fiber crop cotton grows in the tropics, subtropics, and warm temperate locales.

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