Plant Domestication - Table of Dates and Places

Table of Dates and Places

Fig Tree
Is the Fig Tree the Earliest Domesticated Plant?. David Cayless / Getty Images

The domestication of plants is one of the first and most crucial steps in developing a full-fledged, reliable agricultural (Neolithic) economy: to successfully feed a society from a set of plants, you have to be able to control the growing seasons and continuously improve the harvest. The earliest experimentation with plant tending, called horticulture, is much older than the estimates for the domestication histories listed here, traced back into the Mesolithic and perhaps even the Upper Paleolithic of some 20,000 years ago.

That is where the true origins of agriculture lie.

What is a Domesticated Plant?

The traditional definition of a domesticated plant is one that has had its wild, native characteristics altered such that it cannot grow and reproduce without human intervention. That process is by no means a one-directional movement. The humans must tend the crops; the crops must produce the best forms.

Today, scientists recognize that domestication is the result of an immensely slow process, hundreds or thousands of years, during which a symbiotic relationship between the plants and humans took place. This is called co-evolution because during domestication both plants and human behaviors evolved to suit one another.

Co-Evolution

In the simplest form of co-evolution, a human harvests a given plant selectively, based on the preferred characteristics, picking the largest or sweetest fruits, and then uses the seeds from the best fruits to plant the next year.

By deliberating caring for a plant, and replanting seeds from what she interprets as the best and most successful plants, she is selecting what properties survive, and which are extinguished.

But scholars have discovered that process is complicated by long-distance trade in seeds, by accidental or purposeful cross-breeding with wild forms, and by experimentation and selection over thousands of years, as both the plants and human behavior intertwine.

Plant Domestication Table

The following table contains links to articles on various domestication histories. Its contents are compiled from a variety of sources, and if you follow the links you will read the latest information about each plant and detailed descriptions of the domesticated plants will be added to as I get to them. Thanks again to Ron Hicks at Ball State University for his suggestions and information.

See the Animal Domestication table for the latest on animals.

PlantWhere DomesticatedDate
Fig treesNear East9000 BC
Emmer wheatNear East9000 BC
Foxtail MilletEast Asia9000 BC
FlaxNear East9000 BC
PeasNear East9000 BC
Einkorn wheatNear East8500 BC
BarleyNear East8500 BC
ChickpeaAnatolia8500 BC
Bottle gourdAsia8000 BC
Bottle gourdCentral America8000 BC
RiceAsia8000 BC
PotatoesAndes Mountains8000 BC
BeansSouth America8000 BC
Squash (Cucurbita pepo)Central America8000 BC
MaizeCentral America7000 BC
Water ChestnutAsia7000 BC
PerillaAsia7000 BC
BurdockAsia7000 BC
RyeSouthwest Asia6600 BC
Broomcorn milletEast Asia6000 BC
Bread wheatNear East6000 BC
Manioc/CassavaSouth America6000 BC
ChenopodiumSouth America5500 BC
Date PalmSouthwest Asia5000 BC
AvocadoCentral America5000 BC
GrapevineSouthwest Asia5000 BC
CottonSouthwest Asia5000 BC
BananasIsland Southeast Asia5000 BC
BeansCentral America5000 BC
Opium PoppyEurope5000 BC
Chili peppersSouth America4000 BC
AmaranthCentral America4000 BC
WatermelonNear East4000 BC
OlivesNear East4000 BC
CottonPeru4000 BC
ApplesCentral Asia3500 BC
PomegranateIran3500 BC
GarlicCentral Asia3500 BC
HempEast Asia3500 BC
CottonMesoamerica3000 BC
SoybeanEast Asia3000 BC
Azuki BeanEast Asia3000 BC
CocaSouth America3000 BC
Sago PalmSoutheast Asia3000 BC
Squash (Cucurbita pepo o.)North America3000 BC
SunflowerCentral America2600 BC
RiceIndia2500 BC
Sweet PotatoPeru2500 BC
Pearl milletAfrica2500 BC
SesameIndian subcontinent2500 BC
Marsh elder (Iva annua)North America2400 BC
SorghumAfrica2000 BC
SunflowerNorth America2000 BC
Bottle gourdAfrica2000 BC
SaffronMediterranean1900 BC
ChenopodiumChina1900 BC
ChenopodiumNorth America1800 BC
ChocolateMesoamerica1600 BC
CoconutSoutheast Asia1500 BC
RiceAfrica1500 BC
TobaccoSouth America1000 BC
EggplantAsia1st century BC
MagueyMesoamerica600 AD
EdamameChina13th century AD
VanillaCentral America14th century AD
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Your Citation
Hirst, K. Kris. "Plant Domestication - Table of Dates and Places." ThoughtCo, Mar. 17, 2017, thoughtco.com/plant-domestication-table-dates-places-170638. Hirst, K. Kris. (2017, March 17). Plant Domestication - Table of Dates and Places. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/plant-domestication-table-dates-places-170638 Hirst, K. Kris. "Plant Domestication - Table of Dates and Places." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/plant-domestication-table-dates-places-170638 (accessed September 19, 2017).