This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
A tender annual cultivated for its grain, which is used both for human and live-stock food, and for the herbage which is used as forage. As a horticultural crop, it is grown primarily for the unripe grain or for pop-corn.
The word maize, Spanish maiz, is derived from the name Mahiz, which Columbus adopted for this cereal from the Haytians. Maize has not yet been found truly wild. Its close relationship to a native Mexican grass called teosinte, Euchloena mexicana, is indicated by the known fertile hybrids between this species and maize as pointed out by Harshberger. Teosinte and the only other species which show close botanical relationship to maize are indigenous to Mexico. In fact the evidence all shows that maize is of American origin, although its original form has not yet been discovered, nor has its evolution from other types been completely traced. DeCandolle concludes that maize is not a native of the Old World but is of American origin, and that it was introduced into the Old World shortly after the discovery of the New, and then was rapidly disseminated.
Very early in the exploration and settlement of the New World, the whites learned from the natives the use of maize as food. Several of the Indian names for preparations of food from this cereal were adopted or adapted by the settlers and passed into the English language,-as for example hominy, samp, and succotash. In the English-speaking colonies, maize was grown as a field crop under the name Indian corn, but later the tendency was to drop the word Indian so that this cereal is now known in American agriculture and commerce by the simple word corn. The word corn has thus come to have a specific meaning on this continent which does not attach to it in the British Isles.
Corn now holds first rank among the agricultural products of the United States, both in the area devoted to its cultivation and in the value of the annual crop. The types known in garden culture in this country are the sweet corns and the pop-corns; the other types, which are more strictly agricultural, may be designated as field corns. Sweet corn and pop-corn are also grown as field crops in comparatively limited areas, the sweet corn either as a truck crop or for canning, and the pop-corn to supply the demand for this product in our domestic markets. Only the types of sweet corn and pop-corn will receive attention in this article.
Zea almost uniformly has been considered by botanists as a monotypic genus, its one species being Zea Mays. But Z. Mays is an extremely variable species, including groups which are separated by definite characteristics. As a working classification, that proposed by Sturtevant is the best which has yet appeared. He describes seven "agricultural species." These are Zea tunicata, the pod corns; Z. everta, the pop-corns (Fig. 1058); Z. indurata, the flint corns; Z. inaentata, the dent corns; Z. amlyacea, the soft corns; Z. saccharata, the sweet or sugar corns (Figs. 1058,1059, 1060); Z. amylea-saccharata, the starchy sweet corns. Z. canina, Wats., is a hybrid form, as shown by Harshberger. Z. Mays, Linn., belongs to the natural order of grasses or Grami-neae. Culms 1 or more, solid, erect, 1 1/2 - 15 ft. tall, or more, terminated by a panicle of staminate flowers (the tassel): internodes grooved on one side: branches ear-bearing or obsolete: leaves long, broad, channeled, tapering to the pendulous tips, with short hyaline ligules and open embracing sheaths: flowers monoecious, awnless, usually proterandrous; staminate flowers in clusters of 2-4, often overlapping; 1 flower usually pedicelled, the other sessile or all sessile; glumes herbaceous; palea membranaceous; anthers 3, linear.
The ear contains the pistillate flowers on a hard, thickened, cylindrical spike or spadix (cob), which is inclosed in many spathaceous bracts (husks); spikelets closely sessile, in longitudinal rows, paired in alveoli with hard, corneous margin; flowers 2 on a spikelet, the lower abortive; glumes membranaceous; style single, filiform, very long (silk); ovary usually sessile: ear variable in length and size, often distichous; grain variable in shape and size. The color ranges from white through light and dark shades of yellow, red and purple to nearly black.
Fig. 1058. Kernels of corn on the cob - sweet corn behind, pop-corn in front. ( X 1/2)