The Sisterhood of the Traveling Seed


A seed is surrounded by fruit as a means to encourage animals to eat the fruit and spread the seed. However, this is just one way for seeds to travel. Seeds can also travel by human actions. For a variety of reasons, humans have removed plants from their natural habitat and brought them to various parts of the world. While some plants have proven to thrive in their new environments, others have not had their desired effect. Some of the reasons that humans have transported seeds include the following: food, aesthetic value, medicine, clothing, and social status. Some plants have been very beneficial and useful, while others have become invasive and prompted eradication efforts. Anthropologists and historians have been able to track human migration and population via the mapping of plant migration. Traces of beans, grains, and medicinal plants have been found in the remains of deceased populations. Just like the introduction of a new human population to an area triggers a change in environment, social activity, and harsh conflict, the introduction of plant species has a similar effect on civilization. Michael Pollen discusses the economic turmoil brought upon by the introduction of the tulip in Europe, the race to revamp the feudal system with the potato, and the introduction to an advanced and competitive growing culture of marijuana enthusiasts.

Cotton was introduced to other places because of the ease in which its fibers could be spun into yarn, its strength, absorbency, and capacity to be washed and dyed. Tulipan was introduced to other places because of its ornamental value. Eggplant was introduced to other places because of its culinary uses. Kudzu was introduced to America because of its aesthetic value. Cannabis was introduced to America because of its medicinal properties.

Tulipan Africano:The African tulip was brought out of its native habitat by travelers looking to bring an aesthetically pleasing, robustly flowering tree into new settlements. The growing habits of the tree make it somewhat invasive, but it turns out there is an advantage to this in deforested areas, coaxing along the reestablishment of native species populations. It is claimed to be the most populous tree in the associated free state of Puerto Rico but is native to tropic, equatorial Africa. There it has been said to have links to traditional medicines and poisons. The girth and height of the tree, which is a heavy flowerer in the tropics, is useful for shade cover for humans and crops like coffee. The fast growing characteristic of the plant, and the fact that it can handle various soils makes it seem a viable species for reforestation. Sources point to its benefits in providing cover for other native plants to repopulate the forests of Puerto Rico. As it stands, the tree plays a vital role among other species in the creation of novel forests in the tropics. The plant also thrives in southeast Asian climates. In Hawaii and Florida, the African Tulip spruces up landscape diversity and aesthetics, but landscape enthusiasts and garden planners are wary of allowing too many trees to sprout and harm biodiversity and survival of nature plants.

Cotton:Cotton, of the genus Gossypium, is a plant that plays a role in nearly all aspects of life; it is a major driving force behind economies; it can be used in cooking, clothing, and medical suexternal image cotton2.jpgpplies; it even is used in specialty products such as flame-proof material. It is native to the tropical and subtropical regions from both the Old and New World. Currently, cotton is the primary natural fiber used by humans, and it is a major oilseed crop and major source of protein for animal feed. Because of its practical use in everyday life, people, of the Old and New World have been using it for thousands of years. Not only did cotton allow great nations such as India, Greece, England, and the United States to rapidly grow, it has also allowed for the advancement in agricultural techniques and technology. Although cotton is a crucial element in many products used all around the world, it does come with negative effects that one must be made aware of.

external image Kudzu.jpg

Kudzu: Kudzu originated in the Asian countries of China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. The Chinese and Japanese have used it for centuries as an herbal remedy as well as appreciating its overall beauty. The plant was brought to the 1876 Centennial Convention in Philadelphia, where many Americans admired the plant's green leaves and purple aromatic flowers. However, once introduced, the weed began to grow relentlessly and now occupies over seven million miles of the country, with most of this area being in the Southeastern states. Kudzu exemplifies the spreading of seeds by human actions and the accidental introduction of an invasive species to a new environment. Since the plant is outside of its natural habitat, it has yet to encounter natural predators to keep its growth in check. The spraying of herbicides and the use of kudzu as a forage crop have proven only partially successful. The plant that was once brought to America for its beauty has accidentally become one of the most invasive species. Humans are responsible for bringing kudzu seeds to the United States and the unintentional introduction of an invasive species that has resulted.

Cannabis: external image commersial-cannabis-growing.jpgOriginating in Central Asia back in the 7th century BC, cannabis is one of the most widely used drugs in North America. While many people enjoy its recreational use, it actually has significantly influenced the medical field. More and more research is being done to better understand the effects it has on the human body. It is being linked with relieving symptoms associated with glaucoma, headaches, and even slowing the development of tumors. More and more states are taking the necessary steps to legalize medical marijuana. The role it has played in today's society will only grow with its advancements in the medical field. Many partake in the moral debate cannabis leaves us of whether to make it legalized all together. From medical marijuana labs to the plants growing in grandma's backyard, cannabis will continue to flourish and researchers believe its now time to embrace mother nature's golden crop.


Eggplant: The eggplant is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia. For a while, it was not used as it primarily is used today (as food) because it was believed to be poisonous since it was part of the nightshade family. The eggplant was later domesticated and used as food, particularly in Indian and Chinese cuisines. The eggplant spread slowly to Europe, and eventually to North America when Thomas Jefferson brought it over and used it as a table ornament. Over time, the eggplant has changed such that cultivated eggplants are not as prickly as wild eggplants. Although China and India grow the majority of eggplant in the world, eggplants are now grown in various parts of the world as a result of humans spreading the eggplants' seeds.

Humans introduce all sorts of plants to foreign locations when they migrate. Many times, they do this as a form of preserving their way of life. The following link is to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault site. The Doomsday Vault contains seeds from many different plants, and it is an effort to protect heirloom and native species.

Seed Vault