A brief note on the rediscovery of Durango teosinte

In 1896, Edward Palmer, an ethnobotanist with the Peabody Museum of Harvard University, collected teosinte near Durango, Mexico. Palmer collected both herbarium specimens, which were deposited at several major herbaria (Palmer 743, MO, US, F, BM and K), and seeds which were never successfully increased. Dr. H. V. Jackson of Durango also collected seed from this region, which he sent G. N. Collins of the U.S.D.A. Jackson's seed was successfully increased in southern California, but later the collection was apparently lost. Then in 1921, Collins visited the Durango region and found teosinte at the following locality:

. . . along the bank of an old irrigating ditch at Alcalde Ranch, Anavacuyan, about 15 miles east of Durango." (Collins, 1921, Teosinte in Mexico, J. Hered. 12:339-350).

Collins collected both herbarium specimens, which were deposited at several U.S. herbaria (Collins 15, US, WIS), and seeds which were subsequently incorporated in numerous genetic studies from the 1920s until the 1950s. These studies include:

1. Beadle, 1932. Studies of Euchlaena and its hybrids with Zea. I. Chromosome behavior in E. mexicana and its hybrids with Zea mays. Zeitschr. Abst. Vererb. 62:22-9-1-304.

2. Arnason, 1936. Cytogenetics of hybrids between Zea mays and Euchlaena mexicana. Genetics 21:40-60.

3. Longley, 1937. Morphological characters of teosinte chromosomes. J. Agric. Res. 54:835-862.

4. O'Mara, 1939. Cytological observations on Zea-Euchlaena hybrids. Genetics 24:82-83.

5. Mangelsdorf, 1947. The origin and evolution of maize. Adv. Genet. pp. 161-207, New York.

6. Rogers, 1950. Fertility relationships in maize-teosinte hybrids. Texas Agric. Exp. Sta. Bull. 730.

7. Ting, 1958. Inversions and other characteristics of teosinte chromosomes. Cytologia 23:239-250.

Apparently, Collins' collection of Durango teosinte was not maintained and its use in genetic experiments ceased in the 1960s. In 1963, Wilkes (1967, "Teosinte: The Closest Relative of Maize") attempted to relocate Collins' station but was not successful.

On October 1, 1982, the author, Lowell R. Nault, and a group of entomologists from the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center were in the Durango area collecting Tripsacum and leaf hoppers (Dalbulus ssp.). Our attempt to relocate Collins' station was successful. The locality data are:

Ca. 2-3 km NE of Alcalde, a Pueblito 20 km ENE (by air) of Durango. 24o04'N, 104o31'W, 2050 m alt. Doebley No. 625.

The population is reasonably large with teosinte plants occurring along at least a 1 km stretch of a small stream and irrigation ditch. Teosinte grew in thickets with other weedy species, including members of the genera Salix, Ipomoea, Bidens, Tithonia, Solanum, and Cosmos. Very few teosinte plants were found on the edges of maize, sorghum and Capsicum fields which bordered the stream and canal. Though maize was abundant in the region, only a single teosinte-maize hybrid was observed among about 100 plants checked. The plants were typical of Zea mays L. ssp. mexicana (Schrader) Iltis Race Central Plateau or Nobogame.

Plants slender to moderately robust, 1-2 m tall, untillered but commonly with branches emerging from nodes along upper half of mainstem; leaf sheaths green or slightly red with a fringe of long, soft hairs along its edge and near the auricle; tassels with (0-) 5-15 (rarely more) branches; male spikelets 7-10 mm long (mean 8.1 mm); weight of 100 fruitcases 6.4 gr.

An examination of the isozyme constitution of Durango teosinte revealed it to be similar to Central Plateau, Chalco, and Nobogame teosintes (Doebley, Goodman and Stuber, Syst. Bot., in review). Both herbarium specimens and seeds were collected. Seeds are presently being increased and will be deposited at the U.S.D.A. Plant Introduction Station at Experiment, Georgia.

John F. Doebley


Please Note: Notes submitted to the Maize Genetics Cooperation Newsletter may be cited only with consent of the authors.

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