Differences between Teosinte Species

Some have been interested in my older post about growing teosinte here in Northern Colorado in 2011 (and 2010). So since there is so little information about teosinte, and so few good pictures i will be showing some of the pictures i took in 2011. There is quite a lot of diversity between the different teosinte species. From my growing of teosinte in 2011 i am fairly certain that modern corn’s (maize) main ancestor is the Zea mexicana form of teosinte. Zea parviglumis was the next closest, but i do not believe it’s growth habit matches close enough to be the main ancestor. Based on the work done by mary eubanks with teosinte-tripsacum hybrids i hypothesize that modern corn cobs are an emergent trait from the hybridization between Zea mexicana and Zea parviglumis.

Here are my pictures from 2011:


Zea mexicana was the 1st closest to modern corn. Had no tillers, tall upright growth. very cool.


The main stalk of the Zea parviglumis was actually much larger and thicker, but was damaged by a squirrel early in the summer. What you see now is the largest tiller.


Zea luxurians is really interesting because it has an enormously thick stalk. But it was short.


This Zea diploperennis was planted in a bad spot this year. It never got very big. Last year one was planted in a good spot, and had tons of growth. This variety of teosinte is amazing in it’s full glory. I hope to someday grow it again and get a good photo.


Overview: Zea mexicana is unique in the fact that it is tall and grows without any tillers. The “Northern Tepehuan Maizillo” variety of teosinte was able to reach the pollen stage in 2010 and had green pollen and also grows very tall, but last year did branch out once right before getting mature pollen. So far, only Zea mexicana and “Northern Tepehuan Maizillo” are the only two species of teosinte to reach the pollen stage before winter here in Colorado. Zea parviglumis was the first to have leaves as big as corn leaves, Zea luxurians was second, and Zea mexicana was third. Zea huehuetenangensis seemed the most primitive. Only Zea mexicana and the N. Tepehuan teosinte have ever reached the pollen stage here in my garden. Zea mexicana is the only one to reach the silking stage and early seed stage.

I personally suspect that a hybrid between Zea mexicana and Zea parviglumis could have led to the development of modern corn.

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