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THE ORIGIN OF GARDEN PLANTS AND THE FSU CONTRIBUTION

The North American Center


North America is the second richest Centre, with 650 native species or about 13% of the garden plants in cultivation throughout the world. This Center embraces a certain number of floristic Regions situated in the North American continent: the southern part of the Circumboreal, the North American Atlantic, the Rocky Mountains, and the northern part of the Madrean Region. Vavilov did not consider these regions as sources of cultivated plants because most of the economically useful plants came to North America from the "Old World". However, Vavilov believed that the South and Central American centres, including the southern areas of the Madrean Region were of importance. Since a large part of North America is situated in the Temperate zone, two-thirds of all American plants can be grown in the open in Europe as well. North American plants began to be introduced to Europe in the 17th century. One of the pioneer trees happened to be the black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). This plant took its Latin name "Robinia" after Jean and Vespasian Robin, the French gardeners who were the first to introduce it to Europe in 1636. In Russia, the black locust appeared in the 18th century and due to its rapid growth pattern and beauty became very popular in the southern regions, especially in the South of Russia and Ukraine. There the black locust was named for its flowers and became known as "white acacia".

There were remarkable collections of American plants in Europe in the 18th century. These collectios of living plants played a significant role in plant introduction. For example, the Quaker, Peter Collinson (1694-1768), raised a large collection of American plants in Great Britain. Plants were sent to him by the American naturalist, John Bartram (1699-1777). Thanks to Collinson and Bartram many well-known North American plants began to appear in Europe during the first half of the 18th century. In particular Phlox paniculata was established in 1743, and soon became popular in many countries. At about that same time there was a great flurry of activity that generated new interest in woody ornamentals. Due to the efforts of gardeners almost all woody species now in general cultivation in European gardens were introduced by the mid-18th century. Among them were: the bird cherry (Prunus serotina), black walnut (Juglans nigra), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), red maple (Acer rubrum), eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), box elder (Acer negundo), balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera), red oak (Quercus rubra), and others. Herbaceous plants in common use in European gardens included phlox (Phlox paniculata), perennial lupin (Lupinus polyphyllus), coneflower (Rudbeckia hybrida hort., and R. laciniata) and species of coreopsis (Coreopsis), sneezeweed (Helenium), columbine (Aquilegia) and evening primrose (Oenothera). Recently a new wave of interest in American plants has developed. Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), may apple (Podophyllum peltatum), wake-Robin (Trillium spp.) and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) are considered very fashionable by Russian gardeners.

THE ORIGIN OF GARDEN PLANTS
 
 
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