A pretty mind-blowing feat of genetic engineering, when you consider it's been around for quite a few thousands of years. See, remember that maize is not a natural grain and can't be. There are no fields of wild maize growing out there; the plant cannot grow wild. It makes lots of seeds (kernels) on its cob, where they are held very tightly. It has no way to scatter its seeds! That's a death sentence for a plant species in the wild: it would choke under its offspring. The only way it could have evolved into such a state is if it was done by conscious intervention, presumably by human farmers trying to increase their yield and its quality. And it's also the only way it kept going. And we must have done it to ol' Zea Mays a very long time ago. Wow.

core10k: There certainly are plants that use birds to scatter their seeds. They make seeds that stick to their feathers or beaks, or pass undigested through their bodies. But maize kernels have no such advantages. They are held quite firmly in the cob, so a bird has to peck them out. Any that are knocked free and not eaten have no way of going any further; they're easily digested or rotted, are too heavy to get blown by the wind (the cob holds them too tightly for that most of the time anyway) and not round enough to roll far. They wouldn't get very far, and you'd be in the same boat.

Maize (?), n. [Sp. maiz. fr. mahiz or mahis, i the language of the Island of Hayti.] Bot.

A large species of American grass of the genus Zea (Z. Mays), widely cultivated as a forage and food plant; Indian corn. Also, its seed, growing on cobs, and used as food for men and animals.

Maize eater Zool., a South American bird of the genus Pseudoleistes, allied to the troupials. -- Maize yellow, a delicate pale yellow.


© Webster 1913.

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