The discovery, typification and rediscovery of wild emmer wheat, Triticum turgidum subsp. dicoccoides (Poaceae) - Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew research repository
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The discovery, typification and rediscovery of wild emmer wheat, Triticum turgidum subsp. dicoccoides (Poaceae)

22 May 2020

Abstract

Wild emmer, Triticum turgidum subsp. dicoccoides, is an annual tetraploid wheat characterized by a brittle spike axis that spontaneously disintegrates at maturity. It occurs widely in the so-called Fertile Crescent of the Near East and is of great importance for understanding wheat evolution and for breeding modern wheat cultivars tolerant of extreme heat and dryness. Wild emmer was first collected by Theodor Kotschy on Mt Hermon in Lebanon in 1855, but was not found again for more than half a century. Friedrich August Körnicke was first to realize that Kotschy's specimen represented an ancestral form of hexaploid bread wheat, T. aestivum, but, although he gave it a name, he did not describe it. Paul Ascherson and Paul Graebner were the first to provide a description, basing it on information received in a letter from Körnicke. In doing so, they validated Körnicke's suggested name T. sativum var. dicoccoides and made Kotschy's specimen the holotype. Five years later, on the basis of information received from Ascherson and Georg Schweinfurth in Berlin, Aaron Aaronsohn rediscovered wild emmer on Mt Hermon and started to send specimens for further study to Europe. Soon afterwards he also discovered it east of the river Jordan, while Theodor Strauss collected the first specimens in Iran. This paper focuses on the as yet widely unappreciated herbarium record, listing and commenting on early specimens collected in the wild as well as those cultivated in botanical gardens up to 1910.

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