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Traditional management and morphological variation in Leucaena esculenta (Fabaceae: Mimosoideae) in the Mixtec region of Guerrero, Mexico

Casas, A., Caballero, J.
Economic botany 1996 v.50 no.2 pp. 167-181
terminology, wild foods, home gardens, domestication, seeds, pods, plant morphology, flavor, plant cultural practices, crop management, harvesting, ethnobotany, taxonomy, artificial selection, edible species, population, Mexico
Ethnobotanical information about uses, management and traditional classification ofLeucaena esculenta by the Mixtec in Guerrero, Mexico, is presented. This plant is mainly used as human food. Buds of leaves and flowers as well as seeds and young pods are the main edible parts. Size, flavor and digestibility of seeds and pods are shown to be important in the Mixtec classification ofLeucaena species and in selection of trees to harvest during gathering. Artificial selection inL. esculenta subsp.esculenta by the Mixtec occurs not only under cultivation, but also in wild populations where people eliminate some individuals while promoting the growth of others with favorable phenotypes. Morphological characters of seeds and pods of individual trees of this subspecies were measured in order to compare phenotypic variation in populations subject to different regimes of management. Samples of trees were analyzed from a) a wild population not affected by intentional disturbances; b) a wild population selectively managed in situ; and c) a sample of cultivated individuals. Ordination methods and analysis of variance were used to examine differences between populations. A marked divergence between the three samples was found, especially between the wild populations managed and unmanaged. The frequency of the phenotypes preferred by people was found to be higher in the wild populationin situ managed. Our study confirms that through in situ forms of management, people are able to modify the phenotypic structure of plant populations. Possible routes of plant domestication within plant populationsin situ are suggested.