Maize, more commonly known as corn, is a plant in the poaceae family. It’s scientific name is the Zea mays. The poaceae family is the grass family. It is a large, common family with about 12,000 grass species. The genus (Zea) is in the grass family, and it is an all corn species. There are many different types of maize. Field corn is one of them, and in the U.S. is used mainly to feed livestock, but in other countries is used for human consumption as well. Another is sweet corn, the type most commonly eaten in the U.S., is a genetic variation that accumulates more sugar and less starch in the kernels; it is usually shorter than field corn. Another type of maize is baby corn, popularly used in Asian cuisine, is a variety of maize developed to produce many small ears, rather than a few larger ones. Indian corn is another one and was originally the term applied to what we now know as maize, to differentiate it from the generic term of “corn” that Europeans used for all grains at that time. Popcorn the ability of maize kernels to “pop” and expand upon heating, was also discovered by the Native Americans. The species was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753, although it was used for thousands of years before. All kinds of maize grow basically the same way. Once the seed or kernel is planted in an inch or two of soil, it germinates in 5 to 12 days, depending on the variety and the soil temperature. Corn won’t germinate if the soil temperature is below 55° F. It germinates fastest in soil that’s 68° to 86° F. After the seed sprouts, it starts to develop its first leaves. These leaves seem like blades of grass when they sprout. As it grows, it develops a thick, fibrous stalk. The stalk can grow as tall as 15 feet, depending on the climate and variety. The roots of each plant grow down 3 to 5 feet and extend about 1 foot or so to each side of the stalk. However, some of the roots develop above the ground. The history of maize goes back 10,000 years. It was first domesticated from a wild grain by Aztec and Mayan Indians in Mexico and Central America. The first corn was a loose-podded variety that looked like the seed head at the top of wheat stalks. In North America, Native Americans taught European colonists to grow the indigenous grains, and, since its introduction into Europe by Christopher Columbus and other explorers, corn has spread to all areas of the world suitable to its cultivation. In fact, much of the early fighting that took place between the settlers and the Indians was over cornfields because if you lost your cornfield, you lost your food supply. Today, cross-pollination caused genetic changes that transformed the corn into the size we now know. Corn is still more popular in this country than anywhere else in the world. There are thousands of strains of corn, with more than 200 varieties of sweet corn alone. The pollination starts when the corn stalk reaches nearly two-thirds of its full height. The plant first develops straw-colored tassels near the top of it. These are the male flowers of the plant. A few days after corn tassels, the silks or stigma of the female flowers appear lower on the stalk. These long, threadlike silks develop from the newly formed ears of corn. Each silk corresponds to a single kernel within the ear, and each kernel must be pollinated in order to have a completely filled ear. The tassels contain pollen that falls down and is carried to the silks by the wind. The tassels produce much more pollen than will ever be needed, and the silks flutter about in the wind to catch drifting pollen. The surface of each silk has tiny hairlike receptors to hold the pollen once it lands. It then travels down the silk to the kernel area, where fertilization occurs. Even though it can pollinated without the help of humans, corn cannot disperse its naturally. The original seeds of the corn you see in the fields came from South America and is called teosinte, which is not inside of the corn cob. Humans need to remove the seeds from the cob first and then plant them. Maize also has large impact on the economy. Almost every part of the plant has some sort of economic value. The grain, leaves, stalk, and other parts can be used to produce a large variety of products. Even though the U.S. is known for the wide variety of crops its farmers are able to grow and bring to market, 90% of the grain we produce now comes in the form of corn. Overall, about 80 million acres of farmland are being planted annually with corn, and it has been increasing in recent years. The U.S. currently leads the world in per capita corn consumption. The average American consumes more than 1,500 pounds of corn every year. But, 20% of each year’s crop is exported to other countries, helping to reinforce our reputation as an international breadbasket. There are many characteristics of maize that are healthy. It not only provides the necessary calories for daily metabolism but is also a rich source of vitamin A, B, E and many minerals. The antioxidants in it act as anti-carcinogenic agents and also helps to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Maize has a cultural significance to it. It was one of the most popular foods in North America, South America, Mesoamerica, and Caribbean. In addition to growing well in these climates, maize was easily stored, could be eaten in a number of ways as a whole or in flour. One of the early Mesoamerican civilizations was the Mayans, a civilization that had its peak from around 2000 BC to 900 AD but still continues today. Maize was so important to the ancient Mayans that it even had spiritual and religious significance. But, maize also has a very huge significance in the world today.