History of Mirabilis expansa (Ruiz and Pav.) Standl.; Growth and Use in the Andes
Several documents concerning the history and growth of Mirabilis expansa (Ruiz and Pav.) Standl. (Nyctaginaceae), were found to be available by 2012 on international library and agency websites from South America. These documents, written in Spanish, had previously been difficult for this author to find in North America. Information in these documents and from additional papers and reports referenced in them, made it possible to summarize here what had been known historically about M. expansa. Modern research in Andean universities and agencies, completed but not seen by us prior to doing our research on M. expansa in southern Illinois, is included in the summary. Several points are covered in this material, including ideas on the origin of the crop, a list of indigenous names for the crop, and general descriptions of the appearance of several unnamed crop morphotypes grown in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. This information is considered relative to the appearance of and growth data from two crop morphotypes grown in southern Illinois. Additionally, there is information from the South American documents on ecological considerations for M. expansa in Latin America, germplasm information, how the crop has been grown traditionally, preparation of roots and stems for consumption including reduction of astringency and use in traditional dishes and for animal feed, and use of the leaves for fodder. Brief consideration is given here to invasive and rare Mirabilis spp. and how this relates to introduction of M. expansa into new locations, along with information on disease and pests known for the crop. Discussion includes our considerations for conservation of the crop, and comparison of Andean crop yields with published yield data for comparable crops grown in the United States.