Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nicotiana tabacum

Nicotiana tabacum, or cultivated Tobacco, is a perennial herbaceous plant. It is found only in cultivation, where it is the most commonly grown of all plants in the Nicotiana genus, and its leaves are commercially grown in many countries to be processed into tobacco. It grows to heights between 1 to 2 metres. Research is ongoing into its ancestry among wild Nicotiana species, but it is believed to be a hybrid of Nicotiana sylvestris, Nicotiana tomentosiformis, and possibly Nicotiana otophora.

Scientific Classification.

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Nicotiana
Species: N. tabacum

The leaves are simple, with the blade partially surrounding the stem. Flowers are tubular, white, borne in large clusters above the foliage.

Nicotiana seeds are produced in abundance and are very fine. They can be sown any time in spring, but will produce considerably more growth if sown early in the season. Hold off early sowing if it is unseasonally cold, as frost will kill Nicotianas. Mix the seeds with about twice their volume of sand and sprinkle the mixture on the surface of your growing medium. They can be sown in seed trays, pots, or if it is warm enough, directly into soil. Water pots or trays from below by placing the trays/pots in a sink or large container and letting the water seep upwards through the holes in the bottom by capillary action. When most of the surface is moist, remove them from the water and leave to drain. Place them inside a propagator (heated if available). They require a temperature of 21°C to germinate. They also require light, so don't try to germinate them in the airing cupboard. They should germinate within a week.

Nicotianas are beautiful plants, growing to between one and two metres in height depending on the variety and growing conditions. They have huge green leaves and very sweet-scented flowers which range in colour from white to purple, through pink and red, for N. tabacum, or yellow (or even white or green) for N. rustica. They are straightforeward to grow.

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