An Extinct Domesticated Subspecies of Erect Knotweed in Eastern North America: <i>Polygonum erectum</i> subsp. <i>watsoniae</i> (Polygonaceae)

TitleAn Extinct Domesticated Subspecies of Erect Knotweed in Eastern North America: Polygonum erectum subsp. watsoniae (Polygonaceae)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsMueller, NG
JournalNovon: A Journal for Botanical Nomenclature
Pagination166 - 179
Date PublishedJan-04-2018
KeywordsDomestication, Eastern Agricultural Complex, fruit morphology, paleoethnobotany, Polygonum

This paper provides a description of an extinct domesticated subspecies of erect knotweed (Polygonum erectum L.). Masses of erect knotweed achenes are often recovered from archaeological sites in eastern North America dating to ca. 3000–600 BP. Several paleoethnobotanical assemblages from the later part of this era (ca. 1000–600 BP) contain achenes that are outside the range of natural variation for erect knotweed. The most well preserved of these archaeological assemblages, a desiccated cache of achenes from the Whitney Bluff site, Arkansas (ca. 900 BP), is compared to four closely related species and subspecies of Polygonum L. The Whitney Bluff achenes are most similar to those of P. erectum, but differ from modern fruits of this species in three respects: (1) fruits are larger, (2) average pericarp thickness is reduced, and (3) fruit dimorphism is greatly reduced. These differences are typical of domestication syndrome in annual seed crops. The Whitney Bluff assemblage is described as the type specimen of a domesticated subspecies, P. erectum subsp. watsoniae N. G. Muell.