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How Old is the Sunflower in Mexico?
Contrary to Lentz et al. (1), I suggested that the sunflower was carried from North America to Europe, not from North America to Mexico. They also misinterpret a number of early documents. In the original Mexican edition of Herna´ndez, Xime´nez (2) neither included a drawing of sunflower nor indicated
its use by Indians (indios). Herna´ndez called the sunflower chimalacatl and variants, which translates as ''shield reed'' or ''shield flower.'' Lentz et al. concluded that when used in Sahagu´n (3) the term ''chimalacatl'' refers to sunflower.

They fail to mention that Herna´ndez (4) applies the term to more than one plant, however, while citing my paper in which this is reported. Two of the different chimalacatl described by Herna´ndez are pertinent here: Del CHIMALACATL acatlicpacense o escudo de can~a. . . . Cazrrizo de escudos,
esto es, propio para hacer escudos o rodelas (''Reed of shields . . . suitable for making shields or round shields''), and CHIMALACAXOCHITL o flor de chimalacatl . . . carrizo propio para escudos o rodelas, y xochitl, flor. (''flower''). These two chimalacatl are likely the shield reed and the shield
flower of Sahagu´n (3). Thus, Sahagu´n's drawings that Lentz et al. purport to be sunflowers (which do not resemble sunflowers) have to refer to another plant. I agree that Herna´ndez's description demonstrates his knowledge of sunflower, but this could have been acquired from observation of plants in Spain and his reading of herbals. From Monardes (2) he could have learned that the sunflower was used as an aphrodisiac, and almost certainly his designation of Peru as its homeland
comes from Dodonaeus (5). I have yet to see any historical records that confirm the early presence of the sunflower in Mexico.

Charles B. Heiser*

Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405

1. Lentz DL, Pohl MD, Alvarado JL, Tarighat S, Bye R (2008) Sunflower (Helianthus annuus
L.) as a pre-Columbian domesticate in Mexico. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105:6232-6237.

2. Heiser C (1998) The domesticated sunflower in old Mexico? Genet Resour Crop Evol 45:447-449.

3. Sahagu´ n B (1569) Florentine Codex. General History of the Things of New Spain. Book 9-The Merchants; trans Dibble CE, Anderson AJO (1959) (School of American Research, Univ of Utah, and Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe), No 14, Part X.

4. Herna´ndez F (1942) Historia de las Plantas de Nueva Espan~ a (Imprenta Universitaria, Mexico City, Mexico), Vol I.

5. Heiser C (1951) The sunflower among the North American Indians. Proc Am Philos Soc 95:432-448.

Author contributions: C.B.H. wrote the paper.

The author declares no conflict of interest.

*E-mail: chheiser@indiana.edu.

© 2008 by The National Academy of Sciences of the USA E48