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It is believed that the nicotiana plant has been around since 6,000 B.C. Christopher Columbus, upon his journey to the new land was offered the plants dried leaves from Native Americans as a gift. Upon his return, Europe started to grow the plant all over the country. By the 1600’s tobacco was so popular that it was often said it was as “good as gold” and was a frequent trade item. During the American Revolution, tobacco was key in helping to finance the war efforts. However after the war, scientist began to study to product more. It is at this point that they became aware of its harmful health qualities. [1]

Uses of the Nicotiana plant:

There are many different uses for the Nicotiana plant. For example, it can be used in some medicines, as well as a pesticide. One way that it can be used as a pesticide is by putting "a cigarette in a quart of water and let it stand overnight. The nicotine will release a poison into the water that you can use to spray and kill insects with."[2] In addition to being a pesticide, there "is now some intriguing new data suggesting that very low doses of nicotine can have dramatic effects in controlling the symptoms of Tourette's syndrome, a rare neurologic disorder characterized by physical tics and uncontrollable vocalizations which are often filled with obscenities."[3] According to this study, nicotine, used as a medicine, actually helped people that were infected with Tourette's. However, the most common and popular use of the Nicotiana plant is as a drug known as tobacco. The way that this plant is used as a drug is: cigarettes, cigars, snuff, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, and flavored shisha, which are smoked out of a hookah.[4] Tobacco has some vey strong chemical properties such as tolerance and dependency. When someone engages in smoking tobacco or chewing tobacco, they develop tolerance to it as well as an addiction. It has been estimated that 852 million people use tobacco products worldwide and 43.8 million people in the Untied States smoke.[5] “In addition to that, 8.9 million people used smokeless or spit tobacco, 13.2 million smoked cigars, and 2.2 million people smoked tobacco in pipes.”[6]

Characteristics of the Nicotiana plant:

There are between 67 - 70 different species of Nicotiana.[7] These plants come from a variety of different placed which range from “Australia, North America, and tropical South America.” Some noteworthy characteristics of these plants are as follows: these plants range from “less than 1 foot to over 10 feet, long-blooming, attractive plants with trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of green, white, red, and pastels. Some species have attractive foliage”[8] .


The Nicotiana tabacum is related to:

Some other well-known species are: “Nicotiana acuminata – Manyflower tobacco, Nicotiana glauca – Tree tobacco, Brazilian tree tobacco, shrub tobacco, mustard tree, Nicotiana suaveolens – Australian tobacco, Nicotiana sylvestris – South American tobacco, Woodland Tobacco.”[9]

Nicotiana acuminata
Nicotiana acuminate.png tobacco plant.jpgN. tabacum

Nicotiana glauca
second tobacco.jpg nicotiana-flowering-tobacco-1.jpg

Cultivation of Nicotiana tabacum:

Originally, seeds were scattered around the ground and farmers put different tarps or covers to protect them from frost. They would then return in April when the seeds began to germinate. However, farmers have learned that it is more effective to grow the plants indoors (if they can) and then transplant them outside when they are at a certain hight. Plants stated to be grown indoors so that the farmer could control the plants environment when it was young. They regulated how much sunlight the plants received, how much nitrogen was in the soil, its water intake and the temperature (if needed). After the plants were transported outside, they continued to grow until it was time for the harvest. The harvest is done annually and in the early stages of the harvest, it was completed by manual labor. This was tiresome work and was hazardous to the workers. For example, manny of them received nitrogen poison. This was caused by workers, without gloves, handling the wet leaves of the Nicotiana tabacum plant. In doing this, workers received enough nicotine as though they were smoking 50 cigarettes a day. As history progresses, this process became more and more effective though the use of technology. However, many small farmers continue to harvest their crops manually. The leaves are then hung out to dry. From there, they are then beaten into a sludge. The sludge can be dried and then is used in tobacco product around the world. [10]

The Scientific Classification of Nicotiana tabacum

"Domain: Eukarya
Tobacco is part of the domain Eukarya. The word eukarya can be broken down into "eu" meaning true, and "karya" meaning nucleus.
Tobacco belongs to this domain because it is composed of eukaryotic cells, which contain a true nucleus and many membrane bound organelles.
Kingdom: Plantae
Tobacco is part of the kingdom Plantae because it is a green plant that harvests most of its energy from sunlight via photosynthesis.
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Tobacco is part of the phylum Magnoliophyta, which is a group that contains all of the seed bearing vascular plants or otherwise known as angiosperms.
Class: Magnoliopsida
Tobacco is part of the class Magnoliopsida because the plant contains seeds within closed capillary structures called ovaries resulting in flowers. The dicotyledonous plants are also grouped within this class and they all have primary and secondary vascular tissue to allow for secondary growth in the plant.
Order: Solanales
Tobacco is part of the order Solanales because of its toxic nicotine content. Plants in the order Solanales possess branched hairs, often spines, and commonly have alkaloids, like poison ivy, associated with them, which makes them poisonous.
Family: Solanaceae
Tobacco is part of the family Solanaceae because they are dicotyledonous plants that are in the “nightshade family”, with coffee, the potato, but interestingly enough not the sweet potato. These plants have been highly cultivated over the years for consumer use among people. Most of the plants in this family are herbaceous with terminal clusters of regular flowers usually borne in a cyme with estipulate leaves. There are usually five sepals, petals, and anthers in this family of plants.
Genus: Nicotiana
Tobacco is part of the Genus Nicotiana because it is a group of herbs and shrubs in the “nightshade” family and are cultivated and grown to produce tobacco.
Species: tabacum
The most commonly used Nicotiana plant to make tobacco. Was introduced to Christopher Columbus by the Native Americans."[11]

Where Nicotiana plants can be found:

These plants come from a variety of different placed which range from “Australia, North America, and tropical South America," yet they originated in tropical South America. "Nicotiana tabacum grows most efficiently in warmer climates" which is why is originates in South America.[12] One of the most interesting aspects of this plant and that although it is originally from South America, "it can be found as far north as Sweden and as far south as Australia."[13]

American Distribution Circa 2004



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