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Northwood seeds

Possibility of an existing English strain of tobacco?

squeezyjohn

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#1
Further to posting an old link I was aware of about the history of growing tobacco in my area of England (mainly in the 1600s - but documented as continuing possibly up until the year 1900 illegally) - I had a look online for more about this interesting history of tobacco. And I have found that there is anecdotal evidence of people seeing wild tobacco plants as recently as 1998 in that area.

My interest is definitely piqued by this that there might exist a residual pool of plants from this historical planting in the fields and hedgerows of Gloucestershire ... and I think I might go plant hunting in the next few weeks.

The information I have read stated that the varieties that the first Gloucestershire growers planted in the 1600s was a rustica tobacco - and as such it was very easy to tell the difference between legally imported N.Tabacum from the colony in Virginia and the home-grown illegal rustica. Now knowing the growing habit of rustica, I am absolutely convinced that there's a good possibility that it could have easily self-seeded and grown wild over that length of time given how hardy and prolific it is. If it does still exist ... it would have self-selected and presumably become far more adapted to the British climate over 500 years.

Most of my information was gleaned from this excellent amateur historical website:
http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/Colin/Misc/Tobacco/TobaccoIndex.html

I think as now would be a good time to identify and spot tobacco growing wild ... I may have a bit of a seed-hunting expedition in the next few weeks. Starting with the footpath which goes between the villages of Hailes and Farmcote - less than 40 miles from my house!
 

squeezyjohn

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#2
I suppose as an afterthought that as there is no native tobacco species in England - and historically only ornamental scented Nicotianas are grown - it is quite unlikely that any remaining pool of 400 year old tobacco will have crossed with other varieties.
 
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SmokesAhoy

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#3
If you do find it growing wild now is the time to search, it might be really small with only the flowers as a dead giveaway.

Really cool idea though. If you do find any to grow next year you should document the grow. I would think by the side of highways mixed with weeds and wild flowers in the regions mentioned. Best of luck.
 

squeezyjohn

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#4
Yeah - that's my thought process.

The documented sighting in 1998 was along a public footpath that still exists - but given the widespread area over which the plantations apparently were ... this also seems like a great opportunity to convince myself that I need to walk around some areas I would otherwise not get out to. Even if I find nothing, it won't be time wasted!
 

holyRYO

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#5
How cool, tobacco archaeology! I drove by a field the other day, looked like tobacco was growing as a weed. Not a big historical deal, tobacco was grown all around here a few decades ago. Hope you find something!
 

squeezyjohn

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#6
I know - it's probably only knowledge for knowledge's sake ... but I find it massively interesting ... and it could potentially yield a variety that does well in northern climates.

But I've got to find it first!
 

DonH

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#7
The Rustica I grew last year (I let if flower and didn't bag it) self seed with several plants appearing for the two I grew. And that was after one of the coldest winters ever. The damn things flower so prolifically I wouldn't doubt that they could have established themselves in England down the centuries. Good luck!
 

deluxestogie

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#8
Of course, these wild tobacco sightings may result from the guerrilla grows of other folks. I would bet that any actually wild tobacco consists of volunteers from decorative Nicotiana plantings by little old ladies.

Bob
 

squeezyjohn

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#9
As someone who is a regular hedgerow forager for wild food plants all over the UK - I have never seen a single tobacco plant in the wild here. That's not to say that you're not correct Bob, but we growers are few and far between over here, and I don't think that the delicate little Nicotianas grown ornamentally could ever compete with our rampant weeds - whereas I could believe that of a Rustica strain!
 

squeezyjohn

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#14
So late this afternoon I made a quick 45 minute drive to the place in question and began a relaxed walk along the path which was cited as the one where the tobacco plant was seen in 1998. Relaxed because my job was to look at every plant along the way.

I had forgotten quite how beautiful the Cotswold hills are:

IMG_2094.jpg

Alas - I found nothing from the family Nicotiana ... as I realistically expected! Plenty of plants which could be mistaken for tobacco by people who don't know what they're looking for with big leaves on a flower stalk ... rose-bay willow herb, dock, nettles, burdock, and several I don't know the names of (but I'm sure they are not tobacco!)

But I had a beautiful summer walk in a place I would never have seen had I not taken this on ... so in my eyes it is all worth it!

I will be back to walk other paths and roads.

However - I did find this place ... a modern road in the town of Winchcombe called Tobacco Close ... just yards away from where the first tobacco field in 1619 is supposed to have been planted.

IMG_2096.jpg

Who knows if tobacco actually still grows wild from the original plantings ... I will keep on looking.
 

Jitterbugdude

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#16
Hey squeezy, I think you almost have it. You found a sign that says "Tobacco close", now look for another that says "Tobacco Real Close". That should put you in sight of the final sign that says "Tobacco Here!" BTW the Cotswold Hills look beautiful.
 

SmokesAhoy

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#17
Very beautiful. And as to Monty Python's Grail, that is the only movie I've seen in my life where I laughed so much I hurt.
 
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