April 24, 2017

Ancient Wonder

Punica granatum - pomegranate

Janine Pineo Photo | Punica granatum – pomegranate

Looking at a pomegranate on a shelf in the market might not scream “ancient wonder,” but the truth is that this plant readily traces back through millennia, where its remains have been found in Bronze Age sites on the West Bank. Its path through the ancient world can be traced across the Middle East and India and along the Silk Road. Originating in the area of Persia (modern Iran), this plant thrives in semi-arid conditions and can be extremely long-lived: some plants at Versailles have survived for more than two centuries. A shrub or small tree, the pomegranate tends to send up suckers. Punica granatum is grown here in the United States in more arid regions, being introduced to California in 1769 by Spanish settlers, where it is now an important commercial crop. It was already being grown in the South, with Thomas Jefferson planting it at Monticello in 1771. It can survive to about 12 degrees, but it won’t set fruit in regions with winters that cold.