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Genus Zea Family Poaceae

Description: Tall robust annuals or perennials with prop roots and solid culms.

Ligule membranous, glabrous or ciliate; blade rolled in bud, broad, usually with a few hairs, conspicuously 2-ranked, margins often wavy.

Inflorescences of 2 types; male with spikelets in long spike-like racemes on a terminal primary axis ('tassel'); female with sessile spikelets in rows on a thickened woody or spongy axis of a solitary spike ('ear' or 'cob') in the axils of the lower leaves, the whole enclosed in several large tight spathes ('husks') and with long thread-like styles ('silk') exserted from an opening at the top of the spathes. Male spikelets paired, similar, 1 sessile and 1 shortly pedicellate; glumes subequal, acute or acuminate, 7–11-nerved, ciliate towards the tips. Female spikelets paired, similar, both sessile.

Distribution and occurrence: World: 4 species, C America. Australia: 2 species (naturalized), N.S.W., W.A.

Widely cultivated as a grain for stock feed and human consumption; also grown as a fresh vegetable and a forage crop There are a number of commercial types, e.g., dent (most commonly grown in U.S.A.), flint, pop, flour and sweet corns. The grain is also used to make confectionary, starch, industrial chemicals, beverages, alcohol and syrup.

Zea mays (Corn, Maize) is the 3rd most important cereal in the world.

Text by Jacobs, S.W.L.. Whalley, R.D.B. and Wheeler, D.J.B.
Taxon concept: Grasses of NSW Fourth Edition (2008)

One species in NSW: Zea mays

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