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An Introduction to Common Buckwheat
Common buckwheat is recommended both as a small grain crop for home gardens and as a green manure/cover crop.
This has naturalized in some areas, including much of Europe and parts of northern North America, and can be persistent after it has escaped from cultivation. This occurs in waste places and cultivated ground.
The Many Names of Common Buckwheat
Buckwheat has been called many common names over the years. These names include various kinds of corn from Saracen and Greek to tartar and heathen corn. Some of the English common names include beech wheat, brank, and willow-wand. This is also known as French wheat.
The sharp edged seeds are said to resemble beech mast, which is why it is also known as beech wheat, which is similar to a German term, buchweize. It is also called heiden korn in Germany, which translates as heath corn.
Fagopyrum, the name for the Latin genus, means beech-like, comes from the Latin for beech (Fagus) and the Greek for wheat (pyros).
The common name buckwheat could have come from several sources. Some experts say it comes from boc, an Anglo-Saxon word for beech, and whoet for wheat. Others say it came from the German word for beech—buche.
Description of Common Buckwheat
This freely branching, erect summer annual reaches three feet in height. The reddish stems can be hairy. The growth habit of this species differs from that of Tartary buckwheat, which can be viney. This species tends to be stouter than Tartary.
Common buckwheat has deep green, large foliage. These leaves can be around three inches in length with a matching width. The upper leaves lack leafstalks. The leaf can range in shape from arrow-like or triangular to heart-like.
These plants are indeterminate, meaning they can flower and fruit until hit by frost. The plants contain two distinct kinds of perfect, very fragrant
flowers. These are called dimorphic. A single plant only has one kind of
bloom. One type of flower is self-fertile. These will only produce seeds very
late in the season. The other type is cross-pollinated, usually by bees (90% of visits are by bees). Pollination is generally considered helpful for the second type of flower. Apparently some Pennsylvania studies showed that the plant can still produce a crop even without cross-pollination. However, cross pollinated flowers produce more grain than the unpollinated ones. The pollen grains of the two flower types differ in size.
The common buckwheat has larger blooms than Tartary. Although most of the blooms arise terminally from the upper part of the plants, these can also be present in the axils. The flowers appear in dense terminal clusters and long stalked, crowded racemes.
The calyx looks like petals, and has five parts. This consists of five sepals arranged in a whorl. The sepals are typically white. However, they can also be rose, whitish-green, and pinkish-green. Most flowering occurs from July onwards.
The fruits of the common buckwheat are larger than those of Tartary buckwheat. The seeds are triangular. The edges of the seeds lack the grooves seen on the Tartary. Though the seeds of common buckwheat are usually shiny and bright brown, they can also be dull. The surface can be smooth or rough. These are 1/3 inch long.
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