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Zea mays - L.

Common Name Sweet Corn, Corn
Family Poaceae or Gramineae
USDA hardiness 2-11
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Not known in the wild.
Range Original habitat is obscure, probably S. America or Mexico.
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Zea mays Sweet Corn,  	Corn

Zea mays Sweet Corn,  	Corn


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Zea mays is a ANNUAL growing to 2 m (6ft 7in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 3 and is frost tender. It is in flower from July to October, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Wind.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Oil  Oil  Pollen  Seed  Stem
Edible Uses: Coffee  Oil  Oil

Seed - raw or cooked. Corn is one of the most commonly grown foods in the world. The seed can be eaten raw or cooked before it is fully ripe[1, 2, 33, 34] and there are varieties especially developed for this purpose (the sweet corns) that have very sweet seeds and are delicious[183, K]. The mature seed can be dried and used whole or ground into a flour. It has a very mild flavour and is used especially as a thickening agent in foods such as custards[183]. The starch is often extracted from the grain and used in making confectionery, noodles etc[183]. The dried seed of certain varieties can be heated in an oven when they burst to make 'Popcorn'[183]. The seed can also be sprouted and used in making uncooked breads and cereals[183]. A nutritional analysis is available[218]. The fresh succulent 'silks' (the flowering parts of the cob) can also be eaten[55, 183]. An edible oil is obtained from the seed, it is an all-purpose culinary oil that is frequently used as a food in salads and for cooking purposes[13, 46, 183, 238]. The pollen is used as an ingredient of soups[183]. Rich in protein, it is harvested by tapping the flowering heads over a flat surface such as a bowl. Harvesting the pollen will actually help to improve fertilisation of the seeds[K]. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute[183]. The pith of the stem is chewed like sugar cane and is sometimes made into a syrup[183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Seed (Fresh weight)
  • 361 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 10.6%
  • Protein: 9.4g; Fat: 4.3g; Carbohydrate: 74.4g; Fibre: 1.8g; Ash: 1.3g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 9mg; Phosphorus: 290mg; Iron: 2.5mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 140mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.43mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0.1mg; Niacin: 1.9mg; B6: 0mg; C: 0mg;
  • Reference: [ 218]
  • Notes:

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Cancer  Cholagogue  Demulcent  Diuretic  Hypoglycaemic  Hypotensive  Lithontripic  Stimulant  
Vasodilator  Warts

A decoction of the leaves and roots is used in the treatment of strangury, dysuria and gravel[218]. The corn silks are cholagogue, demulcent, diuretic, lithontripic, mildly stimulant and vasodilator[4, 9, 165, 176, 218]. They also act to reduce blood sugar levels and so are used in the treatment of diabetes mellitus[9, 218] as well as cystitis, gonorrhoea, gout etc[222]. The silks are harvested before pollination occurs and are best used when fresh because they tend to lose their diuretic effect when stored and also become purgative[9]. A decoction of the cob is used in the treatment of nose bleeds and menorrhagia[218]. The seed is diuretic and a mild stimulant[4]. It is a good emollient poultice for ulcers, swellings and rheumatic pains[4], and is widely used in the treatment of cancer, tumours and warts[218]. It contains the cell-proliferant and wound-healing substance allantoin, which is widely used in herbal medicine (especially from the herb comfrey, Symphytum officinale) to speed the healing process[222]. The plant is said to have anticancer properties and is experimentally hypoglycaemic and hypotensive[218].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Adhesive  Fuel  Oil  Oil  Packing  Paper

A glue is made from the starch in the seed[13]. This starch is also used in cosmetics and the manufacture of glucose[61]. A semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed[57]. It has many industrial uses, in the manufacture of linoleum, paints, varnishes, soaps etc[21, 61]. The corn spathes are used in the production of paper, straw hats and small articles such as little baskets[74, 171]. A fibre obtained from the stems and seed husks is used for making paper[189]. They are harvested in late summer after the seed has been harvested, they are cut into usable pieces and soaked in clear water for 24 hours. They are then cooked for 2 hours in soda ash and then beaten in a ball mill for 1½ hours in a ball mill. The fibres make a light greenish cream paper[189]. Be careful not to overcook the fibre otherwise it will produce a sticky pulp that is very hard to form into paper[189]. The dried cobs are used as a fuel[171]. The pith of the stems is used as a packing material[171].

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Requires a warm position a well drained soil and ample moisture in the growing season[16, 33]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 to 6.8[200]. Requires a rich soil if it is to do well[201]. Corn is widely cultivated for its edible seed, especially in tropical and warm temperate zones of the world[200], there are many named varieties[132]. Unfortunately, the plant is not frost tolerant and so needs to be started off under glass in Britain if a reasonable crop is to be grown. There are five main types:- Sweetcorn is of fairly recent development. It has very sweet, soft-skinned grains that can be eaten raw or cooked before they are fully ripe. Cultivars have been developed that can produce a worthwhile crop even in the more northerly latitudes of Britain if a suitable warm sunny sheltered site is chosen[238, K. Popcorn is a primitive form with hard-skinned grains. When roasted, these grains 'explode' to form the popular snack 'popcorn'[238]. Waxy corn is used mainly in the Far East. It has a tapioca-like starch[238]. Flint corn, which shrinks on drying, can have white, yellow, purple, red or blue-black grains[238]. It is not so sweet and also takes longer to mature so is a problematic crop in Britain. There are many other uses for this plant as detailed below. Dent corn has mostly white to yellow grains. This and Flint corn are widely grown for oils, cornflour, cereals and silage crops. Corn grows well with early potatoes, legumes, dill, cucurbits and sunflowers[18, 20, 201], it dislikes growing with tomatoes[20]. In garden design, as well as the above-ground architecture of a plant, root structure considerations help in choosing plants that work together for their optimal soil requirements including nutrients and water. The root pattern is fibrous dividing into a large number of fine roots [2-1].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow April in individual pots in a greenhouse. Grow on quickly and plant out after the last expected frosts. A direct outdoor sowing, especially of some of the less sweet varieties, can be tried in May.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Abado, Able, Aburow, Agbado, Awasi, Awi, Bara-jowar, Bhutta, Blefo, Bli, Buta, Chujak, Goinjol, Gomdhan, Igbado, Jagung, Janar, Jonar, Junri, Kaaba, Keto, Kolkoti, Kon,Kono, Kukri, Maka, Makai, Makka jonnalu, Makka-cholam, Makka, Makkai, Makkari, Makoi, Masara agwado, Massara, Mekkejola, Milho, Mokka-janna, Musukojola, Naham, Nyo, Oka, Oksusu, Shaa, Sil ni vavalagi, Ta-mank, Yu shu shu, ai, amylum maydis, awási, aya, corn, corn oi, 6 corn oil (unhydrogenated), corn silk, corn starch, corn syrup solids, corn|iringu, dent corn, dura shami, field corn, flint corn, gangnaengi, granoturco, indian corn, maidis stigma, mais, maiz, maiz, aceite, maize, maize oil, refined, maize starch, majs, maydis amylum, maydis oleum raffinatum, maydis stigma, maíz, maíz, aceite refinado, maîs, maïs, milho, ogsusu, oleum maydis, pelos de elafe, pod corn, popcorn, refined maize oil, risoy genime sami, stigmata maidis, styli cum stigmatis zeae maydis, sweet corn, topical starch, to-morokoshi, yu mi shu, yu mi xu, yu shu shu, zein, zorrat.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Africa, Albania, Algeria, Andes, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Arabia, Argentina, Armenia, Asia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Balkans, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Britain, Burkina Faso, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central Africa, Central African Republic, Central America, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo DR, Congo R, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, East Africa, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, France, French Guiana, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guiana, Guinea, Guinée, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Korea, Laos, Liberia, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico*, Moldova, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Africa, North America, Northeastern India, Pacific, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Rwanda, Russia, Saudi Arabia, SE Asia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Southern Africa, South America, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, St Lucia, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Tasmania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine, USA, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, West Africa, West Indies, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

Readers comment

MR. RAJIV MILI   Mon Sep 8 2008

The morphology of the crop plant has not been described. The inclusion of the morphological features may give a clear concept of the plant. In addition, It will help the student, researchers and the academic community throughout the globe. The new learner may also be benefitted from the same. So, it is our request you to provide the above mentioned information. With regards Rajiv Mili Researcher, GBPIHED, India

j mitchell   Fri Aug 22 2008

I have seen the various names for maize as cooked and used for food in africa.Whilst in Kenya as a child in Nakuru, the African folk called the thick sort of Putty consistency food with Meal and water POSHO.To eat with this they collected a wild form of Spinach they called MBOGA.They also used the Maize to make POMBE,their beer.What an amazing and versatilecrop.

Lawler Barnes   Sun May 31 2009

Nature Abhors a Garden Nature abhors a Garden for 11/30/08 discusses how Native Americans and Spaniards processed corn with lime to make it edible; the posting for 11.23/08 explores the emotional ties that exist to corn.

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Subject : Zea mays  
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