The natural frontiers of a global empire: The Pineapple—Ananas comosus—In Portuguese Sources of the 16th Century

Teresa Nobre de Carvalho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The great oceanic voyages had unexpected consequences on the pace with which plants moved between the most far-removed corners of the globe. From the mid-sixteenth century onwards, the huge distances covered led to an unprecedented change in the distribution of vegetable species. Settlers and voyagers took European plants with them and introduced them into the Americas, Africa, and Asia. African plants were transferred to America and Asia, and Asian species were dispersed across all continents. These biological transferences led to global changes in people’s dietary habits and therapeutic practices, as well as giving rise to new business opportunities and previously untested ways of exploiting the land. Originally from Brazil, the pineapple—Ananas comosus—made a great impression on those who came across it. Refusing to take root in the cold European latitudes, the fruit crossed the Atlantic Ocean aboard Portuguese ships in search of other territories with an adequate climate. In this essay, I will analyze the references to pineapple in the chronicles, botanical texts, and missionaries’ letters in circulation in the 1500s. I will examine the cultural context that permitted the diffusion of this botanical species and follow the oceanic routes traced by this exotic plant that allowed the wide dissemination of the fruit throughout the Portuguese empire.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalHumanities
Volume9
Issue number89
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2020

Keywords

  • Ananas comosus
  • Pineapple
  • botanical knowledge
  • Portuguese empire
  • Early Modern Botany

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