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Teosinte Vs Corn [Unfold 5 Main Differences]

If you are here to connect the evolution dots between Corn and Teosinte plants following the recent escalating debate about Teosinte vs. Corn, we got you covered.

Both the Corn and Teosinte belong to the same genus, Zea, and produce edible kernels. However, through selective breeding over many years, Teosinte was transformed into the currently cultivated Corn with large-size kernels, with better yield.

Besides, Teosinte and Corn have different growing habits, leaf structure along with variation in kernels size and taste.

Follow along to learn more about the differences between these botanically related plants.

Are Corn and Teosinte the Same Species?

Corn (Zea mays) and Teosinte (Zea spp) share the same genus but are not the same species.

While both plants barely have visual likeness, Teosinte and Corn have similar genetic makeup, given their same family, Poaceae.

Due to the same reason, it is believed that Teosinte is the ancestor and Corn is its variance after its gradual domestication.

Teosinte underwent a long process of selective breeding and cultivation for Corn with desirable traits like larger ears, increased kernel size, improved taste, and better suitability for cultivation.

Teosinte and Corn: Similarities

Native to the North American Region, Teosinte and Corn are monocots cultivated and utilized by indigenous people for thousands of years.

Teosinte, like Maize, has a diploid chromosome number of 2n = 20. To make it simple, their somatic cells (non-reproductive cells) contain 20 chromosomes arranged in homologous pair.

Other than the genetic similarities, here are some physical resemblances between Corn and Teosinte.

  • Corn and Teosinte have long narrow leaves and jointed stems belonging to the grass family.
  • Both plants have elongated, feathery tassels located at the top of the plants.
  • Most of the Corn and Teosinte varieties are annual. So, they complete their life cycle within a single growing season.
  • Roots are fibrous adventitious types, forming dense networks that provide stability, and facilitate nutrient uptake.
  • These kernel producers rely on wind to carry pollen from the tassel (male flowers) to the silk (female flowers).

Teosinte Vs Corn: Major Difference

Corn and Teosinte have more physical differences than its similarities.

1. Growth Habits

Both the Corn and Teosinte have upright growth habits, with one growing a little taller than the other.

Generally, Teosinte can grow quite tall (10 feet or more) and has multiple lateral branches, resulting in a more bushy appearance.

The Corns, however, are a little short, ranging between 5 to 8 feet in height. They have fewer lateral branches leading to more compact growth with a single main stalk.

2. Ears and Kernels

Another significant difference to help you correctly identify the plant is the ear size and kernel arrangement.

Teosinte produces small ears (5-8 cm) with a single row of kernels. Meanwhile, Corn kernels are uniform and oval, tightly packed in rows covering a 25-30 cm cob.
A normal Corn and Teosinte on a palm
A side-by-side comparison gives you a clear picture of the difference.

Further, the Teosinte kernel is smaller than Corn and triangular, spaced apart with irregular distribution on the cob.

Moreover, an average harvestable Maize has around 500-600 kernels per ear. But each Teosinte ear barely produces over 10-12 kernels.

3. Leaf Structure

Corn and Teosinte have notable differences in leaf, reflecting their distinct evolutionary path.

Normally, Corn leaves are 2 to 6 inches broad and 15-30 inches long, providing great surface area for photosynthesis. While Teosinte leaves may extend a little longer but are narrow and more grass-like.

You’ll notice the Corn leaves extending horizontally from the stem, but the other is more upright.

4. Kernel Taste and Texture

The sweet, starchy, and soft textured Corn is a staple in various cuisines and can be enjoyed in several forms.

Crunchy popcorn during the movies or crispy nachos with sour cream, you can have them as it is. Otherwise, process, cook, and consume these versatile grains.

Most of it is due to the selective breeding and cultivation of Corn over thousands of years to make it suitable for human consumption.

On the other hand, Teosinte is not typically cultivated for edible purposes due to its fibrous texture and less palatable taste.

Not to mention the hard outer covering that requires more effort and processing, limiting their direct consumption.

Fun Fact: The U.S. consumed 12.4 billion bushels of Corn in 2021/2022, making it the largest consumer of the Corn in the world.

5. Hardiness Zone

Comparing the growing condition of Corn vs Teosinte, Corn is more adaptable to various climates.

Generally, Teosinte thrives in warm climates from zone 9 to zone 11, where the minimum temperature is around 20-40°F. But, you can grow Corn in a wide climatic zone, i.e., from zone 3 to 9.

The cold-tolerant Corn varieties include Polar Bear, Golden Bantam Improved, Trucker’s Favorite, and Luther Hill.

Further, they can perfectly adapt to zone 3 and 4, owing to their suitability for shorter growing seasons, unlike the Teosinte.

From Editorial Team

Be Aware of Choking Hazards!

Kernels of Corn and Teosinte can pose a choking hazard, especially if you have pets and young children.

Mitigate the risk by cutting and crushing the kernels into smaller pieces before serving.

Also, always supervise your kids and pets while consuming Corn to avoid any unpleasant events.