Is a Petunia Really Tobacco?

Nicotiana is a genus of plants and shrubs with twenty or so species of tobacco.

The Petunia is related to Nicotiana, the tobacco plant.  The Petunia was given its name in 1789 by French botanist Antoine Laurent de Jussieu (1748-1836). He drew his inspiration from what he knew: at the time, ‘pétun’ was the local word for tobacco.

I did not connect tobacco and petunias until about twenty years ago.  My wife had lots of flowers on our patio, and she assigned me to “deadhead” her petunias.  After handling this chore a few times, it dawned on me that the stickiness on my fingers was very like the tobacco gum that we got on our hands and arms when working with tobacco leaves.

What is tobacco gum? A sticky substance on the surface of the tobacco leaf.  It clings to anything that touches it and leaves a black residue that is very hard to wash off.  At the end of a day in the tobacco field, a worker will be completely covered with it.  For those who are familiar with the petunia’s stickiness, handling uncured tobacco leaves is best described as deadheading petunias that are six feet tall and on super steroids.

Wikipedia. “Nicotiana.” Last updated June 18, 2020. Accessed July 5, 2020. https://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Nicotiana