The Columbian Exchange

A Profound Event

Imagine a world where Florida has no oranges, there are no bananas in Ecuador, no paprika in Hungary, no zucchini or tomatoes in Italy, Ireland has never heard of the potato, there are no pineapples in Hawaii or rubber trees in Africa, no cattle in Texas, no burros in Mexico, no chile peppers in Thailand, no cigarettes in France and no chocolate in Switzerland, not even dandelions growing in your yard. This was the world before Columbus' voyages to the Americas.



The voyages of the early colonial explorers in a sense bridged the oceans. Once isolated continents were brought into contact with each other sharing not only information and culture but biological diversity as well. It is an ongoing process even today, the effects of which we are only beginning to understand. Columbus could never have dreamed how much his "discovery" would change the world.

The introduction of European plants, animals, culture and microbiology totally transformed the Americas. Few traces of what Pre-Columbian life was like exist so complete was this alteration. What is even more amazing is the impact that the New World would have on the Old. Indigenous life, especially native food plants would completely change cultural norms throughout the planet.

The results of this biological exchange still impact us today. The world-wide introduction of non-native species has altered physical and cultural landscapes and altered the world's biodiversity.


Last updated: April 14, 2015

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