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13.8 billion years ago: The universe starts with the big bang.
3.7 billion years ago: Deposits of ferrous oxide show the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere.
3.5 billion years ago: The oldest known deposits of stromatolites are from this period, containing blue-green algae believed to be the first plants.
2 billion years ago: Oxygen starts to become abundant in the atmosphere.
570 million years ago: The Paleozoic Era starts.
395 million years ago: The Devonian Period sees the beginning of vascular plants in the fossil record.
136 million years ago: During the Cretaceous Period, the first examples of flowering plants are seen.
50,000 B.C.: Date seeds and the remains of chestnut, walnut, pine nut, and acorn consumption are left behind at a site in the Shanidar Cave of northern Iraq.
17,000 B.C.: Twenty-five different types of fruit- and flower-producing plants are growing in the Nile Valley of Egypt.
8000 B.C.: Wheat and barley are cultivated in the Middle East. The cultivation and processing of grains play large roles in the development of civilization.
7000 B.C.: Flax is planted and becomes an early source for linens and oil. By 5,000 B.C., selective breeding of flax leads to an increase in seed size and yield.
6500 B.C.: Lentils, chickpeas, peas, and fava beans become major crops.
6300 B.C.: Chili peppers and beans are cultivated in the New World.
5000 B.C.: Corn cultivation starts in Mesoamerica, and rice and cabbage are grown in China.
4000 B.C.: Cotton seeds are cultivated in Pakistan, and grapes are grown in Afghanistan.
3000 B.C.: Sorghum is grown in sub-Saharan Africa.
2800 B.C.: China names five crops as sacred: soybeans, rice, wheat, barley, and millet.
2750 B.C.: A coffin in Egypt is made from six different kinds of wood glued together like plywood.
2737 B.C.: Tea is brewed for the first time in China.
2000 B.C.: Pearl millet is grown in sub-Saharan Africa. Olives are abundant in the Mediterranean. China is planting fruit plants like peaches and apricots.
1550 B.C.: A medical scroll in Egypt gives a list of more than 800 medicinal plants and herbs. These include poppy seeds, anise, and garlic.
1325: Many different plant and seed remains are entombed with Tutankhamun, including figs, garlic, and olives.
1000 B.C.: Peanuts are cultivated in Peru.
694 B.C.: Cotton is introduced to Assyria.
500 B.C.: Bananas are grown in India.
300 B.C.: Theophrastus, the father of Greek botany, writes two extensive works on the field, Inquiry and Cause. The books cover more than 500 different plants.
250 B.C.: The Mayans cultivate cacao.
50 B.C.: Marcus Terentius Varro writes about Roman agriculture and crop rotations. Virgil writes about using manure and ashes to help replenish the soil.
40: Hippalus, a Greek merchant, uses monsoon schedules to plot quicker routes between Egypt and India to increase the spice trade.
50: Pedanius Dioscorides writes about medicinal uses for plants.
105: The first appearance of modern paper in China comes at the hands of Ts'ai Lun, who made paper from mulberry bark.
400: The Goth leader Alaric demands 3,000 pounds of black pepper to ransom Rome.
500: Coffee is discovered as a drink in the Middle East.
593: Tea is brought to Japan.
600: Muhammad owns a shop in Mecca that sells plant products like spices and oils.
746: The Germans and the Dutch start adding hops to beer production.
812: Charlemagne orders the production of specific spices and grains on lands he holds in Germany.
857: St. Anthony's Fire, an illness caused by a toxic fungal infection in rye, kills thousands of people in the Rhine Valley.
900: A system of dikes is built in Flanders and Zeeland to make more farmland available. This helps meet the food demands of a growing population.
1000: Many new plants are brought to Spain by the Moors, including spinach and olives.
1200: The opium poppy is first brought to China.
1455: Johannes Gutenberg creates moveable type for the printing press. This allows many works of botany to be reproduced quickly and correctly. Botany and herbalism advance much more quickly after this.
1471: Pietro Crescenzi of Bologna borrows from the writings of Varro, Columella, and Cato along with his own observations to create the Opus Ruralium Commodorum. This book is regarded as the start of western gardening.
1492: Christopher Columbus sets out to find a quicker way to India for the spice trade, but he actually discovers the West Indies and opens up a new trading venue. He then introduces corn to Europe, and on subsequent trips, he brings back sugar cane and other plants.
1497: Vasco de Gama travels from Portugal around the Cape of Good Hope, opening another trade route with Europe and India.
1500: Lima beans and sweet potatoes from the New World are brought back to Europe and cultivated.
1502: Columbus's fourth trip to the New World marks the first time that Europeans discover cacao, when they encounter and capture a Maya vessel.
1516: The banana is brought to the New World.
1521: Mexico is invaded by Hernando Cortés, resulting in the introduction of Aztec spices and vanilla to Europe.
1533: Botany is first recognized as a separate science from medicine. Francesco Bonafede becomes the first professor in the topic at the University in Padua.
1541: Cabbage is introduced to Canada by Jacques Cartier.
1543: The first botanical garden is created at the University in Pisa.
1554: The tomato is introduced from the New World and becomes popular in Europe.
1556: Tobacco cultivation begins in Europe.
1559: Tulips begin to be grown in Europe. The flower is from the Ottoman Empire and is highly regarded because of its bright colors.
1560: Olives are introduced to South America from Spain.
1564: European grapes are brought to California.
1565: John Hawkins introduces potatoes to Ireland.
1572: Spanish explorer Francisco Hernández documents information about many of the plants of the New World, including Aztec recipes for chocolate.
1573: The peanut is cultivated in China.
1583: The most important botanical book of the 16th century is written. De Plantis Libri by Andrea Cesalpino is the first book to replace earlier Greek and Roman works as the definitive reference for botany.
1600: The British East India Company is founded, and the spice trade increases.
1606: Black mulberry trees are imported to Europe to try to start a silk industry. These attempts are not successful.
1610: Tea-drinking is introduced to Europe
1634: The tulip trade becomes a big part of the Dutch economy. The collapse of the Tulip market would hurt the country a few years later, in 1637.
1652: The first New England trees are used to build British ships.
1661: Robert Boyle studies what happens when plants take in water. His work helps advance the field of botany.
1672: Carrots become the first plant to be studied scientifically as a single group by Robert Morison.
1694: Rudolf Jacob Camerer is the first to make a convincing case for how the sexes of plants work.
1712: Engelbert Kaempfer publishes Amoenitates Exoticae, the first look at Japanese flora by a westerner.
1727: Vegetable Staticks by Stephen Hales is the first significant work on plant physiology.
1747: Andreas Margraff creates the first process to extract sugar from beets.
1760: The Venus flytrap is discovered in North Carolina.
1769: Oranges are brought to San Diego missions.
1780: John Hannon opens the first chocolate factory in America.
1787: Botanical Magazine by William Curtis is first published. It becomes one of the longest-running journals.
1790: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe publishes his studies on plants that look at the similarities between leaves and floral parts.
1813: Elements of Agricultural Chemistry by Humphrey Davy is published. The book does a lot to make agriculture a recognized scientific field.
1828: C.J. van Houten creates a new process for making cocoa powder.
1835: British farmers import guano from Peru to use as fertilizer.
1852: The Concord grape is discovered.
1866: Gregor Mendel's work with pea plants helps start the field of genetics.
1883: The first greenhouse is built in Japan, by Viscount Itsujin Fukuba.
1892: John Froelich builds the first gasoline-powered tractor.
1901: Instant coffee is invented in Japan.
1912: Tokyo, Japan, gives Washington, D.C., cherry trees.
1921: George Washington Carver demonstrates many uses for peanuts in front of Congress. This helps make peanuts one of the South's most important crops.
1947: The herbicide 2,4-D, developed during World War II, is released for use in weed control.
1967: High-fructose corn syrup is produced commercially by the Clinton Corn Processing Co. It is sweeter than sugar, and it is also cheaper to produce.
1972: The use of DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane), a common pesticide, is restricted in the U.S.
1982: Washington University creates the first genetically engineered crop in St. Louis, Missouri.
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