Cultivars of maize
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Panicoideae
Tribe: Andropogoneae
Genus: Zea
Binomial name
Zea mays
Zea mays fraise MHNT.BOT.2011.18.21
Zea mays "fraise"

Maize (called corn in some countries) is Zea mays, a member of the grass family Poaceae. It is a cereal grain which was first grown by people in ancient Central America. It is now the third most important cereal crop in the world.

Maize is a leafy stalk whose kernels have seeds inside. It is an angiosperm, which means that its seeds are enclosed inside a fruit or shell. It is used as a food staple by many people in Mexico, Central and South America and parts of Africa. In Europe and the rest of North America, maize is grown mostly for use as animal feed. In Canada and the United States, maize is commonly referred to as "corn". In recent years corn has become an important part in a majority of American foods through the use of corn starch.

Maize has been a fruitful model organism for research in genetics for many years: see Barbara McClintock. Research has shown that artificial selection developed maize from a Mexican plant called Teosinte.

The genus Zea

There are five species and many subspecies in the genus. They are all plants similar to the cultivated maize, with less developed cobs. The wild ones are sometimes called teosintes, and they are all native to Mesoamerica.


Maize Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.