Nicotiana Paniculata: An ornamental plant with many uses.
Tobacco has been used by humans for thousands of years. It’s been used for medicine, rituals, gifts and pleasure; just to name a few of its many uses. In 1492, when Columbus landed his ships on the North American continent, he was greeted by Native American tribes who gave him gifts, including tobacco, which he brought back with him to Europe. Native Americans have been growing tobacco since at least 6000 BC.
Rodrigo de Jerez was one of Columbus’ shipmates who brought tobacco back with him when he came home. As one of Europe’s first smokers, Rodrigo’s neighbours were so terrified when they saw smoke coming out of his nose and mouth, that they had him arrested by the Holy Inquisition and he was imprisoned for 7 years! By the time he was released, smoking had already become popular. By the 15th century, sailors were planting tobacco at nearly all of their ports and by the 16th century tobacco was being used in nearly all European countries.
You can carry on this tradition; growing tobacco plants for your own personal use. This can be rewarding and can save you money over the cost of store bought tobacco, not to mention the satisfaction that can be achieved by cultivating and harvesting your own product. One type of tobacco plant in general, is the Nicotiana Paniculata. It’s an attractive plant with stems ending in green tubes, about an inch long with darker green tips. Its leaves are large rounded spade or scallop shaped and are bright green. This plant attracts bees and butterflies.
Like most tobacco plants, Nicotiana Paniculata can be easy to grow as it’s naturally resistant to many pests. Once they germinate, they are a weather-hardy plant, as well. Starting to grow tobacco is a relatively straight forward process. Once you have acquired some tobacco seeds, germinate them indoors and then transplant them outdoors or into your greenhouse after the last frost. Growing tobacco indoors using plant lights is also an option. If you are worried about damaging or poisoning the soil, you could consider using large pots to grow your plants in. If you do plant them in the ground, you should rotate them, making sure not to grow tobacco in the same place each year. There are very few pests or animals you need to worry about when growing tobacco. One you may encounter is the Hawk Moth and the Hawk Moth pupae; aptly called the Tobacco Hornworm.
Tobacco plants are not completely helpless when it comes to pests either. When caterpillars do begin to feed on the plant, a chemical in the bug’s saliva reacts with chemicals released by the plant. This chemical reaction acts as a beacon to the offending insect’s predator, the Geocoris, or “Big
Eyed-bug”. Here’s a very interesting article in ‘Discover Magazine’ about this evolutionary defence mechanism. You should take caution if you grow tobacco where animals may graze or come into contact with it, as tobacco plants can cause illness or death in many domestic animals; such as pigs, goats, sheep, horses, etc. Children exposed to high levels of nicotine from wet leaves may require hospitalisation. Is it legal to grow tobacco in the United Kingdom? Do I need to pay taxes or duty on home grown tobacco? Although tobacco is a highly regulated product in the UK, it’s usually only after it’s been harvested. It’s absolutely legal to grow tobacco for your own personal use in the United Kingdom. However, once this tobacco has been harvested and dried, things become a bit more complicated. According to www.gov.uk/guidance/tobacco-products-duty#products-duty-isnt-payable-on, you generally need to pay duty on taxes to the HM Revenue and Customs as soon as the products become liable to the duty, or, as the government defines: “reaches a smokeable condition during manufacture”. So, according to the government, once your leaves have been harvested and dried, ready for a pipe or rolled into a cigarette they become taxable. Just something to consider if you’ve decided to grow your own tobacco.
Have you grown tobacco plants? We’d love to hear your tips, stories and see your photos. Please share in the comments section.
This article and many other horticultural articles can be found on https://www.cowenlandscapes.co.uk
Good luck and happy planting!