Nicotiana rustica | Ceremonial Tobacco ‘1000 year old tobacco’
There are over 65 species of Tobacco that hail from Australia, North America, and tropical South America. They are attractive plants with beautiful flowers and appealing foliage. All of them have tubular or trumpet-shaped flowers that come in nearly every color and most often open during the evening and and nighttime hours, sometimes releasing a pleasant fragrance. They can be used as specimen or bedding plants, in borders, woodland gardens, in containers, or for planting in masses or even as a focal point.
Among the large number of members of the Nicotania family there are many different applications to use them, but today only two species are prominently used for smoking and chewing: Nicotiana tabacum is the species that dominates the tobacco industry and is what most of us think about when we imagine tobacco. The other, Nicotiana rustica (Ceremonial Tobacco) is an heirloom and is a much stronger variety.
Nicotiana rustica goes by many common names, including Rustic Tobacco, Ceremonial Tobacco, Sacred Tobacco,Wild Tobacco, Indian Tobacco, Turkish tobacco, Shamanic Tobacco, Erowid Tobacco, Mapacho, and Aztec Tobacco. It’s an old variety that has been cultivated in the Amazon for thousands of years. Nicotiana rustica was the original tobacco that was planted as far north as North America, but do to its commercialization, N. tabacum eventually became more profitable as its smoother, less harsh quality lent to people being able to smoke more of it. This variety, N. rustica ‘1000 year old tobacco’, is extremely potent, often containing up to ten times the amount of nicotine than a standard leaf of N. tabacum. N. Rustica (9%), Nicotania tobacum (1-3%).
The original seeds of this ‘1000 year old’ tobacco variety were originally discovered in an urn from a burial site in the northern US and were given to Dan Jason in 2003. The seeds were preserved since the urn was sealed with pitch. No one knows how old the burial site is, but it’s estimated to be 1000 years old.
Some folks speculate that these seeds have been renamed for marketing purposes, but these tobacco plants do grow up to be different than any other tobacco plants out there, as the beautiful 3 ft tall plants have distinct, very broad, fuzzy leaves and are extremely sturdy and almost prehistoric looking.
Revered and respected as a sacred plant since ancient times, Ceremonial tobacco was used for offering and purification by almost all Native American tribes that were able to grow this plant from the Amazon forests to the North American prairies. N. rustica was widely used for ceremonial purposes, often without inhaling. In ceremony, tobacco smoke is used to carry one’s thoughts and prayers to the Creator and as offerings to animal spirits or conduits for communing with local deities.
It is both deeper and earthier than N. tabacum, which was prized for its sweet, fragrant leaves. Archeological research has found evidence of the plants being used several thousand years ago.
‘1000 year old tobacco’ is a warm-weather annual, completing its life cycle in one season, and then re-seeds freely. The best results are usually achieved by sowing seeds indoors 6-10 weeks before last frost, but can be sown outdoors in spring after the last frost too. Sprinkle seeds on to soil and tamp down lightly. Do not cover tiny seeds. Grows best in full sun in average, well-drained soil. Will tolerate light shade. Plants stay short with green leaves and small phosphorescent bell-shaped yellow flowers.
Sun exposure: Full sun
Mature height: 3 ft
Mature width: 3 ft
Hardiness zones: 5-11