Stevia rebaudiana

Stevia rebaudiana

Stevia rebaudiana or Sweatleaf belongs to the Asteraceae or Compositae family, to which also the aster belongs.

This plant contains a natural sweetener, rebaudioside A, which is 300 times stronger than sugar and does not contain any calories.

It is used as a sweetener since pre-Columbian times by the Guarani, a group of indigenous people in the Amazon region of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

In the USA and Europe, industrial use has been allowed only recently.

In the tropics it is a promising plant: it can be harvested every three months, the plant grows very fast and now that it can be used with the recent approval by the FDA in the USA and in Europe as an industrial sweetener, it will probably be of great economic importance.

The concentrated forms (stevioside and rebaudioside) are extracted from the leaves of the plant.

Description:

Stevia rebaudiana is a herbaceous perennial or shrub native to the highlands of Paraguay and parts of Argentina and Brazil, in a sub-tropical climate with an average temperature of 24 °C and fairly high humidity and precipitation.

In the wild, it grows up to 2 m high, some cultivars grow up to 3 m high.

It is a weedy, highly branched with an interesting plant root system: fine roots are spread out on the surface of the soil, while thicker roots grow deep in the soil.

The stems are hairy and covered with leaves. The leaves are opposite and toothed, fibrous and dark green.

The flowers are white, tubular and bisexual. While the plant itself is not aromatic, the leaves have a sweet taste and the dried leaves are even sweeter than the fresh leaves.

Nomenclature:

Common names:

Candy leaf, honey yerba, honeyleaf, stevia, sugar leaf, sweet herb of Paraguay, sweet honey leaf, sweet leaf of Paraguay, sweet-herb, sweetleaf

Synonym:

Eupatorium rebaudianum

Etymology:

Stevia: new Latin, derived from Petrus Jacobus Stevus (Pedro Jaime Esteve), a Spanish physician and botanist.
Rebaudiana: Ovidio Rebaudi, a native chemist of Paraguay, who was the first at the beginning of the 20th century to do a chemical analysis of the stevia plant and was able to differentiate the two substances stevioside and rebaudioside. He gave the first scientific name for the plant: Eupatorium rebaudianum.

Origin:

Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil

Habitat:

Near marshes and grasslands

Hardiness:

USDA zone 9-11, 0 °C

Care:

Soil:

Acid and poor sandy or loamy soil.

Light:

Sun, light

Water:

Keep permanently moist but not wet: give water often but not too much.

Fertilizer:

Provide regular universal liquid fertilizer.

Propagation:

It is better to propagate Stevia rebaudiana by cuttings or tissue culture than sowing: germination percentage is quite low (10%) and there is no guarantee that the offspring will be sweet.

Sowing instructions:

  • select the black seeds and eliminate the light colored seeds: this will promote germination rates up to 85%
  • light promotes germination (only for the black seeds, has no influence on the light-colored seeds)
  • sow on the surface, do not cover the seeds
  • sow in light soil mixed with sand and wet
  • 24 ° C

Cuttings:

  • take stem cuttings of 7-8 cm
  • remove the lower leaves
  • plant the cuttings in moist soil and place them in a dark, secluded place
  • keep them moist (but not wet)
  • they will be rooted after a few weeks, after 1-2 months, new growth should be visible

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