Nicotiana quadrivalvis Pursh


=Nicotiana bigelovii var. wallacei


Solanaceae (Nightshade Family)




Indian Tobacco


Wallace's Tobacco         

                         May Photo


Plant characteristics:  Annual, glandular-pubescent, ill-smelling, with ascending branches, mostly 4-12 dm. high; lvs. sessile or the lower petioled, ovate-oblong to lanceolate, 5-20 cm. long; fls. mostly racemose; calyx 1.5-2 cm. long, the linear-lanceolate teeth +/- unequal; corolla white, tinged with green, 4-7 cm. long, the limb 2-3 cm. wide; caps. ovoid, ca. 1.5 cm. long.


Habitat:  Chaparral, Coastal Sage Scrub; San Diego Co. to Santa Barbara Co., especially in hot interior valleys.  May-Oct.  Below 1500 m.


Name:  Named for Jean Nicot, French ambassador to Portugal, who introduced tobacco into France about 1560.  (Dale 192).  The species name is in honor of Dr. J.M. Bigelow, 1804-1878 a professor of botany and pharmacology at Detroit Medical College. He collected in the West under Whipple in the Pacific Railroad survey of 1853.  Many other California plants bear his name. (Dale 59).  Wallacei, in honor of Alfred Russell Wallace (1823-1913).  British naturalist best known for his contribution to the "idea of the survival of the fittest."  Author of Geographical Distribution of Animals (1876), Island Life (1880).  Concerning his essay, Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, it may be said that next to Darwin's Origin of Species, perhaps no other single work did more to "promote a clear understanding of natural selection and confidence in its truth."  (Jaeger 316).  The ending of i in names is a Latin form meaning of (possessive case). (John Johnson).

 General:  Rare in the study area having been found only once and this near the bottom of the bluff at the northerly end of Eastbluff, one-quarter mile from the intersection with Eastbluff Dr. (my comment).       The smoking of tobacco was more common among northern and desert tribes than southern ones.  Smoking was a man's activity, unless a woman was a shaman.  The cured leaves were hung in little baskets.  Pipes were made of wood or soapstone.  (Dale 192).      The Cahuilla, Indians of the Colorado Desert, the San Jacinto and San Bernardino Mountains, used tobacco as an integral part of every ritual, just as it was a significant event at the time of creation when the god Mukat created tobacco and smoked it ceremonially with his brother god Temaiyawit.  Before a ritual was conducted, tobacco was smoked by the ritual leaders and shamans and the smoke was blown in the sacred directions: north, east, west and south, and or up the center.  This helped clear the air of any malevolent force, which might interfere with the ritual.  The ceremonial bundle-that most sacred object of the Cahuilla which contained ritual objects and an emanation of the creative spirit amna was regularly "fed" sprinklings of tobacco.  Since tobacco was intimately associated with power and to some degree with ecstatic experience, it was a basic part of the shaman's equipment.  Shamans were expected to use their special powers, made possible through their intimate connections with supernatural beings, in aiding the community.  Among their concerns were the control of rain, crop production, divining, and the general health of the community.  Tobacco was used in a number of medicinal remedies.  A water solution of tobacco served as an emetic to induce vomiting.  Leaves of tobacco were employed as poultices to heal cuts, bruises, swellings and other wounds.  To alleviate earaches, tobacco smoke was blown into the ear, which was then covered with a warm pad.  To cure rheumatism, tobacco leaves were placed on hot rocks in the sweathouse and the patient inhaled the steam.  There were no special restrictions on who could smoke tobacco, and older men and women in particular smoked it almost daily when the plant was available.  (Bean & Saubel 92).    For additional information on Cahuilla uses of tobacco see, Nicotiana clevelandii.       In early days the leaves were used for ailments of the chest and lungs by making a syrup in distilled water.  A tobacco leaf was applied to the head to relieve pains and migraine.  Seeds eased pains of toothache and leaves were burned for ashes and used as a toothpowder.  (Sweet 55).      The Southern Diegueno Indians smoked the leaves of Nicotiana attenuata; cigarettes were made by rolling the dried leaves in the hands into a cylindrical shape and then stuffed them into a hollowed out elderberry tube.  Agave fibre was rammed into the opposite end for about one-half inch and acted as a filter.  This was thought to keep the flame from reaching and burning the mouth.  It also kept the tobacco in place.  (Campbell 244).       About 60 species, mostly of N. and S. America; some important in commerce and some as ornamentals.  (Munz, Flora So. Calif. 834.        Plants from southern counties with corolla limb greater than 50 mm. wide have been called N. bigelovii var. wallacei.  Widely cultivated by western America native people.  (Hickman, Ed. 1073).


Text Ref:  Dale 192; Hickman, Ed. 1073; Munz, Flora So. Calif. 835; Roberts 39.

Photo Ref:  May 1 88  # 2,3,9.

Identity: by R. De Ruff, confirmed by F. Roberts.

First Found:  May 1988.


Computer Ref:  Plant Data 374.

Have plant specimen.

Last edit 11/8/04


.                                May Photo                                                          May Photo