Cloves have been found among ancient remains (c.1700 BC) in Syria, and the spicy fragrance of cloves was used by the Chinese (c.3d cent. BC) and by the Romans. The source of the spice was unknown to Europeans until the Portuguese first visited the Spice Islands (the Moluccas) and found clove trees growing wild. The Portuguese and then the Dutch held the clove trade in monopoly, eliminating the tree from all but a single island, until the late 18th cent. Today cloves are products also of other tropical areas, e.g., the West Indies, islands off E Africa such as Madagascar and Zanzibar, and Sri Lanka.
Clove is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Myrtales, family Myrtaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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