I am writing a novel about Paraguay in 1630--because when I saw northern Argentina and Paraguay in the 1980s I was surprised by their natural history and history and have wanted to share their stories.
In trying to bring the 17th century to life, I have to describe what was there and that has been quite an adventure because there has been so much change.
Beginning in the 1500s, conquering and colonizing, European powers carried useful plants all over the world. To describe our world early in that process, I have to figure out what plants are native to the Americas and which were introduced. If it is native to the Americas, it will likely be new to Europeans. If it is from Africa or China, it may not yet be common in South America even if it is abundant there today.