This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In the last number of the Gardener's Monthly you allude to the need of a classification of apples,number of " fruits as plants are arranged." Now, are you sure the thing is possible? In these days when all species are declared "varieties of types," "whose boundaries cannot be certainly defined," what characters will you select in, say the apple, which shall remain so unchangeable under the influence of varying soils and climates, as to enable any variety to be unerringly detected by even an experienced man? I have seen two sets of apples handed to a competent fruit grower, who was utterly at a loss on one - though well acquainted with the other - both grown on the same graft and exhibited by the grower. Now, I have received apples from Missouri, said to be seedlings. In appearance and taste they were identical with the Pound Sweet. A priori there is no reason why a second seedling should not resemble a previous one. Would you call it Pound Sweet?
Many Europeans have tried their hands at pomological taxonomy, notably the Germans, as Lucas, for example. They have carried their divisions to a fine point; how far are they in actual use? I hope to learn this summer. Among us, Thomas and Warder, especially the first, have presented simple and apparently reasonable systems, but the great majority of cultivators don't know of their existence, and Downing, chief of all, declares such an attempt visionary.
[The difficulty our correspondent presents is no more than the botanist meets with in his studies. If he were to take oak leaves alone, or acorns alone, he would never get along! He does not dream of classifying on one character alone, but considers all. Why must a pomolo-gist be restricted to a fruit? There are quite as striking differences in the leaves, in the branching, in the flowers, and other parts, as in the fruits. There is no apple varies more than the Red Astrachan. By the fruit alone we can never be positive, but if we begin with the tree, follow to the flower, and finish with the fruit, one need never mistake in the Red Astrachan; nor indeed in any other variety treated in the ame way.
Let us say that few persons in this country have given more attention to varieties of fruit than the writer of this, but he has not been ambitious to achieve a "name " as a " pomologist" because of the absurdity of the endeavors to establish systems on single and variable characters. It is amusing to note even first-class "fruit men" wrangling over the proper name of a plate of fruit at a fair. The scene can only be paralleled by looking at a party of hucksters higgling over the price of a fish. We have no liking for this sort of guess-work.
We have great respect for the opinions of Warder, Thomas, Barry, Downing, and others. We should prefer their opinions on many questions in relation to pomology to our own. But when they assert that any better system of classification than that of a heterogeneous mass of descrip-tions of fruits alone, is visionary, if attempted, we beg to differ from them.
Visionary or not, this writer would certainly make the attempt had he the time. There is little doubt in our mind that some one will not only try it some day, but try it and succeed. This we have said often before in these pages, and see no reason to change our views. - Ed. G. M.]
In reference to note in our last, though not intended for publication, our friend will, we are sure pardon our giving the following:
Union Springs, N. Y. September 6th, 1876.
Mr. Editor: - Please allow me to make a slight correction of the remark in the last number of the Gardener's Monthly, page 272, where I am included with those who " assert that any better system of classification [of fruits] than that of heterogeneous mass of descriptions, is visionary." The first revised edition of the American Fruit Culturist, issued twenty-seven years ago, had a distinct classification, entirely my own for most of the fruits, and nearly the same has been continued in all the editions since published. When Dr. Warder was preparing his work, he courteously asked me to allow him to adopt my plan, which he did with some modifications and additions. It is quite probable that important improvements might be made, as my chief object was to employ a simple one, readily understood by every cultivator, and readily used or applied at the time of the maturity of the fruits. I have not written this fur publication, but it may be well to give its substance. Very truly,
"J. J. Thomas."