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.
If a person is already acquainted with the flower and seed vessels of a cabbage or turnip, and come across a wall-flower or a stockgilly for the first time, he sees at once a similarity of general appearance and analytical characters, that tell him at once almost the page in his botanical manual where he will find it, and learn all about it. This is the result of what is known as the natural system of botany. It takes no one character on which to make a system, but considers all the characters and comes down from that. Before this system came into vogue, Botany was a fearful study. Single characters, or nearly so, made the divisions, and the result was that the most heterogeneous forms were found in company with one another, and as these characters were not constant, the system was of very little use. It was pretty much as though we should take all white flowers, red flowers, and blue flowers, and put them, every color by themselves; or sweet flowers, or inodorous flowers, or spring flowers, or summer flowers, and make. separate classes of these.
It was not exactly like this, of course, but not far different.
Fruit classification is in about the same straits just now. We name sweet fruits and sour fruits, winter fruits and summer fruits, - long fruits and short fruits, - and the consequence is no one can make anything out of the systems. It is not too much to say no one could take Downing, Thomas, Barry, or any of our best authors, and with a strange fruit before them, certainly fix the name by the description alone; and the only use of these descriptions is to tell us what any thing is not. If a man has a tree which he plants for a Baldwin apple, and when it bears it proves a Rhode Island Greening or a Porter, he will soon find by examining his books that it is not a Baldwin, but he will be extremely acute if he can fix it as Porter or R. I. Greening. He may come so near as to fancy it may be one of these, but not till he finds some one who knows these kinds would he dare to say it was one of them.
We have pointed out often in these columns that some one who makes varieties of fruits a special study, would do a famous thing to arrange fruits as plants are arranged. It only requires to take some fruits as types or centres of the circles, bringing together those that are near like each other, and naming each little circle after some well-known one among them. When some One does this for us, Pomology will be a real science and a pleasure to study it.
In the mean time our pomologists try their hand from time to time with artificial systems. The following is the latest classification of Apples by Dr. Hogg, of the Journal of Horticulture, and is perhaps the best of the artificial systems so far:
"The characters which I have adopted as the basis of this classification are the eye, the seed-cells, the calyx-tube, and the stamens. These supply the primary and most important divisions; but they may be extended and broken up into fruit round, roundish, or oblate, and fruit conical, oblong, or ovate, and these for convenience may be further divided into pale, colored, and russet. I will now treat of the leading charters.
This is the pomological term used to signify what botanists call the sepals or limb, and mouth of the calyx. In French it is called ceil.
If we examine a great number of varieties of Apples we find that in some the eye is wide open, and the segments quite reflexed, in some cases so much so as to be quite fiat on the surface of the fruit. This is very apparent in Blenheim Pippin, Wyken Pippin, and Court of Wick. In many cases the segments are erect and spreading or reflexed at the tips, and this form of structure also leaves the eye open though not so much so as in the previous examples. Between the spreading and the erect open eye there are many gradations which will be remarked by any observer who examines the different varieties.
The other form is the closed ey'e. It will be observed in this case that the segments are erect and connivent at the tips, forming a small cone. In some cases of this form of closed eye the tips are spreading; but there is another very distinct form of the closed eye in which the segments are quite flat and convergent, closing in the eye like a trap-door in five divisions, as is seen in Trumpington. These two characters of eye open, and eye closed, I propose to employ as my primary divisions.
These constitute what is popularly called the core of the Apple, and contain the seeds or pips. They are usually live, but they vary in number, and are occasionally three, four, and even six. They differ very much in structure, and are either open to the axis of the fruit or closed; and between the closed and the wide-open cells there are as many gradations as in the closed and open eye. Some have perfectly closed cells; some have them open, and in others again they are wide open. In the last are to be found all the Codlins, and varieties having the Codlin character.
The seed-cells form the second great divisions of my system, which are distinguished as cells open, and cells closed.
In making a longitudinal section of an Apple in a line through the centre of the eye to the stalk a more or less deep cavity will be unserved under the segments of the eye and between them and the core. This is called the calyx-tube, or kelchrohre of the Germans. It is of very varied form, but all of these are modifications of two, or perhaps three, which may be regarded as distinct, and these I have called the conical and the funnel-shaped. As in the cases of the open and the closed eye and the open and closed cells these run into one another, ami there are instances in which it is difficult to distinguish to which of them the individual belongs. In the examples of the conical tube, some are wide and deep, and others narrow and short. The funnel-shaped tube also assumes various forms. The third form is the cup-shaped, which very rarely occurs.
The calyx-tube is the character on which the third division is based, and is divided into calyx-tube conical and calyx-tube funnel-shaped.
These are little bristle-like bodies which are found forming a fringe round the inner surface of the calyx-tube, and it is on the position they occupy that the fourth character of this system is founded. On examining a number of different varieties of Apples it will be seen that the stamens are not always in the same position. Some will form a fringe immediately under or near the base of the segments, and these I call marginal. Others occupy a midway 'position between the margin and the base, and these are called median; and a third are situated near the base, which are termed basal.
Taking the position of the stamens as my fourth great division, we have, - 1, Stamens marginal; 2, Stamens median; and 3, Stamens basal.
To prolong the subdivisions even beyond this point to which we have arrived, we can have,- 1, calyx-tube short conical, and deep conical. Then we can have short funnel-shaped, and long funnel-shaped. These may again be further divided into - 1, Fruit round, roundish, or oblate; and 2, Fruit conical, oblong, or ovate.
I have already called attention to the change-ableness of the characters in some varieties; how in the cases of the eye and the cells some exhibit them open or closed, or intermediate between the two; also in the interchangeable form of the calyx-tube and the positions of the stamens. In my classification I have provided against any confusion arising from this cause, and have given additional references when a variety is to be found in more than one division. For example, in Scarlet Nonpareil the eye is sometimes open and sometimes closed, though the calyx-tube is always short funnel-shaped, and the stamens marginal. This variety is therefore placed in class 1, section 2 (|§), and division 1 (+); but to provide for the case of the eye being closed, it is entered thus - "ScarletNonpareil iii.,, +,"showing that it is also found in class iii., section 2, and division 1.
It is important that perfect specimens of fruit be used when the classification is applied, and especially that the eyes be perfect; and to observe the calyx-tube correctly, the longitudinal section should be made directly through the centre."