This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The reports of this verbal address before the Board at its Spring meeting, as given in some of the Philadelphia city papers were so absurd, that we have much pleasure in giving our readers a very good abstract as made by a "country" paper - the Bucks Co. Intelligencer.
"Mr. Thomas Meehan, of Germantown, on Thursday afternoon delivered an instructive and most excellent lecture on the sexes of plants. He commenced by quoting from the works of Mr. Darwin and others, showing that their views necessarily implied that the chief end of sex in animals and sex in plants was alike; but said he there is really little similarity in the relations of the sexes of plants as compared with the sexes of animals. Animal life is dependent for perpetuation upon the existence of the sexes; but this is not true of plants. The Red Dutch Currant for instance has been propagated by cuttings for many hundreds of years, as have Bananas, and many other kinds of which he instanced a large number; and numbers which produced seed in nature, rarely profit by the fact, for they keep on for successive generations by underground suckers, tubers or offsets. It was a mistake to regard a plant or a tree as we would regard an individual animal. A plant or a tree is in reality not an individual, but a republic - a collection of individuals in which the different sexes and the different relations of society might be fairly paralleled.
The evils resulting from the improper views of sex in plants were shown, not only by the speculations on cross-fertilization prevalent, but by the theories of K.ught and others on the wearing out of varieties, which could have no substance when the true idea of sex in plants was perceived.
"The subject of odor in flowers was specially dwelt on to show that it had no very near relation to sex, and consequently could have no bearing on questions of fertilization either by insect or any other agency. In Indian Corn and other dioecious or monoecious plants, odor abounded in the male flowers, but was wholly wanting in the female flowers, and there was as much or more odor in leaves and stems than in flowers.
"In animals, sex had evidently an essential bearing on the continuance of the race; besides this an evident object was to give variety. Could animals divide and reproduce as plants could, identity would be difficult. Nature therefore has variation as a leading object of sex. It is necessary even to the dull intellect of an insect, that there should be variety in plants, to enable it to choose its food. Only thus far did any great analogy between sex in plants and animals begin. It promoted variation and individualization, and then there were wholly different objects in sex in plants not aimed at by animal sex. A morning glory or a balsam would die by the first white frost; but the seed would endure a temperature far below zero, and in this way distribution and preservation were ministered to in a manner wholly unknown as the result of sex in the animal world.
"The relations of nutrition to sex were then touched on. He showed that sex itself was a mere attribute of nutrition to begin with, illustrating this position especially by the flowers of Pine trees which bore female flowers on the branches most favorably situated as regards nutrition, the same branches producing male flowers only when by any circumstance they became weakened; as for instance by the over shadowing of the larger ones. He applied this principle to the production of clover seeds, orchard fruits, and so forth; showing that questions of nutrition underlied all questions of cross-fertilization or of any fertilization by means of pollen. This he illustrated by numerous cases familiar to the farmer and gardener, and concluded by observing that as the object of sex in plants and animals were different, speculations drawn from a supposed analogy were dangerous even in theory, and that they were unsound in practice the instances cited would prove".