This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The following detailed experiment is one of a series in which I have been for some time past engaged, and as the sequel will show has resulted in some remarkable and wholly unlooked-for developments.
Early in the month of March, 1881, I selected eight varieties (or species) of Caladiums, intending to give them special treatment and prepare them for the experiment in view, namely, hybridizing. The bulbs were no larger than medium-sized onion sets In the following December, after they had been at rest ten weeks, the bulbs were examined. The largest bulb, C. Houlletii, measured six inches in its widest diameter. The next largest, C. Wighti, five inches.
In February, 1882, they commenced growing and were moved at once into the stove house where, finally, seed from six crosses matured. The experiment ended here with five of these, but from the sixth (a cross between the two named above), two hundred and four seedlings were raised. I had, previous to sowing, counted the seed and made the number two hundred. The seed was sown on May 11th, commenced germinating four weeks after, and continued doing so until August 20th.
The seedlings I have arranged in nine groups, placing in the first group all those having two or more kinds of colored spots on a green ground, and whose general appearance indicates close relationship to the female parent, Caladium Wighti. But the disturbing influence of the male parent, Caladium Houlleti, has been so prepotent that I question whether a single plant of the progeny will prove to be exactly identical with the female parent. On the other hand, the ninth group, which contains nine seedlings and which are all alike, are exact duplicates of the male parent.
The seedlings of each group differ, not only from each parent (exception named above), but from each other; sometimes to an almost incredible degree. Moreover, the groups are well defined and do not graduate into each other, but are perfectly distinct. Nevertheless there is one character which is common to all the seedlings, and in the language of Darwin, betrays the hidden bond of community of descent; it is the peculiar form of the spots, and their manner of distribution.
A complete disturbance of colors has resulted from this union. The red and white spots of the parents are supplemented with crimson, carmine, brown, terra cotta, yellow, rose, pink, flesh and parti-colored spots. A dark central spot, not in either parent, is seen in a majority of the plants classed in the first three groups. The next four groups have high colored veins, and these again are shaded on each side with various bright shades of color, which do not appear in the parents. Groups eight and nine have white veins and centre, resembling the male parent in this respect. Every shade of green, I think, is seen in the leaves, from a pale yellowish green, down to what is known as myrtle green. The stems also present a great diversity of color.
Six of the seedlings are glazed, and this glazing appears on the under side of the leaves in blotches, much as though oil had been spread over the surface and had soaked through. A gentleman connected with an English firm, who visited our place recently, and who is familiar with the latest improvements in this class of plants, declared he had never seen anything like this before. The metallic lustre which adorns a majority of the seedlings is an entirely different character.
Group No. 1 contains fifty seedlings. The greater number of these have red (various shades) and pure white spots; a few have red, white and parti-colored flesh and white spots. One seedling has red, pink, flesh and pure white spots, the dark central spots, dark spotted stems and a brilliant lustre. In another the red and white spots are so deeply oscillated that the leaf has the appearance of parti colored lace work ; among the last to germinate were eight seedlings of this group, with yellow (clay) and white spots. There are also six or seven with terra cotta and white spots. Leaves green.
Group No. 2 contains fifty seedlings with either white or flesh-colored spots. Leaves green. In these two groups the spots are more numerous than in either parent, in many instances covering the entire leaf surface.
Group No. 3 has a solitary specimen with long sagittate, olive green leaves, red spots, the dark central spot, a brilliant lustre and dark stems.
Group No. 4 contains one plant. The principal veins are bright crimson, centre of leaf clouded crimson, self-colored rose spots, red stem, and highly glazed.
In group No. 5 I have placed five plants with yellow foliage, scarlet spots, the centre and veins - in some pearly gray, in others brilliant crimson.
Group No. 6 contains thirty-seven seedlings. The veins and centre of leaves brilliantly colored and extending over a large surface, the edges of the leaves green ; the spots are either red, bright pink, cinnamon brown, or terra cotta.
Group No. 7 contains forty two seedlings. The veins are various shades of red; in one instance they are violet, very little if any centre shading, excepting two or three seedlings, the spots either white or flesh color.
Group No. 8 contains nine seedlings. The | veins silvery white, with a faint purple pencil mark in the centre of each, pearly gray centre and red spots.
Group No. 9 contains nine seedlings, all alike, and. as stated above, are simply duplicates of the male parent.