This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
From the editor's remarks on my article, in the last Monthly, in regard to chestnut and beech on limestone, I observe that I unwittingly blundered on another question of interest, viz.: Whether an isolated chestnut tree will perfect fruit at all, or not? The trees I referred to as producing fruit, are thirteen in number, all planted on the same lawn, and near enough to each other, I should think, for fertilizing purposes. Twelve of them are about thirty years old, and one six or seven years older, and some of them forty feet high. The proprietor of the premises informed me that the older one dropped its fruit prematurely for several years, but for a number of years past it has perfected its fruit, and the cause may be that its female flowers have been fertilized by pollen from the other trees. The other twelve have all borne fruit a number of years, but he reports that some, on all the trees, every year fail to arrive to maturity. The burrs on my tree were almost full-sized when they dropped. In 1881 and 1882, there were just a few burrs on it, but, as last year, nothing in them.
Now, I planted my tree for fruit, but the nearest tree of its kind is nearly half a mile away, and if it is going to behave itself in that style during its "single blessedness," I shall have to secure a life companion for it. In the meantime, if I were to fertilize a few of the female flowers with pollen from another tree, at the proper time, the coming season, would such be likely to produce fruit, and help "settle" the question? At any rate, I shall watch my tree with increased interest. Carthage, Indiana. [In settling a question in the positive and decided manner in which scientific men like to have questions settled, very great care is required to guard against a chance for error to slip in. Now, in regard to the fertilization of the chestnut, it is not certain that pollen from another tree is required. The most that science tells us is that facts seem to tend in that direction. It is awaiting the positive demonstration of the fact. Now, if we find a tree half a mile from another, producing no fruit, while others under the same climate or conditions in a body together are fertile, it goes far to confirm the suspicions of science; but still it is not the exact evidence science requires.
The proposed experiment, to get a branch with the early male flowers, and place it over the branches with the females, is a good idea. In some parts of the world, this has been done with palms successfully.-Ed. G. M].