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.
The item in the September number of the Gardeners' Monthly, page 281, on Vanilla Beans, suggests an interesting subject for inquiry and experiment. The Vanilla being, as stated, a native of Mexico, but which extends north to the borders of the United States, why may it not be successfully cultivated in portions of the Gulf States, and especially in the southern counties and warm interior valleys of California? At least, it may reasonably be inferred that it might be successfully cultivated under glass in plain, inexpensive structures. While Vanilla beans are worth $9.00 a pound, as now quoted, it seems as though a very large profit might be realized even with such cultivation.
Vanilla plants have been made to produce beans or fruit quite successfully by artificial fertilization, or without the aid of bees or insects. A very interesting article on the Vanilla Plant was published in the September number, 1879, of the Popular Science Monthly, translated from "La Nature" and written by J. Poisson, assistant Naturalist in the Paris Museum of Natural History. In it the right of priority in discovering the artificial fertilization of the Vanilla is somewhat discussed, and the statement is made that nothing appears to have come out of the discoveries, until the same was made by a young slave named Edmond Albius, presumably in the Isle of Bourbon. "Albius had noticed how his master, who had considerable acquaintance with natural history, used to produce hybrids by cross-fertilization of the various flowers in his garden. Having made like experiments himself, the young slave observed that on touching with a spine of palm the flowers of the Vanilla, two little yellow bodies contained within changed position, and that fertilization resulted from the contact.
A new branch of commerce was henceforth created, and Vanilla Beans, previously very dear, were quickly much lowered in price".
"These flowers last for only one day, and fructification, in order to be successful, should take place in the morning. The instrument used for this operation is a pointed piece of bamboo. A skilled man can fecundate as many as one thousand flowers in a morning".
The attraction of the stigmas of these flowers for the pollen offered them has been noticed by several experimenters. One says, "After the sun had made pretty warm the greenhouse in which the plant was suspended, then, provided the anthers were not firmly attached to the top of the pins on which they were borne, they would become detached from it on being brought within a certain distance of the stigma, and being strongly attracted, would shoot like an arrow into the cavity".
Statements were made in some of the papers a few years ago, that a variety of Vanilla was cultivated in Florida. If such is the case, it would be very interesting to know what variety and with what success. The extension of any industry, or the introduction of new industries in any portion of our country, especially such as relate to the cultivation and productions of the soil, are matters of prime national importance, as well as of intense interest, enjoyment and profit to the individuals connected therewith. San Mateo, Cal.