This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
[The "strawberry question" is a very important one, so far as the credit and character of a nurseryman are concerned, though, it has very little bearing, in a practical point of view, where a distinction between a pistillate and hermaphrodite is quite material. It is strange that such a simple question cannot be at once and forever decided. If any of our friends have Any additional facts or observations to record, we shall be willing and glad to publish them. In the absence of any new facts, however, we think the discussion ought to stop; and, that no party might have any cause to complain of injustice, we thought proper, before applying the brakes, to send the following note of Mr. Longworth's to Mr. Meehan, so that, if he had any remarks to make, they might be inserted together. The two papers will be found below. - RD. Hobt].
Cincinnati, September 26, 1857-Editor OF Horticulturist, Philadelphia: I am informed by an article in your publication (from Mr. Meehan), that "Dr. Warder believes in the change of the sexual character of the strawberry plant: the pure staminate to a pistillate, or hermaphrodite, and a like change in a pure pistillate; and a change in ray prolific (Hermaphrodite) to pure pistillates, as was the case in his own garden, and recently in the garden of C. Legg, M.D." The latter, I am pleased to learn, made no such statement; for, if modesty did not forbid it, I would say, not that persons holding these doctrines were "dishonest," but merely "stupid," and know as little of the true sexual character of the plant as the great Linnaeus and his learned followers till the world was enlightened through a chance observation of an ignorant market-woman's soil What Dr. Warder says is true. The crop of all the Hermaphrodites I have ever seen, is uncertain, except with the Prolific (unless Ward's Albany Seedling be also an exception). The Iowa, some seasons, bears nearly a full crop; other seasons, not more than half a crop.
The canse is this: Some seasons, nearly all the pistillates in the blossoms are perfect; in others, entirely defective, and bear no fruit, or in part defective, and bear imperfect berries* In raising from seed, I have always found a large portion pure staminates or pistillates, and but few hermaphrodites. I have this season planted seed, and expect to raise 20,000 plants; the hermaphrodite and pistillate seed kept in separate beds, to ascertain whether the sexual character of the parent will operate on the children.
As your Banks of issue have suspended, these are hard times; here we have no Banks of issue to suspend. In seven years, I have seen but four Cincinnati bank notes. Hard as times are, I will present Mr. Meehan, with a handsome silver goblet as soon as he publishes a. letter from Dr. Warder, acknowledging the corn. I will remain qniet as soon as be gets Mr. Baist and Dr. Briackle (bis neighbors) to concur in his opinion. This be should be able to do, as he says " both Eastern cultivators and Cincinnati are of the same mind, after all." I have never heard of such an opinion from any Eastern cultivator but Mr. Downing. He published such a change in bis bed of Hovey's Seedling. Unfortunately, his statement led persons to visit his garden, and they found some "bull had jumped into the pen." Unfortunately, neither Mr. Dowuing nor Dr. Warder noticed the stems and leaves enough to distinguish the difference. The stem and leaf of the Prolific will distinguish it from the Hovey's Seedling and McAvoy's Superior, at a distance.
Yonrs, truly, N. Longworth.
Dear Sir: In my paper referred to by Mr. Longworth, there is no such sentence as he appears to quote as my words. Dr. Warder's name I only used incidentally. Mr. L. has evidently been quoting from memory, and his memory has deceived him. Mr. L. will Bee that it wan Dr. Ward that I had reference to, or, rather, the Cincinnati Horticultural Society, which seems to have adopted the doctor's views. I quoted exactly the doctor's words, which (unless we adopt Talleyrand's definition of language as "a power given to man to enable him to conceal his thoughts") acknowledges "the corn" quite sufficiently, in my poor opinion, to give me a claim, without further support, to that silver goblet.
It will surprise many who have been aceustomed to hear " that any change in the sexual characters of the strawberry is utterly impossible," now to learn, from Mr. Longworth himself, that all hermaphrodites are uncertain except the Prolific, sometimes becoming nearly all pistillate, in other seasons nearly all staminate. Would Mr. L. favor us with some physiological reason why the Prolific should be exempt from the same laws that govern the changes in the others 1 That it is more constant in the locality which gave it birth than others introduced from other places, is no proof that it would maintain that character with the circumstances reversed.
Now that hermaphrodites are excluded from the " unchangeable," we have the question mnch simplified. As Mr. L. names Hovey's Seedling, we are left to infer that the pistillates alone are the patterns of immutability; but why the Iowa should be permitted to possess the power to suppress or develop its pistils at will, and the Hoveys be denied that privilege in the use of its stamens, I am at a loss to understand.
Mr. L. has never heard of any other Eastern cultivators but " Mr. Downing and Mr. Meehan," etc. Very fortunate, indeed, are these other gentlemen. If they are wise enough to profit by my example, they will remain in the same enviable state of obscurity. Whatever some of our friends may believe, I do not know. I have not asked or sought the opinions of any one. I have stated facts simply as I observed them. Messrs. A, B, C, or D, may have had reason sufficient to agree either with me or Mr. L., as the case may be. I should be sorry to follow Mr. Long worth's example, and offer to shape my course by the convictions of any third parties. With all due respect for the experience of Mr. L., or any other person, I must say that I have had opportunities of observing the strawberry nnder a mnch greater variety of circumstances than Mr. L. ever had, or some others whose judgment Mr. L. prefers to my own. If it should happen that they differ from me, it would not therefore be so very surprising.
In my opposition to Mr. Longworth's unchangeable views, I have been actuated from the first by the desire to benefit others. I had no purpose of my own to serve. I was not then a nurseryman; had not been caught in such an act of "stupidity" as Mr. L. attributes to the Clifton nursery. Feeling that, in most such cases, injustice was done to the nurserymen, and with the power which observation under rare circumstances afforded me to aid them at my command, I did not hesitate what course I had to pursue. That the time will yet come when my efforts will be appreciated, I am well convinced. Thomas Meehan.