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.
It may here be cited as a singular fact, that of the eleven edible species of the Strawberry, there is but one which is positively known to combine all the three variations of staminate, hermaphrodite, and pistillate; although European writers, and some of our own, have run into the idea that the seeds of any one species would produce plants of all the three sexual divisions, and some have even declared that there was such confusion and vacillation in the sexuality, not only of seedlings, but of the actually existing varieties, that no reliance could be based on these distinctions as a reliable test for distinguishing species and varieties. Such views, however, are adverse to the facts. No such variations of character ever occur, but nature sustains these normal distinctions as permanent and eternal, the vacillations finding existence only in the brains of such theorists.
The Rev. W. F. Radclyffe and W. J. Nicholson have responded to Mr. Wray's article, but both appear to labor under an entire misconception of the actual question at issue. The former does not touch the subject of sexuality, but recommends about twenty European hermaphrodite varieties for American adoption, all of which have been tested here, and have proven failures as to crop, in field culture, and are only grown successfully there by special garden culture. He, however, admits "the disgraceful culture of this noble fruit in England." Neither does Mr. Nicholson seem to realize the real points under discussion, although he cultivates about 200 varieties of Strawberries. He claims that science is applied to the Strawberry culture in England, "without so much trouble as Americans give themselves about staminates, pistillates, and hermaphrodites." He refers to a crop grown in pots, the berries of which were sold at one penny (two cents) each, and then triumphantly says, "Science assists us in producing forced Strawberries." He declares that "practice and common sense" are all that are required for field and garden culture, but entirely ignores the scientific sexual facts on which that "practice and common sense" should be based.
I regret to see that Mr. Gloede, in a response, adopts the same delusive error, which has seemed to confuse the brains of others, when we might expect more light from one resident in a climate where there is less fog and more mental electricity, and where people are less likely to reject scientific facts under the illusion that they are "mere theories," and adopt "mere theories" in lieu of scientific facts. Mr. G. says that he has grown "some of the American pistillate varieties under glass, and never one bloom failed to perfect its fruit." We wish he had given us the names of these varieties, as we think we could then have solved the apparent mystery. Was the true Hovey one of them 1 When he can produce a crop of fruit from the Hovey, or any other truly pistillate variety grown separately, we shall expect women to give birth to children without a male parent.
Do, Mr. Gloede, repeat your experiments with more care. I regret to see that such trash as the Harlaem Orange, Monroe Scarlet, Marylandica, Scott's Seedling, and others, are supposed in England to be among our esteemed varieties, when they have all been entirely discarded here. Among the thirty varieties they call North American, (five of which are not so,) I do not see but six varieties that are here deemed worthy of culture, and they include but two of our estimable pistillates, whereas we have above one hundred splendid and very distinct varieties, remarkable for their vigor, hardihood, and abundant crops, many of them of an orange scarlet hue unknown in Europe, and including four large white varieties of great vigor and productiveness, and excellent in flavor, of all of which they appear to be entirely ignorant.
Although it is a truism that the differences between the humid and cool climate of England and our dry and hot atmosphere, cause the best educated English gardeners, who migrate here, to commit great absurdities; yet these climatic variations have no more connection with the sexuality of Strawberries, nor with the results of that sexuality in the productiveness of the crop, than they would have on two crops grown side by side, the one on dry soil, and the other subjected to irrigation. Sexuality is nature's scientific fact. The success and extent of the crop are the result of art and culture. The incontrovertible truth thus stands forth, that the exercise of science in regard to the existing sexuality is not necessarily variable by climate, but is quite as important in one country as in another. The chimerical idea of a transmutation of sexes, by any variations of climate or circumstances, is antagonistic to that order of nature which can never be varied or contravened any more in the humblest plant, than in the largest animal, or in the movements of the spheres.
" From Nature's chain whatever link yon strike, Tenth or ten thousandth, breaks the chain alike".
As climate - cold or hot, dry or humid - can in no wise affect the sexuality of any plant more than of any animal, the assertion, made by a quondam observer, that the Alpine varieties of Strawberries, which have perfect flowers (hermaphrodite) in the moist regions of perpetual snow, when removed to the drier climates of lower regions, produce pistillates and staminates as seedlings, has no foundation in truth. As the plants growing in the Alpine regions are all of the Fraga-ria vesca and F. collina species, I now put the question to every cultivator, whether he has ever seen one single variation as alleged in all the seedlings that have ever been produced from those two species. No such variation has ever occurred, and the assertion is in direct contradiction to Dr. Lindley, who says he has never seen any other than hermaphrodite plants except of the Hautbois, (F. elatior.) It is also controverted by the fact that it is universally recommended that the Wood and Alpine varieties be propagated from seeds, their sexual organs being always perfect; and this course is specially urged by Keen in the London Horticultural Transactions, and in the "Bon Jardinier," they having been grown in France for centuries without the least variation.