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.
If the observer who advanced such chaotic ideas of an equivocal creation had stated that men and women of those Alpine regions, when they emigrate to lower lands, transpose their sexuality, it would have been no greater absurdity.
We now come to the actualities of this question, over which European writers have been speculatively flounderiug, without anchor or helm, for the last thirty years, never once, in their observations and comments, touching the main point, or obtaining a truthful deduction by a scientific investigation of the sexual question, as presented to them by American publications thirty-four years ago. Nothing has been done, either by their Horticultural Societies or by men who, like Dr. Lindley, claim science as their especial guide.
All the esteemed European seedling varieties now cultivated in England, France, and Belgium are hermaphrodites, and Mr. Wray states that "these are so imperfectly developed in their organs, they seldom produce other than a very scanty crop of inferior and imperfect berries." "That the object of the high-priced grower is attained if he has only a few large sized berries on each plant, but that if these plants were placed in an open field, deprived of hand-glasses, artificial impregnation, and unremitting watchfulness, they would be dead failures, and for a general crop quite unsuitable".
It is admitted on all hands that the principal Strawberries in England are treated as tender exotics, and Mr. Wray asks, "Why is it so pampered, swathed, and swaddled, and its hardy character so completely ignored?" In England, the fine varieties of Strawberries are so expensively grown that they only reach the tables of the wealthy classes, whereas in America they are chiefly grown for the million. Mr. Wray also remarks that "so hardy a plant should certainly appertain more to open field culture than to the elaborate and expensive culture of the garden." The reason, he says, is "because science has not been applied to its culture," and hence " the supply is totally inadequate to the demand".
There are points of consideration other than the sexual question, which European writers and cultivators have hitherto lost sight of, and that even Mr. Wray does not seem to realize, which hold a most important bearing on the success of the Strawberry in open field culture in England, but as these appertain more particularly to that special point, I will defer making any comment thereon until my next article, which will be on Culture.
Here Strawberries are grown without any special care in vast fields of ten to fifty acres, without any covering or protection. The idea of treating our estimable varieties as tender exotics, when their parentage is traceable to Labrador and to the? Arctic regions on the Atlantic, and to Oregon and Vancouver's Island, and even up to the Russian possessions on the Pacific, is an absurdity which no American has been guilty of. Mr. Wray speaks of 5000 quarts being grown to an acre at Cincinnati, but on many plantations there and elsewhere 200 bushels (6400 quarts) are not considered an extraordinary crop, and in frequent instances it is claimed that the crop amounts to 250 bushels or 8000 quarts per acre. It is shown by our present statistics that one strawberry grower at Baltimore sent to market 6000 quarts a day, and sold his crop for $6200; that the sales in Cincinnati have attained to 0000 bushels annually, and that in one day 25 tons, deducting the weight of baskets, were brought by the Erie Railroad to New York, independent of the quantity furnished by other routes, the gross annual supply being estimated at over 40,000 bushels.
How great then the loss to Europe that they have failed to introduce our robust and productive American varieties.
Not content, however, with ignoring our productive pistillate varieties, the European culturists have, by an inanition scarcely conceivable, cast aside the advan-tages which nature had presented to them, and assumed the annihilation of the indispensable staminate plants of the Hautbois and Pine families.
The large "White fleshed varieties," as they are termed in Europe, and which are there held in most esteem, have all been originated from seeds of the F. grandiflora, which comprises both male and hermaphrodite varieties, and it has there been particularly insisted that the hermaphrodites of this family possess both male and female organs in perfection.
It is true that the organs are always present, but the male organs of these hermaphrodites are deficient in pollen, whereby a combination with the stamiuate is rendered indispensable to a perfect crop. The assumption of this fatal error as to the perfection of the hermaphrodite varieties culminated in the adoption every where in Europe of a system based on the destruction of all male seedlings, and a practice thus fallacious - an utter perversion of nature - has been universally urged in England and elsewhere throughout Europe, and has resulted in the extermination of the male plants. It seems never to have occurred to their superficial minds that nature, always equally economical as provident, and ever compensatory, had not furnished these staminate or male varieties without a purpose, and that they were, therefore, essentially necessary to the ample results which nature had designed as to the crop.
"Go, wiser thou I and in thy soale of sense, Weigh thy opinion against Providence; Call imperfection what thou fanciest such, Bay here he gives too little, there too much".
Although the hermaphrodite varieties combine the two sexual organs, yet normally but one of them is perfect and preponderates, and the other is defective; consequently, the combination of the male is required in the one case, and the female in the other, to perfect a full crop. It would, therefore, seem that nature in the vegetable as in the animal kingdom is ever exercising her influence to the compensating principle, and that the means imparted are always in exact ratio to the result to be attained. And it must here be borne in mind that these sexual conditions are all normal or primeval, and consequently are permanent. From the time of Linnasus and Jussieu to the present day, we do not witness any sexual change whatever, and a standard that has remained unchanged from their day down to the present time, with no prospect of any future variation, may well be considered as permanently established.