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.
When in any of the Fragaria species the male organs of the hermaphrodite are imperfect, nature, ever provident, furnishes the male or staminate plant to supply the deficiency. And when in any species the female organs in the hermaphrodite are defective, Nature presents us with the pistillate or female variety. But when any species, like the F. vesca and collina, and also the Indica, are perfect in both organs throughout all their varieties, Nature, never wasting her resources, gives us none other than hermaphrodites.
The fish in the subterranean lake of Kentucky have no eyes!!
These exterminated males are as necessary to make up the imperfection of the male organs in the European and South American hermaphrodites, as the female or pistillate varieties of North America are essential to compensate for the deficiency in the female development of our hermaphrodites. It is this perversion of Nature by the destruction of the male plants which she had furnished, that has rendered it necessary, in the humid climate of England, to have recourse to artificial impregnation by hand; and this attempt to improve on Nature, while really waging a most unnatural war against her, has been the continued cause of the miserable crops produced in England, where the flowers of many varieties are reduced by hand to four on each plant, and the plants have also to be specially nursed to insure the development of even this small product.
The wanton destruction of the male plants so necessary to efficient impregnation, is precisely similar to a man's cutting off both his natural arms, in order that he may find use for artificial ones.
The annihilation of the males of their own native Hautbois is not only strenuously urged in Europe, but it is declared by their most intelligent cultivators that it is to the existence of these "sterile (males are not sterile) plants," that the discredit and abandonment of its general culture is to be attributed, in consequence, as they say, of some people believing (as the Americans do) that it is necessary to combine the two sexes to secure a good crop; and that by adopting this course the "sterile plants" (males) overrun the females, and thus the beds become nearly barren. I suggest the adoption of our American practice of planting the sexes in distinct beds. I desire also to impress on Europeans that it is the same unnatural destruction of the males that has reduced the crops of the Hautbois, which were formerly abundant in a state of nature, and I urge the adoption of American sexual science in their treatment, by which they will restore it to its former fertility. Thus by reversing their practice they will revolutionize the results.
The additional normal fact that the four great families, the F. elatior (Hautbois) and F. vesca, (Wood,) the F. grandiflora (Pine) and F. Virginiana, (Scarlet,) never blend with each other by any sexual union whatever, and can not consequently be fertilized except by their own staminates, renders the preservation of both sexes indispensable where they normally exist on distinct plants.
As a proof of this fundamental fact, there has not during the 250 years which have elapsed since the first interchange of European and American Strawberries, been produced a single hybrid between the species of the two hemispheres, or between the three species which are natives of Europe, or between the species which are natives of South and North America. The six North American species blend sexually with each other, and the two South American species blend with each other, but these two sections can never be sexually blended, nor can any American species ever be blended with those of Europe. This normal fact of sexual aversion, which forms the scientific basis of all Strawberry culture, appears not to be understood by Europeans, as even the French as well as the English publications recommend that the male Hautbois be planted near the Chili and Pine varieties, in order to render them fruitful.
The neglect of scientific sexual culture has been more unfortunate in regard to the F.Chilensis, the largest Strawberry of the earth, than to any other. It appears that when this noble species, which, in its native country, produces fruit as large as a medium-sized hen's egg, was brought to Europe in 1712, only one sexual variety was introduced, and that its potent staminate, indispensable to develop so large a fruit, was left behind. The neglect of scientific scrutiny and the apathy which has consequently existed in Europe as to the present vital question, has caused their cultivators to ignore the great advantage attainable by the importation of the other sexual variety; and as the staminates of other species have proved uncongenial, the seminal production of this noblest of all Strawberries, by improved varieties, has had necessarily to be abandoned, and not one representative of this species now exists in the London Horticultural Garden, and, with the exception of three or four hybridized seedlings in France, the Chilensis is only known throughout England and the Continent as a botanical curiosity, not one genuine seedling having ever been produced for want of the other sex.
Such is the unfortunate result for which the horticultural savans of Europe are responsible, by their having left the question recently propounded by Mr. Wray to be answered, at this late day, in the negative: "Is science brought to bear on the art of Strawberry culture in England?"
Mr. Wray, despite the adoption of the enlightened views lately presented by him, fells into some errors as to culture, which I shall correct in my next article; but there is one which I can not leave unnoticed at this time.
Mr. Keen has been referred to as having made some discoveries in regard to sexuality in 1809. He did so, and, as he states in the Horticultural Transactions, his discoveries were as to the Hautbois Strawberry only. Mr. Wray, however, applies this discovery to his "Keen's Seedling," which was not produced until 1821; to which, of course, it can have no application, and which, with his "Imperial,'9 the only other variety he ever produced, are both of the F. grandinora family, of which no pistillate variety has ever yet been produced in Europe, nor yet one enumerated in the London Horticultural Society's catalogue to the present hour. Mr. W. fell into this error probably by following Mr. Longworth, who makes the same transposition of facts and dates, the long period which has since elapsed probably causing forgetfulness of particulars.
The pistillate Keen's Seedling that found its way to Mr. Longworth is a misnomer. It is a native seedling of Indiana, of the wild prairie species termed F. Illinoiensis. I obtained it from Mr. Longworth in 1847, who supposed it had been imported from England; and I also obtained from him the Necked Pine, which proved to be another pistillate of the same Illinois species, although bearing a foreign title.
Prof. Huntsman (our closest observer of the Strawberry) and myself tested both, and we had many a laugh about the supposed voyage across the Atlantic. Mr. Hooper, also, author of the "Fruit Book," who lives within a mile of Cincinnati, states that the "Pistillate Keen" came from Indiana. Many of us were then cultivating the true Keen's Seedling and Imperial, which my father had received from the London Horticultural Society, and which were the same as have been cultivated here and in Europe down to the present period. Neither will produce a good crop unless attended by a Pine staminate. It is at the present time the male organs of all the European hermaphrodite Pine varieties, and not the female organs, as Mr. Wray, in common with others, supposes, that demand the application of a corrective by staminates.
It is this lack of investigation which has caused in Europe the failures in the culture and crops of the Pine and other Strawberries since the commencement there of the destruction of the staminates, and which has also given rise to the many outre speculations on the subject which have been advanced on that side of the water. Duchesne long since recognized the sexuality and dioecious character of the Fragaria elatior, (Hautbois,) and was reprimanded therefor by Linnaeus; but, like the more modern European cultivators, he failed to penetrate deep enough, and to thereby realize the great importance of this fat, by adopting a course of culture based thereon.
As the discovery made by Mr. Keen concerning the sexuality had reference only to the Hautbois - an European species - and as the practice of sexual combination of our American varieties existed here antecedent thereto, and of course long before Arbigust carried the supposed secret to Cincinnati, the fanciful supposition of Mr. Wray, that Mr. Arbigust, the German market gardener of Philadelphia, obtained his information from Mr. Keen, can hare no foundation whatever.
Mr. Wray further remarks, that "after Keen, a Monsieur Duchesne arrived at a simitar knowledge of the sexual differences in the Strawberry." But as Monsieur Duchesne was a cotemporary of Linnseus, and announced his discovery long before Keen was born, we can scarcely accord to the latter the credit of originality, however desirous we may be to aid in the beautiful harmony manifested by Mr. Wray and Dr. Lindley on this one point - that all the germs of intelligence first emerge from the fogs of Britain. The most astonishing fact, however, is, that the savans and cultivators of Europe have hitherto completely ignored the discoveries of both these investigators, as regards their scientific application and benefits to the Strawberry culture.