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.
Nature, or rather a kind Providence, has sent these industrious insects to thin the fruit. Sometimes they do it well, but oftener to excess. Were it not for this insect, we have good reason to believe that certain sorts of the apricot and plum would soon become extinct from excessive fruitfulness.
There is one Variety of the plum, called the Yellow Egg, which is more highly valued and more extensively planted by those that know it than any other. It is a strong grower, very productive and rarely knots, qualities that are seldom combined in a single sort. It is mostly propagated from suckers, as we have it, root and branch, from the original. In England it is called an American plum, and no doubt it originated in the valley of the Hudson, as it has been cultivated here from time immemorial, growing with almost as much ease and facility as the willow. It also makes the very best of stocks, on which to work other plums that are difficult to grow on account of knotting or other constitutional defects. In sandy districts it is apt to drop the fruit before maturity, plainly showing the advantage of a clay soil for the plum. Downing has somewhere said, in giving advice to young planters, " Look around and see what varieties thrive best and are most productive in your immediate locality, and plant mostly of them." The above advice is truly valuable, and every planter should avail himself of it. Certainly more money has been realized from the sale of the Yellow Egg than from any other sort that is here raised.
It is also longer lived and more reliable than most others.
The only really serious drawback to the cultivation of the plum is the knot. Some varieties are so much subject to it as to compel us entirely to abandon their cultivation. Different opinions are entertained by orchardists as to the cause. Some attribute it to the sting of an insect, some to decayed plums coming in contact with the branches, and others to a constitutional defect. The latter is, no doubt, the true cause. Propagating from suckers taken from badly diseased trees, is believed also to increase and aggravate it. If suckers are used for stalks, they should by all means be taken from those varieties which never knot. Medical men say that it is an uncontro-verted fact that certain diseases, from which mankind suffer, are hereditary, amongst which are consumption, scrofula, etc. Why may not the same rule hold good in the vegetable world? The writer believes that such is the case. Having frequently examined the knots when in the soft or incipient state, he has never been able to discover any insect or worm at that time; but when the knots become old and crack, there can sometimes be found a small worm about a quarter of an inch in length. Certain sorts of the plum have been subject to this disease for thirty years or more.
I distinctly remember a fine orchard of the damson, that for many years was very healthy and productive. About the year 1825, the knots appeared in it, and in two or three years it was wholly destroyed. The true damson is a small blue plum, and remains on the tree till hard frost, frequently after the foliage is gone. It is now seldom seen.
A writer in one of the back numbers of the Horticulturist advanced the opinion that the knot was caused by decayed plums remaining on the trees, as he had frequently found the limb diseased directly underneath. If such be the case it is something new to us at least; nurserymen are well aware that seedlings which never fruited are frequently seen badly knotted. These facts ought to convince any one that decayed plums are not the true cause. " Is this disease contagious?" is a question often asked. It does seem to be so sometimes, for it has been frequently observed, in certain orchards, composed mostly of varieties which rarely knot, that a few knots suffered to remain for a few years, will seriously affect trees in close proximity. If, then, trees cannot be kept free of knots by cutting out the affected branches two or three times a year, they had better be taken out and burned.
Among the varieties tested by myself and others in this vicinity, the following may be relied on as seldom or never affected by the knots:
Coe's Golden Drop. Yellow Egg. Imperial Gage. Roe's Autumn Gage. Italian Prune. Emerald Drop.
The last named variety, a drawing and description of which may be found in the January number of the Horticulturist for 1855, is so valuable, that it should be found even in the smallest collection.
[It is certainly very pleasant to hear of a locality where the plum succeeds so well, and where the curculio is a blessing! There, is another district, now within reach of the markets of Philadelphia and New York, where the plum seems to thrive almost without cultivation; it is in lower Delaware, lately made accessible by a railroad. The quantity of this fine fruit brought from thence last year was astonishing. We shall thus be compelled to depend upon certain places for particular fruits, and grow in each situation what is found by experience to be its speciality. - Ed. H]
Selecting out of the many a few of the very best in all respects for table and market of fruit, and for growth, health, hardihood, and bearing of tree, is a difficult task; but, as just now is the cherry season, my list may be compared with varieties not named; and if any one has a better than here named, I hope he will report it, at least to me, if not to the public.
The variety most extensively planted in Florida, I think, is the China, believed to have been introduced into Europe and thence into Florida from the country from which it takes its name. It has a thin smooth rind, and is very juicy. The St. Michael is a sub - variety of the China.
The Portugal or Lisbon orange is nearly round, and has a thick rind.
The Maltese or Blood orange is remarkable for the red color of its pulp. I have seen but few of this variety in Florida.
The Tangerine is a small flat fruit about half the size of the common orange, with a pleasant odor and a very fine flavor.
The Mandarin orange, recently introduced from China, has a fruit much broader than long, a thick rind loosely attached to the flesh, and much smaller leaves than the other sorts. It is classed by some as a distinct species (Citrus nobilis). It is one of the best kinds.