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.
Much speculation has been indulged in recently, by those interested in the cultivation of ferns, upon the subject of obtaining hybrid ferns by proper manipulation, in plant houses. The question has also occupied eminent botanists, whether true hybridism occurs in this section of the vegetable kingdom? Opinions are divided on the subject, and as no veritable instance, well authenticated, has been presented of a hybrid fern, the question remains an open one. True, it has been stated by one cultivator, that he succeeded in obtaining hybrids, but on a close examination of the details of his operations, the fact is at least questionable. In an editorial article, the editor of the London Gardener's Chronicle, T. Moore, a well-known authority in pteri-dology, reverts to the subject; he states that but two apparent cases have been communicated of hybrid ferns, and one of these refers to an American species of Asplenium found in this vicinity, and supposed to be a hybrid between the Walking Leaf (Camptosorus) and Aspleniumebeneum, as it was found in a locality densely inhabited by these two species, no other similar plant having ever been observed.
On these data, and after a careful examination of specimens sent him, M. J. Berkeley, an authority in cryptogamic botany, and seoretary of the London Horticultural Society, concluded the plant was a hybrid. The late Sir Wm. J. Hooker, to whom he referred the matter, admitted the plant to be entirely unknown to him, and as it partook of the distinguishing characters of two species indicated, said " that if there were such things as hybrid ferns, this might be one".
Fig. 101. - Asplenium ebenoides.
Subsequently, Mr. Eaton, of Yale College, wrote to the effect that the plant known as Asplenium ebenoides (? Scott) was not a hybrid, nor even a new species ; with this conclusion, however, Mr. Moore did not agree, as he saw points of difference between it and the species to which Mr. Eaton desired to refer it. Now, it may seem strange that the fern in question was submitted to Mr. Eaton by Dr. Asa Gray, of Cambridge, long before it was sent to England; fronds from the individual plant were furnished him in 1863, and subsequently, but he was not acquainted with it; at least he referred it to Asplenium pinnatifidum, in which Dr. Gray did not concur. As the plant was published, without the consent of the discoverer, in a monthly horticultural journal, with a print furnished a friend, I hope it will not be supposed that he was anxious to have it recognized as a hybrid, or even as a new species, in opposition to such an authority as Mr. Eaton, who is admitted by the editor of the Gardeners' Chronicle to be "better able to judge of American ferns than any one else".
One thing is clear, however: no botanist who has ever seen the plant, or specimens from it, but has admitted it to be entirely distinct. With such authorities as Sir Wm. Hooker, M. J. Berkeley, Asa Gray, and many others, we are satisfied to let the identity of Asplenium ebenoides (?) rest where it is. One thing I will guarantee - there is no money in it. This variation is a very important illustration of Dr. Darwin's theory of the origin of species.
R R. S., Philadelphia.