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.
Several farmers of my acquaintance, who hold the popular belief on this subject, have acknowledged to me that they have planted seed of a variety of corn which to all appearance was perfectly distinct and pure, in a situation far removed from all other varieties, and where it could not mix with any other, and yet the crop was badly mixed with another sort. This could not have been the case without this apparently pure seed had been mixed in the germ the year before, by the variety showing itself in the crop. The popular belief, also, respecting the mixture of different kinds of vegetables, is erroneous. For instance it is generally supposed that squashes and pumpkins will, the first year they are planted adjacent, show the mixture in the product of each kind. Yet I know this idea to be a myth. The said squashes and pumpkins will, the first season they are so planted, show no mixture whatever, provided they have previously been kept distinct. It is their seed which will produce the mixture.
In conclusion, I would like to hear from other hybridists on this subject. Doubtless many persons besides myself would be interested to learn the opinions of M. P. Wilder, E. S. Rogers, S. W.Underhill, and others. I am specially curious to know if they think that pear blossoms could develop into "apple pulp," in consequence of their fertilization by apple pollen.
IN the August number, Horticulturist, Jacob Moore, of Rochester, N. Y., in an article on Hybrid Fruits, asserts that, " even allowing that they (he is speaking of the apple and the pear) can be crossed, * * * this would affect neither the color, shape, texture, or flavor of the fruit in the slightest perceptible degree. Experience renders me positive on this point. I have crossed native grapes with * * * the finest foreign grapes, and have never been able to detect the slightest approach to the foreign varieties used, either in the shape, color, flavor, or texture of the fruit, or the formation of the seed. • • • Such is my experience, also, with crosses between varieties and species of the apple, pear, and other fruits".
Again, further on, he says: "Corn, as is well known, is fertilised by the pollen dropping from the tassel upon the silk, descending through it to the point of the seed in the cob, and there entering into the composition of the germ of the seed, popularly termed the chit. A cross or mixture of the two varieties is effected, simply, by the pollen of one variety acting upon the seed of the other, precisely as its own pollen does. It is a mistake to suppose that the pollen of the one changes the main body of the seed of the other into that of the variety to which the pollen belongs, or into something appearing to be a medium or cross between the two sorts. Such an effect is impossible, according to my judgment and experience. * * * The popular belief, also, respecting the mixture of different kinds of vegetables is erroneous".
The several positions here taken by Mr. Moore, amount, in the aggregate, to this; that neither fruits, grains, nor vegetables, can exhibit any of the effects of hybridisation the same season in which they are cross-fertilized ; or, in other words, that no fruit, grain, or vegetable, is ever varied in its shape, color, flavor, or texture, by being grown in juxtaposition with other fruits, grains, or vegetables, or other varieties of the same fruit, grain, or vegetable.
In contravention of this doctrine, allow me to present, without comment, three items of my own experience :
Some fifteen years ago, I set a scion of the Beurre Bose pear in a bearing tree of White Doyenne. The first product of that graft - an only specimen - was shaped and colored like a White Doyenne, and not at all like a Beurre' Bose ; neither would any one have suspected from its texture, or flavor, that it belonged to the latter variety. So striking was the phenomenon, that I saved and planted the seed of the specimen, from which I have a graft, not yet in bearing.
Three years ago a friend of mine presented me with an ear of black sweet corn. I planted it beside Stowell's Evergreen. On picking the corn for use, I found many black kernels in the Evergreen ears, but not an ear of what should have been the Black contained a moiety of kernels of that color, while more or less of the ears were wholly white, or very nearly so. It was certainly the first opportunity the Evergreen had had of going in for amalgamation with its colored kin, on my soil; for I had planted it by itself for a number of years, and kept it in great purity. I have had the Early Red corn and the White Pop corn mix in the same way.
Some twenty or more years ago (I cannot now lay my hand on the dates), I planted a parcel of ground indiscriminately with Jackson and Mercer potatoes. In digging the crop I was surprised to find, in a single hill, a handful of tubers entirely different from either of the sorts planted, and from all other varieties with which I was acquainted. The circumstance appeared to me so singular that I carefully saved the specimens, and planted them the following spring. Finding at harvest that they were a fixed fact, and not a mere abortive sport, I furnished an account of their origin to two or three of the papers of that day, the Albany Cultivator being one of them. I named it the Gray lock potato. It was very smooth, kidney form, grayish purple in color, and of the very finest texture and flavor. Luther Tucker, then editor of the Cultivator, pronounced it the finest potato he had seen, and ordered seed of it by the barrel for his own use. No one questioned its being a new and distinct variety. I cultivated it several years for my own table, until I was obliged to relinquish it on account of its deteriorated yield.
The modus operandi in these cases has appeared to me so obviously beyond my depth, that I have made no attempt to fathom it. It may prove an interesting subject for the curious, and with them I leave it. Asahel Foote.