The Gardener’s Monthly and Horticultural Adviser 9(5): 137-138 (May, 1867)


A few days since I received your favor of 20th ult., querying whether I had not at some time sent you some observations concerning the influence of the graft upon the roots of trees, and asking for further experience. I have no recollection of ever writing out my notes, though at one time I gave the subject much thought, and I spent some time in its investigation. The result of it all was that I could detect a very decided difference in the number, size and vigor of the roots of different sorts of apple trees when grown side by side and grafted on the same lot of seedlings, but being unable to turn the information to any practical purpose, I directed my attention to other matters. Even now I can hardly see why the facts should be considered valuable, unless they might perhaps assist science in unveiling some of the remaining mysteries of plant life and growth. I frankly admit that it is all mystery to me why the roots of the St. Lawrence apple are usually so few in number and of such wonderful size and vigor.

The Northern Spy will have roots much more numerous and less vigorous, and English Golden Russet will have roots both numerous and vigorous though less in size than the St. Lawrence. So marked is the difference that there would be no danger of mistaking a bundle of one for the other, though only the roots could be seen. Of course these peculiarities are not equally apparent in each single specimen, for some roots have so much individuality that the graft but slightly influences them.

I recollect several years ago budding a row of Paradise stocks with the St. Lawrence,—mentioned above as having very few and strong roots. A portion failed to "take" and all were left together in the row, and finally all were transplanted at one time. Those with Paradise tops had numerous and fibrous roots, the nominal condition of the Paradise plant. Those with St. Lawrence tops had those great strong roots, few in number, peculiar to that variety.

One plant in particular was specially noticeable. It had a small lot of Paradise-like roots apparently about what it should have had at the time it was worked, but about two inches below the bud a solitary St. Lawrence-like root had shot out and become fully equal in diameter to the trunk of the tree, and further, a broad and very distinct ridge extended from this root to the bud showing plainly the sympathy between the two.

It has been stated that a hardy graft would impart its hardiness to a tender root. This certainly is not so to any considerable extent, as I have learned to my cost. Seven years ago we had a very cold winter with little snow, consequently all tender roots were killed. The spring following, nursery rows of hardy sorts of apples, showed many trees that did not put out in leaf though apparently uninjured by frost; an examination showed that all below the graft was dead, such trees had chanced to be grafted on tender seedlings. Others that chanced to be on hardy stocks made a vigorous growth. A few trees pushed feebly and made a poor growth, most of these were found dead below the graft, but were sustained by a few hardy roots that had put out from the graft itself. These eventually made fine hardy trees on their own roots.

If any one feels disposed to experiment in this direction, I would suggest the idea of grafting the Tomato upon the Potato as likely to lead to interesting results. Though these two plants belong to the same family, their roots are widely dissimilar, (it may be here remembered that the tuber is not a root,) and any variation would be readily noted, a full crop of tubers below and Tomatoes above would be eminently satisfactory to Hawk eyes, and, better yet, it would send consternation and dismay among our sworn enemies, the Potato Bugs.