Chronicle, Nov. 23, 1918. p. 205
THE "HIMALAYA" BERRY
E. A. Bunyard.
This remarkably prolific Blackberry has been growth in this country for some years, and though the fruits are lacking in flavour it is without doubt a very remarkable addition to the list of fruiting Rubi.
I have been trying for some years to get definite information as to its origin, and feel pretty certain that its source is European and not Indian.
Mr. Alfred Mitting, an American nurseryman, who specialises in these berries, gives the following historical particulars:—
|*CybeRose note: Luther Burbank offered his 'Himalaya Giant' blackberry in a circular dated February, 1897.|
"Unknown to the rest of the world, it had been growing for centuries in the Himalaya Mountains, when a British military expedition went north from India into Persia and Thibet, found it and brought back some plants. A Seattle firm brought the first plants into the United States in 1905*, and since then Himalaya has been developed and tested until we know that for many purposes it is so altogether different and new and good that it is an invaIuable addition to the fruits American farmers can grow."
Thinking that the expedition referred to would be that of Sir Francis Younghusband, I wrote to him recently, and he was good enough to inform me that he knew nothing of the plant or its reputed discoverers. Sir David Prain, who was with the expedition, also feels sure no such Blackberry was found.
The Himalayan origin is therefore extremely doubtful, to say the least. When in Germany in the autumn of 1912 I was impressed with a very fruitful Blackberry called Theodore Reimers, and had plants sent to me the following winter. After several years of comparison I find it identical with the so-called "Himalaya," and have no doubt that this fruit found its way to America, and there underwent the rechristening which often follows migrations.
Theodore Reimers is figured in the Pomologisch Monatshefte,1904, p. 49. It seems that seeds were raised from a plant found in a neighhour's garden by Garteninspector Theodore Reimers in 1889, and one of these produced the berry under consideration. All the evidence, therefore, points to the fact that it is descended from a European species of Rubus, as is indeed suggested by its appearance.
Chronicle, Jan. 18, 1919. p. 27
THE "HIMALAYA" BERRY
E. A. Bunyard
SINCE writing the note on this fruit which was published on p. 205 I have turned up a further reference in the Deutsche Obstbauzeitung for 1910, P. 402, by Paul Dapp-Opplingen, which throws a valuable light on the question. He confirms the origin which I quoted in my previous note, and states that the plant from which the seeds were taken was Rubus arenarius, or, popularly, the "Sand Brombeere." The seedling reproduced the mother-plant exactly. The Sand Brombeere is described and figured in Illustrirtes Handbuch der Obstkunde, Vol. 2, page 301. It is there stated that the plant is extraordinarily vigorous, making often 20 feet of growth in a year. The figure of the fruits shows a smaller truss than we know in the "Himalaya" Berry, but this is probably due to the fact that the artist had a very limited space at disposal; the descriptions of foliage and other details agree exactly.
It seems probable that "arenarius" is intended for the Rubus Arrhenii of Lange, and if our Rubi specialists can confirm this we shall have run the "Himalaya" Berry to ground at last.
R. A. Rolfe
THE origin and botanical status of this prolific Blackberry have long been in doubt. In August, 1915, the Fruit Committee of the Royal Horticultural Society awarded this fruit a First-class Certificate after trial at Wisley. The variety was sent to Wisley by Messrs. Laxton Bros. A fruiting branch was sent to Kew with a view to its determination. On comparison with ample dried materials, and with living plants in the bed, it was identified with a form of Rubus villicaulis, Koehler, having a white felted under surface to the leaves, but as there was some doubt as to the real status of the latter a note on the subject was left unfinished. The popular name presumably afforded a clue to the origin of the plant, but it was found that no such Blackberry was known from the Himalayas, and the point was afterwards confirmed by Mr. J. S. Gamble, who has lost no opportunity of collecting and studying the Rubi of the region in question.
Since then two important works have appeared. Focke's Species Ruborum and Sudre's Rubi Europaei, while a history of the Himalaya berry has been given by A. T. Erwin in Bailey's Cyclopaedia of Horticulture. The date is 1915, and we read that the Himalaya berry is an evergreen Blackberry of Asiatic origin that has been widely planted in the last three or four years. It is said to have been introduced by Luther Burbank in the early nineties, the seed having been received by him from an English traveller who secured it from the Himalaya Mountains. This part of the record is probably erroneous, unless, indeed, it had been first introduced from Europe. As to its botanical status, there is a note that Rubus thyrsanthus, Focke, is included in the work because the plant grown in this country as the Himalaya berry is probably referable to it. This record, however, is not at all borne out by comparison. The status of the plant was under investigation from fresh materials when Mr. E. A. Bunyard's interesting note (page 205) appeared, identifying the so-called Himalaya berry with the Blackberry known as "Theodore Reimers." This is a far more likely history, and we may accept the inference that the fruit found its way to America, and there underwent the rechristening that often follows migrations. It is to be hoped that the erroneous name will now be allowed to drop into oblivion. By the way, is it possible to secure a copy of the figure cited for the Kew Library?
There now remains the question of the botanical status of the plant. Focke, in his recent work, says that Rubus villicaulis is a collective species, fluctuating between R. rhamnifolius and R. gratus, and that it is scarcely distinguishable with certainty from an artificial hybrid obtained by him from R. gratus crossed with the pollen of R. bifrons. The last I have not seen, but from the description I suspect it to be identical with R. villicaulis var. incarnatus, which has the leaves white-felted beneath, as in R. bifrons (and as in the Himalaya berry), not green as in typical R. villicaulis. In a previous account he had explained that this hybrid gave perfect fruits, and that he did not know how to distinguish it from true villicaulis. He also asked, "What is the widely-distributed villicaulis?" My inference is that R. villicaulis is a hybrid between R. gratus and R. rhamnifolius, and the variety incarnatus another between R. gratus and R. bifrons, and that the two should not have been combined. The latter must therefore retain its original name of R. incarnatus, Muell. We may therefore conclude that the Blackberry under discussion is a hybrid derivative of R. incarnates, a bush of which was found by Garteninspector Theodore Reimers in a neighbour's garden, in 1889, and was considered so promising that he obtained a few seeds, from one of which this Blackberry was derived, possibly as an improved race. It might, of course, have been a hybrid direct, but had the bush been simply R. gratus or R. bifrons it would probably not have attracted attention, or the difference in the resulting seedling might have been commented upon. However this may be, it is highly probable that this Blackberry is a hybrid, which opens a wide field of possibilities.