Cultivated Plants: their propagation and improvement pp. 90-91 (1877)

Frederick William Burbidge

*M. Carriere figures a tree of Ailanthus glandulosus in the 'Revue Horticole,' 1872, p. 234, which bore male and female flowers on separate branches.

It is very singular to note the precocity of some seminal varieties, and this tendency appears to be favoured by bad culture. Seedling Fuchsias, if starved, frequently flower when only an inch or two in height; and in a recent number of the 'Revue Horticole,' figures are given of an Ailanthus excelsa* which produced flowers when only four months old, and when the seed-leaves were still attached to the plant. The flowers were male. It is possible that a similar case figured in the 'Gardeners' Chronicle' was also a seedling, but we had no opportunity of ascertaining whether this was so or not. M. Carriere also figures a Weigela which flowered when little more than an inch in height. More than 200 seedlings showed the same precocity, and Rhamnus olaefolius and Pavia hybrida have been observed by M. Carriere to present the like phenomenon.

A seedling Cocoa-nut Palm (Cocos nucifera) is figured in the 'Gardeners' Chronicle,' 1873, p. 213, and this bore both male and female flowers on a curved branched spadix long before the plant assumed its pinnate foliage. A whole race of dwarf Rhododendrons was raised by Messrs Standish & Noble prior to 1850 (see Rhododendron); and it appears possible for the intelligent cultivator and hybridiser to originate and select some dwarf and precocious races of our most popular flowers, as well as of those plants which, like Brownea, Amherstia, AEsculus, and other trees and shrubs do not naturally flower in a small state, by taking advantage of nature's variability or precocious sportiveness, induced by cross-breeding or cultivation, since whenever a break is obtained in any given direction, the perfection of such variations is merely a work of patience and perseverance. Poor soil and a light dry atmosphere are favourable to either dwarf or variegated plants, and also facilitate the production of flowers. A moist genial temperature, with plenty of light and sun-heat, greatly assists fertilisation by hastening the growth of the pollen-tubes; and careful selection of plump, well-ripened-seeds, from such individuals only as come nearest to the desired standard of assumed perfection, must be specially attended to as one of the most potent helps towards the desired end.