Darwin: Variation of Plants and Animals

Graft Hybrids

Before giving a summary on Bud-variation I will discuss some singular and anomalous cases, which are more or less closely related to this same subject. I will begin with the famous case of Adam's laburnum or Cytisus adami, a form or hybrid intermediate between two very distinct species, namely, C. laburnum and purpureus, the common and purple laburnum; but as this tree has often been described, I will be as brief as I can.

91. For analogous facts see Braun 'Rejuvenescence' in 'Ray Soc. Bot. Mem.' 1853 page 320; and 'Gardener's Chronicle' 1842 page 397; also Braun in 'Sitzungsberichte der Ges. naturforschender Freunde' June 1873 page 63.

92. 'Journal of Hort. Soc.' volume 2 1847 page 100.

93. See 'Transact. of Hort. Congress of Amsterdam' 1865; but I owe most of the following information to Prof. Caspary's letters.

94. 'Nouvelles Archives du Museum' tome 1 page 143.

95. See on this head Naudin ibid page 141.

96. Braun in 'Bot. Mem. Ray. Soc.' 1853 page 23.

97. This hybrid has never been described. It is exactly intermediate in foliage, time of flowering, dark striae at the base of the standard petal, hairiness of the ovarium, and in almost every other character, between C. laburnum and alpinus; but it approaches the former species more nearly in colour, and exceeds it in the length of the racemes. We have before seen that 20.3 per cent of its pollen-grains are ill-formed and worthless. My plant, though growing not above thirty or forty yards from both parent-species, during some seasons yielded no good seeds; but in 1866 it was unusually fertile, and its long racemes produced from one to occasionally even four pods. Many of the pods contained no good seeds, but generally they contained a single apparently good seed, sometimes two, and in one case three seeds. Some of these seeds germinated, and I raised two trees from them; one resembles the present form; the other has a remarkable dwarf character with small leaves, but has not yet flowered.

98. 'Annales de la Soc. de l'Hort. de Paris' tome 7 1830 page 93.

99. An account was given in the 'Gardener's Chronicle' 1857 pages 382, 400, of a common laburnum on which grafts of C. purpureus had been inserted, and which gradually assumed the character of C. adami; but I have little doubt that C. adami had been sold to the purchaser, who was not a botanist, in the place of C. purpureus. I have ascertained that this occurred in another instance.

Throughout Europe, in different soils and under different climates, branches on this tree have repeatedly and suddenly reverted to the two parent species in their flowers and leaves. To behold mingled on the same tree tufts of dingy-red, bright yellow, and purple flowers, borne on branches having widely different leaves and manner of growth, is a surprising sight. The same raceme sometimes bears two kinds of flowers; and I have seen a single flower exactly divided into halves, one side being bright yellow and the other purple; so that one half of the standard-petal was yellow and of larger size, and the other half purple and smaller. In another flower the whole corolla was bright yellow, but exactly half the calyx was purple. In another, one of the dingy-red wing-petals had a narrow bright yellow stripe on it; and lastly, in another flower, one of the stamens, which had become slightly foliaceous, was half yellow and half purple; so that the tendency to segregation of character or reversion affects even single parts and organs.91 The most remarkable fact about this tree is that in its intermediate state, even when growing near both parent-species, it is quite sterile; but when the flowers become pure yellow or pure purple they yield seed. I believe that the pods from the yellow flowers yield a full complement of seed; they certainly yield a larger number. Two seedlings raised by Mr. Herbert from such seed92 exhibited a purple tinge on the stalks of their flowers; but several seedlings raised by myself resembled in every character the common laburnum, with the exception that some of them had remarkably long racemes: these seedlings were perfectly fertile. That such purity of character and fertility should be suddenly reacquired from so hybridised and sterile a form is an astonishing phenomenon. The branches with purple flowers appear at first sight exactly to resemble those of C. purpureus; but on careful comparison I found that they differed from the pure species in the shoots being thicker, the leaves a little broader, and the flowers slightly shorter, with the corolla and calyx less brightly purple: the basal part of the standard-petal also plainly showed a trace of the yellow stain. So that the flowers, at least in this instance, had not perfectly recovered their true character; and in accordance with this, they were not perfectly fertile, for many of the pods contained no seed, some produced one, and very few contained as many as two seeds; whilst numerous pods on a tree of the pure C. purpureus in my garden contained three, four, and five fine seeds. The pollen, moreover, was very imperfect, a multitude of grains being small and shrivelled; and this is a singular fact; for, as we shall immediately see, the pollen-grains in the dingy-red and sterile flowers on the parent-tree, were, in external appearance, in a much better state, and included very few shrivelled grains. Although the pollen of the reverted purple flowers was in so poor a condition, the ovules were well formed, and the seeds, when mature, germinated freely with me. Mr. Herbert raised plants from seeds of the reverted purple flowers, and they differed a VERY LITTLE from the usual state of C. purpureus. Some which I raised in the same manner did not differ at all, either in the character of their flowers or of the whole bush, from the pure C. purpureus. Prof. Caspary has examined the ovules of the dingy-red and sterile flowers in several plants of C. adami on the Continent93 and finds them generally monstrous. In three plants examined by me in England, the ovules were likewise monstrous, the nucleus varying much in shape, and projecting irregularly beyond the proper coats. The pollen grains, on the other hand, judging from their external appearance, were remarkably good, and readily protruded their tubes. By repeatedly counting, under the microscope, the proportional number of bad grains, Prof. Caspary ascertained that only 2.5 per cent were bad, which is a less proportion than in the pollen of three pure species of Cytisus in their cultivated state, viz., C. purpureus, laburnum, and alpinus. Although the pollen of C. adami is thus in appearance good, it does not follow, according to M. Naudin's observation94 on Mirabilis, that it would be functionally effective. The fact of the ovules of C. adami being monstrous, and the pollen apparently sound, is all the more remarkable, because it is opposed to what usually occurs not only with most hybrids95, but with two hybrids in the same genus, namely in C. purpureo-elongatus, and C. alpino-laburnum. In both these hybrids, the ovules, as observed by Prof. Caspary and myself, were well-formed, whilst many of the pollen-grains were ill-formed; in the latter hybrid 20.3 per cent, and in the former no less than 84.8 per cent of the grains were ascertained by Prof. Caspary to be bad. This unusual condition of the male and female reproductive elements in C. adami has been used by Prof. Caspary as an argument against this plant being considered as an ordinary hybrid produced from seed; but we should remember that with hybrids the ovules have not been examined nearly so frequently as the pollen, and they may be much oftener imperfect than is generally supposed. Dr. E. Bornet, of Antibes, informs me (through Mr. J. Traherne Moggridge) that with hybrid Cisti the ovarium is frequently deformed, the ovules being in some cases quite absent, and in other cases incapable of fertilisation.

Several theories have been propounded to account for the origin of C. adami, and for the transformations which it undergoes. The whole case has been attributed by some authors to bud-variation; but considering the wide difference between C. laburnum and purpureus, both of which are natural species, and considering the sterility of the intermediate form, this view may be summarily rejected. We shall presently see that, with hybrid plants, two embryos differing in their characters may be developed within the same seed and cohere; and it has been supposed that C. adami thus originated. Many botanists maintain that C. adami is a hybrid produced in the common way by seed, and that it has reverted by buds to its two parent-forms. Negative results are not of much value; but Reisseck, Caspary, and myself, tried in vain to cross C. laburnum and purpureus; when I fertilised the former with pollen of the latter, I had the nearest approach to success, for pods were formed, but in sixteen days after the withering of the flowers, they fell off. Nevertheless, the belief that C. adami is a spontaneously produced hybrid between these two species is supported by the fact that such hybrids have arisen in this genus. In a bed of seedlings from C. elongatus, which grew near to C. purpureus, and was probably fertilised by it through the agency of insects (for these, as I know by experiment, play an important part in the fertilisation of the laburnum), the sterile hybrid C. purpureo-elongatus appeared.96 Thus, also, Waterer's laburnum, the C. alpino-laburnum97 spontaneously appeared, as I am informed by Mr. Waterer, in a bed of seedlings.

On the other hand, we have a clear and distinct account given to Poiteau98 by M. Adam, who raised the plant, showing that C. adami is not an ordinary hybrid; but is what may be called a graft-hybrid, that is, one produced from the united cellular tissue of two distinct species. M. Adam inserted in the usual manner a shield of the bark of C. purpureus into a stock of C. laburnum; and the bud lay dormant, as often happens, for a year; the shield then produced many buds and shoots, one of which grew more upright and vigorous with larger leaves than the shoots of C. purpureus, and was consequently propagated. Now it deserves especial notice that these plants were sold by M. Adam, as a variety of C. purpureus, before they had flowered; and the account was published by Poiteau after the plants had flowered, but before they had exhibited their remarkable tendency to revert into the two parent species. So that there was no conceivable motive for falsification, and it is difficult to see how there could have been any error.99 If we admit as true M. Adam's account, we must admit the extraordinary fact that two distinct species can unite by their cellular tissue, and subsequently produce a plant bearing leaves and sterile flowers intermediate in character between the scion and stock, and producing buds liable to reversion; in short, resembling in every important respect a hybrid formed in the ordinary way by seminal reproduction.

I will therefore give all the facts which I have been able to collect on the formation of hybrids between distinct species or varieties, without the intervention of the sexual organs. For if, as I am now convinced, this is possible, it is a most important fact, which will sooner or later change the views held by physiologists with respect to sexual reproduction. A sufficient body of facts will afterwards be adduced, showing that the segregation or separation of the characters of the two parent-forms by bud-variation, as in the case of Cytisus adami, is not an unusual though a striking phenomenon. We shall further see that a whole bud may thus revert, or only half, or some smaller segment.