Species and Varieties: Their Origin by Mutation (1904)
Lectures delivered at the University of California
Hugo DeVries
Professor of Botany in the University of Amsterdam

Lecture XIII

Pistillody in Poppies

One of the most curious anomalies that may be met with in ornamental garden-plants is the conversion of stamens into pistils. It is neither common nor rare, but in most cases the change is so slight comparatively that it is ordinarily overlooked. In the opium-poppy, on the contrary, it is very showy, and heightens the ornamental effect of the young fruits after the fading of the flowers. Here the central capsule is surrounded by a large crown of metamorphosed stamens.

This peculiarity has attracted the attention both of horticulturists and of botanists. As a rule not all the stamens are changed in this way but only those of the innermost rows. The outer stamens remain normal and fertile, and the flowers, when pollinated with their own pollen, bear as rich a harvest of seeds as other opium-poppies. The change affects both the filament and the anther, the former of which is dilated into a sheath. Within this sheath perfect and more or less numerous ovules may be produced. The anthers become rudimentary and in their place broad leafy flaps are developed, which protrude laterally from the tip and constitute the stigmas. Ordinarily these altered organs are sterile, but in some instances a very small quantity of seed is produced, and when testing their viability I succeeded in raising a few plants from them.

The same anomaly occurs in other plants. The common wall-flower (Cheiranthus Cheiri) and the houseleek (Sempervivum tectorum) are the best known instances. Both have repeatedly been described by various investigators. In compiling the literature of this subject it is very interesting to observe the two contrasting views respecting the nature of this anomaly. Some writers, and among them Masters in his "Vegetable Teratology" consider the deviations to be merely accidental. According to them some species are more subject to this anomaly than others, and the houseleek is said to be very prone to this change. Goeppert, Hofmeister and others occasionally found the pistilloid poppies in fields or gardens, and sowed their seeds in order to ascertain whether the accidental peculiarity was inheritable or not. On the other hand De Candolle in his "Prodromus" mentions the pistilloid wall-flowers as a distinct variety, under the name of Cheiranthus Cheiri gynantherus, and the analogous form of the opium-poppy is not at all an accidental anomaly, but an old true horticultural variety, which can be bought everywhere under the names of Papaver somniferum monstruosum or polycephalum. Since it is an annual plant, only the seeds are for sale, and this at once gives a sufficient proof of its heredity. In all cases, where it was met with accidentally by botanists, it is to be assumed that stray seeds had been casually mixed with those of other varieties, or that the habit had been transmitted by a spontaneous cross.

Wherever opportunity led to experiments on heredity, distinct races were found to be in possession of this quality, while others were not. It is of no use to cultivate large numbers of wall-flowers in the hope of one day seeing the anomaly arise; the only means is to secure the strain from those who have got it. With poppies the various varieties are so often intercrossed by bees, that the appearance of an accidental change may sometimes be produced, and in the houseleek the pistilloid warily seems to be the ordinary one, the normal strain being very rare or perhaps wholly wanting.

Our three illustrative examples are good and permanent races, producing their peculiar qualities regularly and abundantly. In this respect they are however very variable and dependent on external circumstances. Such a regularity is not met with in other instances. Often pedigree-experiments lead to poor races, betraying their tendency to deviate only from time to time and in rare cases. Such instances constitute what we have called in a former lecture, "half races," and their occurrence indicates that the casual observation of an anomaly is not in itself adequate to give an opinion as to the chance of repetition in sowing experiments. A large number of species seem to belong to this case, and their names may be found in the above mentioned work by Masters and elsewhere. But no effort has yet been made to separate thoroughly the pistilloid half-races from the corresponding ever-sporting varieties. Some plants are recorded as being more liable to this peculiarity than others.

Stamens are sometimes replaced by open carpels with naked ovules arising from their edges and even from their whole inner surfaces. This may be seen in distinct strains of the cultivated bulbous Begonia, and more rarely in primroses. Here the apex of the carpellary leaf is sometimes drawn out into a long style, terminated by a flattened spatulate stigma.

The pistillody of the stamens is frequently combined with another deviation in the poppies. This is the growing together of some of the altered stamens so as to constitute smaller or larger connate groups. Often two are united, sometimes three, four or more. Flowers with numerous altered stamens are seldom wholly free from this most undesirable secondary anomaly. I call it undesirable with respect to experiments on the variability of the character. For it may easily be seen that while it is feasible to count the stamens even when converted into pistils, it is not possible when groups of them are more or less intimately united into single bodies. This combination makes all enumeration difficult and inaccurate and often wholly unreliable. In such cases the observation is limited to a computation of the degree of the change, rather than to a strict numerical inquiry. Happily the responses to the experimental influences are so marked and distinct that even this method of describing them has proved to be wholly sufficient.

In extreme instances I have seen all the changed stamens of a flower of the opium-poppy united into a single body, so as to form a close sheath all around the central ovary. Lesser sheaths, surrounding one-half or one-third of the capsule are of course less rarely met with. Leaving this description of the outer appearance of our anomaly, we may now consider it from the double point of view of inheritance and variability.

The fact of inheritance is shown by the experience of many authors, and by the circumstance already quoted, that the variety has been propagated from seed for more than half a century, and may be obtained from various seed merchants. In respect to the variability, the variety belongs to the ever-sporting group, constituting a type which is more closely related to the "five-leaved" clover than to the striped flowers or even the double stocks.

It fluctuates around an average type with half filled crowns, going as far as possible in both directions, but never transgressing either limit. It is even doubtful whether the presumable limits are, under ordinary circumstances, ever reached. Obviously one extreme would be the conversion of all the stamens, and the other the absolute deficiency of any marked tendency to such a change. Both may occur, and will probably be met with from time to time. But they must be extremely rare, since in my own extensive experiments, which were strictly controlled, I never was able to find a single instance of either of them. Some of the outer stamens have always remained unchanged, yielding enough pollen for the artificial pollination of the central ovary, and on the other hand some rudiments of hardened filaments were always left, even if they were reduced to small protuberances on the thalamus of the flower. Between these extremes all grades occur. From single, partially or wholly changed stamens upwards to 150 and over, all steps may be seen. It is a true fluctuating variability. There is an average of between 50 and 100, constituting a nearly filled crown around the central capsule. Around this average the smaller deviations are most numerous and the larger ones more rare. The inspection of any bed of the variety suffices to show that, taken broadly, the ordinary laws of fluctuating variability are applicable. No counting of the single individuals is required to dispel all doubts on this point.

Moreover all intermediate steps respecting the conversion of the single stamens may nearly always be seen. Rarely all are changed into normal secondary ovaries with a stigma and with a cavity filled with ovules. Often the stigma is incomplete or even almost wanting, in other instances the ovules are lacking or the cavity itself is only partially developed. Not rarely some stamens are reduced and converted into thin hard stalks, without any appearance of an ovary at their tip. But then the demarcation between them and the thalamus fails, so that they cannot be thrown off when the flower fades away, but remain as small stumps around the base of the more fully converted filaments. This fact would frequently render the enumeration of the altered organs quite unreliable.

For these reasons I have chosen a group of arbitrary stages in order to express the degree of deviation for a given lot of plants. The limits were chosen so as to be sufficiently trustworthy and easy to ascertain. In each group the members could be counted, and a series of figures was reached by this means which allowed of a further comparison of the competing sets of plants.

It should be stated that in such experiments and especially in the case of such a showy criterion as the pistilloid heads afford after the time of flowering is over, the inspection of the controlling beds at once indicates the result of the experiment. Even a hasty survey is in most cases sufficient to get a definite conclusion. Where this is not the case, the counting of the individuals of the various groups often does not add to the evidence, and the result remains uncertain. On the other hand, the impression made by the groups of plants on the experimenter and on his casual visitors, cannot well be conveyed to the readers of his account by other means than by figures. For this reason the result of the experiments is expressed in this way.

I made six groups. The first includes the cases where the whole circle is reduced to small rudiments. The second shows 1-10 secondary capsules. The two following constitute half a crown around the central fruit, the third going up to this limit, the fourth going from this limit to a nearly filled circle. Wholly filled circles of secondary capsules without gaps give the two last degrees, the fifth requiring only continuity of the circle, the sixth displaying a large and bright crown all around the central head. The fifth group ordinarily includes from 90-100 altered stamens, while the sixth has from 100-150 of these deviating parts.

In ordinary cultures the third and fourth group, with their interrupted crowns, predominate. Large crowns are rare and flowers which at first sight seem to be wholly normal, occur only under circumstances definitely known to be unfavorable to growth, and to the development of the anomaly.

Having reached by this means a very simple and easy method of stating the facts shown by equal lots under contrasting influences, we will now make use of it to inquire into the relation of this exceptionally high degree of variability to the inner and outer conditions of life.

As a rule, all experiments show the existence of such a relation. Unfavorable conditions reduce the numbers of altered stamens, favorable circumstances raise it to its highest point. This holds true for lots including hundreds of specimens, but also for the sundry heads of one bed, and often for one single plant.

We may compare the terminal flower with those of the lateral branches on a plant, and when no special influences disturb the experiment, the terminal head ordinarily bears the richest crown. If the first has more than 100 metamorphosed parts, the latter have often less than 50 on the same plant. In poor soil, terminal heads are often reduced to 10-20 monstrous organs, and in such cases I found the lateral flowers of the same plants ordinarily with less than 10 altered stamens. In some cases I allowed the branches of the third and fourth degree, in other words, the side twigs of the first branches of my selected plants to grow out and produce flowers in the fall. They were ordinarily weak, sometimes very small, having only 5-9 stigmas on their central fruit. Secondary capsules were not seen on such flowers, even when the experiment was repeated on a somewhat larger scale and during a series of years.

Among the same lot of plants individual differences almost always occur. They are partly due to inequalities already existing in the seeds, and partly to the diversity of the various parts of the same bed. Some of the plants become stout and have large terminal heads. Others remain very weak, with a slender stem, small leaves and undersized flowers. The height and thickness of the stem, the growth of the foliage and of the axillary buds are the most obvious measures of the individual strength of the plant. The development of the terminal flower and the size of its ovary manifestly depends largely on this individual strength, as may be seen at once by the inspection of any bed of opium-poppies. Now this size of the head can easily be measured, either by its height or circumference, or by its weight. Moreover we can arrange them into a series according to their size. If we do this with the polycephalous variety, the relation between individual strength and degree of metamorphosis at once becomes manifest. The largest heads have the brightest crowns, and the number of supernumerary carpels diminishes in nearly exact proportion to the size of the fruits. Fruits with less than 50 altered stamens weighed on an average 5 grams, those with 50-100 such organs 7 grams and those with a bright crown 10 grams, the appendices being removed before the weighing. Corresponding results have been reached by the comparison of the height of the capsules with their abnormal surroundings. The degree of development of the monstrosity is shown by this observation to be directly dependent on, and in a sense proportionate to the individual strength of the plant.

The differences between the specimens grown from a single lot of seeds, for instance from the seeds of one self-fertilized capsule are, as I have said, partly due to the divergences which are always present in a bed, even if the utmost care has been taken to make it as uniform as possible. These local differences are ordinarily underrated and overlooked, and it is often considered to be sufficient to cultivate small lots of plants under apparently similar conditions on neighboring beds, to be justified in imputing all the observed deviations of the plants to hereditary inequalities. This of course is true for large lots, whenever the averages only are compared. In smaller experiments the external conditions of the single individuals should always be considered carefully. Lots of one or two square meters suffice for such comparisons, but smaller lots are always subject to chances and possibilities, which should never be left out of consideration.

Therefore I will now point out some circumstances, which are ordinarily different on various parts of one and the same bed.

In the first place comes the inequality of the seeds themselves. Some of them will germinate earlier and others later. Those that display their cotyledons on a sunny day will be able to begin at once with the production of organic food. Others appear in bad weather, and will thus be retarded in their development. These effects are of a cumulative nature as the young plants must profit by every hour of sunshine, according to the size of the cotyledons. Any inequality between two young seedlings is apt to be increased by this cumulative effect.

The same holds good for the soil of the bed. It is simply impossible to mix the manure so equally that all individuals receive the same amount of it from the very beginning. I am in the habit of using manures in a dry and pulverized condition, of giving definite quantities to each square meter, and of taking the utmost care to get equal distribution and mixture with the soil, always being present myself during this most important operation. Nevertheless it is impossible to make the nourishment exactly equal for all the plants of even a small bed.

Any inequality from this cause will increase the difference in the size of the young leaves, augment the inequality of their production of organic matter and for this reason go on in an ever increasing rate.

Rain and spraying, or on the other hand dryness of the soil, have still greater consequences. The slightest unevenness of the surface will cause some spots to dry rapidly and others to retain moisture during hours and even sometimes during days.

Seeds, germinating in such little moist depressions grow regularly and rapidly, while those on the dryer elevations may be retarded for hours and days, before fully unfurling their seed-leaves. After heavy rains these differences may be observed to increase continually, and in some instances I found that plants were produced only on the wet spots, while the dry places remained perfectly bare. From this the wet spots seem to be the most favorable, but on the other hand, seeds may come to germinate there too numerously and so closely that the young plants will be crowded together and find neither space nor light enough, for a free and perfect development. The advantage may change to disadvantage in this way unless the superfluous individuals are weeded out in due time.

From all these and other reasons some plants will be favored by the external conditions from the beginning, while others will be retarded, and the effects will gradually increase until at last they become sufficient to account for a considerable amount of individual variability. There is no doubt that the difference in the strength of the plant and in the size of the capsules, going from 5-10 grams for a single fruit, are for the most part due to these unavoidable circumstances. I have tried all conceivable means to find remedies for these difficulties, but only by sowing my seeds in pans in a glass-house have I been able to reach more constant and equal conditions. But unfortunately such a method requires the planting out of the young seedlings in the beginning of the summer, and this operation is not without danger for opium-poppies, and especially not without important influence on the monstrosity of the pistilloid variety. Consequently my sowings of this plant have nearly always been made in the beds.

In order to show how great the influence of all these little things may become, we only have to make two sowings on neighboring beds and under conditions which have carefully been made as equal as possible. If we use for these controlling experiments seeds from one and the same capsule, it will soon become evident that no exact similarity between the two lots may be expected. Such differences as may be seen in these cases are therefore never to be considered of value when comparing two lots of seeds of different origin, or under varying conditions. No amount of accuracy in the estimation of the results of a trial, or in the counting out of the several degrees of the anomaly, is adequate to overcome the inaccuracy resulting from these differences.

It is certainly of great importance to have a correct conception in regard to the influence of the surrounding conditions on the growth of a plant and on the development of the attribute we are to deal with. No less important is the question of the sensibility of the plants to these factors. Obviously this sensibility must not be expected to remain the same during the entire life-period, and periods of stronger and of weaker responses may be discerned.

In the first place it is evident that external or inner influences are able to change the direction of the development of an organ only so long as this development is not yet fully finished. In the young flower-bud of the pistilloid poppy there must evidently be some moment in which it is definitely decided whether the young stamens will grow out normally or become metamorphosed into secondary pistils. From this moment no further change of external conditions is able to produce a corresponding change in the degree of the anomaly. The individual strength of the whole plant may still be affected in a more or less manifest degree, but the number of converted stamens of the flower has been definitely fixed. The sensitive period has terminated.

In order to determine the exact moment of this termination of the period of sensibility, I have followed the development of the flower buds during the first weeks of the life of the young plants. The terminal flower may already be seen in young plants only seven weeks old, with a stem not exceeding 5-6 cm. in height and a flower-bud with a diameter of nearly 1 mm., in which the stamens and secondary pistils are already discernible, but still in the condition of small rounded protuberances on the thalamus. Though it is not possible at that time to observe any difference between the future normal and converted stamens, it does not seem doubtful that the development is so far advanced, that in the inner tissues the decision has already definitely been taken. In the next few days this decision rapidly becomes visible, and the different parts of the normal stamens and the metamorphosed carpels soon become apparent. From this observation it can be inferred that the sensitive period of the anomaly is limited for the terminal flower-head, to the first few weeks of the life of the young plants. The secondary heads manifestly leave this period at a somewhat later stage.

In order to prove the accuracy of this conclusion I have tried to injure the anomalies after the expiration of the first six or seven weeks. I deprived them of their leaves, and damaged them in different ways. I succeeded in making them very weak and slender, without being able to diminish the number of the supernumerary carpels. The proportionality of the size of the central fruit and the development of the surrounding crown can often be modified or even destroyed by this means, and the apparent exceptions from this rule, which are often observed, may find their explanation in this way.

In the second place I have tried to change the development of the anomaly during the period of sensibility, and even in the last part of it. This experiment succeeded fully when carried out within the fifth or sixth week after the beginning of the germination. As means of injury I transplanted the young plants. To this end I sowed my seeds in pans in unmanured soil, planted them out in little pots with richly prepared earth, grew them in these during a few weeks and afterwards transferred them to the beds, taking care that the pats were removed, but the balls of earth not broken.

In consequence of this treatment the plants became very large and strong, with luxuriant foliage and relatively numerous large flowers and fruits. But almost without exception they were poor in anomalous stamens, at least so on the terminal heads. On a lot of some 70 plants more than 50 had less than half a crown of secondary capsules, while from the same packet of seed the control-plants gave in an equal number more than half of filled crowns on all plants with the exception of five weak specimens.

It is curious to compare such artificially injured plants with the ordinary cultures. Strong stems and heavy fruits, which otherwise are always indicative of showy crowns, now bear fruits wholly or nearly destitute of any anomalous change. The commonly prevailing rule seems to be reversed, showing thereby the possibility of abolishing the correlation between individual strength and anomaly by an artificial encroachment upon the normal conditions.

Aside from these considerations the experiments clearly give proof of the existence of a period of sensibility limited to the first weeks of the life of the plant for the terminal flower. This knowledge enables us to explain many apparent parent abnormalities, which may occur in the experiments.

We now may take a broader view of the period of sensibility. Evidently the response to external influences will be greater the younger the organ. Sensibility will gradually diminish, and the phenomena observed in the last part of this period may be considered as the last remainder of a reaction which previously must have been much stronger and much readier, providing that it would be possible to isolate them from, and contrast them with, the other responses of the same plant.

With the light thus cast upon the question, we may conclude that the sensitive period commences not only at the beginning of the germination, but must also be considered to include the life of the seed itself. From the moment of fertilization and the formation of the young embryo the development must be subjected to the influence of external agencies which determine the direction it will take and the degree of development it will finally be able to acquire. Probably the time of growth of the embryo and of the ripening of the seed correspond exactly to the period of highest sensibility. This period is only interrupted during the resting stage of the seed, to be repeated in germination. Afterwards the sensibility slowly and gradually decreases, to end with the definite decision of all further growth sometime before the outer form of the organ becomes visible under the microscope. The last period of life includes only an expansion of the tissues, which may still have some influence on their final size, but not on their form. This has been definitely arrested before the end of the sensitive period, and ordinarily before the commencement of that rapid development, which is usually designated by the name of growth, as contrasted with evolution.

Within the seed the evolution of the young plant manifestly depends upon the qualities and life-conditions of the parent-plant. The stronger this is, and the more favorable circumstances it is placed under, the more food will be available for the seed, and the healthier will be the development of the embryo. Only well-nourished plants give well-nourished seeds, and the qualities of each plant are for this reason at least, partly dependent on the properties of its parents and even of its grandparents.

From these considerations the inference is forced upon us that the apparently hereditary differences, which are observed to exist among the seeds of a species or a variety and even of a single strain or a single parent-plant, may for a large part, and perhaps wholly, be the result of the life-conditions of their parents and grandparents. Within the race all variability would in this way be reduced to the effects of external circumstances. Among these nourishment is no doubt the most momentous, and this to such a degree that older writers designated the external conditions by the term nourishment. According to Knight nutrition reigns supreme in the whole realm of variability, the kind of food and the method of nourishment coming into consideration only in a secondary way. The amount of useful nutrition is the all-important factor.

If this is so, and if nutrition decides the degree of deviation of any given character, the widest deviating individuals are the best nourished ones. The best nourished not only during the period of sensibility of the attribute under consideration, but also in the broadest sense of the word.

This discussion casts a curious light upon the whole question of selection. Not of course upon the choice of elementary species or varieties out of the original motley assembly which nature and old cultures offer us, but upon the selection of the best individuals for isolation and for the improvement of the race. These are, according to my views, only the best nourished ones. Their external conditions have been the most favorable, not only from the beginning of their own life in the field, but also during their embryonic stages, and even during the preparation of these latter in the life of their parents and perhaps even their grandparents. Selection then, would only be the choice of the best nourished individuals.

In connection with the foregoing arguments I have tried to separate the choicest of the poppies with the largest crown of pistilloid stamens, from the most vigorous individuals. As we have already seen, these two attributes are as a rule proportional to one another. Exceptions occur, but they may be explained by some later changes in the external circumstances, as I have also pointed out. As a rule, these exceptions are large fruits with comparatively too few converted stamens; they are exactly the contrary from what is required for a selection. Or plants, which from the beginning were robust, may have become crowded together by further growth, and for these reasons become weaker than their congeners, though retaining the full development of the staminodal crown, which was fixed during the sensitive period and before the crowding. I have searched my beds yearly for several years in vain to find individuals which might recommend themselves for selection without having the stamp of permanent, or at least temporarily better, nourishment. No starting-point for such an independent selection has ever been met with.

Summing up the consequences of this somewhat extended discussion, we may state it as a rule that a general proportion between the individual strength and the degree of development of the anomaly exists. And from this point of view it is easy to see that all external causes which are known to affect the one, must be expected to influence the other also.

It will therefore hardly be necessary to give a full description of all my experiments on the relations of the monstrosity to external conditions. A hasty survey will suffice.

This survey is not only intended to convey an idea of the relations of pistilloid poppies to their environment, but may serve as an example of the principle involved. According to my experience with a large range of other anomalies, the same rule prevails everywhere. And this rule is so simple that exact knowledge of one instance may be considered as sufficient to enable us to calculate from analogy what is to be expected from a given treatment of any other anomaly. Our appreciation of observed facts and the conditions to be chosen for intended cultures are largely dependent on such calculations. What I am now going to describe is to be considered therefore as an experimental basis for such expectations.

First of all comes the question how many individuals are to be grown in a given place. When sowing plants for experimental purposes it is always best to sow in rows, and to give as few seeds to each row as possible, so as to insure all necessary space to the young plants. On the other hand the seeds do not all germinate, and after sowing too thinly, gaps may appear in the rows. This would cause not only a loss of space, but an inequality between the plants in later life, as those nearest the gaps would have more space and more light, and a larger area for their roots than those growing in the unbroken rows. Hence the necessity of using large quantities of seed and of weeding out a majority of young plants on the spots where the greatest numbers germinate.

Crowded cultures as a rule, will give weak plants with thin stems, mostly unbranched and bearing only small capsules. According to the rule, these will produce imperfect crowns of secondary pistils. The result of any culture will thus be dependent to a high degree on the number of individuals per square meter. I have sown two similar and neighboring beds with the thoroughly mixed seeds of parent-plants of the same strain and culture, using as much as 2.5 cu. cm. per square meter. On one of the beds I left all the germinating plants untouched and nearly 500 of them flowered, but among them 360 were almost without pistillody, and only 10 had full crowns. In the other bed I weeded away more than half of the young plants, leaving only some 150 individuals and got 32 with a full crown, nearly 100 with half crowns and only 25 apparently without monstrosity.

These figures are very striking. From the same quantity of seed, in equal spaces, by similar exposure and treatment I got 10 fully developed instances in one and 32 in the other case. The weeding out of supernumerary individuals had not only increased the percentage of bright crowns, but also their absolute number per square meter. So the greatest number of anomalies upon a given space may be obtained by taking care that not too many plants are grown upon it: any increase of the number beyond a certain limit will diminish the probability of obtaining these structures. The most successful cultures may be made after the maximum number of individuals per unit of area has been determined. A control-experiment was made under the same conditions and with the same seed, but allowing much less for the same space. I sowed only 1 cu. cm. on my bed of 2 square meters, and thereby avoided nearly all weeding out. I got 120 plants, and among them 30 with full crowns of converted stamens, practically the same number as after the weeding out in the first experiment. This shows that smaller quantities of seed give an equal chance for a greater number of large crowns, and should therefore always be preferred, as it saves both seed and labor.

Weeding out is a somewhat dangerous operation in a comparative trial. Any one who has done it often, knows that there is a strong propensity to root out the weaker plants and to spare the stronger ones. Obviously this is the best way for ordinary purposes, but for comparisons evidently one should not discriminate. This rule is very difficult in practice, and for this reason one should never sow more than is absolutely required to meet all requirements.

Our second point is the manuring of the soil. This is always of the highest importance, both for normal and for anomalous attributes. The conversion of the stamens into pistils is in a large measure dependent upon the conditions of the soil. I made a trial with some 800 flowering plants, using one sample of seed, but sowing one-third on richly manured soil, one-third on an unprepared bed of my garden, and one-third on nearly pure sand. In all other respects the three groups were treated in the same way. Of the manured plants one-half gave full crowns, of the non-manured only one-fifth, and on the sandy soil a still smaller proportion. Other trials led to the same results. I have often made use of steamed and ground horn, which is a manure very rich in nitrogenous substances. One-eighth of a kilo per square meter is an ample amount. And its effect was to increase the number of full crowns to an exceptional degree.

In the controlling trial and under ordinary circumstances this figure reached some 50%, but with ground horn it came up as high as 90%. We may state this result by the very striking assertion that the number of large crowns in a given culture may be nearly doubled by rich manure.

All other external conditions act in a similar manner. The best treatment is required to attain the best result. A sunny exposure is one of the most essential requisites, and in some attempts to cultivate my poppies in the shade, I found the pistillody strongly reduced, not a single full crown being found in the whole lot. Often the weather may be hurtful, especially during the earlier stages of the plants. I protected my beds during several trials by covering them with glass for a few weeks, until the young plants reached the glass covering. I got a normal number of full crowns, some 55%, at a time when the weather was so bad as to reduce the number in the control experiments to 10%.

It would be quite superfluous to give more details or to describe additional experiments. Suffice to say, that the results all point in the same direction, and that pistillody of the poppies always clearly responds to the treatment, especially to external conditions during the first few weeks, that is, during the period of sensitiveness. The healthier and the stronger the plants the more fully they will develop their anomaly.

In conclusion something is to be said about the choice of the seed. Obviously it is possible to compare seeds of different origin by sowing and treating them in the same way, giving attention to all the points above mentioned. In doing so the first question will be, whether there is a difference between the seeds of strong plants with a bright crown around the head and those of weaker individuals with lesser development of the anomaly. It is evident that such a difference must be expected, since the nutrition of the seed takes place during the period of the greatest sensitiveness.

But the experiments will show whether this effect holds good against the influences which tend to change the direction of the development of the anomaly during the time of germination. The result of my attempt has shown that the choice of the seeds has a manifest influence upon the ultimate development of the monstrosity, but that this influence is not strong enough to overwhelm all other factors.

The choice of the fullest or smallest crowns may be repeated during succeeding generations, and each time compared with a culture under average conditions. By this means we come to true selection-experiments, and these result in a notable and rapid change of the whole strain. By selecting the brightest crowns I have come up in three years from 40 to 90 and ultimately to 120 converted stamens in the best flower of my culture, and in selecting the smallest crowns I was able in three years to exclude nearly all good crowns, and to make cultures in which heads with less than half-filled crowns constituted the majority. But such selected strains always remain very sensitive to treatment, and by changing the conditions the effect may be wholly lost in a single year, or even turned in the contrary direction. In other words, the anomaly is more dependent on external conditions during the germinating period than on the choice of the seeds, providing these belong to the pistilloid variety and have not deteriorated by some crossing with other sorts.

At the beginning of this lecture I stated that no selection is adequate to produce either a pure strain of brightly crowned flower-heads without atavism, or to conduce to an absolute and permanent loss of the anomaly. During a series of years I have tested my plants in both directions, but without the least effect. Limits are soon reached on both sides, and to transgress these seems quite impossible.

Taking these limits as the marks of the variety, and considering all fluctuations between them as responses to external influences working during the life of the individual or governing the ripening of the seeds, we get a clear picture of a permanent ever-sporting type. The limits are absolutely permanent during the whole existence of this already old variety. They never change. But they include so wide a range of variability, that the extremes may be said to sport into one another, so much the more so as one of the extremes is to be considered morphologically as the type of the variation, while the other extreme can hardly be distinguished from the normal form of the species.


Verrières observed "polycephalic" specimens with stamens converted into carpels in his Argemone hybrids.