Botanical Register 29: 1-3 (1843)
MONSTRUM PLANTI. Plant's Vegetable Monster.
"What is this, of which three roots are represented in the vignette?—In consequence of the statement made by Mr. Plant, nurseryman of Cheadle, (see above Plant's anisanth, 1842, fol. 37.) that he had obtained mules from a Gladiolus by an Amaryllidaceous plant, I was anxious to investigate minutely its correctness. It will be proper to premise, that the mule figured as Plant's anisanth is a true Gladiolus, raised between Glad. splendens (Anisanthus splendens, Sweet Br. Fl. G.) and a hybrid, sold under the name of Colvilli, between G. blandus, cardinalis, and tristis. Mr. Sweet improperly made a genus Anisanthus of G. splendens and Cunonius, and another genus of G. abbreviatus, three species of Gladiolus, which have the lower lip abbreviated, a feature not more important than the conversion of the three petals into short bristles in Iris setosa. I always considered that something nearly approaching to G. abbreviatus might be raised between G. tristis and Cunonius.
"Mr. Plant has frankly communicated all the information he can give concerning his monsters, and has sent three of his four roots to me. I have made a careful sketch of them, as above represented. He states, that in 1839 he carried from the greenhouse pollen of a plant, which by his description is certainly a cross-bred Hippeastrum closely akin to H. Johnsoni, having dark red flowers striped with white, to a flower of Gladiolus blandus in a cold frame. The seeds produced were rather deficient in the usual foliaceous wing. Four roots were the produce. He states, that their leaves were less erect and more glossy than those of a Gladiolus. In the second season 1840-1 he was ill, and they suffered from neglect. They are now at rest after three years growth. The appearance is quite monstrous. There is scarcely a vestige of a regular corm, but the base is irregularly formed and beset with yellowish fleshy substances having some affinity to the scales of a Lilium, and topped with the wrinkled remains of tubular sheaths which enveloped the base of the leaves. One of them, from the number of those tubular processes, seems to have formed offsets. To the eye, in their present state, they certainly exhibit no immediate hope of vegetation, but in due time they will probably do so. Mr. Plant says that they were raised in a mixture of sand and rotten manure. The question therefore arises, whether these strange productions are diseased Gladioli, analogous to the monstrous turnips, like bunches of keys, which often occur in highly manured and hot sandy soil? or mules of such anomalous birth? or roots of some plant unknown to me, accidentally confounded by Mr. Plant with his seedling Gladioli? Hippeastrum, the asserted male parent, has one very extraordinary peculiarity, that its several species breed more willingly by the pollen of any hybrid of its own genus, however complicated its origin, than by their own pollen. A bulb of H. Organense just imported from the Organ mountains having thrown up two two-flowered stems, one flower on each stem was touched with its own dust, and the other by that of a triple mule. When the flowers withered, the germen of each of the former swelled first, but after a few days the latter began to swell also, and from that moment the growth of the former stopped, and they soon withered; both the latter, proceeding rapidly, produced abundance of good seed. Such has been the invariable result of six years experiments, but we have failed in all attempts to mix Hippeastrum with the nearly allied Habranthus or Zephyranthes. In the form of its seed and capsule it has some affinity to Gladiolus. I tried 30 years ago vainly to impregnate G. blandus by H. crocatum. Can any person recognize the above, as the roots of any known plant? or has Mr. Plant bred an anomalous monster between the two natural orders Amaryllidaceae and Iridaceae, though all other persons have as yet failed in obtaining any mule vegetable between two genera decidedly distinct in one and the same order? I do not think disease could have produced such Gladiolus roots. Mr. Plant tried to make a like cross last year by the Hippeastrum on a hybrid Gladiolus, and he has sent me a bulb which is its produce, and two seedlings from another pod not crossed by him on the same Gladiolus stem; but it is evident, that these bulbs are all true Gladioli, though the two pods have been evidently set by the pollen of two different species or varieties of Gladiolus, which the bees might effect without his privity. Mr. Plant pays a great deal of attention to the state of the stigma and pollen, but I cannot find that he has done so more than I have done during the last thirty years, when I was desirous of obtaining a difficult cross. Every encouragement should be given by cultivators to Mr. Plant, who would perhaps effect much by industry and perseverance, if his means were equal to his zeal."
W. Herbert, Spofforth, Oct. 1842.
Jour. Roy. Hort. Soc. 2: 105 (1846)
In a treatise on this subject I must not forget Plant's vegetable monster, of which I gave the particulars, with an engraving, at the commencement of the miscellaneous matter in the 'Botanical Register' of 1843. The sketches were made by myself with the most careful accuracy, from the three plants which were sent to me by Mr. Plant, in a dormant state, from which they never awoke. They were, in fact, seemingly past hope, or nearly so, when I received them, and began to turn mouldy as soon as they were watered. I believe he lost at the same time the fourth, which he kept for himself. Whoever will examine the engraving, and read the particulars detailed there, can form as just an opinion as I can, whether he really had obtained four anomalous monsters from Gladiolus blandus, impregnated by an Hippeastrum, or whether they were something else which he had confounded with his supposed mule seedlings. They were like no vegetable known to me, and their strange form has certainly the appearance of fluctuation between the structure of a dry-coated annual corm, and a fleshy tunicated bulb. Even Mr. Plant thought they would prove incapable of flowering. Their leaves, which I did not see, were stated to have been more glossy than those of a Gladiolus; and they scarcely appear to have been capable of a protracted existence, unless under the most unremitting care. He stated that they had suffered from neglect while he was ill. I am inclined to believe that they were biordinate and semiabortive mules; for I cannot absolutely repudiate the possibility of monstrous impregnations, though I believe the produce to be doomed to a very brief existence, if ever brought to life.