The Gardeners’ Chronicle 30 (763): 105 (August 10, 1901)
ALTERNATION IN THE VARIETAL CHARACTERS OF THE TOMATO
Charles A. White,
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, July 15, 1901.

IN 1898 I grew upon my house-plot in Washington a dozen reputed Acme Tomato plants, obtained from a local dealer, which matured and fruited well, and seemed to possess all the published characteristics of that variety. That is, the plants were large and diffuse; haulms somewhat numerous, long, and slender; foliage of a rather light green, the petiole and mid-rib long; leaflets petiolulate, somewhat distant, and only moderately rugose; fruit of medium size, depressed-globular, smooth, evenly ripened, changing from a light to a deep red, of fleshy consistence, and well-flavoured; a tinge of yellow on partially-ripened parts, but soon obscured by the dominant red. I saved seeds from fruit of several of these plants for future propagation, because I knew of no probable source of cross-pollination from other plants.

In 1809 I grew thirty plants from those seeds in my garden plot, and without exception they possessed identical characteristics, but all differed materially in both habit and fruit from the parent plants. They were strong, sturdy, close-set plants; haulms comparatively few, short, and strong; leaves of a darker green than were those of the parent plants, and the petiole and midrib shorter; leaflets sessile, or nearly so, not distant, and strongly rugose; fruit, in size and shape, and consistence, similar to that of the parent plants, but more delicate in colour and flavour; no yellow tint appeared, and the change from the chlorophyl-green to the deep red or crimson of the ripe fruit was through a neutral or light flesh colour. In short, these plants supplied a strongly-marked variety, as different from the parent plants as any of the varieties of Tomato are from one another. This seemed to have been a case of the production of a new variety, but as I saved no seed, I supposed it was lost. In 1900 and 1901, however, I unexpectedly but exactly duplicated my experience of 1898 and 1899, although my second experience was with Acme plants, obtained from an entirely new source.

In March, 1900, I bought of the Robert Buist Company of seed-growers a packet of their "Selected Acme Tomato" seed, gathered in 1899, from which I grew thirty plants, saving a part of the contents of the packet until the next year. As in the former case, I know of no probable source of cross-pollination of these plants; all had the characteristics popularly attributed to the Acme variety, and were the same as those described in the first paragraph of this article. I therefore assume that my unauthenticated plants grown in 1898, and those grown in 1900 from the Buist seed, were genuine Acme Tomatos. I saved seed from fruit of several different plants of this Acme crop of 1900, believing it to have received cross-fertilisation, and carefully guarded it against admixture with other seed.

In the spring of 1901, I planted the seed of my previous year's crop of Acme Tomatos, and separately, the remainder of the seed from the original Buist packet. The latter seed germinated well, although they were then about twenty months old, and produced Acme plants, as seed from the same packet had done the year before. The seed from my crop of Acme Tomatos of 1900, however, produced an entirely different variety, all the plants having identical characters. Strange to say also, that variety is identical, both as to plant-habit and fruit, with the one which I produced from Acme seed in 1899. The Buist Acme plants and those of the new variety are now growing and fruiting in my garden-plot, exhibiting conspicuously their respective peculiarities.

The literature of the production of new varieties of cultivated plants, at least so far as the history of individual eases is concerned, seems to be meagre. I assume, however, that every new variety is produced empirically, if not accidentally, and by seed variation. I have heretofore also assumed that every variety originated in a single plant or a single bud; but in the cases recorded in the preceding paragraphs, all the plants of the crop possessed identical varietal characters, all different from those of the parent plants. I therefore designate these cases as alternations merely to distinguish them from ordinary variation of individual plants. I am well aware of the remarkable character of the facts I have here recorded, but as I believe that every variety of every species of cultivated plants, and every breed of every species of domestic animals, exists potentially in the aggregate of their respective species, I think I am justified in assuming that any lost variety or breed may be reproduced under the same conditions which originally produced it.


More detailed discussions were published in Science, 1901; Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, 1902; The Independent, 1902; Science, 1903 and Popular Science, 1905.