Jour. Hort. and Cottage Gardener n.s. 1(24): 453 (Sept 10, 1861)


REALLY obliged should I be if you could tell me the names of the parents of Gladiolus gandavensis. Also, whether the six following varieties— Eldorado, Canasi, Ophir, Linné, Brenchleyensis, and Vulcain, are the progeny of G. gandavensis by itself, or of G. gandavensis crossed by some other species? If the history of these six varieties be not known, their appearance may, perhaps, to instructed eyes tell their probable origin.—Charles Darwin.

[The parents of Gladiolus gandavensis have been first mis-stated on the Continent by Van Houtte, in his description of it, and in England by Paxton, in his "Magazine of Botany." Gandavensis is an English seedling, and was raised by Dr. Herbert and by J. T. Alcock, Esq., but neither of them could flower it or any of the seedlings of the same cross, and they sent out the bulbs to Mr. Bidwell, at Sydney, where the climate was more favourable. Mr. Bidwell flowered all the seedlings at Sydney, and one of them, gandavensis, found its way back to Europe. The false parentage given to it by M. Van Houtte shows that that "way" was not as it ought to have been.

Van Houtte's parentage was between natalensis and cardinalis; but it is a curious fact, that the Natal bulb resisted all the attempts to cross it everywhere with any one of the west Cape species. Natalensis was the mother of Gladiolus gandavensis by the pollen of the Madagascar oppositiflorus, and the cross was accomplished by two of the most correct breeders of their times. Through oppositiflorus as a floodgate both the west and east Cape Gladioli and their offspring have been induced to breed as freely as the Pelargonium. Like the Pelargonium the Gladioli of the present day are, and have been, fast "improving" on the principle of breeding in-and-in. There is no seedling in cultivation from gandavensis by any distinct species whatever. But gandavensis is certainly a true cross-bred plant between two genuine wild species; and although it is now more than twenty years of age, not the age when it was announced on the Continent, it is the last distinct cross between any two species in the genus. The seedlings which you mention are all garden crosses, but they are not the most dissimilar from the originals. Gladioli are now getting striped and picoteed like Dianthus. Mr. Beaton once or twice mis-stated the nativity of Gladiolus gandavensis, saying it was an Australian seedling, while it merely flowered there, with Mr. Bidwell, for the first time.—D. B.]