Popular Gardening and Fruit Growing 2: 124 (May, 1887)

Paternity in Fruits
A J Caywood
Ulster Co., N.Y.

Experience has proved any proportion of the foreign Grape to be too delicate for this changeable climate, and its use should be discouraged, or an unreliable class of Grapes will be the result. During some centuries there have been several great strides upwards from the wild varieties; among these are the Delaware, Catawba, Isabella, Clinton and a few others, but these movements are rather slow for the energy of this age.

In crossing our native Grapes, either with single or double pollen, every desired result is marred by doubt. In using single pollen it may impregnate and it may not. It may not from being performed too early, too late, too indelicately, want of congenialty, and many other causes. There are undoubtedly many actual crosses that show no traces of paternity, but they cannot be spoken of as crosses, as it is all guess work, and such a record would be faulty. Who for instance is prepared to believe the light-skinned Empire State to be a seedling of those two sable denizens of the woods, Hartford and Clinton, if they think there is anything in the rule of like begetting like, and yet who can controvert the claims of the cross? Certain qualities of Hartford and Clinton may be incorporated in the new organization.

Should any of these seedlings that show no paternity be even more valuable than the parent, it is not proof that the pollen applied was efficacious: they may have been pollenized by natural agencies—before the effort was made.

Maternal characteristics are usually transmitted, but if the paternal is not convincingly visible the fact of a cross must rest in doubt. It is well known that all of the numerous seeds in a Strawberry and other fruit are as independent of each other as are Peach, Plum, Cherry or other single seeded fruits, which proves an endless variety of pollen being dispensed over each waiting flower; each seed produces a different kind. Nearly all of our best fruits have come to us without the help of man, and who can say whether they were fertilized by the anthers of their own stamens, or the pollen was carried there by wind or insects from other sources. The supposition that we have a cross, because the pollen was applied, must not be indulged in. Provable crosses of our native Grapes are very few; of the Vinifera there are plenty, as it seems to govern the qualities of the native fruit, and also transmits the weakness of the vine.

When we desire a cross of any two varieties, we use single pollen of course, and take the chances as to failure or success, but in the use of mixed pollen of the best varieties we make Nature's plan available slightly, which offers in every open flower endless varieties of pollen; it takes the congenial, throws off the other as so much dust.

If we have gained a point why not progress as in all other things? Why go back to first principles and take on a double dose of fox and acridity? We can breed out these two wild traits but can hardly expect to free ourselves from contagion, rot, mildew, etc. Those hardy varieties that have had the aborginal impurities nearly bred out should be sent forward to early and still greater achievements, although at the expense of quality. Near the parallel of 43 we must go back for hardiness, and Professor Budd deserves much from the people of that section for his untiring efforts in that line.

No one can master the hidden laws which make varieties in crossing fruits. We can apply the pollen and then wait and see what Nature gives us. One says: "My seedling is a cross of so and so;" another, of "this and that;" another of something else, and not one of them resembling anything before known. If they would say they applied pollen of certain varieties, and stop there, and let the record be made out by whoever wishes to it would do away with suspicions of self interest, as any one can see as far into a blacksmith's anvil as he who hammers it.

The manipulation of the shears, brush and pollen can be performed by a child ten years of age after a little teaching; this is the smallest part of the work. Many varieties always show a retrograding tendency; a few of our best kinds are of this class. We have found it important to use those varieties the seedlings of which are on the advance, discarding all others. This requires time and patience, and as there is little, if any pecuniary profit in this enterprise, it becomes a work of love, pride or a hobby, and if the good things of the world are increased by any motive the benefits to posterity will be the same. The numbers who have recently turned their attention to the elevation of the standard of our horticulture by these methods is encouraging; and the good aimed at will be much sooner realized by united effort.