Trans. Hort Soc. London 4: 31-34 (1822)
On the Production of Hybrid Vegetables
Hon. and Rev. William Herbert

I have lately had an opportunity of observing what appears to me to be a singular phenomenon in nature. Having had reasons to consider, that the plant, known and figured in the Botanical Magazine (Plate 1419), as Pancratium Amboinense, belonged to a distinct genus, I was anxious to see its seeds, which had never been perfected with me; and, I had written to a friend at Calcutta, to request that he would send me the perfect capsule and ripe seeds. I received for answer, that the plant never produced seed at Calcutta, but that Dr. ROXBURGH had once seen it; and from some resemblance to that of Crinum, he had called the plant Crinum nervosum, in the Hortus Bengalensis. I had, however, this autumn, an opportunity of seeing the seed, from a bulb I had given to Lord MILTON, which stood on a back flue in a very shaded situation; and to my great surprise, instead of real seeds, it had produced perfect tunicated bulbs. The flower stem was unfortunately broken off by an accident before the capsule appeared to be quite ripe; and on opening it three bulbs were taken out by Lord MILTON'S Botanic Gardener, Mr. COOPER, who supposed them to be seeds not perfectly mature, and laid them (as I had generally advised him to do with Crinum and Pancratium seeds) on the surface of the mould in the pot of the parent plant. I regret exceedingly not having had the opportunity of opening the capsule myself, but Mr. COOPER, on whose accuracy and intelligence I have found every reason to depend, asserted positively, that there was no other body in the seed vessel (for I suspected that the bulbs must have been attached to withered seeds, that had sprouted prematurely in the capsule), and that the three bulbs were placed exactly in the usual manner of seeds, for which he had mistaken them. Lying in my stove upon the earth, they soon struck fibres into it, as a common Hyacinth bulb would have done and after some time, a young leaf sprouted out from the centre. The only peculiarity in which these little bulbs differed from offsets was, that the two outer coats were split on one side; I pulled off the outer coat of one of them, without injuring it, and it has sprouted since; and (which is very remarkable,) another of them, before it sprouted, produced within the outer coat, which shrivelled, an offset as big as itself; or rather, it divided itself into two twin bulbs of equal size, as old bulbous roots often do.

The annexed figures represent the young bulbs above described. 1. is the bulb as first taken from the capsule. 2. the same after it had vegetated, the outer coat having been stripped off sometime before, for the purpose of examining it; and 3, is another just beginning to sprout, containing twin bulbs within the outer coat, which is withered.

This is the first instance I have known, or heard, of an embryo, either in the vegetable or animal kingdom, drawing its support directly from the parent, without the intervention and assistance of an intermediate body, such as the cotyledon, the yolk of the egg, or the placenta, to afford it nourishment. I have indeed found one Oxalis from the Cape of Good Hope (very much resembling, if not the same as, the Oxalis glandulitega of the Paradisus Londinensis, Plate 66) to be viviparous; but in that plant the young germ is furnished with the usual cotyledon, though the seedling leaves are fully expanded when the seed (which is ejected, like that of Balsams, by a jerk) falls upon the ground; that amounts, there fore, only to a habit of premature vegetation in the seed, and is not at all analogous to the singular production of perfect tunicated bulbs in the seed-vessel without the intervention of any alimentary seminal substance. The plant hitherto called Pancratium Amboinense has never manifested any disposition to bear bulbs on the stem or leaf, like some Liliums; nor, as far as I know, has any instance been observed of such plants as are otherwise bulbiferous, producing bulbs within the seed vessel.

Bulbil Oddities

Herbert Bibliography