Roy. Hort. Soc. (n.s.) 3: 10-14 (1872)

Notes on some Changes and Variations in the Offspring of Cross-fertilized Peas.
Thomas Laxton, Esq.

SINCE the year 1858 I have been carrying on continued and successive courses of experiments in cross-fertilizing the cultivated varieties of the Pea, partly with a view to produce improved characters, and partly for the purpose of noting the results of artificial impregnation on a genus of plants which, although not absolutely beyond the reach of accidental cross-fertilization, is, for most practical purposes, sufficiently free from it to make the changes produced by artificial impregnation approximately reliable, at all events more so than in the majority of genera. These experiments were carried on in ignorance of the extent to which the late Mr. T. A. Knight and others had worked upon the Pea some fifty years since, and the records of which, in the 'Transactions' of this Society, I was only able to read a few months ago. I bad not intended to have communicated the results of any of these experiments at present, as some of the larger courses commenced in 1866 are as yet not quite concluded; but as the seeds of peas are liable, by keeping, to change colour, and as I am desirous of gaining some information respecting the origin of the cultivated varieties, I have been induced at once to send up for the inspection of the Committee part of the seeds derived from a single experiment; amongst these seeds will be observed some of several remarkable colours, including black, violet, purple-streaked and spotted, maple, grey, greenish, white, and almost every intermediate tint, the varied colours being apparently produced on the outer coat or envelope of the cotyledons only. The peas were selected, for their colours &c., from the third year's sowing in 1869 of the produce of a cross in 1866 of the early round white-seeded and white-flowered garden variety "Ringleader," which is about 2 1/2 feet in height, fertilized by the pollen of the common purple-flowered "Maple" Pea, which is taller than "Ringleader," and has slightly indented seeds. I effected impregnation by removing the anthers of the seed-bearer, and applying the pollen at an early stage. This cross produced a pod containing five round white peas, exactly like the ordinary "Ringleader" seeds.

In 1867 I sowed these seeds, and all five produced tall purple flowered purplish-stemmed plants; and the seeds, with few exceptions, had all maple or brownish-streaked envelopes of various shades; the remainder had entirely violet or deep purple-coloured envelopes: in shape the peas were partly indented; but a few were round. Some of the plants ripened off earlier than the "Maple," which, in comparison with "Ringleader," is a late variety; and although the pods were in many instances partially abortive, the produce was very large.

In 1868 I sowed the peas of the preceding year's growth, and selected various plants for earliness, productiveness, &c. Some of the plants had light-coloured stems and leaves; these all showed white flowers, and produced round white seeds. Others had purple flowers, showed the purple on the stems and at the axils of the stipules, and produced seeds with maple, grey, purple streaked or mottled, and a few only, again, with violet-coloured envelopes. Some of the seeds were round, and some partially indented. The pods on each plant, in the majority of instances, contained peas of like characters; but in a few cases the peas in the same pod varied slightly, and in some instances a pod or two on the same plant contained seeds all distinct from the remainder. The white-flowered plants were generally dwarfish, of about the height of "Ringleader;" but the coloured-flowered sorts varied altogether as to height, period of ripening, and colour and shape of seed. Those seeds with violet-coloured envelopes produced nearly all maple- or particoloured seeds, and only here and there one with a violet-coloured envelope; that colour, again, appeared only incidentally, and in a like degree in the produce of the maple. coloured seeds. In 1869 the seeds of various selections of the previous year were again sown separately; and the white-seeded peas again produced only plants with white flowers and round white seeds. Some of the coloured seeds, which I had expected would produce purple-flowered plants, produced plants with white flowers and round white seeds only; the majority, however, brought plants with purple flowers and with seeds principally marked with purple or grey, the maple- or brown-streaked being in the minority. On some of the purple-flowered plants were again a few pods with peas differing entirely from the remainder on the same plant. In some pods the seeds were all white, in others all black, and in a few, again, all violet; but those plants which bore maple-coloured seeds seemed the most constant and fixed in character of the purple flowered seedlings, and the purplish and grey peas, being of intermediate characters, appeared to vary most. The violet-coloured seeds again produced almost invariably purplish, grey, or maple peas, the clear violet colour only now and then appearing, either wholly in one pod or on a single pea or two in a pod. All the seeds of the purple-flowered plants were again either round or only partially indented; and the plants varied as to height and earliness. In no case, however, does there seem to have been an intermediate-coloured flower; for although in some flowers I thought I found the purple of a lighter shade, I believe this was owing to light, temperature, or other circumstances, and applied equally to the parent maple. I have never noticed a single tinted white flower nor an indented white seed in either of the three years' produce. The whole produce of the third sowing consisted of seeds of the colours and in the approximate quantities in order as follows, viz.:—1st, white, about half; 2nd, purplish, grey, and violet (intermediate colours), about three-eighths; and, 3rd, maple, about one-eighth.

From the above I gather that the white-flowered white-seeded pea is (if I may use the term) an original variety well fixed and distinct entirely from the maple, that the two do not thoroughly intermingle (for whenever the white flower crops out, the plants and its parts all appear to follow exactly the characters of the white pea), and that the maple is a cross-bred variety which has become somewhat permanent and would seem to include amongst its ancestors one or more bearing seeds either altogether or partly violet- or purple-coloured; for although this colour does not appear on the seed of the "maple," it is very potent in the variety, and appears in many parts of the plant and its offspring from cross-fertilized flowers, sometimes on the external surface or at the sutures of the pods of the latter, at others on the seeds and stems, and very frequently on the seeds; and whenever it shows itself on any part of the plant, the flowers are invariably purple. My deductions have been confirmed by intercrosses effected between the various white-, blue-, some singularly bright green-seeded peas which I have selected, and the maple- and purple-podded and the purple-flowered sugar-peas, and by reversing those crosses. I have also deduced from my experiments, in accordance with the conclusions of the late Mr. Knight and others, that the colours of the envelopes of the seeds of peas immediately resulting from a cross are never changed. I find, however, that the colour and, probably, the substance of the cotyledons are sometimes, but not always, changed by the cross fertilization of two different varieties; and I do not agree with Mr. Knight that the form and size of the seeds produced are unaltered; for I have on more than one occasion observed that the cotyledons in the seeds directly resulting from a cross of a blue wrinkled pea fertilized by the pollen of a white round variety have been of a greenish-white colour, and the seeds nearly round and larger or smaller accordingly as there may have been a difference in the size of the seeds of the two varieties. I have also noticed that a cross between a round white and a blue wrinkled pea will in the third and fourth generations (second and third year's produce) at times bring forth blue round, blue wrinkled, white round, and white wrinkled peas in the same pod, that the white round seeds, when again sown, will produce only white round seeds, that the white wrinkled seeds will, up to the fourth or fifth generation, produce both blue and white wrinkled and round peas, that the blue round peas will produce blue-wrinkled and round peas, but that the blue wrinkled peas will bear only blue wrinkled seeds. This would seem to indicate that the white round and the blue wrinkled peas are distinct varieties derived from ancestors respectively possessing one only of those marked qualities; and, in my opinion, the white round peas trace their origin to a dwarfish pea having white flowers and round white seeds, and the blue wrinkled varieties to a tall variety having also white flowers but blue wrinkled seeds.

It is also noticeable that from a single cross between two different peas many hundreds of varieties, not only like one or both parents and intermediate, but apparently differing from either, may be produced in the course of three or four years (the shortest time which I have ascertained it takes to attain the climax of variation in the produce of cross-fertilized peas, and until which time it would seem useless to expect a fixed seedling variety to be produced), although a reversion to the characters of either parent, or of any one of the ancestors, may take place at an earlier period. These circumstances do not appear to have been known to Mr. Knight, as he seems to have carried on his experiments by continuing to cross his seedlings in the year succeeding their production from a cross and treating the results as reliable; whereas it is probable that the results might have been materially affected by the disturbing causes then in existence arising from the previous cross fertilization, and which, I consider, would, in all cases whore either parent has not become fixed or permanent, lead to results positively perplexing and uncertain, and to variations almost innumerable. I have again selected, and intend to sow, watch, and report; but as the usual climax of variation is nearly reached in the recorded experiment, I do not anticipate much further deviation, except in height and period of ripeningócharacters which are always very unstable in the pea. There are also important botanical and other variations and changes occurring in cross-fertilized peas to which it is not my province here to allude; but in conclusion I may, perhaps, in furtherance of the object of this paper, be permitted to inquire whether any light can, from these observations or other means, be thrown upon the origin of the cultivated kinds of peas, especially the "maple" variety, and also as to the source whence the violet and other colours which appear at intervals on the seeds and in the offspring of cross-fertilized purple-flowered peas are derived.