Transactions of the Horticultural Society 5: 63:69 (1824)
V. Observations on the accidental Intermixture of Character in certain Fruits.

By Mr. JOHN TURNER, F. L. S. Assistant Secretary.

Read January 16, 1820.

  1. Theophrast. Hist. Plant. 1. ii. c. 4.—Plinii Hist. Nat. 1. xvii. c. 25.
  2. Second Edit. page 22.

IN the course of the two last seasons, several specimens of fruits came within my observation, in which a deviation from their true character was very perceptible. In remarking on the evident intermixture of colour, form, and flavour, which some of these fruits presented, I did not hesitate to ascribe it to the farina of one variety having come in contact with the flowers of another at the moment when the stigmas were in a proper condition to receive it: and on mentioning my opinion, was surprised to find that the fact of such intermixture producing an immediate change in the fruit was generally doubted, and by many persons pronounced to be impossible. This led me to enquire whether the subject had ever before engaged the attention of horticulturists, and, not to go further back than the beginning of the last century (though both THEOPHRASTUS and PLINY1 seem to allude to it), I found that the notion was entertained by BRADLEY, who, in his New Improvements in Planting and Gardening,2 after giving directions for fertilizing the female flowers of the Hazel with the pollen of the male, says,—" By this knowledge we may alter the property and taste of any fruit, by impregnating the one with the farina of another of the same class, as, for example, a Codlin with a Pearmain, which will occasion the Codlin so impregnated to last a longer time than usual, and be of a sharper taste; or if the winter fruit should be fecundated with the dust of the summer kinds, they will decay before their usual time; and it is from this accidental coupling of the farina of one kind with the other, that in an orchard, where there is variety of Apples, even the fruit gathered from the same tree differs in its flavour and times of ripening; and moreover, the seeds of those Apples so generated being changed by that means from their natural qualities will produce different kinds of fruit if they are sown."

In the Philosophical Transactions, also, for the year 1745, the subject is noticed by Mr. BENJAMIN COOK, in a paper, Concerning the effect which the farina of the Blossoms of different sorts of Apple trees had on the fruit of a neighbouring Tree. In this communication it is stated that Mr. COOK "sent to Mr. PETER COLLINSON some Russetings changed by the farina of a next neighbour, whose name he wanted skill to know, but could only say, that the Russeting had acquired his face and complexion. Mr. COLLINSON then produced several samples of the Apples: an untainted Russeting, a Russeting changed in complexion which grew among a great cluster of unaltered brethren, and some Apples of the other tree which had caused the change in the Russetings, and whose fruit had, in return, received a rough coat from the Russetings."

A further proof of such intermixture taking place is given by the same writer in the Transactions for the year 1748, and again alluded to by him in those for the year 1749.

Having thus shewn, that the opinion now entertained is not a novel one, I shall proceed to mention the instances which I have observed.

In the spring of 1819, I gave some carefully saved Melon seeds of the Netted Succado kind to a friend near London. The young plants raised from these were injudiciously planted by the gardener in a frame with another larger and inferior variety. The fruits of the Succado set well, but as they swelled, they gave evident symptoms of having lost their true character, and when cut, were found to be very worthless, arising, as I conceive, from the share which the inferior variety had in them.

In the autumn of the same year, I examined on the trees in Mr. BRADDICK'S garden at Thames Ditton, an evident mixture of character in a Codlin, and the Ribston Pippin, in more than one individual, on the sides of the trees next each other, while the fruit on the opposite sides were wholly untainted. The probability of such mixtures taking place is great in Mr. BRADDICK'S garden, owing to many varieties being grafted on the same stock, and to the closeness with which both the espalier and standard trees are planted.

Early in the year 1820, Mr. BRADDICK sent to the Society samples of two sorts of Apples of the preceding year's growth, which he had himself taken from the trees, and carefully preserved, to show the extraordinary sport which they had made. The two sorts were, the Holland Pippin, and the White Winter Calville, Apples totally dissimilar in appearance; they grew on low standards, very near each other; two of the specimens gathered from the sides of the trees not contiguous retained their natural character perfectly well, but the White Calville gathered from the side of the tree next the Holland Pippin had lost much of its own form, and colour, and partaken largely of that of its neighbour, while the Holland Pippin, taken from the side next the Calville, had become nearly a Calville in form and colour.

In October of the same year, Mr. BROGDEN shewed me two Apples, in which a no less remarkable change had taken place. The one was a French Crab, grown near a Ribston Pippin, the character of which it had taken, and the other was a Golden Pippin which grew near a Russet, and in which the two varieties, though so widely different, were. evidently blended.

These several instances, all coming within my observation in the course of two seasons, have fully satisfied me that a change both in character and quality of fruits is frequently effected ; it will be for the physiologist to instruct us as to the mode by which it is done, and probably a close investigation of the subject may discover in this process of nature sufficient to account for the occasional appearance of a Nectarine on the same branch with a Peach: this, indeed, appears to me a more reasonable mode of accounting for such an anomaly than any which I have yet heard suggested.

1 have noticed these few facts for the purpose of drawing the attention of horticulturists to the subject, and I trust that those who have leisure and opportunities, will, by actual experiment, endeavour to ascertain whence these occasional deviations arise. Such an investigation will not be useless, for if there does exist in fruits such a liability to change, it will at once be evident to the intelligent cultivator how much care is requisite in growing Melons, Cucumbers, &c, to secure their true characters, even without reference to saving seed for a future crop. Such experiments, will, I doubt not, frequently succeed if made with care, and on large flowered plants; on Apples, Pears, &c. it will probably be accident only that will give success.

Note by the President.

  1. See Transactions, Vol ii. page 160.

The Council of the Horticultural Society having done me the honour to ask my opinion upon the subject of the foregoing Paper; I beg leave to observe, that, not having seen. the varieties of fruit mentioned in it, I feel much less qualified to judge than those gentlemen who had opportunities of inspecting all the circumstances. The evidence given, however, is much more than sufficient to satisfy me most perfectly that the variations of form and quality were as extensive as they are described to have been: and indeed I have stated in a former communication to the Society,3 a much more extraordinary circumstance of the same kind, in which a branch of the Yellow Magnum Bonum Plum tree bore red fruit, perfectly similar in appearance to the variety usually called the Red Magnum Bonum Plum. This occurred in one season only; after which the branch recovered its former habits. My garden did not contain the variety last mentioned, but if it had, I should not be in the least inclined to attribute the change of colour and character, which occurred, to the operation of its pollen; for I have in some hundred instances (I can in truth say, in some thousand instances) introduced the pollen of one variety of the Plum, the Pear, the Apple, the Cherry, the Peach, the Melon, and other fruits, into the blossoms of others, of very different and opposite habits, and I have never (although I have most closely attended to the results) found in any one instance, the form, colour, size, or flavour of the fruit belonging to such blossoms in any degree whatever changed, or affected. The fruit and seed coats, in all cases, which have come under my inspection, are given wholly by the female parent; and the interior and essential parts of the seeds, those which constitute the future plant, are alone changed by the male parent, without which, I believe, these never exist. I therefore conceive myself fully qualified to decide, that in the deviations of the fruits mentioned from their ordinary character, the operation of the pollen of another variety was not the disturbing cause.

Note by the Secretary.

There can be no doubt of the fact, that Apples produced on contiguous branches of trees growing near to each other do occasionally assume the shape and appearance of their neighbouring variety. The specimens described by Mr. TURNER, were all shewn to me, and they bore such decidedly different characters from what properly belonged to them, and approached so much in resemblance to the kinds near to which they had grown, that it was impossible not to admit the change to have taken place in consequence of their contiguity. The difficulty of the subject at present lies in assigning the cause to the effect produced.

  1. Vol. iii. page 318.

In the alteration made in the Succado Melon mentioned by Mr. TURNER there does not appear to have been any attempt at artificial impregnation; but there is an instance recorded in the Society's Transactions,4 of a change having taken place in a Melon purposely impregnated by the farina of another variety, by Mr. DAVID ANDERSON, in Lord MONTAGU'S garden at Ditton Park. I have also been lately (December, 1821) informed of a similar variation of external form having occurred in the last season in the collection of plants belonging to Mr. GRIFFIN at South Lambeth. A blossom of Amaryllis vittata, the capsule of which is nearly globular, having been impregnated by the farina of one of those species of Amaryllis from South America, whose capsule has its angles very gibbous at the base, the hybridized capsule, when it grew towards maturity, assumed the shape belonging to the species which had furnished the impregnating pollen. These deviations from the usual course of nature are not however sufficient to establish the position that the change is effected by impregnation, whilst the long experience of the President, as stated by himself, is opposed to the possibility of such change. It remains therefore for us to attend to, and to investigate the phenomena with peculiar care when they again occur, in the hope of discovering the real cause of the change.