Memoirs, Horticultural Society of New York (1902)
Notes on California Plant Breeding

E. J. Wickson
University of California, Berkeley, Cal.

Plant breeding has been pursued in California ever since the establishment of the missions by the Spanish padres. The first of these establishments was made at San Diego in 1769, and here the first cultivated fruit was grown. Gardens surrounded also the missions established later as the padres proceeded northward through the coast region of the State. Many kinds of fruit were grown, and quite marked differences in the varieties of the same fruit were noted by visitors to these missions before the date of American occupation, and many of the fruits survived after that date. While the "mission grape" and the "mission fig" were the same at all the missions and indicate continuous propagation by cuttings, the mission olive has local variations which have never been accounted for. The deciduous fruits varied greatly and seem to indicate selection from seedlings. There is no evidence that the padres practiced budding or grafting, and there are some reasons for thinking that they relied upon growth from seed and secured better varieties here and there by selection, although they developed nothing by the process equal to the varieties known to Europeans and Americans at the middle of the last century.

Very soon after the American occupation and the announcement of gold discovery, a sharp interest arose in new varieties of fruits upon the widely prevalent idea that such varieties would be better adapted to local soils and climates than the popular sorts of the humid regions of America and Europe. There were thousands of seedlings to select from, because seeds and pits were easily brought along the various routes followed by the pioneers, while the shipment of nursery stock was very difficult and expensive. The first fruits grown. in the State by Americans were counted worth as much for seed as for pulp, so sharp was the demand for the multiplication of trees. Many very satisfactory seedlings were fruited, some of which have ever since maintained their places in the fruit lists of the State. When the introduction of grafted trees from all parts of the world began by enthusiastic horticulturists who came from all civilized countries to the new El Dorado, there became available many new elements of parentage. It may he doubted whether in any part of the world so many varieties came to fruiting at the same time as were to be found in Central California. The growth of seedlings continues still, in the belief that the wonderfully favorable conditions for growth would produce horticultural wonders in size, beauty and quality. Of course, not all such anticipations were realized. Selection of seedlings began to be pursued upon a rather more rational ground, namely, to secure particular adaptations to local needs in season of ripening, in suitability for preservation and transportation, and in many other characters, which were seen to be locally desirable. Flow widely and how definitely also this selection of seedlings was pursued an what satisfactory results were secured are shown in considerable detail in paper which the writer contributed to the Proceedings of the American Pomological Society, Session of 1895. This watching for wonders in chance seedlings is still a passion of the California fruit grower, and desirable acquisitions are still being disclosed, although each year brings new casualties to the fruit lists. There are probably not one-tenth as many varieties of all kinds of fruits both citrus and deciduous, now growing in California as there were twenty years ago. Although many new varieties have been secured both by selection of seedings and by the higher arts of plant breeding, ten times as many have been dropped from the lists, not because they were failures as fruits, but because they did not meet the very sharp requirements of commercial fruit growing as now pursued in California.

During the last decade plant breeding in California has rapidly widened in scope and advanced in aim and method. Though our most distinguished plant breeder, Mr. Luther Burbank, began his California life and effort as early as 1875, it was not until some years later that results began to appear and the people to understand his lofty purposes and wonderful achievements. This disclosure of a horticultural prophet of the highest type has naturally stimulated plant breeding and led to higher arts and greater ambitions, and: the results secured by others than Mr. Burbank are becoming notable. It has seemed to me that even a rough sketch of what other Californians than Mr. Burbank had achieved, with some mention of their beliefs and methods, would be acceptable, and would indicate that under the favoring conditions in California excellent work was being done by many enthusiastic and devoted plant breeders. This elimination of Mr. Burbank is necessary because his work alone, even cursorily discussed, would occupy more space than this writing should claim; besides, information about him and his work was given by the writer in four issues of the Sunset Magazine, San Francisco (December, 1901, and February, April and June, 1902,), to which the reader is referred.

For the purpose of securing up to date and authentic data from California plant breeders I addressed letters of enquiry to those whom I knew to be engaged in this work. All did not comply with my request for information, and if omissions are noticed they may be due to this fact. The repIies to these enquiries follow:

The Loganberry and the Mammoth blackberry are the only plants of any value that I have originated.

CybeRose note: There was considerable debate about whether the Loganberry was of hybrid origin. Some writers insisted that it was a natural species that Logan had found. However, Arthington Worsley (1906) observed, "Raspberry x Blackberry (R. incisifolia ?) = Logan-berry. Fruit like a large raspberry, but foliage distinct from either. Blackberry blood clearly evidenced in thorns and especially in stipules."

In another place, Logan wrote that he used the dewberry selection 'Aughinbaugh'.

In August, 1881, I planted the seed of the common wild blackberry, or dewberry, of California, botanically known as the Rubus ursinus, gathered from plants on one side of which was growing a kind of evergreen blackberry known as the Texas Early, and on the other side of which was growing an old variety of red raspberry. The Texas Early has a growth of cane and leaves similar to the Lawton, although much less vigorous, and in our mild climate is growing winter and summer. It has a small round berry of more acidity than the Lawton and probably of poorer flavor. The raspberry referred to has been growing in this place for the last forty years, and; I am unable to ascertain what variety it is, although it is of a type similar to the Red Antwerp. It is not, however, the Red Antwerp as we have been growing it here. From this seed there grew about one hundred plants.

In the summer of l883 these fruited and there appeared one plant which was undoubtedly a cross between the raspberry and the R. ursinus. The fruit was larger and earlier than the raspberry or any blackberry, except the ursinus, ripening about the middle of May; the appearance of the berry on the surface was something like the raspberry, being less indented and of more even surface than a blackberry; the color a bright glowing red, becoming very dark and finally, when dead ripe, of a dull purplish-red color. The berry has a core like the blackberry and parts from the calyx the same as a blackberry. The leaves of the vine are almost identical with the wild Rubus, being somewhat larger. The canes are also like the wild Rubus, but larger and more vigorous; it has the same small, sharp spines, and, like it, is without adventitious root buds, but multiplies from the stolons or tips and from seed. The fruit, when cooked, has the same rich acidity as the wild Rubus, there being only a suggestion of the taste of the raspberry in the cooked fruit, but in the jelly there is a more decided raspberry flavor. This red berry is universally known here as the Loganberry. It is an enormous grower and bearer, there having been gathered in this city full twenty-five pounds of fruit from one plant in one season. In Southern California it is fast displacing all other blackberries.

The other plants produced at this time, being crosses between the ursinus and the Texas, also developed into an entirely new type of blackberry, most of them of good quality; equally good for canning and jams as the Loganberry or the wild Rubus, and almost as early in ripening.

Since 1881 I have planted a good many seeds of this Rubus ursinus fertilized with the Texas Early. About twelve years ago there appeared among these seedlings—and it is uncertain from what year's planting it came—a remarkable blackberry. The canes are enormous. I have a plant now growing in my grounds which grew one cane or stalk last year, for this year's fruiting, of one hundred and forty-nine feet of fruit wood. This single plant will cover with foliage a wall forty feet long and from six to eight feet wide. The fruit is equally colossal: berries are frequently found two and one-half inches long. The fruit is similar to that of the wild Rubus, being less sharply acid, and when perfectly ripe is sweet and delicious. This berry I have named the "Mammoth." Its fruit is similar to the Loganberry, but less acid. The Mammoth fruits perhaps a couple of weeks later than the Loganberry, and is jet black in color.

The raspberry parent of the Loganberry is, like most raspberries, prone to spread from adventitious rootbuds; the Texas Early is also a perfect nuisance in that respect. The Rubus ursinus has no adventitious rootbuds, but propagates entirely from the tip. And it is a singular fact that, in the thousands of seedlings of the Loganberry and of the crosses between the Texas and the ursinus and crosses between plants thus crossed, not a single plant has been found that had adventitious rootbuds, but, like the female ursinus parent, all reproduce from the tips or seed. As is well known, the raspberry has a perfect bi-sexual flower. The Rubus ursinus, sexually, is divided into the male and the female. Such a thing as a bisexual flower in the Rubus ursinus is unknown, and it is a characteristic of that plant, growing wild in the woods, while the cane of the male plant is very much smaller and apparently less vigorous than the female, the male ultimately speads in rich soil and completely chokes out the female plants so that in a few years the berry patches become entirely barren, being constituted entirely of male plants. It is very noticeable in cases where the woods have been burned over: for the first few years, the burned district will produce many blackberries; in a few years, however, the productive berries entirely disappear and the male berry takes entire possession.

The flowers of the seedlings which I have grown have been mostly bisexual and very large. I never yet have seen a flower of the Loganberry or of any of its seedlings that was not bi-sexual and perfect. Very many, however, of the crosses between the ursinus and the Texas are uni-sexual female, but I never yet have seen a flower of any of my seedling plants that was uni-sexual male, like the ursinus produces.

My experience with the hybridizing of the Loganberry and the Mammoth blackberry with each other and other fruits, has resulted in some very interesting, and, in many cases, peculiar horticultural productions. The seedlings of the Loganberry, having been propagated in this State by the thousand, very many of them by myself, have as far as I know, resulted in the reproduction of the Loganberry type only; I never yet have heard of one of these seedlings returning to either a raspberry or a blackberry. The fruit of these seedlings is always the same red color, the same general flavor, and the vines have the same general appearance; but, as in the case of all seedling plants, the fruit of ninety-nine out of a hundred plants is not equal, in any respect to the original, in fact they are mostly worthless.

I have made many crosses of the Loganberry with my seedlings of the Texas and the ursinus. No. 1 is a cross of the Logan with a pistillate product of the Texas and ursinus; No. 1 is a cross of the Logan with the wild ursinus; No. 3 is a cross of the Logan with the Mammoth; No. 4 is a cross of a pistillate product of the Texas and the ursinus with the ursinus.

The result of all these crosses has been a most peculiar failure. Not a single one has been prolific, although in most instances the blossoms have both pistils and stamens perfectly developed in the same flower. A few have been pistillate (uni-sexual female). Not a single one has been uni-sexual male. It would be supposed that such flowers would produce fruit, but they are utterly barren. Out of hundreds of plants I have not found a single perfect berry and very few imperfect ones. These hybrids, while perfect and valuable as producers of fruit, and constant in reproducing them selves, seemingly refuse to be a party to any more crosses.

J. H. LOGAN. Santa Cruz, Cal.

While not entirely so, yet most of our work is done by hybridizing. Some of our results are:

Snapdragon Sweet Peas ("Pure White," "Light Pink," "Deep Purple").—The standard never expands, but closely overlaps the wings, giving the flower a bud-like form. (Introduced, 1901.)

Sweet Pea (Giant-Flowered "Chamberlain").—While all cupid sweet peas have larger sized flowers than the same varieties of the original tall type, this one is truly entitled to the name Giant-Flowered. The extraordinary size of the flower is emphasized by being produced in wonderful abundance upon such dwarf compact plants. Striped rosy pink on white ground. (Introduced. 1900.

Fall Nasturtium "Croesus."—This is a distinct new climbing Nasturtium. Foliage rich and dark. Flowers are of immense size, rich sulphur yellow Each petal is splashed or tiped with red. The two upper petals are marked with large peacock-feather markings of deep red. The lower petals are also marked with the peacock eye, large and distinct, but of a soft rose color. This variety has the peculiarity of commencing to flower with the yelIow and red markings, and as the growth of the vine continues there will be flowers of rose red, with yellow lines upon them and often four or five distinct flowers will be upon the same vine. (Introduced, 1903.)

Ivy Leaf Nasturtiums.—The original was propagated in Europe—came very untrue to type and of one color. We have succeeded in not only getting a true type but, by crossing, some twenty different colors.

Unique Sweet Pea. "Salvation Lassie."—This is new departure in sweet peas. The standard is unusually wide and well expanded, yet curving so curiously over the wings as to suggest a bonnet. Color a soft shade of deep rose throughout. (Introduced, 1902.)

L. C. ROUTZAHN, Manager,
McClure Seed Company, Arraya Grande, Cal.

I have fruited many seedlings, but have not produced anything superior to what we already had. From 1869 to 1878, when there was no sale for pears and no codling moths, we could pick up free of charge all the pears we wanted in orchards where they had dropped. Many men raised their own pear seedlings. One year I selected 400 out of 60,000 seedlings grown from grafted fruit, worked them high on small limbs of old trees, these nearly all fruited in four and five years, but none proved superior to those varieties we had in cultivation. I have the same experience with plums of which there are two good varieties not yet introduced.

Three years ago we selected out of 120,000 apricot seedlings 500 and budded them high on peach trees, some show very well for bearing, size and ripening. We have also a lot of almonds on trial, worked the same way, high on old trees.

California Nursery Company, Niles, Alameda Co., Cal.

There are at Home Orchard, two apples, one apricot and two peaches that I think have some claims for excellence, all chance seedlings.

One of the apples is a seedling of the Grindstone, somewhat larger—a yellow ground with light and darker red stripes—shape flatish round—both stem and eye cavities deep—stem slender, core very small: seeds plump and dark. Fruit fine grained, moderately juicy, rich, with a slight acid flavor—a good eating apple at Christmas and will keep till May or Jane. Tree an upright, strong, healthy grower. The original tree grew just within the Fresno grove of "Big Trees" (Sequoia gigantea) and is twenty-five or thirty years old. A few trees have been propagated and sent out as Sequoia.

The other apple originated here—a cross of White Winter Pearmain with G. N. Pippin. It retains the peculiar flavor of the Pearmain with the rich sharp acid of the Pippin. Color a greenish yellow, size medium, shape flatish oblate, with prominent ribs, will keep to May or later. Not handsome in either color or shape, but many who have tested it think it the finest flavored they have ever tasted. Tree a good grower, healthy spreading. None have been propagated—no name.

The apricot is a seedling of Blenheim, and blooms several days later—fruit large. flatish oval, color not quite so dark as the parent: flavor about the same, ripens evenly. Tree a very healthy, rapid grower and free from gum, very prolific—not propagated—no name—originated here.

A lemon colored cling peach is highly thought of in many orchards of this vicinity—large when properly thinned, sometimes a little-blush in the sun—no red at the seed, which is small—considered our best canning cling. The tree is upright and the most rapid and healthy grower I know, and comes true from the seed. The original tree was among a few others planted in "early days" at a mining camp near Mariposa. and lived and bore fruit without fence or care for many years—it was a noted tree—a grand nursery stock.

The other peach is a lemon yellow freestone. medium to large in size nearly round with a little bright red in the sun—flesh a bright yellow to the seed—very similar to Muir, but more juicy and not quite so sweet—firm, and we like it for canning—carries well-ripens about the first of September—holds well on the tree, which is a strong, upright grower. I think it is a cross of the above cling with some freestone. It is known at the hotels along the stage line to "the valley" as "Yosemite," and is the best peach they get. No trees outside of Home Orchard—originated here.

FRANK FEMMONS, Ahwahnee. Madera Co., Cal.

We have not done much cross-fertilizing of plants excepting in Sweet Peas, and on these lines have done a great deal of work since about 1890. The first Cupid discovered by us was in 1894—a pure white. In 1895 we discovered another Cupid—Pink, or Blanche Ferry. We crossed both, as well as crossing numerous tall varieties, which seemed to break up the strains, and while frequently we would not find any Cupids from such crosses for some years, they were all apt to throw Cupids even though we planted the seed of tall ones. We now have Cupids of every variety that exists in the tall sorts, or more than one hundred.

We saved the first Bush in 1895, although we had seen them before an had not tried to do anything with them. We began crossing, and now have no less than fifty different colors in the Bush. We have ourselves sent out twenty-five tall Sweet Pea novelties, introducing most of them through W. Atlee Burpee & Co., of Philadelphia.

Sweet Peas must be crossed when the bud is quite young before any pollen has caught on the pistil. We have done most of our work by simply taking all the stamens off the plant to be crossed and bringing new pollen to it, although some claim that we should mix the pollen of the plant itself with the new one.

The first year after the seed of the cross is planted it is very apt to show a very inferior reversion to old pink or white, or an inferior red, white, or purple. The plants, however, planted again the second year begin to show new strains. This is not always so, since sometimes we get a handsome flower the first year, but it is never a fixed type, and the year following is sure to break.

The majority of novelties, however, are not developed by cross-fertilization, but by selection. There is always something a little different from its fellows in any field of plants, and a selection can be developed to create a considerable change.

The Morse Lettuce is a selection of white seeding plants out of Black Seeded Simpson and then developed for a hardier variety. Pink Prizetaker Onion is a selection out of the common Yellow Prizetaker, and so on. In developing stocks this way we always keep each plant separate, as some plants will produce their kind and others will not do so, and if they are mixed we might never be able to get a fixed stock. In one strain of Sweet Pea, for instance, this year we have 270 individual selections, and we have had as high as 305.

On all of the standard Onions, Lettuces and Carrots we make an extra selection of one hundred plants, roots or bulbs, and from this hundred we save ten individuals and mix the other ninety. Out of the ten individuals we choose one for a breeder, and then carry the work on again from that with our hundreds and tens. This is to breed up a pure stock.

In breeding novelties it is very important that one has a large trial ground so as to try stocks from other sources. We have seen a good many people enthusiastic over something that was new to them, though it was not a novelty.

We believe that nearly all vegetables or flowers can be developed along certain natural lines purely by process of selection—we mean that they can be made early or late, large or small by this method.

Crossing and hybridizing is very slow and discouraging work. We have never done very much of it in vegetables except to try it in Salsify. We have tried it somewhat in Sunflowers, Hollyhocks and Centaureas, but without success so far.

C. C. MORSE & Co.,
Per Lester L. Morse, Pres. and Mgr.

The most noteworthy hybrid I have raised is the Canna Mrs. Kate Gray, This canna was raised at Alhambra in the summer of 1896. Italia was the seed-bearing parent crossed with the pollen from Madam Crozy, the pollen from the leaf stamen being used. One seed was obtained, and since that time neither Italia nor Mrs. Kate Gray can be induced with me to perfect seed.

I have a very good hybrid Asparagus which is the result of a cross between Asparagus decumbens, seed-bearing, and pollen from Asparagus tenuissimus.

Some seedling Roses which have flowered giving great promise of good varieties are American Beauty crossed with Kaiserin Augusta Victoria and Papa Gontier crossed with American Beauty.

Pollen grains vary in size and vitality, though they may have been grown in the same stamen. In fact, I am selecting my pollen grains. Method used: A piece of unglazed paper is used, shaking the ripe pollen onto it and curving the paper, and at the same time elevating one end so that the pollen runs down onto a plate. On looking at the pollen with a lens we find that a certain amount of inferior grains are left on the paper, and by repeating the operation only the heaviest grains reach the plate. From experience I have found that these selected grains carry with them the general make-up of the plant bearing them, unless the energy of the stigma overpowers the pollen life. If such is the case the progeny is intermediate between the two in all points. But if the vigor of the pollen predominates it carries with it all the characteristic traits of its parent except color, which invariably leans to the seed-bearing parent. Mixed pollens from differently colored flowers produced all flaked flowers in Gladiolus. But one grain of pollen from a red-flowered Gladiolus on a light salmon-colored one produced a most beautiful pink. The few remaining seed gave results inferior to both parents.

Moisture is fatal to pollen and weakens the vigor of the stigma. It is owing to the dry air of California that California seeds have such sound germinating powers.

All plant life deteriorates, and it is only by crossing variety on variety that we stay this law of nature. In fact, such is the tendency of some varieties to hold to their original that when crossed with pollen from another variety it only adds vigor to the tree or plant.

I have a noticeable instance of this in a hybrid Orange tree. The tree is the result of a cross between the Navel Orange and the Mediterranean Sweet, the former being the seed-bearer. As far as I can see the fruits are perfect Navels in every way.


I have originated five varieties of loquat, which I consider of sufficient value to offer to the public. They are:

The Advance has been recognized as of especial value for about fourteen years. Most of the others are seedlings from it and are of comparatively recent introduction. Up to a quite recent date, my method has been simply to fruit selected seedlings, but now I have some young trees one and two years old, from pits which were hand fertilized, and whose origin is certain. I have fruited over twelve hundred seedlings and have about as many more which will hear in the next two years.

Owing mainly to the introduction of the Advance, the loquat has become very popular in Los Angeles. One man, the past season, sold in that market one thousand dollars worth of fruit from less than one hundred and fifty trees. There is no reason why the loquat should not become equally popular in the other large cities.

C. P. TAFT, Orange, Cal.

I have kept no memoranda, and am unable, in a number of instances, to give the parentage or pedigree of novelties which I have introduced. I have done a great deal of work with Cosmos, but only through selection. Nasturtiums have taken much of my time the last few years. One not yet given to the public, a cross of Phoebe by Sunlight, is very beautiful and most valuable for hybridizing; through it, I expect to develop a tall fringed Nasturtium. The work to which I am most devoted and where I hope to do my best is with Begonias. Considerable time has also been given to Geraniums and Chrysanthemums.