RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1855. Seedling fruit trees. Gardeners' Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette no. 52 (29 December): 854.
REVISION HISTORY: Scanned, OCRed, corrected and edited by John van Wyhe 2002-8, textual corrections by Sue Asscher 12.2006. RN3
Seedling Fruit Trees.—As several different statements have been published on how far the different varieties of our fruit trees produce seedlings like their parents, I think very interesting information might be given by some few of your correspondents who may have carefully sown named seeds and have noted the result. Jourdan (in the "Mémoires de l'Acad. de Lyons," vol. ii., p. 94, 114)1 states most positively that he has tried repeatedly, and that all the many seedlings which he raised from the same variety of fruit tree resembled each other in foliage and general manner of growth as perfectly as do the young plants of any wild species whatever; and therefore that they differed from the seedlings of every other variety of the same fruit tree. Hence, also, as he asserts, the seedlings of one variety can never be confounded by an experienced eye with those of another variety, being as distinct as were their parents. Moreover, he states that the fruit of seedling Pears and Apples, though differing greatly in size, succulency, and flavour from those of their parents, yet resemble them in the more important characters of form and in the nature of their seeds. On the other hand Van Mons2 asserts that he sometimes raised from the seed of one variety of Pear a quite distinct kind; but it now appears that Van Mons was careless in marking the varieties sown.3 If any one can give accurate information on this curious subject, I hope that he will be so kind as to take the trouble to do so; and will give, as far as he can, some idea what proportion of seedlings are produced which resemble their parents in foliage and general habit; for if seedlings differ from their parents only in a few rare instances, this might perhaps be attributed to an accidental cross from some neighbouring tree. Is it known whether some varieties of Pears and Apples tend to produce truer offspring than other varieties? Plums are said to come very true. Mr. Rivers,4 and possibly others, could probably give very interesting details on this head. C. Darwin.
2 Mons, Jean Baptiste van (1765-1842), Belgian botanist and professor of chemistry and agronomy at Louvain (1817-1830). Mons 1835-6.
4 Thomas Rivers, nurseryman who specialised in fruit-trees and roses. Darwin cited him frequently in Variation.
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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
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