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The Illustrated Strawberry Culturist
A genus of low perennial stemless herbs with runners, and leaves divided into three leaflets; calyx open and flat; petals five, white; stamens ten to twenty, sometimes more; pistils numerous, crowded upon a cone-like head in the center of the flower. Seeds naked on the surface of an enlarged pulpy receptacle called the fruit.
The Strawberry belongs to the great Rose family, and the name of the genus is Fragaria, from the Latin Fraya, its ancient name. The French name of the strawberry is Fraisier; German, Erdbeerpflanze; Italian, Planta di fragola; Dutch, Aadbezie; Spanish, Freza. The South American Spaniards call the wild Strawberries of the country, Frutila.
The well-known unstable character of the species makes it rather difficult to determine the limit of variation, but the following classification is in accord with the experience of practical cultivators of the Strawberry as well as with the more recent arrangement of the species in botanical works.
Fragaria vesca. — The common wild Strawberry of Europe, including both the White and Red Wood, also the annual and Monthly Alpine Strawberries. Of the latter there are varieties with both white and red fruit, growing in stools or clumps producing no runners, or very sparingly. This species is also indigenous to North America and found plentifully in our more northern States, and westward to the Rocky Mountains, where it grows in the more elevated and cooler regions. The plants are slender, with thin, often pale-green leaflets; fruit small, oval, oblong, or sharp pointed; seeds quite prominent, never depressed.
Fragaria Californica — A low-growing species closely allied to the F. vesca, but thought to be specifically distinct by some botanists. The entire plant covered with spreading hairs; leaves rather thin, wedge-shape and broadest at the tip. Flowers, small white; calyx shorter than the petals, and often toothed or cleft; fruit small, and seed as in vesca. On the hills and mountains of California and in northern Mexico. There are no varieties of this species in cultivation.
Fragaria Virginiana. — The Wild Strawberry of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Plant, with few or numerous scattering hairs; upper surface of leaves often very dark green and shining, also very large, thick, coarsely toothed. Flowers, white, in clusters on erect scapes. Fruit red or scarlet, often with long neck; seeds in shallow or deep pits on the surface of the receptacle. This species is the parent of an immense number of varieties, like the Wilson, Boston Pine, Early Scarlet, &c.
Variety. — Illinoensis is found in the rich soils of the Western States and is a larger and coarser growing plant, more villous or hairy than the species, and the fruit is usually of a lighter color. Some of the most popular varieties in cultivation are descended from this indigenous western variety, such as the Charles Downing, Downer's Prolific, &c.
Fragaria Chiliensis. — A widely distributed species, especially on the west coast of America, where it is found from Alaska on the north, southward to California, and thence to Chili and other countries in South America. It is usually a low-growing, spreading plant with large thick cuneate, obovate leaflets, smooth and shining above; with silky appressed hairs underneath. Fruit stalks very stout; flowers white, large, often more than an inch in diameter and with five to seven petals. Formerly these large flowered varieties from South America were supposed to belong to a distinct species — the F. grandflora, or Great-Flowering Strawberry; but more recent investigation has shown that all belong to the one species, viz., F. Chiliensis. This species is the parent of the most noted European varieties, some of which have long been cultivated in this country, but the varieties of the Virginian and Chili Strawberry have become so intermingled by crossing that it is now scarcely possible to trace their parentage.
Fragaria Indica. — A small species from Upper India, with yellow flowers, and small red, rather tasteless fruit. Often cultivated as a curiosity and ornament, as the plants bear continuously through the summer and autumn.
Fragaria elatior. — Hautbois or Highwood Strawberry. Indigenous to Europe, principally in Germany. Plants tall growing; fruit usually elevated above the leaves, and the calyx strongly reflexed; petals small, white; fruit brownish, pale red, sometimes greenish, with a strong musky, and, to most persons, a disagreeable flavor. Only sparingly cultivated. The plants are inclined to be dioecious, i. e., the two sexes on different plants, even in their wild state.
HISTORY OF THE STRAWBERRY.
How the name of Strawberry came to be applied to this fruit is unknown, as the old authors do not agree; some asserting that it was given it because children used to string them upon straws to sell, while others say that it took its name from the fact of straw being placed around the plants in order to keep the fruit clean. Its name may not have been derived from either of these, but from the appearance of the plant; for when the ground is covered with its runners, they certainly have much of the appearance of straw being spread over the ground. We have found nothing conclusive on this point.
Strawberry does not appear to have been cultivated by the ancients,
or even by the Romans, for it is scarcely mentioned by any of their
writers, and then not in connection with the cultivated fruits or
vegetables. Virgil mentions it only when warning the shepherds
against the concealed adder when seeking flowers and Strawberries.
Lo, hid within the grass a serpent lies."
Several other ancient authors mention the Strawberry, but all refer to it as a wild fruit, not cultivated in gardens; but there do not appear to have been any improved varieties in cultivation until within about one hundred years, although the wild plants were transferred to gardens only in the fifteenth century, as we learn from works published at that time.
Casper Bauhin, in his "Pinax," published in 1623, mentions but five varieties. Gerarde, in 1597, enumerates but three — the white, red, and green fruited.
Parkinson, in 1656, describes the Virginian and Bohemian, besides those mentioned by Gerarde. Quintinis, in his "French Gardener," translated by Evelyn in 1672, mentions four varieties, and gives similar directions for cultivation as practised at the present time, viz., planting in August, removing all the runners as they appear, and renewing the beds-every four years.
Only four or five varieties are mentioned by any of the writers on gardening earlier than about 150 years ago.
The Pressant Strawberry, mentioned by Quintinius, was the first seedling we find mentioned, and it was claimed to be superior to its parent, the wild Wood or Alpine Strawberry of Europe.
The Hautbois was long supposed to be indigenous to America, and both Parkinson and Miller state that it came from this country, and the former, in his "Paradisus Terrestris," 1629, says that the Hautbois had been with them only of late days, having been brought over from America. it is now known, however, that this species is a native of Germany, where it is called the "Haarbeer."
The Chili Strawberry was formerly supposed to have been introduced into South America by the Spaniards from Mexico; and while plants may have been introduced as stated, still, botanists assure us that the same species is indigenous to both countries. This species was introduced into France by a traveler named Frazier, in 1716, but whether by seeds or living plants is not known. Philip Miller introduced the Chili Strawberry into England in 1729, but he says it was so unproductive that he finally discarded it. He also refers to the irregular shape of the fruit, a characteristic of many of the varieties of this species in cultivation at this time. The varieties of the Chili Strawberry are usually larger and milder in flavor than those of the Virginia Strawberry, but the plants are rarely as hardy or succeed as well in our Northern States, except in sheltered situations. In Europe, however, the varieties of the Chilean Strawberry have long been preferred to those of the Virginian, probably on account of their large size and mild flavor, as most of our American varieties require a high temperature to develop their saccharine properties.
No improvement was made in the Strawberry by European gardeners until the introduction of the American species, but it was not until the beginning of the present century that practical experiments were made in England for improving this fruit. In 1810 Mr. N. Davidson raised a new variety, which was named the Roseberry. T. A. Knight raised the Downton in 1816; Atkinson, the Grove End Scarlet in 1820; and in 1824 Keen's Seedling appeared. Knight raised the Elton in 1820. During the twenty years from 1810 down to 1830 not more than a half dozen improved varieties were produced in England, but Myatt soon followed with his British Queen, which remained the leading variety of that country for almost a half century.
The French, German, Belgian, and other continental gardeners soon entered the field, and now the Strawberry has become one of the most popular fruits throughout Europe as well as in America.
Although we possessed the materials from which we could have readily produced new and improved varieties of the Strawberry, adapted to our soil and climate, very little was attempted in this direction until long after the Strawberry had become popular in Europe, and even when it began to attract attention in this country, our fruit growers were content to import varieties from abroad instead of attempting to raise new and more valuable ones at home.
introduction of the Hovey in 1834 proved that it was possible to
raise large and productive varieties of the indigenous species, and
while a few cultivators may be said to have taken the hint, or avail
themselves of this discovery, the larger majority continued to import
varieties of the Chili Strawberry only to be sadly disappointed
with the result, for, with few exceptions, these are of little value
for cultivating in this country.
As the Strawberry belongs to the Rose Family, its flowers should in their natural state contain both stamens and pistils, and they usually do, and the flowers are said to be perfect or bi-sexual. But when plants are taken from their native habitats and placed under cultivation, they often assume forms quite different from their natural ones. Sometimes a particular organ is suppressed, while others are enlarged, and thus we produce deformities and monstrosities among almost every family of cultivated plants.
Fig. 1. — CROSS SECTION.
The effects of stimulation or starvation, exposure and protection are different upon different species of plants. The effect of stimulation, through cultivation, upon the Rose proper appears to have forced the stamens to enlarge and become petals circling inward, and smothering the pistils, which are attached to the inside of the rose-like receptacle. But in the Strawberry the receptacle is the reverse of that of the rose, being conical as shown in an enlarged cross-section of a flower, Fig. 1.
Every so-called seed of the Strawberry has one style attached to it; consequently, it is a very important organ, inasmuch as it is through this organ that the influence of the pollen reaches the ovule or seed vessel. The stamens are situated on the calyx, and they may be artificially removed or suppressed by nature, in which case we would have what is called a pistillate flower, which will produce fruit, if the pistils are fertilized from another flower.
Fig. 2 — PISTILLATE FLOWER. USUAL SIZE
It is not important whether a flower produces its own pollen or is supplied from some other source.
Fig 3 — PISTILLATE FLOWER, ENLARGED
From some unknown cause the F. Virginiana and the F. elatior or Hautbois Strawberry of Europe occasionally give varieties in which the stamens or male organs are undeveloped or entirely wanting, and these unisexual plants have long been known as pistillates; the Hovey Strawberry being one of the first to attract special attention in this country. Fig. 2 represents pistillate flower of the usual size, and in Fig. 3 the same enlarged. By comparing these with Fig. 4, a perfect flower, and the same enlarged in Fig. 5, the difference may readily be seen.
Fig. 4 — PERFECT FLOWER.
These abnormal or pistillate varieties are likely to occur among the seedlings of any of the improved or cultivated varieties, and they are occasionally preserved and multiplied, although in no instance that has come under my observation have they proved to be superior to other varieties with perfect flowers. That they are often preserved and propagated must be considered more as a matter of personal pride or opinion on the part of the originator, than a necessity -or advantage to fruit growers in general. But so long as such imperfect varieties are disseminated, they must be recognized, if for no other purpose than to place the inexperienced propagator on his guard against planting them alone, expecting to obtain a crop of fruit. At one time it was supposed or claimed that these pistillate varieties were, and would ever remain, totally barren unless fertilized by pollen from some perfect flowered sort, but as the stamens in the pistillate varieties are merely suppressed organs, it is not at all rare to find an occasional one fully developed and producing pollen. Where this occurs, and it is frequent in such varieties as the Manchester, a moderate crop of fruit will be produced where no pollen can reach the flowers from any other source. But these partly undeveloped stamens cannot be depended upon for supplying the necessary amount of pollen, and where varieties designated as pistillates are cultivated, a perfect flowered one should be grown near by, or even the plants intermingled in the same bed or row. In cultivating a pistillate variety a person must set out a perfect flowered one near by, in order to obtain a crop of fruit from the imperfect; or, in other words, he must plant two varieties to be certain of obtaining fruit from the one. There might be some excuse for this doubling up if the pistillates were in any way superior to the best of the bi sexual or perfect flowered varieties, but as they are not, I fail to see the economy or advantage of cultivating pistillates at all.
Fig 5 —PERFECT FLOWER, ENLARGED.
When writing the first edition of this work, a quarter of a century ago, I had occasion to refer to the assertion of certain cultivators, who claimed that the pistillate varieties when properly fertilized were more productive than those bearing perfect or bisexual flowers, but facts to substantiate the claim were then wanting, and they certainly have not appeared since, and it is very doubtful if any one cultivating the Strawberry extensively would knowingly select a pistillate in preference to a bisexual variety, provided both were otherwise of equal value.
The best pistillate varieties in cultivation may be fully equal in every respect to the best bisexual or staminates, as they are often termed, bat what I claim is that they are no better, besides being objectionable because they must be fertilized by pollen from some other source than their own flowers in order to bear a crop of fruit. This defect in the flowers of the pistillate varieties makes them worthless for cultivating alone in field or garden, for, in order to secure a crop of fruit, a pollen-bearing variety must be cultivated near by, and there is always more or less danger of the plants intermingling, and it can only be prevented by care and attention, while the runners are growing rapidly in summer. There is, however, no real danger of the plants of different varieties intermingling, if they are placed in adjoining beds or rows, and the paths between kept free from runners; but cultivators of the strawberry are often negligent in such matters and mixing of varieties is the result.
If the small central organs or pistils of a Strawberry flower are not fertilized by pollen from its own stamens or that from some other plant, they soon die away and no fleshy receptacle or fruit is produced. This pollen is an impalpable dust-like powder and yet so important that the production of the Strawberry is dependent upon its presence and potency. There must be not only an abundance of pollen, but it mast be supplied by some closely allied species or variety of the Strawberry, to be available. Pollen from the wild or uncultivated Alpines or the Hautbois Strawberries will not fertilize the pistils of the varieties of either the Virginia or Chili Strawberry, neither will the pollen of the latter two species fertilize the pistils of the former. But the Virginia and Chili Strawberries are so closely allied that they readily hybridize; consequently, varieties of either may be employed as the male or pollen-bearing for pistillate varieties, provided, of course, that they bloom at the same time, that is, the plants that are to yield the pollen and those to receive it must bloom together.
There is a great difference in the potency of the pollen of the different varieties of plants of the same species, and it is not at all rare to find bisexual plants the pollen of which will not fertilize their own ovaries, while it is perfectly potent when applied to the stigmas of another plant of the same species. Thus one variety of the Strawberry may, in appearance, have perfect flowers, and in the greatest abundance, and both stamens and pistils be fully developed, and still ninety per cent. or even more of the flowers will fail to produce fruit. In such instances of non-productiveness we may be quite certain that there is something wrong in the sexual organs, but it may be very difficult or impossible to determine what it is.
At a very extensive exhibition of Strawberries held at the American Agriculturist office, N. Y., on June 18th, 19th and 20th, 1863, I was awarded, among other prizes, the one offered for the "best flavored variety." This was one of the many unnamed seedlings then growing in my grounds, and, although a fine fruit in appearance and flavor, it was utterly worthless owing to the unproductiveness of the plants, and for this reason it was never distributed. The plants were hardy, blossomed freely, and to all outward appearance the flowers were perfect; still neither their own pollen or that from other varieties would fertilize the pistils except in rare instances. Every one who has attempted to raise new varieties of the Strawberry must have had a similar experience, some being very productive and others almost barren, and yet their sexual organs may have appeared to be perfect. With a large majority of the bisexual or perfect flowered varieties self-fertilization is the rule, but occasionally a little outside aid in supplying pollen may be beneficial, and in instances of this kind the raising of several varieties in close proximity will largely increase the yield of fruit.
The pistils of each flower must be supplied with a certain amount of pollen from some source, else no fruit will be produced. If only a part of the pistils are fertilized, a deformed fruit will be the result, because the enlarging of the receptacle is for the sole purpose of supporting the seeds resting upon its surface; therefore, we may say, no seeds, no fruit. It has been claimed by many vegetable physiologists that the influence of the pollen reaches no further than the seed, but upon a close inspection of the flower of a Strawberry we find that the receptacle, embryo seed and all other parts are formed and in progress towards perfection before any pollen is seen, and yet, if the latter fails to do its work, or is impotent, the entire structure decays, and even the fruit stems and their appendages wither away. In conducting some of my earlier experiments with the strawberry, I noticed that the influence of the pollen did extend beyond the seed, for it not only caused the receptacle to enlarge and reach maturity but often changed its form and flavor. This was most readily observed when employing different staminate or perfect flowered varieties for supplying pollen to the pistillates. But as in all similar experiments in the fertilization of the ovaries, the results were not uniform, showing that the female plant often exercises such a powerful influence over its own seed and seed-vessels as to effectually obscure that of the pollen-bearing or male plant. It is not to be supposed, however, that because an effect is not prominently apparent that it does not exist.
In the first edition of "The Small Fruit Culturist," 1867, I casually referred to this subject of the influence of the pollen upon the character of the fruit, for I had previously discovered that in raising the pistillate varieties, the staminate employed for supplying their flowers with pollen had more or less influence on the size and form of the fruit of the former. It is probably unnecessary to state that this has been denied by many cultivators of the Strawberry up to the present time, while others who have carefully experimented for the purpose of determining the truth, admit that the influence of the pollen does reach beyond the seed and is often readily seen in the changed form of the fruit. But as I have discussed this subject quite fully in another work,* it is only necessary to say here that in cultivating pistillate varieties of the Strawberry, it is better to select a large and good flavored one to supply it with pollen than one that is small and of inferior quality.
*Propagation of Plants.