AND ITS IMPROVEMENT BY HYBRIDIZATION, CROSS-BREEDING, AND SEEDLINGS
BY GEORGE W. CAMPBELL, DELAWARE, OHIO.
The success of grape culture in a large proportion of the United States is no longer problematical; and the large amount of capital invested, and of intelligent industry engaged in this branch of horticulture, renders it not only a subject of local interest, but of national importance. In may sections of the country, vineyards of greater or less extent have been planted, and, where conducted with a reasonable degree of care and intelligence, have been gratifying and remunerative to their owners. Exceptions are believed not to have occurred more frequently than in any other branch of horticulture or agriculture.
For many years the introduction of the foreign European varieties excited the hope of enthusiastic cultivators, who believed that in favored localities these grapes might be acclimatized and made to succeed in open vineyard culture. Experience has, in all cases, proven the delusive character of these hopes; for, after a few years of partial or doubtful success, all such projects have been successively abandoned, and it is finally regarded by intelligent horticulturists as definitely settled that the different varieties of the foreign vine, or Vitis vinifera, are not adapted to open air culture in this country. The physical character and constitution of the foreign varieties have been found wholly unsuited to the climate of the United States; and seedlings from them have partaken so largely of the same characteristics, that very little, if any, progress has been made towards improvement their reproduction in this manner.
The leaves of foreign vines are too delicate and thin to resist, uninjured, the extremes of temperature to which they are subjected in this variable climate. They are scorched by our hot summer sun, and enfeebled by drying winds; and, when visited by heavy, driving rains, followed by sultry summer heat, mildew attacks the vine, and blasts at once the fruit and the hopes of the cultivator. That these unfavorable influences are purely climatic, is demonstrated fully by the fact that, when an artificial atmosphere is given by growing them in glass structures, these grapes are produced in perfection, scarcely excelled in their native localities. The foreign vine having entirely failed to meet the requirements of vineyard culture, we must look to our native varieties as the only ones promising continued and permanent success; and only by improvement of these native varieties can we reasonably expect to realize valuable progressive results. A brief notice of the character of some of the native varieties and hybrid grapes cultivated by the writer, and of some experiments looking towards their further improvement by hybridizing, cross-breeding, and selected seedlings, will form the subject of the present paper.
It may be here mentioned that the locality where these observations and experiments were made, though situated near the 40th parallel of latitude, is not particularly adapted to grape-growing, being, on account of its somewhat elevated position, subject to the alternate influences of northern and southern winds, producing great variability of temperature. Frosts, late in the spring and early in the fall, leave a growing season so short that the Catawba grape rarely becomes well colored, and never fully ripens, except on south walls, or particularly sheltered positions. Peaches are rarely produced, the fruit-buds being almost invariably destroyed during winter, or by late spring frosts. The soil, however, seems well adapted to the growth of the vine; and early ripening varieties are produced as easily and of as fine quality as elsewhere.
In 1852 the Catawba and Isabella were the only grapes upon the list of the American Pomological Society recommended for general cultivation. After the lapse of ten years but three have been added—the Delaware, Concord, and Diana (Since the above manuscript was written, the Diana has been stricken off by the American Pomological committee, at Boston.)—and of these five varieties but two, or at most three, can fairly be considered as adapted to general cultivation—the Delaware and Concord, with some doubt as to the Isabella.
While the Catawba grape is very valuable for particular localities, it is too late in ripening to succeed well much north of the Ohio river, except in peculiarly favored situations. Its habitual tendency to rot in many places, and in all unfavorable seasons, detracts much from its value, even where the season is long enough to mature its fruit. And yet, with all these disadvantages, the Catawba has been more extensively planted than any other grape in the country, and has been found in the aggregate to yield large profits to its cultivators, whether sold in the cluster, or manufactured into wine. In the northern States, except on the islands of Lake Erie, the Catawba is never quite free from pulpiness, and contains considerable astringency at the centre, even while favorable seasons at Cincinnati, and further south, the pulp becomes soft by hanging late on the vines, and the unpleasant astringency nearly or quite disappears. In this stage of ripeness the Catawba is capable of producing pure wine of superior character.
From these observations it is at once apparent that a grape possessing all the good qualities of the Catawba, with a period of ripening two to three weeks earlier, and without its tendency to rot, would be an acquisition of the greatest importance. Such an acquisition was claimed to have been found upon the introduction of the Diana grape, which is supposed to be a seedling from the Catawba; but, so far as my observation extends, the expectations formed in reference to this variety have not been realized.
Although it colors somewhat earlier, and is eatable even when imperfectly colored, from having less toughness and astringency of pulp; it ripens unevenly, and requires a season nearly as long as the Catawba to become perfectly matured. In size of bunch and berry it is also smaller, and its ability to sustain severe cold without protection is less than that of Catawba. It has also the same tendency to rot in unfavorable seasons. With all these disadvantages when the necessary conditions exist to ripen it perfectly, the Diana is a very superior grape; and I have eaten its fruit grown upon walls with a southern exposure of a quality unsurpassed by any native variety except the Delaware.
The Concord grape is a more recent introduction, has many qualifications to recommend it for general cultivation, and is one of the most generally popular of all native grapes. Though it cannot be called a fruit of first-rate excellence, it is of good quality, and to most persons very pleasant and acceptable. As usual with new seedling varieties, it has materially improved in quality since its first introduction, and is much better further south than in Massachusetts, where it originated. It is vigorous in growth of vine, very hardy, productive, and ripens its fruit evenly and perfectly from the middle to the last of September. Its strong and luxuriant foliage resists mildew or oidium; and I have never known it to rot in unfavorable seasons, and in localities where Catawbas and Dianas have been destroyed. When well grown, its bunches and berries are of large size, often shouldered, quite black, and covered with bloom; skin thin; pulp soft; moderately juicy and sweet, with somewhat of the "foxy" odor and flavor. It does not keep long after taken from the vines. As a wine grape its character is not well ascertained, although Mr. Bull, the accomplished originator of it, and others, have made delicious wine without the addition of sugar.
The Isabella grape is so well known as to require no description. Next to the Catawba, it has probably been more extensively planted in the United States than any other variety. Where well cultivated, and its natural tendency to over bear is checked by proper pruning and judicious thinning of the fruit, it is a profitable and valuable variety, and will ripen its fruit nearly as early, and as far north as the Concord. To have good Isabella grapes the vines should be kept renewed by frequent pruning out of the old wood, and from half to two-thirds of the fruit bunches cut away as soon as possible after flowering. This variety is sometimes disposed to mildew and rot in unfavorable localities, but to less extent than the Catawba.
Of the list recommended by the Pomological Society for general cultivation, only the Delaware grape remains to be considered. It is believed that this variety is by far the most valuable addition made to the list of hardy American grapes, and its introduction is unquestionably destined to produce the most important results to the grape-growing interests of this country. In its healthy habit of growth, hardiness, early ripening, and the unsurpassed quality of its fruit, it more nearly answers the requisitions for a grape adapted to general and universal cultivation than any other variety yet known. Since its first general introduction, or within the past five or six years, it has steadily and rapidly advanced in public estimation until, by almost universal consent, it is placed at the head of the list. It has been objected that it is of small size and of slow growth.
The former objection must be partially admitted, though good culture has advanced it much in that respect; and, when well cultivated and cared for, the bunches and berries are of full medium size, and a great improvement over specimens exhibited upon its first introduction. As to slowness of growth, this impression doubtless arises mainly from the use of plants enfeebled by excessive production; for, such has been the demand for this variety, that plants have been produced in every possible manner, often from weak and immature wood, and from green cuttings; and vines have been gladly taken by purchasers which were wholly unfit for planting, because no better were to be had. Nothing but weak growth and frequent disappointments could be reasonably expected; but when entire loss has not occurred, such is the native vigor of the Delaware, that it has steadily made its way even against these disadvantages; and, after a year or two, small and weak plants have become established, and made strong and vigorous growth, bearing abundant crops to reward their patient cultivators. Already vineyards of considerable extent are being planted with Delawares about Cincinnati and elsewhere; and the most intelligent vine-growers after careful and patient investigation, have given this variety their highest approval.
The following is extracted from a published report of a committee upon grapes, appointed by the Cincinnati Horticultural Society,
which, I may add, mainly sustains my own experience of about twelve years with the Delaware:
"We have been watching the Delaware grape for three or four years very closely, and found that the vines stand the winter freezing and spring frosts better than the Catawba, equally exposed and unprotected. No rot or mildew has yet been discovered, and no falling of the leaves until the fruit is fully ripe, and it ripens fully three weeks earlier than the Catawba.
"We have eight reasons why we place the Delaware at the head of the hardy grapes:
"1st. Superior quality for table use.
"2d. It produces finer and richer wine.
"3d. The vines stand the winter freezing better than the Catawba.
"4th. They stand the spring frosts better.
"5th. They are not damaged by mildew.
"6th. The grapes never rot.
"7th. No falling of the leaves until the grapes are ripe.
"8th. The certainty of their growing.
"The chairman of this committee has already planted twelve hundred Delawares with such success that he is now preparing the ground for twelve hundred more next spring.
The Delaware cannot be considered a rampant grower, though it makes a remarkably vigorous, compact, and healthy growth, especially adapted to vineyard culture. I have known it occasionally to suffer from oidium, or mildew upon the leaves in low, undrained, and unfavorable localities, and where the vines had been enfeebled by over-cropping and excessive layering at the same time. But when properly treated I have never known it to fail in making a satisfactory and healthy growth, or in producing abundant crops of well-ripened and most delicious grapes. As compared with the Concord, the Delaware is less robust in its habit of growth, though in hardiness against severe cold it is perhaps superior. As to quality of fruit produced from a given extent of vineyard, there would probably not be much difference. But in quality and value of the fruit the Delaware is unapproachably superior to the Concord in every respect. The Concord will, probably, bear better under neglect and careless treatment than the Delaware; and it is becoming and will continue a very popular variety with those who prefer quantity and ease of production to fine quality.
The Delaware grape would be more popular were its habits of growth more robust, and its fruit larger and more showy; and that there would be particular advantages in larger bunches and berries cannot be denied, if they could be had without any sacrifice of flavor or quality. Very many persons prefer the sprightly and refreshing vinous flavor of the Delaware to that of the finest exotic varieties carefully raised under glass; and it is unquestionably true that a grape possessing all the fine qualities of the Delaware, and its adaptability to open air culture, accompanied by the size of the Black Hamburg, would be an acquisition of almost incalculable value. I may here remark, that the hope—rather than the expectation—of producing something of this character has impelled me to make, through a series of years, a succession of experiments in hybridizing, cross-breeding, and in raising natural seedlings, which, whether successful or not, I shall probably continue during my natural existence. Up to the present time, it must be confessed, the results of my experiments have been curious and interesting, rather than valuable. But, contrary to the opinions of many writers, I have succeeded, in common with others, in demonstrating that the structural and physical difficulties in the way of hybridizing the grape successfully are not impossibilities, and that they may all be overcome, and cross-breeds and hybrids produced at will, and with unerring certainty, either between different varieties of natives, or between native and foreign varieties.
Before remarking further upon the subject of hybridizing, I will notice the grapes upon the list of the American Pomological Society, recommended as "promising well." These are four in number—the Herbemont, Logan, Rebecca, and Union Village. The Herbemont has been found valuable at the south, both as a grape for the table and for wine, and it is certainly a fruit of very high character when well matured.
I have, however, never seen a good specimen ripened north of Cincinnati, and the objections urged against the Catawba for general cultivation, on account of lateness of ripening, would equally apply to the Herbemont. It is also somewhat tender in winter, and will not succeed well in this latitude, except on walls, or warm sunny exposures, which are shielded from early and late frosts.
The Logan is a strong, healthy vine, perfectly hardy, sustaining uninjured the severest winters unprotected, and ripening its fruit very early. It is a black grape; berry about the size of Isabella, which it somewhat resembles; but in the form of its bunches it is usually straggling and imperfect, as it does not set its fruit well. In quality it is good, being more sprightly and vinous than the Isabella, and would be a desirable variety if its bunches were larger and more uniform. I have used the Logan as a pistillate, in several of my hybridizing experiments, on account of its earliness, hardiness, and healthy, vigorous growth, (all especially desirable qualifications,) relying on the staminate parents for improvement in quality.
The Rebecca is a white or light-green grape, with a salmon tint, where exposed to the sun, of superior quality, but of delicate and slender habit of growth, much disposed to attacks of mildew while young, and usually a shy bearer. Its bunches, especially on young vines, are small, rather compact, with good-sized berries; requiring protection in severe winters, and particularly desirable only for gardens, and for amateur cultivators who will give it good care and culture. Its tendency to mildew, however, greatly decreases as the vines acquire age and strength.
The Union Village is one of the largest and most showy of our native grapes, being very much like the celebrated Black Hamburgh in size, color, and appearance. In quality, it resembles the Isabella, of which it is said to be a seedling, and is by many persons preferred to that variety. It is a most luxuriant grower, and young vines especially, need some protection from severe cold in winter. This completes the list of grapes recommended by the Pomological Society, both for general cultivation and as "promising well." A very large number of other varieties have also been introduced within the past few years from various sources, and, while many of them will never deservedly acquire more than a limited and local reputation, a smaller number may prove valuable acquisitions. A few of these will be noticed, partly because they have been used in hybridizing experiments, and partly because of the belief that they may of themselves be worthy of further trial and cultivation.
The Creveling, known also in some localities as the Catawissa, or Bloom grape, was first exhibited before the Pomological Society at Philadelphia in 1860, fully ripe, on the 11th of September, color black, or blue-black, bunches long, rather large, not very compact, but of good form. In quality juicy, with very little pulp, sprightly, moderately rich, and very good. It seemed more perfectly ripened than any native variety on exhibition except the Delaware. Two years' experience induces the belief that it is a grape valuable for its hardiness, earliness, productiveness, and good quality. it is also of strong, vigorous, and healthy growth, fully as early as the Hartford Prolific, while in quality it is greatly superior to that variety. The Cuyahoga, which originated near Cleveland in this State, is one of the class of light-green or amber-colored grapes, usually called white. For southern localities, sheltered situations, and south or east walls, it is a desirable variety. Is of much stronger growth than the Rebecca, though, like it, rather disposed to mildew while growing. It did not suffer from rot the past season, though Catawbas, Dianas, and other varieties were badly injured in the same locality. It is a grape of fine, high flavor, thin skin, very little pulp, and, except that is too late in ripening, a desirable acquisition. Its period of ripening is about the same as that of the Catawba.
The Lydia is another new seedling, which originated on Kelley's Island, in Lake Erie. It resembles the Cuyahoga in foliage and general growth of the vine, as also in the color and appearance of its fruit. Its berries are, however, larger, with rather thicker skin, and somewhat more consistency of pulp. In flavor it is less vinous, but more saccharine than the Cuyahoga, and ripens three weeks earlier. Regarded as a promising variety.
The Anna is a white grape which has been for some time before the public, but of the value of which reports are very contradictory. It has been here of rather slow and dwarfish habit of growth while young, but improves in that respect after three or four years. When fully ripe it resembles the Diana in quality, but is more pulpy, a little "foxy," and more astringent at the center. Bunches and berries of medium size, and period of ripening about the same as the Catawba. It is probably a seedling of that variety, and, like it and the Diana, is disposed to rot in unfavorable seasons.
The Alvey is a grape not generally known or disseminated, of the Herbemont, Lenoir, and Lincoln type. It seems, however, of better habit of growth, and the earliest in ripening of its class. A somewhat limited experience hardly warrants any positive statement; but it appears, as far as tested, equal in quality and productiveness to either of the above-named kinds, while its earlier ripening renders it more desirable, especially for northern localities.
Taylor, or Taylor's Bullet, is a small, white grape, with large seeds, which was introduced some three or four years since, with the announcement that it was "better than the Delaware," and a great acquisition to the list of native varieties. It is a vine of remarkable vigor of growth, raised as easily from cuttings as currant-bushes or willows, and ripens its fruit early, but here its value ends. It sets badly, having usually not more than six to twelve berries on its straggling and irregular bunches. Its flavor may be called negative, have no decidedly bad taste, nor any particularly good. Is undoubtedly inferior and unworthy of cultivation.
Another class of grapes, claimed to be hybrids between native and foreign varieties, will now be noticed, as preparatory to some account of my own experience in that line, and to a general consideration of the probabilities of the permanent and valuable improvement of grapes through the agency of artificial hybridization.
Mr. John Fisk Allen and Mr. Edward S. Rogers, both of Salem, Massachusetts, are, so far as I know, the only persons who have introduced grapes to public notice which are undoubtedly produced from artificially impregnated seed, and which are true crosses between native and foreign varieties.
The first named of these gentlemen originated the variety known as Allen's White hybrid, which was produced by impregnating the Isabella with pollen from the Golden Chasselas. This is a grape of remarkably interesting peculiarities. Retaining much of the habit of the Isabella, it has also very marked characteristics of its foreign parent. Judging from four years' experience, I regard it as a decided advance in the way of improvement. Though perhaps not quite as hardy as the Isabella, it is apparently as vigorous in growth, ripened as early, and has shown no greater disposition to mildew than that variety. In color, general appearance, and flavor of its fruit, it is very much like the Golden Chasselas.
Grapes borne for two years upon young vines in open air have differed, in no important particular, from Chasselas grown under glass, except that the bunches and berries are somewhat smaller. Young vines of this variety have not been very productive, but may be expected to improve in that respect when older. The foliage partakes somewhat of the character of both parents. In general contour the leaf is not unlike the Isabella, usually sub-cordate, entire or very obscurely lobed, with rather coarsely dentate edges. It is, however, nearly smooth, or glabrous, on the underside, like the foreign leaf, instead of tomentose, like the Isabella. So much do the young plants resemble Isaballas in appearance, that in some instances, when this hybrid and Isabella were planted near each other, I often found it difficult to distinguish them while growing without examining the underside of the leaves. Mr. Allen has also produced other hybrids, none of which, however, have yet been introduced to general notice.
Mr Rogers's experiments are also interesting and valuable; and although in quality the grapes he has produced are not superior to many others in cultivation, the beneficial and
ameliorating influences of hybridizing are most clearly demonstrated. Selecting, as the pistillate parent, the wild "Mammoth" grape of
New England, a fox of the strongest odor,
and of most execrable and uneatable quality, he fertilizes it with pollen from the Black Hamburgh and the Golden Chasselas. The desirable qualities possessed by the Mammoth were great vigor
of growth, earliness, hardiness, and large size, though with usually but four to six berries in a bunch. From these crosses,
Mr. Rogers produced more than forty different hybrid seedlings.
Ten of the most promising of these, which were sent to me by Mr. R. some years ago, have borne fruit the past two years. While they all differ materially from each other,
they bear strong evidence of their mixed origin, and are truly wonderful improvements upon their foxy mother.
The ameliorating influences of the foreign varieties are also clearly and unmistakably apparent.
All those crossed with the Black Hamburghs which I have seen, bear berries equal in size to that variety, and many of them had also handsome, compact,
and often shouldered bunches nearly as large. These hybrids have not been named, and as yet distinguished only by numbers,
and in the following brief descriptions of those which I have personally tested the numbers used by Mr. Rogers are given:
No. 1. A light-colored grape of the Hamburgh cross, and of the largest size; often flushed with pale red; sometimes striped when fully exposed to the sun; usually light yellowish-green or amber-colored in the shade; thin skin, tender pulp; in consistence much like the Hamburgh; sweet and pleasant, very good, but not particularly high flavored. Ripens with the Isabella.
No. 2. Very large black grape, handsome bunches, with more acid, but more vinous in flavor than No. 1. Ripens about the same time.
No. 3. large, oval, light-reddish, purple grape, color much like the Catawba; in quality very good, and somewhat like the Diana. Earlier than Isabella.
No. 4. Very large and very productive; bunches and berries nearly as large as well-grown Black Hamburghs, which variety it closely resembles in color and general appearance; in quality, equal to Isabella, Concord, or Union Village. Ripens fully as early as the Isabella.
Nos. 5, 9, and 13, are crossed with the Chasselas. They are all smaller in size than the Hamburgh crosses, and of different flavor and character. No. 13 retains more of the native character and flavor than any of the others, but is sweet and good, having lost entirely the acid astringency with characterizes the Mammoth. No. 9 has less of the native character; otherwise much like No. 13, and very good. All these ripen earlier than the Isabella.
No. 15 is of the Hamburgh cross, very large, of dark-purplish red or maroon color, often mottled, with a peculiarly rich, aromatic flavor, very pleasant to most persons. This variety is regarded by Mr. Rogers as the best grape in the collection.
No. 19. Not quite as large in bunch and berry as No. 4, but rather better in quality. Early and promising.
No. 33. Another variety of the Hamburgh cross; very large; color black; flesh tender; flavor sweet, rich, and good; juice deep red, next [to] the skin. Early, and one of the most promising.
The quality of these hybrids, taken together, is really most remarkable, when it is considered that they were all grown from a seed of the fox grape of the vilest character both in taste and smell, the ameliorating influence of the foreign parent entirely eradicating all traces of fox odor in most of the varieties; and the flavor so chastened that the wild element is less prominent than in may of the popular cultivated varieties.
The following extract from a letter written by the Hon. Marshall P. Wilder, President of the American Pomological Society, to Mr. Rogers, upon the reception of some of these hybrids, will show his appreciation of them:
"I have never doubted the the proper hybridization of our native with the foreign grapes would be productive of great improvement; but considering the care requisite in the judicious crossing of the varieties, I have been apprehensive that not much would be realized at present from that source. I am, however, no longer incredulous. You have accomplished the work; you have achieved a conquest over nature, and you efforts will constitute a new era in American grape culture. The size, flavor, and beauty of several of the sorts will render them decided acquisitions to our list of hardy grapes. I was especially pleased with the delicate aroma of those no longer retaining the strong foxy taste of the mother, but the rich chastened flavor of the Diana. Some of these, I think, will prove superior to that excellent sort."
All these hybrids retain the strong, vigorous growth, and apparently the hardiness of their native parent, exceeding in these respects the Isabella, Catawba, and Concord. But one of these has shown any mildew, (No. 13) and this very slight. They are also as early, or earlier in ripening than the Isabella.
While the success of Mr. Rogers is very gratifying, and the results very interesting, the inference is palpable that his success would have been greater and more valuable had he chosen for the pistillate or female parent a grape of better quality. It is true that he has re-hybridized several of the best of his varieties with other foreign kinds and has produced from them seedlings superior to the original hybrids, but they have, as yet, been fruited only under glass. Whether the double crossing does not infuse too much of the foreign element to leave them still adapted to open culture, and whether they are sufficiently early to ripen well, remains to be seen. The probability is that some of them will be suited to out-door cultivation and be very desirable acquisitions.
In the practical application of hybridizing there are many difficulties to be overcome, particularly where natives are to be impregnated with pollen from foreign varieties; and all seedlings claimed to be hybrids simply because native and foreign varieties from whence seed were taken had grown together, are undoubtedly erroneous. The stigma of the foreign vine is usually self-impregnated before its caducous covering falls from the embryo berry. This, in addition to the fact that there a re several days, if not weeks, between the period of inflorescence of the native and foreign vine, renders it nearly impossible that a hybrid should be produced by chance or natural causes. The bursting of the pollen-cells and impregnation in our native varieties does not usually take place until some hours after inflorescence, and there is consequently less difficulty in the way of their artificial impregnation than in the case of the foreign kinds.
The only certain and reliable mode of procedure is to open the buds artificially, before their natural period, and remove all the anthers before there is a possibility of pollen
having been formed. The, if the denuded stigmas are kept entirely isolated from all possible contact with pollen other than that with which they are desired to be crossed, and this be applied
at the proper time for impregnation, hybrids or cross-breeds will be the inevitable result from the seed of the bunches thus treated. Where foreign varieties are grown under glass in a
cold vinery, I have found them to bloom at the same time as the natives in the open air, and have never had difficulty in obtaining pollen for my experiments from the vines thus grown.
The greatest care with delicate instruments and exceedingly delicate manipulations is required to conduct these operations successfully, and when it is accompanied with the reflection that
about ten years of further care and culture will be requisite before determinate results are reached, and when the chances may be ten,
or perhaps a hundred to one that the product will be of no value, a good deal of enthusiasm as well as a sanguine temperament is necessary to enable the hybridizer to find much
encouragement in his pursuit. He must be emphatically one who is willing
In all experiments my aim has been to produce vines possessing the characteristics of vigorous and healthy growth, hardiness, earliness in ripening, and improved quality of fruit. Recognizing fully the fact that a large number of the new varieties introduced are of no particular value, and that there is no useful object in multiplying new sorts which are in no particular superior to old ones, I have in the selection of varieties for hybridizing and cross-breeding always had some definite object, subservient to the views above expressed. Some valuable quality in both parents, desired to be perpetuated, has determined their use, and I am happy to say that, so far as tested, many of my anticipations have been realized, the results justifying the correctness of the principles upon which the experiments were conducted.
My first experiments, commenced in 1856, were directed towards an improvement upon the Delaware, with a view of increasing the size of the fruit and producing a stronger growth of the vine. To this end I selected seed from the largest and finest Delaware grapes taken from the most vigorous vines, which I planted naturally. I also crossed the Logan grape with the pollen of the Delaware, and at the same time crossed the Delaware with the foreign variety believed to be the Ferrar or Black Portugal, a large black grape of peculiar cherry-like flavor, which bears enormous bunches and is of very vigorous growth. I made, at the same time, a cross upon the Logan with pollen from the White Frontignan. In order to test in every way the accuracy of these experiments, I also prepared another bunch of the Logan, by removing the anthers as if for hybridizing, but applied no pollen, leaving it isolated until the berries upon my other experiments had commenced growing sufficiently to prove that impregnation had been successful. I then removed the covering from the bunch to which no pollen had been applied, and found that every berry but one had blasted and fallen off. This one, evidently later than the rest, appeared, by the little drops of viscous fluid upon its stigma, to be in the proper condition for impregnation, and I immediately applied pollen from Chasselas Musqué, and again covered it for a few days. Upon removing the covering I found that the fertilizing had been successful, and a grape, bearing two seeds, was the result, from one of which a promising hybrid was obtained. This experiment, taken in connexion with the fact that in other cases where pollen was applied nearly every berry became fertilized and grew to perfection, was very satisfactory. This has subsequently been confirmed to the extent of producing handsome and compact bunches upon varieties that never set their fruit well naturally, and where the only perfect bunches formed were those artificially impregnated.
Seed from these hybridized and cross-bred grapes were carefully saved and labeled, and early in the spring following planted in the smallest sized propagating pots, one seed in each. The greater number of these seeds vegetated, having the usual diversity of foliage characteristic of seedlings. Each class, or different cross, however, had strongly marked, distinguishing features. The cross between Logan and Delaware produced on many seedlings foliage intermediate between the two varieties; others more nearly resembled the Logan; and others again the Delaware. In advanced growth the wood presented the same diversity of appearance, some of the seedlings having the peculiar blackish gray-colored wood of the Logan, and others the rich red-brown of the Delaware. The seedlings, however, from the Logan crossed by the foreign varieties exhibited the most striking peculiarities, having the deeply indented, fine-lobed foliage of the foreign parent, and being so perfectly distinct from seedlings of the same variety crossed with the Delaware, as to strike at once the most casual observer. The seedlings from the Delaware crossed with the foreign Black Portugal were not less remarkable in their varied appearance from seedlings of the Delaware not hybridized. The latter vary very little from the foliage of the parent, and all have a strong family likeness; while all those produced from hybridizing with foreign varieties change their foliage in the same striking manner, having the leaves deeply lobed, and decidedly foreign in appearance.
An interesting fact in reference to seedlings is, that their future vigor and general habits are indicated in their earliest stages of growth. Those that are weak, and puny at first never seem to lose this peculiarity; and those having blanched or imperfect foliage, observable often, even in the cotyledons, never by any treatment which I have been able to give could never be made smooth and healthy. Some, upon being planted in open ground, are attacked with oidium or mildew, and become weak and unhealthy, while others remain strong and vigorous, with fresh, thick, and glossy foliage, retaining their leaves and ripening their wood perfectly. Delicate, imperfect or unhealthy plants are at once discarded as unworthy of attention, and only those retained which seem to possess specially desirable characteristics. These remarks apply not less to natural seedlings than to hybrids or cross-breeds.
Of the many hybrids, seedlings and cross-breeds which I have produced but few have yet borne fruit, and of these I am not inclined to say very much, as I do not consider them sufficiently developed to warrant confident assertions or decided opinions. Some of them, I am satisfied, will never have any practical value; other I think promising. Of a few of these I will give brief descriptions.
1st. A cross-breed of Delaware upon Logan, from Logan seed; vine, from the first, vigorous, healthy, and perfectly hardy; foliage much like the Logan; wood dark, reddish-brown, intermediate in appearance between Delaware and Logan; bloomed in 1861, but fruit buds destroyed by frosts on the 4th of May; fruited in 1862, ripened early, and before Concord, Delaware, and Logan, all growing in the same locality; color black, berry oval, medium size; bunch medium and compact, in form resembling Delaware; skin thin; flesh tender; juicy, claret-colored next to the skin; flavor as nearly as possible a mixture between that of the Logan and Delaware; not as good as the latter, but an improvement upon the former; very productive, each lateral showing three to four clusters. Should this variety improve in quality for a series of years, as is usual with seedlings, it may prove a valuable acquisition.
2d. The same cross as the above; vine vigorous and healthy; foliage intermediate; fruit very small, black, resembling the wild frost grape, but unlike that variety, ripens early, and has a thin skin and very small seeds, proportioned to the size of the berry; in flavor pleasant, and not unlike the first described. Curious, but of no probable value.
3d. Hybrid cross of Ferrar or Black Portugal, upon Delaware, from Delaware seed; vine of remarkably strong, rapid, and luxuriant growth; wood, in texture like Delaware, but darker in color; foliage large, dark-green, deeply lobed, and of great consistence, the leaves being remarkable thick, almost leathery in texture, remaining healthy, and hanging upon the vine until destroyed by frosts; is very late starting in the spring, and blooms at the same time as Herbemont and Lenoir; fruit black, medium size, skin thin, flesh with the consistence of the foreign parent, and apparently intermediate between it and the Delaware in flavor; fruited the present season for the first time; regarded as promising, though it ripened later than the Delaware, and about the period of the Isabella. Several others of the same cross, which exhibit considerable diversity in wood and foliage; will probably fruit next season—
4th. Hybrid cross of Chasselas Musqué upon Logan, from Logan seed; vine vigorous, perfectly hardy, and healthy; foliage, intermediate. Fruit, first bearing, black, oval, medium size; flesh, tender; skin, thin; flavor sugary vinous, very rich; ripened very early. Should this variety, upon further trial, prove productive with handsome bunches and berries, it will undoubtedly prove valuable.
5th. Seedling Delaware. Vine vigorous, hardy, ad healthy. Foliage much like the Delaware, but leaves less frequently lobed. Wood rather darker color, and apparently harder and more compact even than that of its parent; bunches compact; berry larger than the Delaware; color, light yellowish-white; skin, thin, semi-transparent, covered with delicate white bloom; flesh tender, with no pulp, but equal consistence from the skin to the centre; in flavor the counterpart of the Delaware; fruited the first time this season, and regarded as very promising. In addition to the above-mentioned I have many other Delaware seedlings, among which is still another white grape, but not as promising as that described. I have also hybrids, growing from crosses of Black Hamburgh upon Logan; Black Hamburgh and White Frontignan upon Delaware. Also native cross-breeds of Catawba upon Logan and Delaware upon Concord. In nearly all these crosses the characteristics of each are so peculiar and distinctive that either could be unerringly separated from the others by the foliage alone.
The cross-breeds between the Logan and the Catawba present some interesting features, principally in their wood and foliage.
Nearly all of them, however, have the light-colored reddish brown wood of the Catawba. Though quite distinct in leaf and wood from any other cross, a part of them have foliage somewhat resembling the Catawba; others mixed, and of the Logan character; others still are more like the native fox-grape, with cordate leaves, densely tomentose on the under side. One of them, however, is entirely distinct from all the rest, having long, slender, wiry, light gray wood, leaves small, sub-cordate or obscurely lobed, glabrous on both sides, apparently identical with the wild type of the Vitis æstivalis found in the forests. Had not every stage of the progress of this vine been conducted by my own hands, I should doubt its identity, it is so entirely distinct from all its companions and from any other seedling I ever raised.
The seeds for all my experiments are taken from the grapes, and carefully labelled by myself. They are planted in compost in small pots, one seed in the center of each, carefully marked, and each kind kept separate. This wild individual I noticed when it first came up as differing from the other seedlings of the same lot. It will probably prove a staminate, or barren variety. It has been asserted that hybridized grapes would produce only infertile seed. The statement is erroneous; for I have produced plants from Allen's white hybrids, and from several of the Rogers hybrids, and find the seed from these varieties to vegetate as easily and surely as any others.
In conclusion, I will mention that I have the present season rehybridized several of the most promising of Rogers's hybrids with Delaware, Black Hamburgh, White Frontignan, and Chasselas Fontainebleau; the Creveling with the same foreign varieties, the pollen mixed promiscuously; and the Taylor or Bullet with White Frontignan and Chasselas Fontainebleau.
In planting grape-seed promiscuously, without crossing, hybridizing, or special selection, the chances for improvement or valuable results are very remote, for the tendency seems to be to be almost invariably to return to the original or wild type.
While this is true as a general principle, there seems to be also an inherent tendency toward improvement, which only exhibits itself at rare intervals. To this occasional tendency we are probably indebted for all our most valuable varieties, excepting the hybrids of Messrs. Allen and Rogers, including the Isabella and the Catawba, as well as the Concord, Rebecca, Diana, Herbemont, Union Village, Cuyahoga, Creveling, Lydia, and, doubtless, also the Delaware.
My experiments and observations in hybridizing thus far seem to indicate that the chances for improvement are greatly increased by its influence; but that it does not entirely overcome the tendency of seedlings to sport or return to the wild state. And in growing natural seedlings, that carefully selected seeds from fruit possessing some unusual excellence, are much more likely to produce improved varieties than those taken promiscuously.