The Function Of Berries

A great many plants, particularly shrubs and trees, grow their seeds in the form of berries. Shrub berries generally present little difficulty in raising, but they cannot be hurried too much. The natural way with such seeds is for the berry to be carried some distance by birds. It may then be dropped, or the seeds may be discarded, or they may pass through the bird undigested, and so be sown surrounded by “ hot “ manure. In any case, the seed covering of fleshy pulp and skin is disposed of before the seed germinates.

The best way to deal with berries is to pack them into sand, after gathering them fully ripe, and to leave them for a month. Then the sand and berry together are sown in the ordinary way, and germination is generally satisfactory.

Hybridizing is a special branch of horticulture, and many long treatises have been written on it. Perhaps a few words will be of interest here.

The hybridizer must first understand a little of the structure of a flower. There are two important parts, the pistil and the stamen (or stamens, for they are usually present in numbers). The pistil includes the ovary, or seed vessel. If you look at a daffodil you can see the ovary as a small green swollen part just where the flower and stem meet.

The stamens hold the pollen dust. You can see several of them in the daffodil, and as the flower grows older, the heads of the stamens send out golden pollen dust when the flowers are shaken.

Until the dust from daffodil stamens (not necessarily the same daffodil’s stamens) has fallen on the moist tip of the pistil, and found its way down to the seed ovaries to effect fertilization, the weds cannot ripen. When fertilization has taken place, the seed becomes a new plant though still in embryo, carrying the inherited characteristics of the plant that produced the pollen, as well as those of the plant that produced the seeds.

All other parts of the flower have an incidental purpose; the brightly coloured petals, or sepals, or bracts, of flowers take no real part in reproduction, except that they attract insects who pass the pollen from flower to flower, and so effect pollination between different flowers, or, as we generally call it, “cross pollination.”

The business of the hybridist is to take the place of the visiting insect, and to pass, deliberately, pollen from one flower to another. This he must do at the right time, i.e., when the pistil is in the right condition to receive the pollen, and when the pollen is in the right condition for the purpose too. The precise effect of such cross-fertilization it is not possible to forecast; but some rules affecting this branch of horticulture have already been discovered. And a study of them makes fascinating reading.