From John Scott 6 January 1863
Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh
January 6th 1863.
I send off by train to-night a small box with three plants of P. Scotica and three of P. farinosa.1 I am sorry that I cannot get any more for you at present, but if I can possibly do so in the course of the ensuing spring; you may depend upon receiving them! On one of the plants of P. Scotica, you will observe a few capsules. Perhaps they may not contain many perfect seeds being the produce of late autumn flowers, in cold, damp weather. 〈You〉 will, however, see by these withered and attached 〈f〉lowers 〈 〉 dimorphic condition.2 I have not had an 〈two lines destroyed〉 seen an approach to the dimorphic 〈 〉. I have 〈not had〉 〈an opp〉ortunity of examining it!
I also send in the box with 〈 〉 flowers of the Gongora atropurpurea, which I think 〈will〉 interest you, unless you have already examined it. I believe your remarks on Acropera luteola are equally applicable to it〈.〉 I find the genitalia of Gongora atropurpurea very similar to those of A. luteola according to your description.3 But all my attempts to fertilise it have as yet been unsuccessful. I have never succeeded in inserting a pollen-mass into the stigmatic cavity. It is decidedly more contracted than the majority of those I have examined of A. Loddigesii. 4 In the latter there are usually a few flowers sufficiently open to permit a partial insertion of a pollen-mass; and so it appears to be with A. luteola though in a still less degree; as I observe you had to allow them to shrink a little, and even then rarely succeeded.5 I am now applying viscous matter from other orchids to stigmatic cavity of G. atropurpurea, and thus attaching its pollen-mass, in the hope of thus effecting its fertilisation. This will also aid in preventing the desiccation of the pollen-masses, which takes place ve〈ry r〉apidly in the hot, dry atmosphere where the plant is;6 and thus favours the independent production and protrusion of the pollen-tubes. I may be wrong in entertaining this hope, yet from the success attending the experiments on Acropera, in one of which the pollen mass, scarcely—if at all—penetrated stigmatic cavity,7 I am anxious to to give it a fair test. This opinion, is furthermore supported by the following experiment which seems to show 〈that〉 the pollen tubes may penetrate the column independent of the stigmatic 〈 〉. Having lately observed Dr Hooker’s experiments on the fertilisation 〈of〉 Meconopsis after the stigma had been cut off,8 I 〈three words destroyed〉
Amongst 〈others〉 I have tried 〈three words destroyed〉 Max〈illaria〉 〈 〉stii; with the latter I have 〈three words destroyed〉 of the former, at present gives fair indications, 〈 〉 〈I〉 believe some of my experiments at your suggestion 〈 〉 then by applying pollen-mass to the rostellum, now promise to be successful. This will be somewhat strange, in considering how much longer the period is before indications of its being effected are given by this mode in comparison with the normal.9
I have been making various random experiments of late on the fertilisation of distinct genera, for the purpose of elucidating in part, your view, “of sterility not being a special endowment’:10 Among many failures, I really believe I have succeeded in fertilising the Stanhopea oculata, with Lælia anceps. 11 I will state my grounds for this hope. There were three flowers experiment〈ed〉 upon one self-impregnated, the other two with pollen from Lælia. the other flowers on the raceme, I did not operate upon. Now in the latter as soon as the perianth drooped, the ovary and labellum quickly followed, first exhibiting a general flaccidity, then becoming dry and shrivelled. Those impregnated, on the other hand, exhibited no such signs, but are still fresh. The ovaries, are swelling, certainly very slowly. Nevertheless the two hybrid products, are still equally as large as the self-impregnated; and they were all experimented upon on the same day, viz; the 13th Dec. Whether they ever reach maturity or not, they are evidently affected by the pollen of Lælia, otherwise they would have withered long ere this, as is invariably the case with the unfertilised ovaries of Stanhopea. Should they not reach maturity, I will if you wish transmit the ovaries for examination; otherwise—and I have much faith in its being so—I will try if I can possibly get the seeds to germinate; as they certainly would be most anomalous products. By the way, in talking of hybridisation, I will have the so-called Bryanthus erectus in flower shortly, and I intend testing its capabilities for fertilisation. I am aware of Mr. Anderson’s failures, but there is no harm in again attempting it.12 I will also re-cross its parents, and see if I can succeed in raising anything from them. Perhaps I may thus out which was the male and which the female, of the Bryanthus, as I suppose it is not known, and the raiser is now long dead.13 I will be glad if you suggest to me any experiments on these points, that you think would be of interest.
The seed capsule of Acropera is now pretty large—2 inches long, by 1 inches in circumference.14 I am sorry that those for comparison should be so far behind it. I expected to have a few capsules of a Maxillaria for comparison, but not one of them set; and so it was with the Oncidium ornithorynchum, although I impregnated many flowers of the latter, not a single capsule set. I have now succeeded in fertilising the latter, however, by applying pollen from Oncidium sphacelatum.15 I do not lay much stress on this experiment yet, as my former failures may be owing to uncongenial conditions; but, as further opportunities present themselves, I will carefully attend to them. This far, however, I may safely say, that we have at least an instance, of equal—if not higher susceptibility to others than own pollen. I am determined to devote in future a little more attention to the Orchids. I think curious results may be derived from them.16 I am only sorry that I have not a better collection to experiment upon; for we are indeed poor, and not only in them, but in the majority of the florists favourites. We are very differently situate here in this respect than Kew. Thus first to take the few things you have directed my attention to, I have only at present the Primulas.17 I am now, however, promised from a friend, plants of peloric Antirrhinums and Columbines,18 and likewise Verbascums—one species at least with its varieties, perhaps I may yet get others.19 Do you know anything of the two varieties of Maize, Gartner experimented upon? If I asked you in my last this question about the Verbascum, it was the Maize I intended.20
Had I remembered the Begonia frigida, I should have asked Mr. Mc.Nab,21 before he visited Kew last to have seen if they could have spared a plant for the garden here, but now it is too late for this season. I am sorry as it would be an interesting subject for experiment, and I really feel shy in my circumstances to ask Mr. Mc.Nab specially to see whether they could afford us a plant of it or not. And here I may take the opportunity of stating in reply to your kind enquiries into my personal circumstances,22 that in consequence of certain loses in business sustained by my parents, we were thus brought down from easy circumstances, to a comparatively humble position.23 My parents died while I was very young, leaving me in charge of a relative. After receiving an ordinary education, I became a gardener24—more for the purpose of gratifying a predilection for Natural History—than any love for this line of life. But I thus thought that I might have better opportunities for pursuing these branches of Science, than by any other I had it in my power to engage in. And, so far, I am happy to say—I have not been disappointed, and I now through the kindness of Prof. Balfour,25 and Mr. Mc.Nab, enjoy great facilities for such pursuits. At present, I have the charge of the propagating department in the Botanic Gardens here, and I have thus excellent opportunities for performing experiments, having a sufficient range of temperature for all ordinary purposes. I may state that I was all but engaged a few months back by Prof. Balfour, to go to Madras, as Superintendent of the Horticultural Gardens there. I was ultimately disappointed of this situation, however, in consequence of the re-engagement of the then Superintendent.26 It is therefore hard to say what part of the world I may next be sent to, but time will show;27 And then, perhaps you will kindly favour me with a few suggestions hints, and advices, on observations that I may then have it in my power to make. And now by giving you excuse for this detailed account of personal affairs I will only ask you in conclusion to excuse my non-reference to one or two points in your last, which I will do at an early opportunity.
I remain | Sir, | Yours very respectfully | John Scott.
I am unfortunately perfectly ignorant of the staminal conditions of our Melastomads.28 we have indeed very few of them in the Gardens here. But if the few that we have present any differences, I will attend to them when they again flower.
The Primulas being all very weak it would not be advisable to plant them in the garden at present—they had better be kept in pots till spring. It is difficult to get strong plants of Scotica, especially it does not thrive long under cultivation.29 I am sorry that I had no stronger to send you at present. Such as they are you will please to accept in slight acknowledgement of your kindness to me.
Gongora atropurpurea. Jan 8th 63. Bot. Garden Edinburgh. Labellum astonishing—elongated whenever arched over— viscid [added] disc much larger than in Acropera, to which evidently closely allied.— No movement of depression— *Mouth of stigma [underl red crayon] contracted (see J. Scott)—but viscid within in 〈ro〉tten flower— In *a fresh [underl red crayon] a quantity of this *viscid fluid exuding [underl red crayon] from mouth 〈 〉 stigma— Ovarium very [thin] 〈 〉 put in spirits to examine ovarium & utriculi—
Gongora [red crayon, circled red crayon] | *He cut open at [illeg] & [fertilised it] [red crayon]
Sends Primula scotica and P. farinosa.
So far cannot fertilise Gongora atropurpurea although it is similar to Acropera luteola.
Experimenting on intergeneric hybrids to test CD’s view that sterility is not a special endowment.
Scott’s personal history.
Acropera capsule grows.
Plans for experiments CD has suggested on Primula, peloric Antirrhinum, and Verbascum.
Asks about Gärtner’s experiments on maize.
Aware of Anderson-Henry’s failures.
Through kindness of J. H. Balfour and James McNab, enjoys facilities for research. JS is in charge of the propagating department. Balfour almost engaged him to be superintendent of the Madras Horticultural Garden.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3904,” accessed on 24 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3904