A short-styled primrose legitimately fertilised by the long-styled oxlip (Table 2.18) also yielded a moderately good average, namely 48.7 seeds; but if this short-styled primrose had been fertilised by a long-styled primrose it would have yielded an average of 65 seeds. If we take the ten legitimate unions together, and the ten illegitimate unions together, we shall find that 29 per cent of the flowers fertilised in a legitimate manner yielded capsules, these containing on an average 27.4 good and bad seeds; whilst only 15 per cent of the flowers fertilised in an illegitimate manner yielded capsules, these containing on an average only 11.0 good and bad seeds.

In a previous part of this chapter it was shown that illegitimate crosses between the long-styled form of the primrose and the long-styled cowslip, and between the short-styled primrose and short-styled cowslip, are more sterile than legitimate crosses between these two species; and we now see that the same rule holds good almost invariably with their hybrid offspring, whether these are crossed inter se, or with either parent-species; so that in this particular case, but not as we shall presently see in other cases, the same rule prevails with the pure unions between the two forms of the same heterostyled species, with crosses between two distinct heterostyled species, and with their hybrid offspring.

Seeds from the long-styled oxlip fertilised by its own pollen were sown, and three long-styled plants raised. The first of these was identical in every character with its parent. The second bore rather smaller flowers, of a paler colour, almost like those of the primrose; the scapes were at first single- flowered, but later in the season a tall thick scape, bearing many flowers, like that of the parent oxlip, was thrown up. The third plant likewise produced at first only single-flowered scapes, with the flowers rather small and of a darker yellow; but it perished early. The second plant also died in September; and the first plant, though all three grew under very favourable conditions, looked very sickly. Hence we may infer that seedlings from self-fertilised oxlips would hardly be able to exist in a state of nature. I was surprised to find that all the pollen-grains in the first of these seedling oxlips appeared sound; and in the second only a moderate number were bad. These two plants, however, had not the power of producing a proper number of seeds; for though left uncovered and surrounded by pure primroses and cowslips, the capsules were estimated to include an average of only from fifteen to twenty seeds.

From having many experiments in hand, I did not sow the seed obtained by crossing both forms of the primrose and cowslip with both forms of the oxlip, which I now regret; but I ascertained an interesting point, namely, the character of the offspring from oxlips growing in a state of nature near both primroses and cowslips. The oxlips were the same plants which, after their seeds had been collected, were transplanted and experimented on. From the seeds thus obtained eight plants were raised, which, when they flowered, might have been mistaken for pure primroses; but on close comparison the eye in the centre of the corolla was seen to be of a darker yellow, and the peduncles more elongated. As the season advanced, one of these plants threw up two naked scapes, 7 inches in height, which bore umbels of flowers of the same character as before. This fact led me to examine the other plants after they had flowered and were dug up; and I found that the flower-peduncles of all sprung from an extremely short common scape, of which no trace can be found in the pure primrose. Hence these plants are beautifully intermediate between the oxlip and the primrose, inclining rather towards the latter; and we may safely conclude that the parent oxlips had been fertilised by the surrounding primroses.

From the various facts now given, there can be no doubt that the common oxlip is a hybrid between the cowslip (P. veris, Brit.

The Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species Page 31

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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