de l'Acad. de St. Petersbourg' tome 3 1809 published 1811 page 197. After showing how well the Malvaceae are adapted for cross-fertilisation, he asks, "An id aliquid in recessu habeat, quod hujuscemodi flores nunquam proprio suo pulvere, sed semper eo aliarum suae speciei impregnentur, merito quaeritur? Certe natura nil facit frustra." Herbert 'Amaryllidaceae, with a Treatise on Cross-bred Vegetables' 1837.) But none of these distinguished observers appear to have been sufficiently impressed with the truth and generality of the law, so as to insist on it and impress their beliefs on others.
In 1862 I summed up my observations on Orchids by saying that nature "abhors perpetual self-fertilisation." If the word perpetual had been omitted, the aphorism would have been false. As it stands, I believe that it is true, though perhaps rather too strongly expressed; and I should have added the self-evident proposition that the propagation of the species, whether by self-fertilisation or by cross-fertilisation, or asexually by buds, stolons, etc. is of paramount importance. Hermann Muller has done excellent service by insisting repeatedly on this latter point.
It often occurred to me that it would be advisable to try whether seedlings from cross-fertilised flowers were in any way superior to those from self-fertilised flowers. But as no instance was known with animals of any evil appearing in a single generation from the closest possible interbreeding, that is between brothers and sisters, I thought that the same rule would hold good with plants; and that it would be necessary at the sacrifice of too much time to self-fertilise and intercross plants during several successive generations, in order to arrive at any result. I ought to have reflected that such elaborate provisions favouring cross-fertilisation, as we see in innumerable plants, would not have been acquired for the sake of gaining a distant and slight advantage, or of avoiding a distant and slight evil. Moreover, the fertilisation of a flower by its own pollen corresponds to a closer form of interbreeding than is possible with ordinary bi-sexual animals; so that an earlier result might have been expected.
I was at last led to make the experiments recorded in the present volume from the following circumstance. For the sake of determining certain points with respect to inheritance, and without any thought of the effects of close interbreeding, I raised close together two large beds of self-fertilised and crossed seedlings from the same plant of Linaria vulgaris. To my surprise, the crossed plants when fully grown were plainly taller and more vigorous than the self-fertilised ones. Bees incessantly visit the flowers of this Linaria and carry pollen from one to the other; and if insects are excluded, the flowers produce extremely few seeds; so that the wild plants from which my seedlings were raised must have been intercrossed during all previous generations. It seemed therefore quite incredible that the difference between the two beds of seedlings could have been due to a single act of self-fertilisation; and I attributed the result to the self-fertilised seeds not having been well ripened, improbable as it was that all should have been in this state, or to some other accidental and inexplicable cause. During the next year, I raised for the same purpose as before two large beds close together of self-fertilised and crossed seedlings from the carnation, Dianthus caryophyllus. This plant, like the Linaria, is almost sterile if insects are excluded; and we may draw the same inference as before, namely, that the parent-plants must have been intercrossed during every or almost every previous generation. Nevertheless, the self-fertilised seedlings were plainly inferior in height and vigour to the crossed.
My attention was now thoroughly aroused, for I could hardly doubt that the difference between the two beds was due to the one set being the offspring of crossed, and the other of self-fertilised flowers. Accordingly I selected almost by hazard two other plants, which happened to be in flower in the greenhouse, namely, Mimulus luteus and Ipomoea purpurea, both of which, unlike the Linaria and Dianthus, are highly self-fertile if insects are excluded.