ON THE POSSIBILITY OF ALL ORGANIC BEINGS OCCASIONALLY INTERCROSSING.
But it may be asked, can free crossing occur with hermaphrodite animals and plants? All the higher animals, and the few insects which have been domesticated, have separate sexes, and must inevitably unite for each birth. With respect to the crossing of hermaphrodites, the subject is too large for the present volume, but in the 'Origin of Species' I have given a short abstract of the reasons which induce me to believe that all organic beings occasionally cross, though perhaps in some cases only at long intervals of time. (15/14. With respect to plants, an admirable essay on this subject (Die Geschlechter-Vertheilung bei den Pflanzen: 1867) has been published by Dr. Hildebrand who arrives at the same general conclusions as I have done. Various other treatises have since appeared on the same subject, more especially by Hermann Muller and Delpino.) I will merely recall the fact that many plants, though hermaphrodite in structure, are unisexual in function;--such as those called by C.K. Sprengel DICHOGAMOUS, in which the pollen and stigma of the same flower are matured at different periods; or those called by me RECIPROCALLY DIMORPHIC, in which the flower's own pollen is not fitted to fertilise its own stigma; or again, the many kinds in which curious mechanical contrivances exist, effectually preventing self-fertilisation. There are, however, many hermaphrodite plants which are not in any way specially constructed to favour intercrossing, but which nevertheless commingle almost as freely as animals with separated sexes. This is the case with cabbages, radishes, and onions, as I know from having experimented on them: even the peasants of Liguria say that cabbages must be prevented "from falling in love" with each other. In the orange tribe, Gallesio (15/15. 'Teoria della Riproduzione Vegetal' 1816 page 12.) remarks that the amelioration of the various kinds is checked by their continual and almost regular crossing. So it is with numerous other plants.
On the other hand, some cultivated plants rarely or never intercross, for instance, the common pea and sweet-pea (Lathyrus odoratus); yet their flowers are certainly adapted for cross fertilisation. The varieties of the tomato and aubergine (Solanum) and the pimenta (Pimenta vulgaris?) are said (15/16. Verlot 'Des Varietes' 1865 page 72.) never to cross, even when growing alongside one another. But it should be observed that these are all exotic plants, and we do not know how they would behave in their native country when visited by the proper insects. With respect to the common pea, I have ascertained that it is rarely crossed in this country owing to premature fertilisation. There exist, however, some plants which under their natural conditions appear to be always self-fertilised, such as the Bee Ophrys (Ophrys apifera) and a few other Orchids; yet these plants exhibit the plainest adaptations for cross-fertilisation. Again, some few plants are believed to produce only closed flowers, called cleistogene, which cannot possibly be crossed. This was long thought to be the case with the Leersia oryzoides (15/17. Duval Jouve 'Bull. Soc. Bot. de France' tome 10 1863 page 194. With respect to the perfect flowers setting seed see Dr. Ascherson in 'Bot. Zeitung' 1864 page 350.), but this grass is now known occasionally to produce perfect flowers, which set seed.
Although some plants, both indigenous and naturalised, rarely or never produce flowers, or if they flower never produce seeds, yet no one doubts that phanerogamic plants are adapted to produce flowers, and the flowers to produce seed. When they fail, we believe that such plants under different conditions would perform their proper function, or that they formerly did so, and will do so again. On analogous grounds, I believe that the flowers in the above specified anomalous cases which do not now intercross, either would do so occasionally under different conditions, or that they formerly did so--the means for affecting this being generally still retained--and will again intercross at some future period, unless indeed they become extinct.