On the belief that this is a law of nature, we can, I think, understand several large classes of facts, such as the following, which on any other view are inexplicable. Every hybridizer knows how unfavourable exposure to wet is to the fertilisation of a flower, yet what a multitude of flowers have their anthers and stigmas fully exposed to the weather! but if an occasional cross be indispensable, the fullest freedom for the entrance of pollen from another individual will explain this state of exposure, more especially as the plant's own anthers and pistil generally stand so close together that self-fertilisation seems almost inevitable. Many flowers, on the other hand, have their organs of fructification closely enclosed, as in the great papilionaceous or pea-family; but in several, perhaps in all, such flowers, there is a very curious adaptation between the structure of the flower and the manner in which bees suck the nectar; for, in doing this, they either push the flower's own pollen on the stigma, or bring pollen from another flower. So necessary are the visits of bees to papilionaceous flowers, that I have found, by experiments published elsewhere, that their fertility is greatly diminished if these visits be prevented. Now, it is scarcely possible that bees should fly from flower to flower, and not carry pollen from one to the other, to the great good, as I believe, of the plant. Bees will act like a camel-hair pencil, and it is quite sufficient just to touch the anthers of one flower and then the stigma of another with the same brush to ensure fertilisation; but it must not be supposed that bees would thus produce a multitude of hybrids between distinct species; for if you bring on the same brush a plant's own pollen and pollen from another species, the former will have such a prepotent effect, that it will invariably and completely destroy, as has been shown by Gartner, any influence from the foreign pollen.
When the stamens of a flower suddenly spring towards the pistil, or slowly move one after the other towards it, the contrivance seems adapted solely to ensure self-fertilisation; and no doubt it is useful for this end: but, the agency of insects is often required to cause the stamens to spring forward, as Kolreuter has shown to be the case with the barberry; and curiously in this very genus, which seems to have a special contrivance for self-fertilisation, it is well known that if very closely-allied forms or varieties are planted near each other, it is hardly possible to raise pure seedlings, so largely do they naturally cross. In many other cases, far from there being any aids for self-fertilisation, there are special contrivances, as I could show from the writings of C. C. Sprengel and from my own observations, which effectually prevent the stigma receiving pollen from its own flower: for instance, in Lobelia fulgens, there is a really beautiful and elaborate contrivance by which every one of the infinitely numerous pollen-granules are swept out of the conjoined anthers of each flower, before the stigma of that individual flower is ready to receive them; and as this flower is never visited, at least in my garden, by insects, it never sets a seed, though by placing pollen from one flower on the stigma of another, I raised plenty of seedlings; and whilst another species of Lobelia growing close by, which is visited by bees, seeds freely. In very many other cases, though there be no special mechanical contrivance to prevent the stigma of a flower receiving its own pollen, yet, as C. C. Sprengel has shown, and as I can confirm, either the anthers burst before the stigma is ready for fertilisation, or the stigma is ready before the pollen of that flower is ready, so that these plants have in fact separated sexes, and must habitually be crossed. How strange are these facts! How strange that the pollen and stigmatic surface of the same flower, though placed so close together, as if for the very purpose of self-fertilisation, should in so many cases be mutually useless to each other! How simply are these facts explained on the view of an occasional cross with a distinct individual being advantageous or indispensable!
If several varieties of the cabbage, radish, onion, and of some other plants, be allowed to seed near each other, a large majority, as I have found, of the seedlings thus raised will turn out mongrels: for instance, I raised 233 seedling cabbages from some plants of different varieties growing near each other, and of these only 78 were true to their kind, and some even of these were not perfectly true.