Yet the pistil of each cabbage-flower is surrounded not only by its own six stamens, but by those of the many other flowers on the same plant. How, then, comes it that such a vast number of the seedlings are mongrelized? I suspect that it must arise from the pollen of a distinct VARIETY having a prepotent effect over a flower's own pollen; and that this is part of the general law of good being derived from the intercrossing of distinct individuals of the same species. When distinct SPECIES are crossed the case is directly the reverse, for a plant's own pollen is always prepotent over foreign pollen; but to this subject we shall return in a future chapter.
In the case of a gigantic tree covered with innumerable flowers, it may be objected that pollen could seldom be carried from tree to tree, and at most only from flower to flower on the same tree, and that flowers on the same tree can be considered as distinct individuals only in a limited sense. I believe this objection to be valid, but that nature has largely provided against it by giving to trees a strong tendency to bear flowers with separated sexes. When the sexes are separated, although the male and female flowers may be produced on the same tree, we can see that pollen must be regularly carried from flower to flower; and this will give a better chance of pollen being occasionally carried from tree to tree. That trees belonging to all Orders have their sexes more often separated than other plants, I find to be the case in this country; and at my request Dr. Hooker tabulated the trees of New Zealand, and Dr. Asa Gray those of the United States, and the result was as I anticipated. On the other hand, Dr. Hooker has recently informed me that he finds that the rule does not hold in Australia; and I have made these few remarks on the sexes of trees simply to call attention to the subject.
Turning for a very brief space to animals: on the land there are some hermaphrodites, as land-mollusca and earth-worms; but these all pair. As yet I have not found a single case of a terrestrial animal which fertilises itself. We can understand this remarkable fact, which offers so strong a contrast with terrestrial plants, on the view of an occasional cross being indispensable, by considering the medium in which terrestrial animals live, and the nature of the fertilising element; for we know of no means, analogous to the action of insects and of the wind in the case of plants, by which an occasional cross could be effected with terrestrial animals without the concurrence of two individuals. Of aquatic animals, there are many self-fertilising hermaphrodites; but here currents in the water offer an obvious means for an occasional cross. And, as in the case of flowers, I have as yet failed, after consultation with one of the highest authorities, namely, Professor Huxley, to discover a single case of an hermaphrodite animal with the organs of reproduction so perfectly enclosed within the body, that access from without and the occasional influence of a distinct individual can be shown to be physically impossible. Cirripedes long appeared to me to present a case of very great difficulty under this point of view; but I have been enabled, by a fortunate chance, elsewhere to prove that two individuals, though both are self-fertilising hermaphrodites, do sometimes cross.
It must have struck most naturalists as a strange anomaly that, in the case of both animals and plants, species of the same family and even of the same genus, though agreeing closely with each other in almost their whole organisation, yet are not rarely, some of them hermaphrodites, and some of them unisexual. But if, in fact, all hermaphrodites do occasionally intercross with other individuals, the difference between hermaphrodites and unisexual species, as far as function is concerned, becomes very small.
From these several considerations and from the many special facts which I have collected, but which I am not here able to give, I am strongly inclined to suspect that, both in the vegetable and animal kingdoms, an occasional intercross with a distinct individual is a law of nature.