The primrose, especially the short-styled form, when fertilised by the cowslip, is less sterile, as Gartner likewise observed, than is the cowslip when fertilised by the primrose. The above experiments also show that a cross between the same forms of the primrose and cowslip is much more sterile than that between different forms of these two species.
The seeds from the several foregoing crosses were sown, but none germinated except those from the short-styled primrose fertilised with pollen of the polyanthus; and these seeds were the finest of the whole lot. I thus raised six plants, and compared them with a group of wild oxlips which I had transplanted into my garden. One of these wild oxlips produced slightly larger flowers than the others, and this one was identical in every character (in foliage, flower- peduncle, and flowers) with my six plants, excepting that the flowers of the latter were tinged of a dingy red colour, from being descended from the polyanthus.
We thus see that the cowslip and primrose cannot be crossed either way except with considerable difficulty, that they differ conspicuously in external appearance, that they differ in various physiological characters, that they inhabit slightly different stations and range differently. Hence those botanists who rank these plants as varieties ought to be able to prove that they are not as well fixed in character as are most species; and the evidence in favour of such instability of character appears at first sight very strong. It rests, first, on statements made by several competent observers that they have raised cowslips, primroses, and oxlips from seeds of the same plant; and, secondly, on the frequent occurrence in a state of nature of plants presenting every intermediate gradation between the cowslip and primrose.
The first statement, however, is of little value; for, heterostylism not being formerly understood, the seed-bearing plants were in no instance protected from the visits of insects (2/7. One author states in the 'Phytologist' volume 3 page 703 that he covered with bell-glasses some cowslips, primroses, etc., on which he experimented. He specifies all the details of his experiment, but does not say that he artificially fertilised his plants; yet he obtained an abundance of seed, which is simply impossible. Hence there must have been some strange error in these experiments, which may be passed over as valueless.); and there would be almost as much risk of an isolated cowslip, or of several cowslips if consisting of the same form, being crossed by a neighbouring primrose and producing oxlips, as of one sex of a dioecious plant, under similar circumstances, being crossed by the opposite sex of an allied and neighbouring species. Mr. H.C. Watson, a critical and most careful observer, made many experiments by sowing the seeds of cowslips and of various kinds of oxlips, and arrived at the following conclusion, namely, "that seeds of a cowslip can produce cowslips and oxlips, and that seeds of an oxlip can produce cowslips, oxlips, and primroses." (2/8. 'Phytologist' 2 pages 217, 852; 3 page 43.) This conclusion harmonises perfectly with the view that in all cases, when such results have been obtained, the unprotected cowslips have been crossed by primroses, and the unprotected oxlips by either cowslips or primroses; for in this latter case we might expect, by the aid of reversion, which notoriously comes into powerful action with hybrids, that the two parent-forms in appearance pure, as well as many intermediate gradations, would be occasionally produced. Nevertheless the two following statements offer considerable difficulty. The Reverend Professor Henslow raised from seeds of a cowslip growing in his garden, various kinds of oxlips and one perfect primrose; but a statement in the same paper perhaps throws light on this anomalous result. (2/9. Loudon's 'Magazine of Natural History' 3 1830 page 409.) Professor Henslow had previously transplanted into his garden a cowslip, which completely changed its appearance during the following year, and now resembled an oxlip.