I have said that the crossed plants of the successive generations were almost always inter-related. When the flowers on an hermaphrodite plant are crossed with pollen taken from a distinct plant, the seedlings thus raised may be considered as hermaphrodite brothers or sisters; those raised from the same capsule being as close as twins or animals of the same litter. But in one sense the flowers on the same plant are distinct individuals, and as several flowers on the mother-plant were crossed by pollen taken from several flowers on the father-plant, such seedlings would be in one sense half-brothers or sisters, but more closely related than are the half-brothers and sisters of ordinary animals. The flowers on the mother-plant were, however, commonly crossed by pollen taken from two or more distinct plants; and in these cases the seedlings might be called with more truth half-brothers or sisters. When two or three mother-plants were crossed, as often happened, by pollen taken from two or three father-plants (the seeds being all intermingled), some of the seedlings of the first generation would be in no way related, whilst many others would be whole or half-brothers and sisters. In the second generation a large number of the seedlings would be what may be called whole or half first-cousins, mingled with whole and half-brothers and sisters, and with some plants not at all related. So it would be in the succeeding generations, but there would also be many cousins of the second and more remote degrees. The relationship will thus have become more and more inextricably complex in the later generations; with most of the plants in some degree and many of them closely related.

I have only one other point to notice, but this is one of the highest importance; namely, that the crossed and self-fertilised plants were subjected in the same generation to as nearly similar and uniform conditions as was possible. In the successive generations they were exposed to slightly different conditions as the seasons varied, and they were raised at different periods. But in other respects all were treated alike, being grown in pots in the same artificially prepared soil, being watered at the same time, and kept close together in the same greenhouse or hothouse. They were therefore not exposed during successive years to such great vicissitudes of climate as are plants growing out of doors.


It has been objected to such experiments as mine, that covering plants with a net, although only for a short time whilst in flower, may affect their health and fertility. I have seen no such effect except in one instance with a Myosotis, and the covering may not then have been the real cause of injury. But even if the net were slightly injurious, and certainly it was not so in any high degree, as I could judge by the appearance of the plants and by comparing their fertility with that of neighbouring uncovered plants, it would not have vitiated my experiments; for in all the more important cases the flowers were crossed as well as self-fertilised under a net, so that they were treated in this respect exactly alike.

As it is impossible to exclude such minute pollen-carrying insects as Thrips, flowers which it was intended to fertilise with their own pollen may sometimes have been afterwards crossed with pollen brought by these insects from another flower on the same plant; but as we shall hereafter see, a cross of this kind does not produce any effect, or at most only a slight one. When two or more plants were placed near one another under the same net, as was often done, there is some real though not great danger of the flowers which were believed to be self-fertilised being afterwards crossed with pollen brought by Thrips from a distinct plant. I have said that the danger is not great because I have often found that plants which are self-sterile, unless aided by insects, remained sterile when several plants of the same species were placed under the same net. If, however, the flowers which had been presumably self-fertilised by me were in any case afterwards crossed by Thrips with pollen brought from a distinct plant, crossed seedlings would have been included amongst the self-fertilised; but it should be especially observed that this occurrence would tend to diminish and not to increase any superiority in average height, fertility, etc., of the crossed over the self-fertilised plants.

Charles Darwin

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