Five plants were covered with a net, the others being left exposed to the bees, which incessantly visit the flowers of this species, and which, according to H. Muller, are the exclusive fertilisers. This excellent observer remarks that, as the stigma lies between the anthers and is mature at the same time with them, self-fertilisation is possible. (3/8. 'Die Befruchtung' etc. page 279.) But so few seeds are produced by protected plants, that the pollen and stigma of the same flower seem to have little power of mutual interaction. The exposed plants bore numerous capsules forming solid spikes. Five of these capsules were examined and appeared to contain an equal number of seeds; and these being counted in one capsule, were found to be 166. The five protected plants produced altogether only twenty-five capsules, of which five were much finer than all the others, and these contained an average of 23.6 seeds, with a maximum in one capsule of fifty-five. So that the number of seeds in the capsules on the exposed plants to the average number in the finest capsules on the protected plants was as 100 to 14.
Some of the spontaneously self-fertilised seeds from under the net, and some seeds from the uncovered plants naturally fertilised and almost certainly intercrossed by the bees, were sown separately in two large pots of the same size; so that the two lots of seedlings were not subjected to any mutual competition. Three of the crossed plants when in full flower were measured, but no care was taken to select the tallest plants; their heights were 7 4/8, 7 2/8, and 6 4/8 inches; averaging 7.08 in height. The three tallest of all the self-fertilised plants were then carefully selected, and their heights were 6 3/8, 5 5/8, and 5 2/8, averaging 5.75 in height. So that the naturally crossed plants were to the spontaneously self-fertilised plants in height, at least as much as 100 to 81.
The flowers of this plant are frequented by various insects, chiefly by bees, for the sake of the pollen. Hermann Muller, however, has shown ('Die Befruchtung' etc. page 277) that V. nigrum secretes minute drops of nectar. The arrangement of the reproductive organs, though not at all complex, favours cross-fertilisation; and even distinct species are often crossed, for a greater number of naturally produced hybrids have been observed in this genus than in almost any other. (3/9. I have given a striking case of a large number of such hybrids between Verbascum thapsus and lychnitis found growing wild: 'Journal of Linnean Society Botany' volume 10 page 451.) Nevertheless the present species is perfectly self-fertile, if insects are excluded; for a plant protected by a net was as thickly loaded with fine capsules as the surrounding uncovered plants. Verbascum lychnitis is rather less self-fertile, for some protected plants did not yield quite so many capsules as the adjoining uncovered plants.
Plants of Verbascum thapsus had been raised for a distinct purpose from self-fertilised seeds; and some flowers on these plants were again self-fertilised, yielding seed of the second self-fertilised generation; and other flowers were crossed with pollen from a distinct plant. The seeds thus produced were sown on the opposite sides of four large pots. They germinated, however, so irregularly (the crossed seedlings generally coming up first) that I was able to save only six pairs of equal age. These when in full flower were measured, as in Table 3/25.
TABLE 3/25. Verbascum thapsus.
Heights of Plants measured in inches.
Column 1: Number (Name) of Pot.
Column 2: Crossed Plants.
Column 3: Self-fertilised Plants of the Second Generation.
Pot 1 : 76 : 53 4/8.
Pot 2 : 54 : 66.
Pot 3 : 62 : 75. Pot 3 : 60 5/8 : 30 4/8.
Pot 4 : 73 : 62. Pot 4 : 66 4/8 : 52.
Total : 392.13 : 339.00.
We here see that two of the self-fertilised plants exceed in height their crossed opponents. Nevertheless the average height of the six crossed plants is 65.34 inches, and that of the six self-fertilised plants 56.5 inches; or as 100 to 86.