Monday, June 12, 2017

1896 - Part Three: Summary of Whittrock's "A CONTRIBUTION TO THE HISTORY OF PANSIES"


This is the final part of Whittrock's article.  





The two previous installments, with delightful illustrations, are:

  • 1896 - Part One: Whittrock's "A CONTRIBUTION TO THE HISTORY OF PANSIES"
  • 1896 - Part Two: Whittrock's "A CONTRIBUTION TO THE HISTORY OF PANSIES"





A CONTRIBUTION TO THE  HISTORY OF PANSIES. 
(Continued) 

SUMMARY.


AS the chief result of our investigations, we see that the Pansies of the present day form an aggregate of very different forms of plants produced by hybridisation between various species of the genus Viola (sect. Melanium). 

Their original stock was V. tricolor, L., but several other kindred species of Viola have been crossed thereon, and one among them, Viola lutea, Huds., to such a degree that it has probably had a larger share in the production of the Pansies of the present day than V. tricolor. Thus in their entirety they cannot exactly be compared to what in systematic botany is termed species or variety. 

They certainly should not be called by a name formed according to the rules of binary nomenclature. If a general Latin name seems desirable, I should propose Viola x hortenses grandiflorze, when “ x " signifies the hybrid nature of the forms belonging hereto; the word “hortenses” that they are garden plants; and the Word “grandiflorze,” that they are large-flowering; this to distinguish them from the small-flowering garden Violas of the type of Viola odorata, L.

On comparing the Pansies of the present day with their wild ancestors, we shall find that as regards form, the most conspicuous characteristic of the Pansy flower is that its cross diameter is almost the same as its long diameter, or that it is nearly circular, while in the parent species the flower is constantly much longer than it is broad. The large cross diameter of the Pansy flower is a consequence of an excessive development, more especially of the middle petals. It not unfrequently happens that these petals are the largest, which is never the case in the parent species.

As regards the spur, the Pansies generally follow the short-spurred parent species, Viola tricolor, L., V. lutea, Huds., and V. altaica, Ker. Only a very few Pansies are longspurred,‘ these showing their descent from some of the long-spurred V. cornuta, L., V. calcarata, L. (or V. stricta, Dicksons 8; Co.).

In respect to colouring, Pansies show a far greater variety and wealth than all the parent species, whatever variety of colour a couple of these may present. There is scarcely any colour or shade—with the exception of green, which is so unusual a colour in flowers—that it is not represented in one variety of Pansy or the other. Selfs are white, yellow, red, violet, blue, brown, and black. The colours most difficult of production for the Pansy-raisers are pure blue and pure red. There are now, however, blue Pansies of several kinds. Clear reds in fiery-red and blood-red are still a desideratum. 


 Many-coloured Pansies, as is well known, exist of almost innumerable kinds. That which is common to nearly all of them —but is not found in the parent species of the Pansy—is the large dark blotch at the base of the three lower petals. These blotches are evidently derived from the dark rays of the wild ancestors of the Pansy.

Whatever variety of colour the Pansy may show, one part of the flower is always of the same colour, viz., the so-called eye, or that part of thelowest petal, which is immediately in front of the entrance to the spur. This eye, called by botanists the honeyguide, is always bright yellow, and is the same in all Pansies, even in selfs. This yellow spot, which is the guiding star to insects when visiting the flowers— which is of such great importance for the fertilisation -—seems to have reached such a degree of resistance to all the changes of outer life that it will not give way to anything.

The same seems to be the case as regards the colour of the spur, as in all Pansies which I have had the opportunity of examining—even the pure white, pure yellow, &c.—the spur, at any rate towards the tip, is coloured with violet of a lighter or darker shade.  Why the violet colour so perseveringly remains through all circumstances on this limited spot, is not easy to explain. It is probable that it serves as a kind of protection for the honey contained in the upper part of the spur.

Finally, let us see what problems are still to be solved by the Pansy-raisers in the immediate future.

Foremost amongst those we must place the question of making the Pansies perennial instead of annual or biennial. A remarkable step in this direction has already been taken by the English and Scotch Pansy-raisers, who, with very good results, have used the perennial V. cornuta, L., for crossing with garden Pansies. Much. however, still remains to be done. Those species of Viola most suitable for Pansy hybridization are undoubtedly V. calcarata, L., and V. altaica, Ker, as. both have a very powerfully developed perennial stem, have large and beautiful flowers. and can both of them without any difficulty be cultivated in our gardens. Another species that deserves recognition is Viola latisepala, Wettstein, lately introduced into our gardens from the Balkan peninsula, a perennial species which, on being cultivated here, has evidently thriven remarkably well.

Next to obtaining perennial Pansies, we must place the aim of producing good varieties that come true from seed. In many places these attempts have been crowned with tolerable success, more especially in respect to the selfs ; but very much still remains to be done.

No pains have been spared of late by the Pansy cultivators of Great Britain to increase the charm of the Pansy by obtaining perfume as well as beauty; but by a more extensive use of the odoriferous alpine species. Viola cornuta, L., and V. lutea, Huds., var. grandiflora (L.). Vill., for hybridisation, doubtless much may still be done in this direction.

Probably in direct opposition to most Pansy-raisers, I consider it most desirable to obtain more variety as regards the form of the corolla of thePansy. For sixty years the Pansy cultivators have almost unanimously endeavoured to make the corolla of the flower as circular as possible; and it is undeniable that the corolla type obtained by these means, and now reigning almost supreme, is beautiful —ay, very beautiful; but this fact does not prevent other forms of tho corolla from being as attractive to the eye that has learnt to admire those products which Nature herself offers us.

As in a wild state Viola tricolor, L., produces pelorias both with and devoid of spurs, the raising of Pansies of a similar structure should not present insurmountable difficulties. A similar form has long been under cultivation from V. odorata, L.   If, in addition to this, we remember the existing forms of the double Pansies which, by suitable cultivation, may doubtless be greatly improved, it seems to me that it is very probable that our gardens will be in time adorned with Pansies which give the impression of wealth and variety, not only as regards colour, but also in respect to form. .

At all events, it may in truth be said that—even if only remembering what has already been done--the garden Pansies plainly prove what hum1n intelligence, coupled with skillful perseverance, can perform in a department where it is a question of giving pleasure to millions by caring for, improving, and multiplying plastic forms of these lovely plants which Nature, even in the North, so generously offers us. 

Professor V. B. Wittrock, Stockholm.