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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/210

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

You have in America two slightly divergent forms of the wild strawberry, erected into species by American botanists, for small differences in the appearance of the berry. Had these differences occurred in any other than an edible fruit they would, I am sure, hardly have been noticed: occurring there, they have been suffered to assume a factitious importance in the eyes of systematizers. One of these varieties (Fragaria vesca), which grows in fields and open places, is the common wild strawberry of Europe; but it bears somewhat larger berries with you than with us, and has a somewhat more erect and noble habit. Apparently it is proud of its American citizenship. It is distinguished by having the nutlets merely superficial on the outside of the berry, not sunk in pits, as in the second variety. This last named form (F. Virginiana or F. Canadensis) is peculiar to America, and differs from the European type in the constricted or bottle-shaped neck of the berry, and in the deep depressions for the nutlets, the ribs between which accordingly give the fruit a distinctly pitted or spiny appearance. It is a woodland plant, native to your forests, and far more forestine in aspect and habit than our English vine. In flavor, also, it differs distinctly, and your cultivated Virginia scarlets are its final product in the gardeners' hands. The Western variety (Illinoensis), according to Gray, gives origin to Hovey's seedling, the Boston pine, and many other cultivated strains. No European strawberry can at all equal these native American fruits in delicacy of flavor.

There is a third species of strawberry, undoubtedly distinct, admitted by Gray as a naturalized American, which possesses for me a peculiar interest. This is the Fragaria Indica, or Duchesnea fragarioides, a Himalayan species, established in copses round Philadelphia and at various places in the Southern States. Some years ago a plant of this curious species was sent to me in a box for identification: I set it out, on the off chance of its living, in my garden at Dorking; and it now overruns the whole place, so that I have had abundant opportunities of observing its growth and development to my heart's content. I am certain that F. Indica is not a true strawberry at all; or, in other words, that it is not a common descendant with the other strawberries of any original white-flowered potentilla ancestor, but an independent development of the succulent habit all by itself. It has yellow blossoms, a very different calyx, and a most insipid, pulpy fruit. I have not the slightest doubt that this species has been developed from a yellow Indian potentilla, just as our strawberries have been developed from a white European potentilla, by the unconscious agency of birds in dispersing the nutlets. All that the two plants have in common (beyond their undoubted generic potentilla type) is the mere fact of a succulent receptacle, which might just as easily occur independently in the one case as in the other. If I had to remodel the genus Potentilla on my own account, I would certainly put