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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/726

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Scientific Literature.


Professor Bailey shows, in his hook on the Evolution of Our Native Fruits[1] that the value of the native American species has not yet begun to be adequately estimated, and his narrative carries the conviction that the possibilities to be realized from their development are totally undreamed of. De Candolle made the astounding assertion, in his book on The Origin of Cultivated Plants, that the United States only yields as nutritious plants worth cultivating the Jerusalem artichoke and the gourds. "They had a few bulbs and edible berries, but have not tried to cultivate them, having early received the maize, which was worth far more." "And yet," Professor Bailey answers, "the American grapes have given rise to eight hundred domestic varieties, the American plums to more than two hundred, the raspberries to three hundred, and various other native fruits have a large progeny." Three motives, the author says, run through his book: An attempt to expound the progress of evolution in objects which are familiar and have not yet been greatly modified by man; an effort to make a simple historical record from unexplored fields; and a desire to suggest the treasures of experience and narrative which are a part of the development of agriculture. The studies of which the book is a fruit were begun more than ten years ago, and were pursued with original sources where they were accessible, and at the cost of much labor and travel. The story begins with the grapes. The cultivation of native grapes, which are singularly abundant and various in the wild condition, began after several attempts on the large and on the small scale to make foreign grapes profitable had failed. Nicholas Longworth, of Cincinnati, who did more than any other one man to promote it, sought for wine grapes. After several varieties had been tried with more or less success, the Catawba and the Concord were introduced, and the cultivation was established and became important, but no longer with wine-making as its chief object. Now we have a large variety of grapes—characteristic, finely flavored, and adapted to numerous uses in wines and desserts. Plums are mentioned in the early records nearly as frequently as grapes. There are five native types from which diverse varieties have arisen, the greater part of them of fortuitous origin. The native cherries have not yet been very hopeful of promise, except the dwarf species, which seem "destined to play an important part in the evolution of American fruit." Five types of native apples are known, from which a number of named and worthy varieties have arisen, by Nature's propagation, not man's; and the author anticipates great benefits to be derived from the very gradual and undemonstrative insinuation of native blood into the domestic sorts. The story of the cultivation of the raspberries, blackberries, dewberries, strawberries, gooseberries, currants, and mulberries tells of much patience and skill applied to the production of results in the benefits of which all may share, and which have undoubtedly added to the sum of human well-being. There remain still many fruits, the

  1. ↑ Sketch of the Evolution of our Native Fruits. By L. H. Bailey, New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 472. Price, $2.