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Crosses Hybrids And Cross-pollination

Categories: THE PLANT

In our study of flowers and their pollination we have seen that the seed

is usually the descendant of two parents, or at least of two organs--one

the ovary, producing the seed; the other the pollen, which is necessary

to fertilize the ovary.

It happens that sometimes the pollen of one blossom fertilizes the ovary

of its own flower, but more often the pollen from one plant fertilizes

the ovary of another p
ant. This latter method is called

_cross-pollination_. As a rule cross-pollination makes seed that will

produce a better plant than simple pollination would. Cross-pollination

by hand is often used by plant-breeders when, for purposes of

seed-selection, a specially strong plant is desired. The steps in hand

pollination are as follows: (1) remove the anthers before they open, to

prevent them from pollinating the stigma (the steps in this process are

illustrated in Figs. 37, 38-39); (2) cover the flower thus treated with

a paper bag to prevent stray pollen from getting on it (see Fig. 40);

(3) when the ovary is sufficiently developed, carry pollen to the stigma

by hand from the anthers of another plant which you have selected to

furnish it, and rebag to keep out any stray pollen which might

accidentally get in; (4) collect the seeds when they are mature and

label them properly.

Hand pollination has this advantage--you know both parents of your seed.

If pollination occur naturally you know the maternal but have no means

of judging the paternal parent. You can readily see, therefore, how hand

pollination enables you to secure seed derived from two well-behaved


Sometimes we can breed one kind of plant on another. The result of such

cross-breeding is known as a _hybrid_. In the animal kingdom the mule is

a common example of this cross-breeding. Plant hybrids were formerly

called mules also, but this suggestive term is almost out of use.

The bud on right at top is in proper condition for removal of anthers;

the anthers have been removed from the buds below]

It is only when plants of two distinct kinds are crossed that the result

is called a hybrid; for example, a blackjack oak on a white oak, an

apple on a pear. If the parent plants are closely related, for example,

two kinds of apples, the resulting plant is known simply as a _cross_.

Hybrids and crosses are valuable in that they usually differ from both

parents and yet combine some qualities of each.

First, bud; second, anthers unremoved; third, anthers removed]

First, bud; second, anthers unremoved; third, anthers removed]

First, blossom bagged to keep out stray pollen; second, fruit bagged for


They often leave off some of the qualities of the parent

plants and at other times have such qualities more markedly than did

their parents. Thus they often produce an interesting new kind of plant.

Sometimes we are able by hybridization to combine in one plant the good

qualities of two other plants and thus make a great advance in

agriculture. The new forms brought about by hybridization may be fixed,

or made permanent, by such selection as is mentioned in Section XVIII.

Hybridization is of great aid in originating new plants.

It often happens that a plant will be more fruitful when pollinated by

one variety than by some other variety. This is well illustrated in Fig.

41. A fruit-grower or farmer should know much about these subjects

before selecting varieties for his orchard, vineyard, etc.


With the help of your teacher try to cross some plants. Such an

experiment will take time, but will be most interesting. You must

remember that many crosses must be attempted in order to gain

success with even a few.