Page:Origin of Species 1859 facsimile.djvu/260

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248
Chap. VIII.
HYBRIDISM.

It is certain, on the one hand, that the sterility of various species when crossed is so different in degree and graduates away so insensibly, and, on the other hand, that the fertility of pure species is so easily affected by various circumstances, that for all practical purposes it is most difficult to say where perfect fertility ends and sterility begins. I think no better evidence of this can be required than that the two most experienced observers who have ever lived, namely, Kölreuter and Gärtner, should have arrived at diametrically opposite conclusions in regard to the very same species. It is also most instructive to compare—but I have not space here to enter on details—the evidence advanced by our best botanists on the question whether certain doubtful forms should be ranked as species or varieties, with the evidence from fertility adduced by different hybridisers, or by the same author, from experiments made during different years. It can thus be shown that neither sterility nor fertility affords any clear distinction between species and varieties; but that the evidence from this source graduates away, and is doubtful in the same degree as is the evidence derived from other constitutional and structural differences.

In regard to the sterility of hybrids in successive generations; though Gärtner was enabled to rear some hybrids, carefully guarding them from a cross with either pure parent, for six or seven, and in one case for ten generations, yet he asserts positively that their fertility never increased, but generally greatly decreased. I do not doubt that this is usually the case, and that the fertility often suddenly decreases in the first few generations. Nevertheless I believe that in all these experiments the fertility has been diminished by an independent cause, namely, from close interbreeding. I have collected so large a body of facts, showing