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Section 4: The Forms of the Hybrids

Experiments in Plant Hybridization (1865)
by Gregor Mendel

The Forms of the Hybrids

Experiments which in previous years were made with ornamental plants have already affording evidence that the hybrids, as a rule, are not exactly intermediate between the parental species. With some of the more striking characters, those, for instance, which relate to the form and size of the leaves, the pubescence of the several parts, etc., the intermediate, indeed, is nearly always to be seen; in other cases, however, one of the two parental characters is so preponderant that it is difficult, or quite impossible, to detect the other in the hybrid.

This is precisely the case with the Pea hybrids. In the case of each of the 7 crosses the hybrid-character resembles that of one of the parental forms so closely that the other either escapes observation completely or cannot be detected with certainty. This circumstance is of great importance in the determination and classification of the forms under which the offspring of the hybrids appear. Henceforth in this paper those characters which are transmitted entire, or almost unchanged in the hybridization, and therefore in themselves constitute the characters of the hybrid, are termed the dominant, and those which become latent in the process recessive. The expression "recessive" has been chosen because the characters thereby designated withdraw or entirely disappear in the hybrids, but nevertheless reappear unchanged in their progeny, as will be demonstrated later on.

It was furthermore shown by the whole of the experiments that it is perfectly immaterial whether the dominant character belongs to the seed plant or to the pollen plant; the form of the hybrid remains identical in both cases. This interesting fact was also emphasized by Gärtner, with the remark that even the most practiced expert is not in a position to determine in a hybrid which of the two parental species was the seed or the pollen plant.

Of the differentiating characters which were used in the experiments the following are dominant:

  1. The round or roundish form of the seed with or without shallow depressions.
  2. The yellow coloring of the seed albumen [cotyledons].
  3. The gray, gray-brown, or leather brown color of the seed-coat, in association with violet-red blossoms and reddish spots in the leaf axils.
  4. The simply inflated form of the pod.
  5. The green coloring of the unripe pod in association with the same color of the stems, the leaf-veins and the calyx.
  6. The distribution of the flowers along the stem.
  7. The greater length of stem.
With regard to this last character it must be stated that the longer of the two parental stems is usually exceeded by the hybrid, a fact which is possibly only attributable to the greater luxuriance which appears in all parts of plants when stems of very different lengths are crossed. Thus, for instance, in repeated experiments, stems of 1 ft. and 6 ft. in length yielded without exception hybrids which varied in length between 6 ft. and 7 [and] 1/2 ft.

The hybrid seeds in the experiments with seed-coat are often more spotted, and the spots sometimes coalesce into small bluish-violet patches. The spotting also frequently appears even when it is absent as a parental character.

The hybrid forms of the seed-shape and of the [color of the] albumen are developed immediately after the artificial fertilization by the mere influence of the foreign pollen. They can, therefore, be observed even in the first year of experiment, whilst all the other characters naturally only appear in the following year in such plants as have been raised from the crossed seed.

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