July 14, 2005


Crossing paths with a genius: In a Santa Rosa park, visitors can see results of hybrid experiments by Luther Burbank, creator of the plumcot. (Craig Nakano, July 14, 2005, LA Times)

Experimentation, Luther Burbank said, is the "sole object and purpose of life" — a credo that still bears fruit at the self-taught horticulturist's home and garden, just a cork's throw from Sonoma County's wine country.

Here, buzzing bees share the air with echoes of Burbank's wild imagination. A century ago, it seemed folly to some that he would graft cherry tree upon cherry tree nine times over, until a single specimen was laden with fruit of nearly a dozen shapes, hues and degrees of sweetness. Who else would have crossed a Japanese plum tree with an apricot to yield that odd little gem, the plumcot?

He saw promise in the ox-eye daisy — a mere weed, really — and then spent 17 years improving its beauty through hybridization. The result of such devotion is here as well: the Shasta daisy, probably Burbank's best known flower, waiting to be examined in an entirely different light.

In its white petals you can see his relentless drive for perfection. In its tall, deep-green stalks you'll see his curiosity about the nature of nature, about the ability to shape life, to make it bigger and stronger.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 14, 2005 6:28 AM

Santa Rosa is a beautiful location; he thought it perfect

Posted by: Palmcroft at July 14, 2005 11:39 AM

Generally, manmade hybrids are less fit.

Most hybrid agricultural plants are incapable of reproducing in the wild and have zero fitness.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 15, 2005 8:09 PM

Heck, even kudzu is a man-made hybrid at this point.

Posted by: oj at July 15, 2005 9:31 PM

like the GM corn ? who cares about the wild, it's a beastly place, all i care about is my garden, vis a vis hybrids or varietals.

Posted by: cjm at July 16, 2005 2:10 AM

Non-responsive, Orrin. As always.

I seldom see pumpkins or wheat growing wild along the side of the Interstate.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 16, 2005 3:43 PM

oops, forgot the Harry rules. Driven by any wild pumpkins lately?

Here's the funny thing though--there are somethiung like 21 billion bushels of wheat produced a year, so it appears to be thriving well enough. Until that is, you deny that Man is part of Nature, thus demonstrating the unfortunate fact that Darwinism is not just teleological but flattering.

Posted by: oj at July 16, 2005 4:23 PM

Well, have you?

They've been artificially selecte for 10,000 years. By now they ought to be taking over, according to your spoof version of biology.

We all know you've given up trying to engage what biologists actually do say, which is why in the evolution threads (but so far as I know, not in the others) you've taken to interfering with the posts or cutting off threads abruptly.

I don't anticipate that you will announce your conversion to neodarwnism any time soon, I'm just here to point out to the lurkers the dynamic of the blog.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 17, 2005 4:32 PM

Haven't driven by anything wild, by definition. "Nature" is what intelligent beings have made of it. Here we drive by millions of man-made pumpkins. They're thriving.

I note that while I'm perfectly happy to discuss the implications of your beliefs you dodge them. Darwinism is a dead letter.

Posted by: oj at July 17, 2005 5:02 PM