Rather more important than the information obtained from growers of cherry trees as to varieties was that as to the stocks on which cherries are grown in America. This brings us to a discussion of the whole subject of stocks for cherries.
Cherries have been grown in America for over 200 years and for 50 years the crop has been important commercially. Yet despite the extent and the importance of the industry and the years it has been in existence, curiously enough so fundamental a question as the best stock upon which to grow cherries has not yet been settled; indeed, though cherries behave markedly different on the several stocks, interest as to which is the best seems but recently to have been aroused. Now there is a rather warm controversy as to which is the better of the two leading stocks, the Mazzard or the Mahaleb.
Fruit-growers on one side hold that the Mazzard is the best stock for all orchard varieties of this fruit while nurserymen controvert this view and say that the Mahaleb is at least a fit stock for sweet sorts and is the best one for Sour Cherries, and, moreover, that it is now impossible to grow cherries on Mazzard roots at prices that fruit-growers are willing to pay. Since no systematic attempts seem to have been made to determine the peculiarities and values of these two and other cherry stocks both sides dispute without many facts. Meanwhile, a fine crop of misunderstandings has grown up about the whole matter of cherry stocks. It is worth while to attempt to clear up some of the misunderstandings. The first step toward this end is to describe and give the botanical and horticultural relationships of the Mazzard and Mahaleb cherries to orchard cherries.
The Mazzard, as we have seen, is a common name, of uncertain origin, of the wild Sweet Cherry, Prunus avium, from which has come all cultivated Sweet Cherries. It is important to recall that the trees of the Mazzard reach a height of thirty or forty feet and the trunk often attains a diameter of eighteen or twenty inches. Other characters to be kept in mind are that the Mazzard lacks hardiness to cold but grows vigorously and is usually healthy, though susceptible to several fungi, one of which, the shot-hole fungus, Cylindrosporium padi, makes it a most difficult plant to grow in the nursery. Trees and fruit coming from the Mazzard used as a stock are very uniform, a fact easy to ascertain in New York where this stock has been largely used for nearly a century. The Mazzard is almost always grown from seed for stocks though suckers are occasionally used, a poor practice.
The Mazzard, or at least the Sweet Cherry, has probably been more or less used as a stock since the earliest cultivation of this fruit. The Greeks and Romans practiced budding and grafting centuries before Christ's time and when the cherry came to them as a domesticated fruit, at least three or four centuries before Christ, they undoubtedly made use of budding and grafting1 to maintain varieties and in the case of the Sour Cherry, if they had it, and they probably did, to avoid the suckers that spring from the roots of the trees. The literature of fruit-growing is scant and fragmentary during the Middle Ages but beginning with the herbals in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries there are many treatises on fruits and botany and in several of these the use of the wild Sweet Cherry, the Mazzard, is mentioned2
In America the Mazzard as a stock probably came into use soon after the establishment of Prince's nursery at Flushing, Long Island, about 1730, budding and grafting seeming to have been little practiced in the New World before the founding of this nursery.3 The use of the Mazzard as a stock is mentioned probably for the first in Coxe's Fruit Trees,4 the second American treatise on fruits, published in 1817, and again in Thacher's American Orchardist, published in 1822.5 Both authors, as the footnotes show, speak of the use of this stock as if it were in common use in American nurseries. Neither mentions the Mahaleb. The Mahaleb, Prunus mahaleb, it will be remembered from the description previously given, is a bush or bush-like cherry, sometimes but not often attaining the height and port of a tree. The top is thick, with rather slender ramifying branches bearing small, green, smooth, glossy leaves, which resemble those of the apricot more than they do the leaves of either species of orchard cherries. The fruits are at first green, then yellowish, turning to red and at full maturity are shining, black and so hard, bitter and astringent as to be scarcely edible. This brief description of Prunus mahaleb shows that it is quite distinct from either our commonly cultivated Sweet Cherry, Prunusavium, or the Sour Cherry, Prunus cerasus, differing from either much more than the two edible species differ from each other. It is quite as far removed from the Sweet or the Sour Cherry botanically as the apple is from the pear, the quince, or the thorn and if anything more distantly related than orchard cherries are to plums. One would expect the wood structure of the Mahaleb to differ from that of Sweet or Sour Cherries very materially and that even if the union proved in budding or grafting wholly normal that there would be some difficulty in the proper passage of nutritive solutions between stock and cion. This cherry, as we have seen, is propagated almost entirely from seed though it may easily be grown from layers, cuttings and suckers. The American supply of Mahaleb stock comes from France.
The Mahaleb seems to have come into use as a stock for other cherries in France having been first mentioned for this purpose by Duhamel du Monceau in his Traite des Arbres Fruitiers in 1768.6
Miller in his Gardener's Dictionary, 1754, describes the Mahaleb cherry and says it was "Cultivated in 1714 by the Duchess of Beaufort."This seems to be the first mention of its culture in England though Gerarde in The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes describes it. Neither mentions its use as a stock. In fact, it seems not to have been mentioned as a stock in England until 1824 when Loudon in the Encyclopedia of Gardening speaks of it as "the most effectual dwarfing stock."7
It was not until after the middle of the Nineteenth Century that the Mahaleb came into use in America, none of the horticultural writers in the first half of the last century, as Cobbett, 1803; McMahon, 1806; Coxe, 18l7; Thacher, 1822; Prince, 1828; Kenrick, 1833; Manning, 1838; Thomas, 1846; Floy, 1846, nor Cole, 1849, having mentioned the Mahaleb though nearly all speak of the Mazzard as the stock upon which cherries are budded. Downing, in 1845, makes first mention of the Mahaleb as a stock in the New World;8 Thomas in his second edition, 1851, recommends it as a stock to dwarf cherries;9Barry, 1852, says that Mahaleb stock is imported from Europe;10 while Elliott, in 1854, also speaks of it as a dwarfing stock.11 From this date on the Mahaleb is mentioned in all American works on pomology in which stocks for cherries are discussed.
Pains have been taken to show the exact date the Mahaleb began to be used as a stock in America. The quotations show that this was about 1850. They show, too, that at first and for a long time its only use was as a dwarfing stock. But now the Mahaleb has almost wholly superseded the Mazzard as a stock for all Sweet and Sour Cherries. Not many cherries were propagated on the new stock until after 1860 when its use, if we may judge from the accounts of fruit-growing, began to be general and it grew so rapidly in favor that by 1880 it was more popular than the Mazzard and in another decade had almost wholly taken the place of the latter. Probably 95 per centum of the cherries grown in this country are budded on the Mahaleb. Why has the Mahaleb supplanted the Mazzard? This is the question that immediately comes to mind and to the discussion of which we proceed.
There is no question but that it is much easier to grow cherry trees on Mahaleb stock in the nursery than on Mazzard and that usually a better looking tree can be delivered to the fruit-grower on the first-named stock. Seedlings of both stocks are imported from Europe and those of the Mahaleb are usually cheaper. These reasons are sufficient for the exclusive use of Mahaleb by nurserymen, and, were it certain that the Mahaleb is the best stock for the fruit-grower, all hands might forthwith renounce the Mazzard. In what respects is it easier to grow cherries on the Mahaleb in the nursery than on the Mazzard?
All know that the Sweet Cherry is a little difficult to grow - is capricious as to soils, climates, cultivation and pruning, and as to diseases and insects. The Mazzard now used for stocks has the faults of the species to which it belongs. The Mahaleb, on the other hand, is adapted to a greater diversity of soils; is hardier to either heat or cold; less particular about cultivation; will stand more cutting in the nursery if pruning be necessary; is less susceptible to aphids which in many parts of the United States trouble cherries in the nursery row; and, more to the point than all else, in New York at least, is not nearly as badly infested with the shothole fungus, Cylindrosporium padi, which often ruins plantations of Mazzard stock. Mahaleb stock, too, is more easily "worked" than the Mazzard both in the actual work of budding and in having a longer season for this nursery operation. Cherries on Mahaleb ripen their wood earlier than those on Mazzard and may thus be dug earlier in the fall.
Nurserymen and fruit-growers alike agree to this statement of the superior merits of the Mahaleb as a nursery plant. The facts set forth are matters of common observation -so well known that it is not necessary to verify them experimentally. A half-century of experience in America on many soils, in many climates and under widely varied conditions has demonstrated that it is easier to grow cherries in the nursery on the Mahaleb than on the Mazzard stock.
From experience in the orchard, fruit-growers have established several facts as to the relative value of Mazzard and Mahaleb stocks from their standpoint. These are:
1. Cherries on Mahaleb are hardier to cold than those on Mazzard stocks. This hardiness is due, in part at least, to the fact that cherry wood on Mahaleb ripens sooner than on Mazzard. This superior hardiness of the Mahaleb is evident in the nursery-row as well as in the orchard and is a matter of great importance in northern nursery regions. In this connection it should be said that the Mahaleb is not as hardy as might be wished and that there are, as we shall later show, still hardier stocks.
2. There is no question but that the Mahaleb is a dwarfing stock. It came into use and in Europe continues to serve almost the sole purpose of dwarfing varieties worked upon it. This retarding effect is not fully realized by American cherry-growers because for the first few years the diminution in size is not apparent and even at the close of a decade the difference in size is not as marked as it would be between standard and dwarf apples or pears of the same age.
3. Cherry-growers who have tried both stocks agree that most varieties come in bearing earlier on Mahaleb than on Mazzard stocks. From the known effects of dwarfing on other fruit trees this would be expected.
4. The size of the cherries is the same on trees grown on the two stocks. The claim is made that apples and pears are a little larger on dwarf trees and that when peaches and plums are dwarfed the fruit is smaller. No one seems to have seen or to have thought that there are differences in the size of cherries grown on Mazzard or Mahaleb stock.
5. Better unions are made with Mazzard than with the Mahaleb. This would be expected because of the close relationship of the Mazzard to orchard cherries.
6. The Mahaleb is probably the more cosmopolitan stock - will thrive on a greater diversity of soils than the Mazzard stock. In particular it is somewhat better adapted to sandy, light, stony, and soils that are not welt adapted to growing cherries. Its root system is much nearer the surface of the ground and it is, therefore, better adapted to shallow soils than the Mazzard.
7. Though the evidence is somewhat conflicting on this point it is probable that cherries on Mazzard live longer than on Mahaleb. It may be that the frequent statements to this effect arise from the knowledge that dwarf fruit-trees are generally shorter lived than standard trees since there seem to be no records of actual comparisons.
8. Lastly, in climates where the cherry can be grown with reasonable certainty and in soils to which this fruit is adapted, varieties on Mazzard are more productive and profitable than on the Mahaleb stock. This seems to be the consensus of opinion among growers in the great cherry regions of California, Oregon, Washington, Michigan and New York.
Several other stocks have been more or less successfully used for cherries and a great number have never been tried that might make good stocks. In a country as diversified as ours and in a state as variable in soil and climate as New York and with the manifold varieties of Sweet and Sour Cherries, it is almost certain that under some conditions there are stocks more desirable than either Mazzard or Mahaleb. The resources of the cherry-grower in this direction are so great that in this account we can but briefly outline them, describing but a few of the many stocks that might be used.
In the colder parts of New York and of the United States, undoubtedly seedlings of Russian cherries would make hardy and in most other respects very desirable stocks. These Russian cherries, too, as a rule, come nearly or quite true to seed, making very good orchard plants on their own roots. Some of them, if not most of them, sprout rather badly - not so serious a fault as one might think, especially in a cultivated orchard. For budding over to other varieties only sour sorts should be listed, taking for trial such varieties as Bessarabian, Brusseler Braune, Double Natte, George Glass, Lutovka, Early Morello, Ostheim and Vladimir. Probably most of these would dwarf standard varieties more or less but in no case is it to be supposed that they would have the dwarfing effect of Mahaleb. In the North Mississippi Valley some of these, especially of the Ostheim or Morello type, have been very successfully used as stocks.
The small, wild, red cherry locally known as the Bird, Pin and as the Pigeon Cherry, Prunus pensylvanica, found from the Atlantic to the eastern slopes of the Coast Range on the Pacific in northern United States and southern Canada, is often used as a hardy stock. The writer has seen it so used in northern Michigan but from his observation can recommend it only for cold regions and as a makeshift since it dwarfs standard varieties and usually suckers badly. W. T. Macoun, Ottawa, Canada, Dominion Horticulturist, states that this stock is commonly used in the colder parts of Canada and with good results. This cherry is not as distantly related to orchard varieties as the Mahaleb and unites with Sour Cherries at least as readily as does the Mahaleb.
In the West and Northwest the Sand Cherry, Prunus pumila, is used very successfully in cold, dry regions as a stock for Sour Cherries. The following is a very good account of its behavior from the pen of the late Professor J. L. Budd, a pioneer cherry grower in the Middle West.12 "Those who have seen acres of the Sand Cherry in the northwest loaded with fruit have not been ready to believe it a good stock for the cherry on account of its sprawling bushy habits of growth. But those who have watched its growth when young under culture on rich soil can comprehend the fact that it is as easy to work as the Mahaleb. As with the Mahaleb the seedlings grown in seed bed will be large enough to set in nursery row the next spring, and of good size for August budding. To illustrate its rapidity and uprightness of growth I will state that we rooted a few cuttings in plant house last winter. When set in nursery they had made a show of growth of from two to four inches, yet at budding time, the middle of August, they were fully as large, stocky and upright as the Mahalebs, and in all respects in as perfect condition for budding.
"This hardiest of all cherries is very closely related to our garden cherries, so nearly indeed that our botanists long ago decided that valuable crosses on it might be made.
"As yet its use for stocks is somewhat experimental, but we can say positively that it united well with our hardy sorts in budding, and it does not dwarf the sorts worked upon it to a greater extent during the first five years of growth than does the Mahaleb."
There are records of the Choke Cherry, Prunus virginiana13 and of the Rum, or wild Black Cherry, Prunus serotina, having been used as stocks but these long-bunch, or racemose, cherries are so distantly related to the short-bunch, or fascicled, orchard cherries that it would seem that their use would be desirable only under great stress.
In Japan a horticultural variety of Prunus pseudocerasus is used as a stock. of this cherry for this purpose, Professor Yugo Hoshino of the Tohoku Imperial University at Sapporo, Japan, writes as follows: "You wish to know about the cherry stocks used in this country. It is very rare to use our common wild cherry as a stock for European cherries. In Hokkaido (Yozo Island), we commonly use the seedlings of European Sweet and Sour Cherries as stocks. But in the northern part of Japan proper (Main Island), it is a common practice to graft European cherries on a special kind of our cherry. This cherry has particular characters which fit it for propagation; namely, it roots very easily either from cuttings or by layering (mound). Its botanical position is not certain, but it is probable that it is a cultural variety of Pseudocerasus, especially bred for stock purposes. It is grown by nurserymen only and called Dai-Sakura. (Dai means stock: Sakura means cherry.) It has a somewhat dwarfing influence on cions and hastens their fruiting age."This stock ought to be tried in America if, indeed, it is not already under cultivation from introductions made by the United States Department of Agriculture.
These are but a few of many cherries that have been or might be tried as stocks for orchard varieties. There are many species of cherries more closely related to the cultivated edible sorts than the Mahaleb. Many of the cherries from Asia, not now known to growers, will eventually find their way to America; a few have already been introduced by the United States Department of Agriculture; some of them can undoubtedly be used as stocks and from them we may hope to find a better stock than either the Mazzard or Mahaleb.
Cherries are now grown almost wholly as budded trees but they can be more or less readily root-grafted, depending upon the variety. Under some circumstances it might be profitable to propagate them by grafting. Usually it is necessary to use a whole root and to graft at the crown of the stock. Budd recommends this practice for Iowa, using Mazzard stock but with the expectation that the cion will take root and eventually the tree will stand on its own roots.14 We cannot believe, however, that grafting can ever take the place of budding as a nursery practice or that it can be profitably used except in very exceptional cases.
Buds in propagating are usually taken from nursery stock, a practice of decades, and there is no wearing out of varieties. Old varieties have lost none of the characters accredited to them a century, or several centuries, ago by pomological writers. Nor does it seem to matter, in respect to trueness to type, whether the buds be taken from a vigorous, young stripling, a mature tree in the hey-day of life or some struggling, lichen-covered ancient - all aae reproduce the variety. The hypothesis that fruit-trees degenerate or, on the other hand, that they may be improved by bud-selection, finds no substantiation in this fruit. There seems to be no limit to the number of times its varieties can be propagated true to type from buds.
1Varro (B.C. 117-27),
as we have seen on page 47, tells when to graft cherries and discusses
the process as if grafting cherries were a common operation.
2 In The Country-Man's New Art of Planting and Grafting, written by Leonard Mascall, 1652, the writer says, "Sower Cherries . . . will grow of stones, but better it shall be to take of the small Cions which do come from the roots; then plant them. "Ye must have respect unto the Healme Cherry, [a sweet chcrry of the time] which is graft on the wild Gomire [Mazzard] which is another kind of great Cherry, and whether you do prune them or not, it is not materiall; for they dure a long time."
R. A. Austen, in his Treatise of Fruit Trees, 1653, writes, "Concerning Stocks fit for Cherry-trees, I account the black Cherry stock (Mazzard) the best to graft any kind of Cherry upon. Yet sorne say the red Cherry stock is best for May-Cherries. But the black Cherry stocks are goodly straight Plants full of sap and become greater trees than the red Cherry trees."
John Reid, The Scots Gardner, 1683, writes, "Dwarfe Cherries on the Morella, or on the common Red Cherrie. Or on that Red geen which is more Dwarffish than thc black."
John Lawrence, The Clergyman's Recreation, 1714, declared that, "Black Cherries (Mazzard) are the only Stocks, whereon to raise all, the several sorts of Cherries."
3 "The practice of grafting and inoculating in America is but of modern date. It was introduced by Mr. Prince, a native of New York, who erected a Nursery in its neighborhood about forty years ago. But since the late American revolution, others have been instituted in this and some other parts of the United States. Mr. Livingston has lately established one, not far from the city of New York, which can vie with some of the most celebrated ones in Europe. May he, and others, who have undertaken in that useful branch of business, meet with encouragement and success. Nothing in the extensive field of Horticulture can afford more agreeable amusement or yield more solid satisfaction and advantage."Forsyth on Fruit Trees, Albany, N. Y., 1803:278.
4 "The cherry is propagated by budding and
ingrafting - from its disposition to throw out gum from wounds in the vessels
of the bark, the former mode is most generally adopted. The heart cherries
do not succced well on any blit the black Mazard stocks, but round or duke
cherries do as well on Morello stocks, which are often preferred from their
being less liable to the cracks in the bark, from frost and sun on the
southwest side; this injury may be almost effectually prevented by planting
on the east side of board fences or buildings, or by fixing an upright
board on the southwest side of each tree in open situations.
"The best stocks are raised from stones planted in the nursery. Stocks raised from suckers of old trees, will always generate suckers, which are injurious and very troublesome in gardens: diseases of old or worn out varieties, arc likewise perpetuated by the use of suckers for stocks."Coxe Fruit Trees 1817:253.
5 "The cultivated cherry, when reared tom the seed, is much disposed to deviate from the variety of the original fruit, and, of course, they are propagated by budding or grafting on cherry stocks: budding is most generally preferred, as the tree is less apt to suffer from oozing of the gum than when grafted. The stocks are obtained by planting the seeds in a nursery, and the seedlings are afterwards transplanted. Those kinds which are called healt cherries are said to succeed best on the black mazzard stock; but for the round kind, the Morello stocks are preferred, on account of their being the least subject to worms, or to cracks in the bark, from frost and heat of the sun."Thacher American Orchardist 1822:212.
6"So the good species and their varieties are perpetuated and multiplied by grafting upon the Merisier, upon the Cerisier with round fruit, and upon the Cerisier de Sainte-Lucie [Mahaleb]. All the Cerisiers succeed well upon the Merisier and it is the only subject which is grafted to the high-headed trees. It has the advantage of not sending forth any or very few suckers. The Cerisier de Sainte-Lucie has the same advantage. It receives very well the graft of all species of cherries and adapts itself to the worst soils."Duhamel Traite des Arbres Fruitiers 1:197-1768.
7"Varieties of the cherry are continued by grafting or budding on stock of the black or wild red cherryes, which are strong shooters, and of a longer duration than any of the garden kinds. Some graft on the Morello for the purpose of dwarfing the tree, and rendering it more prolific; but the most effectual dwarfing stock is the mahaleb, which, however, do not succeed in the gonetality of soils in Britain. Dubreuil of Rouexi recommends the wild cherry for clayey and light soils, and the mahaleb for soils of a light, sandy or chalky nature. The stones of the cultivated cherry are commonly, but improperly, substituted for those of the wild sort, as being more easily procured."Loudon Enc. of Gard. 1824:924.
8"When dwarf trees are required, the Morello seedlings are used as stocks; or when very dwarf trees are wished the Perfumed Cherry, (Cerasus Mahaleb) is employed; but as standards are almost universally preferred, these are seldom seen here. Dwarfs in the nursery must be headed back the second year, in order to for lateral shoots near the ground."Downing Fruit Trees of America 1845:164
9"The stocks used for this purpose (to dwarf cherries) we the "Perfumed Cherry "or Prunus Mahaleb, which also possesses the advantage of flourishing on heavy clay ground. The grafts will usually grow quite vigorously for two or three seasons, but they soon form dwarf, prolific bushes."Thomas Am. Fruit Cult. 1849:351.
10"The principal stocks used for the cherry
are the mazzard for standard orchard trees, and the mahaleb for
garden pyramids and dwarfs.
"The Mahaleb (Cerasus mahaleb) is a small tree with glossy, deep green foliage. The fruit is black, about the size of a marrow-fat pea, and quite bitter. It blossoms and bears fruit when about three years old. It is considerably cultivated in many parts of Europe, as an ornamental lawn tree. There are very few bearing trees in this country yet; consequently nearly all the stocks used are imported, or grown from imported seeds."Barry The Fruit Garden 1851:115, 117.
11"Dwarf Trees.- Are produced by propagating the Sweet or Duke varieties on the Mahaleb, or Morello roots. They should in all cases be worked just at the crown of the root, as it is there a union is best formed; and also, by means of pruning, (sec Page 30) they should be made to form heads branching immediately from the ground."Elliott Fr. Book 1854:185.
12 Iowa Sta. Bul. 10:425. 1890.
13 Prunus virginiana was used as a stock in Oregon in 1850 as there were no other stocks available. The union was very good but the stock was condemned because of suckering. Seth Lewelling N. W. Horticulturist Nov. 1887.
14 "I will here say that one year with another we succeed as well in grafting on Mazzard roots as we do with pear on pear roots, and nearly as well as with apple on apple roots. In some cases since the appearance of the graft-box fungus our success has been more complete with the cherry than with the apple. This success is due to careful compliance with two main guiding rules, founded on the nature of cherry wood: (1) Keep the scions dry until used. If given an opportunity they will absorb water enough to start the buds and form a callus at the base. In this condition they will fail to unite with the root. (2) After grafting, pack in boxes with sand or moss and store in a wet cave, kept uniformly cool by opening at night and keeping closed during the day. If the buds start prior to the time of planting in nursery they will usually fail to grow. It may prove useful to add, that the sprouts from deeply set trees on Mazzard root will always be true to the varieties planted, and the surface roots can be utilized for root cuttings, as noted on a future page." Ia. Sta. Bul. 10:424. 1890.