Carl Linnaeus to Carl Hårleman,
September? 1744 n.s.
L0600. Carl LinnaeusCarl Linnaeus (1707-1778). Swedish.
to Carl HårlemanCarl Hårleman (1700-1753).
During his latest visit to Uppsala Carl HårlemanHårleman, Carl
As is well known, hemp appears in two shapes: male and female flowers. So does the fig-tree, too. All ordinary fig-trees here are females, but if you plant their seeds, nothing happens because they have not been fertilized. Therefore, propagation is achieved by using roots and saplings.
On the islands of the Aegean Sea where figs are very common the inhabitants have two kinds of figs: one female like ours and a male called caprificus. The male tree gets fruits that are very small and fall off before ripening. During this period in June the farmers pick these small fruits and tie them on the female fruits. The male fruits have hundreds of male flowers inside.
The female flowers are closed up inside the fruit. Fertilization is carried out by small flies living inside the male fruit. They carry pollen on their bodies, and when they force themselves into the female fruits to lay their eggs inside the seedbuds, they fecundate the pistils. The eggs develop into larvae that feed on the fig sap until they become flies. Then the newborn flies leave the female fruits and bore into the male fruits instead where they start feasting on pollen. Linnaeus is amazed at the divine mastermind behind this arrangement.
Levantine figs fertilized in this way do not fall off the branches easily and produce an impressive harvest: a fig-tree in Provence yields 25 pounds, whereas a Levantine one yields 280.
This year Linnaeus has sown fig seeds in the Uppsala University Botanical Garden and has now eight trees. If at least one of them turns out to be a caprificus, he will test the Levantine method.
Jean François SéguierSéguier, Jean François
Of course, it would mean an enormous time saving if a caprificus could be imported directly from the Aegean.
All this and more can be studied in Cornelius Hegardt’sHegardt, Cornelius (1715-1772).