Where’d the Idea come from for Graftage?
by L.H. Bailey, reprinted from Cyclopedia of American Horticulture
GRAFTAGE comprises the process and operation of inserting a part of one plant into another, with the intention that the part shall grow on the foster root, together with all the questions which arise in relation to the practice. It is a comprehensive or generic term, whereas grafting is a specific term designating merely the operation. The term Graftage (analogue of the French greffage) was proposed by the present writer in 1887.
Grafting is one of the oldest of the arts of plant-craft. It is probable that the real art of grafting was held more or less as a professional or class secret in the ancient world, for the writers seem to have only the vaguest notion of its possibilities and limitations. Vergil writes (Preston’s translation):
But thou shalt lend
Grafts of rude arbute unto the walnut tree,
Shalt bid the unfruitful plane sound apples bear,
Chestnuts the beech, the ash blow white with the pear,
And, under the elm, the sow on acorns fare.
It seems to have been a popular misconception that any kind of plant will grow on any other. Pliny asserts that the art of grafting was taught to man by nature. Birds swallow seeds, and these seeds, falling in “some cleft in the bark of a tree,” germinate and make plants. “Hence it is that we see the cherry growing upon the willow, the plane upon the laurel, the laurel upon the cherry, and fruits of various tints and hues all springing from the same tree at once.” This, of course, is not grafting at all, but the implanting of seeds in earth-filled chinks and cracks, in which the plants find a congenial foothold and soil. But the ancients have left us abundant testimony that genuine grafting was employed with success. Pliny describes a cleft-graft. He gives several precautions: the stock must be “that of a tree suitable for the purpose,” and the graft must be “taken from one that is proper for grafting; the incision or cleft must not be made in a knot; the graft must be from a tree “that is a good bearer, and from a young shoot;” the graft must not be sharpened or pointed “while the wind is blowing;” “a graft should not be used that is too full of sap, no, by Hercules! no more than one that is dry and parched;” “it is a point most religiously observed, to insert the graft during the moon’s increase.”
The accompanying cut (Fig. 930) reproduced from Robert Sharrock’s “History of the Propagation and Improvement of Vegetables,” 1672, shows various kinds of grafting in vogue over two centuries ago. Following is the literal explanation of the plate:
The Exemplification of the Operations by the Figure.
a. Denotes the ordinary cutting of the bark for inoculation.
b-b. The sides of the bark lifted up for the putting in of the shield.
c. The shield taken off with the bud, which lies under the stalk of the leaf cut off.
l-n. The shield put into the stock to be bound up.
d. The bark cut out in an oblong square, according to another usual way of inoculation.
g. The shield cut out for fitting the disbarked square.
m. The same shield put into the stock.
f. A variation of the forementioned way, by cutting off the upper part of the oblique square, and binding the lower part down upon the shield.
o. The shield so put in to be bound up.
e. Another variation by slitting the bark, that the bud and leaf may stand forth at e, and the bark slit be bound down upon the shield.
h. A cross cut for inoculation.
i. The same cross cut lifted up, in this figure somewhat too big.
k. The shield cut off to be put therein.
p. The shield put in.
g or q. The cut of cyon or stock for whip-grafting.
r-7. The cut of cyon and stock for shoulder-grafting.
8. The cut of the cyons and slit of the stock for grafting in the cleft.
x. The stock set for ablactation or approach.
u. The cyon of the branch for the same operation.
1-2. The branch that is to be taken off by circumposition.
3. The branch that bears up the mold to the disbarked place.
4. The branch of a carnation to be laid.
5. The joynt where the slit begins.
6. The next joynt where the slit is propped open, with a piece of a carnation leaf put in.
Herein are seen the germs of all the grafting practices of the present day, together with some practices of layering. Sharrock treated the whole subject of grafting under the head of “Insitions,” and here he minutely describes the cleft-graft, and speaks of it as “the common way of grafting.” The practice which we now know as inarching or grafting by approach, he significantly calls “Ablactation” (that is, suckling or weaning). Now that so much is said about the proper and careful selection of cions, it is interesting to read Sharrock’s advice on this subject: “Good bearing trees are made from Cyons of the like fruitfulness. Cyons are best chosen from the fairest, strongest shuits, not from under shoots or suckers, which will be long ere they bear fruit, which is contrary to the intention of grafting.” But we have seen that Pliny gave similar advice before the Christian era, – which is only another illustration of the fact that most of our current notions have their roots deep in the past.
The chief office of grafting is to perpetuate a variety. It is employed in those cases in which plants do not bear seeds, or in which the seeds do not come true or are difficult to germinate, or when the plants do not propagate well by cuttings or layers. It is also employed to increase the ease and speed of multiplying plants. A third office is to produce some radical change in the nature of the cion, as rendering it more dwarf, more fruitful, or otherwise changing its habit. A fourth general office of grafting is to adapt plants to adverse soils or climate. An example is the very general use of the peach root in the southern states upon which to work the plum, as the peach thrives better than the plum in sandy soils. The practice in Russia of working the apple on roots of the Siberian crab is an example of an effort to make a plant better able to withstand a very severe climate.