Luther Burbank was a scientist who worked with plants. He understood why each kind of plant grew up to have its own special kind of fruit and flowers. And he discovered ways to change the kind of fruit and plant could grow or the way a plant or its flowers looked. The wild daisy plant is a small yellowish weed. But Burbank could make it into a tall, large, snowy white flower with a yellow center.
He used a plum tree and an apricot tree to make an entirely new fruit that was a little like both a plum and an apricot. He called the new fruit a plumcot. Some plants are enough alike they can be put together to make new kinds of plants or flowers or fruits. Other plants are too different to be put together. Burbank put plants together by taking a small twig with a bud from one plant and putting it into a cut on a different plant. This is called grafting. The twig becomes part of the new plants and gets from it.
Sometimes Burbank put pollen from the flowers of one plant on the sticky part of the flowers of another plant. This is called cross pollination. Burbank took pollen from an English daisy and put it on the American oxeye daisy’s flowers. This made seeds. From the seeds a new kind of daisy grew-a daisy that was neither English or American but a little of each.But the new daisy was so different as Burbank had hoped it would be. And so he took pollen from a German daisy and put it on the new daisy’s flowers.
The next daisy was almost what Burbank was looking for, but it was not white enough to please him. So he took pollen from still another daisy, a white one that grew in Japan. Eight years after he started he saw the flower he had hoped to see- a tall, gracefully daisy with large, snow-white petals and a yellow center. He named it the Shasta daisy after a snowcapped mountain peak in California.
It is not easy to grow new kinds of plants. But Burbank kept trying because he was a curious and patient man. H e was curious in that he wanted to see the new kinds of flowers and fruits he could help the plants make. And he was patient because he had to be. It took a very long time before the new plants with the new flowers or fruits grew and he could see what they were alike. When Burbank began his work some people didn’t think he could make new plants at all. He surprised them.
He grew the first truly white blackberry so clear that the seeds could be seen through its skin. He gave the world many new kinds of plums. One of them taste and smells just like a pear. On a potato vine he grew a strange new vegetable that looks just like a tomato. He called it a pomato. He grew new kinds of cactuses, potatoes, corn, berries, apples, roses, walnuts…altogether more than 800 new kinds of plants!