I am not talking about a strassberry, which is just a variety of strawberry, I am not talking about a GMO or something produced through somatic protoplast fusion, I am not talking about Rubus illecebrosus (which is not a hybrid at all), I am not talking about a grafted plant. I am talking about cross pollinating strawberry and raspberry, and growing out the hybrid seeds. These are true intergeneric hybrids that I am referring to.
A few years ago I read a post on a blog called 'The Biologist is in' about some plant breeding work done by the late Luther Burbank. I found this blog post to be inspiring, so I went on and read more about Luther Burbank and his strawberry raspberry hybrids in other places.
Luther Burbank was a remarkable plant breeder, he crossed a raspberry with a strawberry about one hundred years ago. He didn't use crazy chemicals or GM technology, he also didn't know a lot about genetics. At the time this kind of hybrid was thought to be impossible and many people mocked him. We know a lot more about genetics because Luther kept doing things that were considered impossible. I can't find any reference to anyone actually attempting to cross strawberry and raspberry since then.
|Luther Burbank's raspberry strawberry hybrid. |
Picture from http://bulbnrose.x10.mx/Heredity/Burbank/Burbank_raspXstraw.html
This got me thinking: if a man one hundred years ago with very little understanding of genetics could cross strawberries and raspberries then there is no reason that I can't do it today. So I tried to cross strawberries and raspberries, and I succeeded.
Luther Burbank's raspberry strawberry hybrid plant was completely thornless, apparently it was very vigorous and flowered like crazy - far more than either parent. It set a few seedless drupelets but never really fruited. As it was never going to be a commercial success eventually it was destroyed. Unfortunately there is no surviving description of the taste of these seedless drupelets nor are there any of this plant still alive, Luther destroyed them all deliberately. He did a lot of killing his experimental plants for fear of casting pearls to swine. It is such a waste. It meant that I had to start from scratch.
We can't be completely sure why Luther Burbank's strawberry raspberry hybrid did not set fruit, that being said there are two likely reasons. One is simple to overcome by choosing the right parent stock, the other is a bit more difficult to overcome but I should eventually be able to fix it if this is the problem. I was careful in choosing parent stock for my hybrid plants, so I should find out soon enough if that was the only reason that Luther Burbank did not have much success with his hybrid.
Strangely, through all of my research, I did not find any example of anyone who has actually attempted to recreate this cross since Luther Burbank's attempt. I found plenty of people saying not to try it as it is too difficult, and some saying that they intend to attempt this in the future, but no one who had actually attempted it and had any information to offer from their experience. Even if someone tried and failed I would have learned from it, but I found no one who has said that they have tried. If you or anyone you know of has ever attempted (successfully or otherwise) to cross strawberry with a raspberry let me know, I would love to talk to them.
Potentially I am growing the only strawberry raspberry hybrids in the world. My tiny strawberry raspberry hybrid seedlings are slowly growing larger each day. Hopefully they will flower next year and I will be able to see if they can set fruit. I have high hopes that they will set fruit for me but even if they don't this will still be remarkable.
Many many things could go wrong from here. If any of my strawberry raspberry hybrid seedlings survive winter I will take some pictures and write an update in spring. If none survive I will plant more seed in spring as well as try more crosses next year. I think it is all very exciting.
I do sell perennial vegetables and heirloom vegetable seed on my for sale page. Even if all goes well it is unlikely that I will be able to offer strawberry raspberry hybrids any time soon.