The Gentle Reminder by the Roadside, from
The New Agricultural-Horticultural Opuntias, Luther Burbank,
Santa Rosa, California , 1907
As a result of his plant breeding achievements and his mysterious charisma,
Luther Burbank (1849-1926) became an early 20th century celebrity. In an active
career that spanned over five decades, he bred over 200 varieties of fruit, many
vegetables, nuts and grains and hundreds of ornamental flowers. The most notable
of these have been the Burbank potato, Santa Rosa plum, a thornless blackberry,
plumcots (a plum/apricot cross), the Shasta daisy and a spineless cactus to provide
forage for livestock in desert regions.
It was Burbank's misfortune that he was compelled to run a seed and nursery
business to support the experimental work that was his passion. He favored intuition
over rules; in his plant breeding he used methods he and he alone had evolved and could
apply. Scientific record-keeping on the millions of plants he worked with did not
interest him and the resulting lack of documentation provided a basis for criticism
from the scientific community.