John Borg.

Cultivation and diseases of fruit trees in the Maltese Islands online

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J BORG, M A , M.D.

Professor of Natural History
mid Superintendent of Agriculture.


[Price 41.}

printed bg Government -Bntboritg










Introduction , ... . .1

Citrus Fruits . / . . 19

The Citron &>#$ . v .34

The Lemon "^ , " !l . f ' . 35

The Lime . . .39

TheBergamot . . h>>. >. ,/^iU 41

The Common Orange . . .44

The Kumquat or Kin-Kan . ., .49

The Shaddock and the Pomelo .. . .50

The Mandarin Orange . . .52

Diseases of Citrus trees . . 53

The Olive-tree . . . .98

Diseases of the Olive-tree . . .113

The Carob tree , . . .119

Diseases of the Carob tree . . ' . 123

The Fig-tree . . . .'t.^- 120

Diseases of the Fig-tree .. . . 148

The White Mulberry . ^, /r |jif/<{ . 155

Diseases of the Mulberry . . . 163

The Black Mulberry . . <f/ . '"' . 169

The Pomegranate . . . .175

Diseases of the Pomegranate . . . 181

Rosaceous Fruits . . . .183

The Pear tree '.- . '. ' . 188

Diseases of the Pear tree . .,/ . 236

The Apple tree .... 252

Diseases of the Apple tree . , ,*?, . 275

The Medlar . . . , , M , 290

The Azarole Thorn . , , 292



The Loquat or Japanese Medlar . . . 2'.)7

Diseases of the Loquat . . . 302

The Almond . . . .303

Diseases of the Almond . . , 312

The Peach and the Nectarine . . . 315

Diseases of the Peach and Nectarine . . 333

The Plum . . . . .340

Diseases of the Plum . . , 354

The Apricot .. . . I , 4 j' 358

Diseases of the Apricot . . ! s *i 367

The Cherry . . . . 3G9

Diseases of the Cherry . . . 379

The Walnut . . ,.<^ . 385

The Pecan-nut . . *' f' ''. r 390

The Hazel-nut . . y ' V 392

The Chestnut . -.. .. . 393

The Pistachio-nut . . ,,^T . . 394

The Stone-Pine . , . . - -^ 401

The Custard Apple - . . i 1 . 404

The Cherimoyer or Peruvian Custard Apple , r '''''. 405

The Prickly Custard Apple . , .- 40G

The Scaly Custard Apple or Sweet Sop . . .406

The Guava . . , ,408

The Avocado pear . . . ; ,^. 409

The Kaki or Chinese Date-plum . . . 413

The Papaw-tree 01 Melon-tree . . . 417

The Banana . V. ., ^. 420

Diseases of the Banana . . "'.' 434

The Prickly-pear . . . . 438

The Date-palm . . . .446



The Vine , . . . l ~ - 455

Varieties of the Vine ... . 503

Selection of Vines . . . . 563

American and Hybrid- American vines . . 566

American vines and hybrids for grafting stock . . 567

Diseases of the Vine . : "V . . 572

Non-parasitical diseases :; . . 573

Vegetable Parasites . >r : . . r ; i*>79

Diseases caused by Fungi j^ - f; - . 580

Diseases caused by Animal Pests ... 4 . . 594

The Small Fruits ; ; leitS J . .607

The Gooseberry ? , .' ' ,. .607

The Black Currant or Quinsy Berry . -v. : . 608

The Red Currant ,.,, ,. . .609

The Raspberry . . . . 610,

The Strawberry . . . .612

Diseases of Small Fruits .' (,17



The cultivation of fruit trees represents a more
advanced stage of civilization than the mere cultivation
of field crops, and could -be taken up only by a people
which has settled down and occupied the land for
good, and has given up definitely its original nomadic
habits. Half-savage tribes with ill-defined ideas of
property, and therefore with no notion of continuity,
may have their herds of domestic animals, and may
grow field crops or even such perennials, as the
banana, which are likely to yield an early and abundant
food, but have no fruit groves or orchards, and rely
chiefly on the produce of the trees of their native
forests. Hence the idea of property or continuity is
the first condition for the cultivation of fruit trees.
Land held in common, belongs to nobody, and it
requires an altruism altogether beyond human nature
for the individual to go to the trouble of planting
trees, the fruit of which others will gather who have
no connection with the planter and no natural claim
on the results of his labour.

In the same manner the farmer who holds his
land on short lease, and our short lease is based
on a brief period of a four years course of rotation,
can have no right of property on the fruits of his
labour after the expiration of the term of lease, and
if he improves the land by planting fruit trees, his rent
is probably increased just when the trees are coming
to fruit so that he is either ousted out of his land by
some other farmer who is willing to pay more rent
for improvements made by others, or he has to submit
to pay the increase of rent demanded from him. In

other words, the short-lease farmer who improves his
land is made to pay interest on his own capital and
on the value of his own labour. Thus, our system of
land tenure by short leases is a serious obstacle to
the planting of fruit trees, and generally speaking to any
other improvement of the land. This antiquated system
originated in times when only the rights of the capitalist
or landlord were duly recognized and safeguarded, and
the rights of labour were not supposed to exist or to
deserve consideration.

Therefore we find that the planting of fruit trees
is done only when the land is owned by the planter,
or when his rights are protected by a long lease or
emphytheusis. Unfortunately landowners are unwilling
to part with their land on long leases, although the
payment of rent is thereby better secured than in the
case of short leases. This reluctance on the part of the
landowner is due in great measure to the existence of
the antiquated system above mentioned, but should the
tenant be allowed the full enjoyment of his rights and
of the fruits of his labour, so long as a fair rent is paid
and the soil properly cultivated, it will not be long before
both Islands become covered with fruit trees to the
advantage of agriculture and of the entire community.

The cultivation of fruit trees in these Islands
must have dated from the early Phoenician days. The
fig-tree is probably the oldest tree in cultivation but the
olive-tree and the vine were also cultivated extensively.
The olive-groves furnished the oil which was a useful
article of commerce and was carried to Iberia (Spain)
and there exchanged for silver. The ancient trench-like
excavations in the rock all over the western part of the
Island, similar to those which are occasionally constructed
even at present for the planting of vines, testify to
the extent and importance of our ancient vineyards. It
does not appear that our fruit-culture and agriculture

generally have suffered much during the struggle for

supremacy between Carthage and Rome, in fact in the

last period of the Roman republic when the Maltese

Islands were governed as a semi-autonomous municipality,

the opulence of the Islands which then as now depended

mainly on agriculture, was such as to induce Verres to

commit those notorious acts of rapacity for which he

was brought to task by Cicero in the Roman Senate.

With the partition of the Roman Empire the Maltese

Islands passed under the sovereignty of the Eastern

Emperors, but even then it could not be said that our

agriculture was neglected and that poverty had followed

in the wake of this neglect With the advent of the

Arabs in AD. 870 the Greek garrison was captured

and the soldiers sold as slaves to the Maltese for a

good round sum in gold. The Arabs were keen

cultivators of fruit trees, and to them is probably due

the introduction of the Bitter or Seville Orange, the

Common Orange and the Lemon. The Arabs were

also good administrators, but it appears that in the

eleventh century an antagonism had sprung between

the Arabs and the Maltese population which culminated

in the eventual overthrow of the rule of the Arabs

in 1090. This was effected under the auspices of the

famous Count Roger who had already cleared the

Arabs out of Sicily, and henceforth the Maltese Islands

formed part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In

the long period which followed between 1090 and 1530

when the Islands passed to the Order of St. John

as a fief of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the

Maltese Islands were exposed to occasional invasions of

Arabs from the mainland of Africa, and still more to

frequent visits of pirates from the semi-independent

Islamitic states of that region. These incursions brought

about a great deal of harm, the cultivation of lands

along the easily accessible coast line was abandoned, and

the impoverished and dwindling population concentrated

in the central parts of the Islands. Commercial inter-
course with Sicily, Italy and Spain was greatly interfered
with by these pirates and was often stopped altogether
for long periods. The extensive plantations of olive
trees, vines etc. were gradually destroyed, and the rich
alluvial and agricultural soils of Burmarrad, Puales,
Chain Tuffieha, Gneina and Marsa were neglected
and became hotbeds of malarial fevers which further
decimated the population, and were consequently avoided
by the farmer, as dangerous, for a long period afterwards.

However, even then extensive plantations of olive-
trees, fig-trees, vines and almonds, and also of oranges
and lemons were yet in existence in many parts of
the Island, such as at Sceb-ir-ras and Xaghret Neuia
(the promontory now occupied by Valletta and Floriana),
the Marsa (which like Xaghret Neuia belonged to the
ancient Maltese family of Neua or Nava, which on
the coming of the Order of St. John left the Island
and became established at Catania), at Zeitun and
Zabbar, at Kormi, at Lia, Balzan and Attard, at Zebbug
and Siggieui, at Chain Mula, Uardia and Selmun, and
at the head of the various valleys where spring water
was available, and although in reduced circumstances,
the cultivation of the land was on a sufficiently extensive
scale to support the population.

Moreover, it is probable that at that time there were
still considerable remnants of the woods and small forests
with which both Islands must have abounded in ancient
days. The holly-oak or evergreen oak (Quercus Ilex L.)
must have been common all over the Island and probably
formed a considerable proportion of the holy groves
at Imtarfa and Rabat. Remnants of such groves or
woods of the evergreen oak (Maltese baltuta) still exist
on a hill near Boschetto, at Died Hazrun near " ta
Baldu ", at Uardia, at Ballut ta Chain Tuffieha and at
Imgiebah near Selmun, the gigantic evergreen oaks
at Uardia and at Imgiebah being particularly beautiful

and are a national monument of no mean importance.
Another constituent of the holy groves was undoubtedly
the Sandarac tree, Callitris quadrivalvis Vent. (Maltese^
gkargkar], a conifer which flourished in many places and
remnants of which still exist at Makluba near Krendi,
at Uied Filep close to Musta, and at Chain Rihana.
The Aleppo pine ( Pinus halepensis L.) flourished at
Mellieha and in all probability the Aleppo pines now so
often planted for the purposes of ornament, are the
descendants of the aboriginal trees which existed at Uied
Znuber down to comparatively recent times. The un-
wieldy but useful Carob tree \Ceratonia Siliqua L.) was
then as now the principal tree in both Islands, the fig-
tree was planted and grew self-sown everywhere; and
the wild pear, the hawthorn and the pomegranate
abounded in the valleys, where the white poplar, the
willow and the elm also flourished these last being
reduced now to a few survivals at Bahria, Gnien ta
1'Iskof, Chain il Gbira, Ghirghenti etc. and seem
destined before long to disappear altogether.

In the sixteenth und seventeenth centuries the
Islands had recovered so far from former devastations,
that plantations of fruits, particularly of olive-trees and
vines again became numerous and extensive, and olive
oil was produced in quantity for local consumption and
also for export. Orange-groves and plantations of almond
trees increased in importance, and there was every ap-
pearance that the cultivation of fruit trees would even-
tually become the main branch of local agriculture.
However, in the latter half of the eighteenth century
there arose a large demand of cotton from Spain, and
vast olive groves and vineyards were sacrificed to make
room for the cotton plant. It is stated that in the last
decade of the eighteenth century over 80,000 olive trees
were destroyed, and the plains around Zebbug where
this tree flourished became practically treeless. During


the first half of the nineteenth century important vine
yards were planted especially in the neighbourhood of
Rabat and Notabile, at Imriehel, at " ta Bria " near
Siggieui etc., but a fresh impulse to cotton growing was
created by the shortage of cotton during the American
war of Secession, and the vineyards were destroyed once
more, and the number of olive groves was still further
reduced. The production of olive oil and of wine had
ceased altogether in the beginning of the nineteenth
century, the produce of the remaining olive trees being
consumed pickled or salted, and only a few table grapes
were henceforth planted, although the manufacture of
wine in small quantities was again resumed about the
middle of the nineteenth century to be discontinued soon
after when the vines were removed again to make room
for cotton.

In the nineteenth century the cultivation of the
carob tree was extended on rocky and shallow soils
all over the Island ; the hill sides around Gargur,
Naxaro, Birchircara, Maghtab, St. Julians, Halluka,
Zabbar, Krendi, Rabat, Siggieui etc., became clad with
the dark glossy foliage of this evergreen tree, but
unfortunately the high cost of fuel during the Great
War 1914-18 and afterwards, induced many owners to
fell their carob trees, until the Government stepped
in and by Government Notice No. 378 of the 22nd
November, 1917, put an end to this ruinous practice,
but many carob trees had been felled in the meantime,
and some olive-trees, almond-trees etc., were also

The cultivation of Citrus trees, particularly of the
orange, in enclosed or walled-in groves began to assume
importance early in the eighteenth century when many
groves were planted at Lia, Balzan, Attard, Siggieui,
Zebbug, Curmi, and wherever it was possible to make
provision for the storage of water required for irrigation.
The cultivation of the orange continued in favour until

the decline of the nineteenth century ; at that time
however, the cultivation of the vine began to rise rapidly
in favour and large areas in both Islands were quickly
transformed into vineyards, so that it is questionable
whether there were ever more extensive vineyards at any
other period of the history of the Islands, nor has the
advent of the Phylloxera in the least affected the ardour
of the vine-growers.

The cultivation of fruit trees in these Islands is
greatly handicapped by the import duty on wheat. This
duty at the rate of 10 shillings per quarter, amounts in
normal times to an ad valorem tax of 25 to 33 per cent,
on the value of the imported article and is therefore a
powerful incentive to the cultivation of wheat and of
other field crops which form part of the usual courses of
rotation. The import duty on wines has of course, the
same effect on the cultivation of the vine for the
production of ordinary table wines, and the present
popularity of vine culture is no doubt due mainly to the
protection afforded by this import duty. The cultivation
of other fruit trees is not in the same fortunate
circumstances as regards protection, indeed it has to
compete with field crops which are directly or indirectly
protected by import duties and has often to stand the
severe competition of the foreign produce which is
imported free of duty.

Without entering into a discussion on the merits of
these import duties either from the social or from the
agricultural standpoint, it is enough here to repeat that
the detection of Phylloxera in various localities in Gozo
in July 1919, has hardly damped the enthusiasm of wine
growers, who are keen to start planting American vines
for grafting stock, so as to secure immunity for the newly
planted vineyards ; and it is not improbable that, at no
distant date, wine will eventually replace wheat as the
staple produce in both Islands. The change will not
be for the worse, as the cultivation of the vine will offer

more scope for employment than that of field crops, and
if the wine produced could be standardized so as to
have a product of good quality and uniform type, an
export trade of fine wines might be created which would
become a reliable and permanent source of agricultural

Besides the fruit trees mentioned and described in
the following pages, others have been introduced now
and then which did not agree either with the soil or the
climate and therefore have proved a failure. The
cultivation of the mango (Mangifera indica L.) has
been attempted many times. Seeds saved from choice
imported fruits have been sown and germinated quickly.
The plants with their long leaves of metallic green at
first made satisfactory growth, but generally succumbed
during winter. Seedlings of mango grown in vegetable
mould in sheltered situations have survived for three
or four years, but were ultimately killed by the cold.
The pine-apple (Bromelia Ananas L.), is not a tree,
but its cultivation was successfully undertaken under
glass by the late Mr. Bisazza in his villa at Rabato,
and was frequently fruited to perfection. In summer
the pine-apple thrives very well in the open air in full
sunshine or in the shade of tall trees, but when the
thermometer descends to i5C. the growth is checked
and the plant must have the shelter of a glass house,
otherwise it will perish. Even under glass the growth
suffers a severe check unless steps are taken to apply
some artificial heating in the coldest months, December-
February. The mangosteen (Garcinia Mangostend),
Vangueria edulis, the bread fruit tree (Artocarpus
incisa, A. integrifolid) , and other tropical fruits have
been introduced in our gardens with negative results.
Nephelium Litchi, the Litchi of South China, has been
repeatedly introduced in the Island from Hong- Kong by
the late Captain Worcester, local agent of the Peninsular

and Oriental Company. The plants did fairly well,
for a few years, and some of them fruited and matured
their fruits, but they have all succumbed, chiefly owing
to our calcareous soil, but also to occasional spells of
severe weather.

Monster a deliciosa Liebm., an Aroid from Mexico
and Central America, better known to our gardeners
as Philodendron pertusum, is commonly grown as an
ornamental plant in gardens and country yards. It
flowers in autumn, and the green fleshy spadix matures
usually in the following autumn. It is highly perfumed
and has a very sweet and delicate flavour, but leaves
a burning or itching sensation on the tongue and lips,
due to the minute needle-like crystals which adhere to
the fruit beneath its outer coating. This fruit is usually
seedless, but black seeds are sometimes produced which
germinate well if sown at once before they get too dry.
However, the Monstera is best propagated in spring
or summer by cuttings of the stems, including two buds
or eyes in each cutting, planted at a level with the soil.

Another evergreen bush or small tree which is
grown chiefly for ornament is the Barbadoes gooseberry
\Malpighiaglabra, Order- Malpighiaceae). The plant is
very ornamental on account of its opposite, small
lanceolate shining green leaves. It has small
inconspicuous whitish lilac flowers borne on long stalks,
which are succeeded by small ribbed, tomato-like fruits
of a shining cherry-red colour, hanging by a long stalk.
The fruit contains one large, round, soft seed, by which
the plant is propagated. The pulp or flesh is orange red,
and has a sweetish flavour with a pleasant acidity. The
fruit matures in autumn and keeps long on the tree, but
is more valuable on account of its very pretty appearance
on the tree or on the table. The Barbadoes cherry was
introduced towards 1885 by the late Baron G. Uepiro
Gourgion who has also introduced many other orna-
mental or useful trees and shrubs.


The Key- Apple, Aberia caff r a Hook & Harv., of
the Order Flacourtiaceae, is a deciduous thorny shrub
native of Natal. The shrub is polygamous, that is indi-
vidual plants produce only male flowers, and others only
female flowers, while others have both sexes in the same
flower. The plant is propagated easily by cuttings in winter
or early spring, or by layers in summer. The small pinkish
white flowers are succeeded by small fruits, more or less
pear-shaped and not exceeding 3 c.m. in diameter, of an
orange yellow colour, with several hard seeds. The fruit
matures throughout the summer and the pulp of the fruit
is sweetish and acidulous. This shrub thrives very well
in our gardens, but is disliked on account of its thorny
branches and the dull whitish green colour of its foliage.

Another shrub sometimes classed with fruit trees,
but grown chiefly for its highly ornamental qualities is the
Strawberry-tree (Arbutus Unedo L., Ericaceae) This
small tree or shrub is native of Europe and thrives best
in temperate regions and in siliceous soils, but does well
in these Islands if planted in a deep red soil and in a
cool situation. It is an evergreen shrub with alternate,
elliptical, acutely toothed leaves of a dark lustrous green,
and the pretty bell-shaped wax-like flowers are produced
in small bunches in winter and early spring, and are
succeeded by round fruits like strawberries of a reddish
colour. A large strawberry tree formerly existed at San
Antonio which must have been more than a hundred
years old and was in fruit almost every year. Young
trees of fruiting size exist in several well known gardens.
This shrub is of slow growth and is propagated by seed
or by rooted suckers.

The Tomato- tree (Cyfihomandra betacea Order- So-
lanaceae) is cultivated in gardens as an ornamental shrub
for its large heart-like leaves and for its egg-shaped
orange red fruits, which hang in small clusters through-
out the autumn and winter. The fruits are eatable and
may be used as tomatoes. This shrub is propagated by


seed, and requires a sheltered situation, as it is liable to
suffer severely from cold in winter. In good situations it
assumes a beatiful umbrella shaped habit, but never loses
its herbaceous character.

Sizigium jambolana which produces fruits shaped
like an olive, suitable for pickling, and Achras Sapota
have been recently introduced in the Island but have not
yet fruited. Feijoa Sellowiana, an evergreen Myrtaceous
shrub from South America, nearly allied to the Guava,
has been introduced in 1903 and fruits abundantly every
year. The shrub is ornamental on account of its pink
flowers with long red stamens. The fruit is highly per-
fumed and is said to be good for pickling. This shrub is
easily propagated by seed or by layers. Various species
of Eugenia have been introduced in our gardens during
the last twenty years, but they all failed to agree with
our calcareous soil.

Attempts to grow the coco-nut (Cocos nucifera L.}
have failed altogether, as all the imported plants died
off in the first winter. The coffee shrub (Coffea arabica
L.) was grown and fruited several times, and at one time
there were hundreds of plants at San Antonio Gardens
raised from seed brought over from Brazil, but the coffee
shrub can be grown here only as an object of curiosity
and at considerable trouble.

It is not easy to give a proper definition of a
"fruit tree". In the popular sense a fruit tree is a tree
grown chiefly for the sake of its fruit, which is used as
food in any way whatever or even as condiment. In
this sense the bitter almond and the Seville or bitter
orange are fruit trees, the uneatable seed or kernels of
the one and the rind and juice of the fruit of the other
being used as condiment. The carob-bean or locust is
chiefly or entirely fed to animals, although it is also
sometimes used as food, and it cannot be denied that it
is a real fruit tree in the popular sense. On the other


hand the "small fruits" including the gooseberry, the
blackberry, the raspberry, the currant and the strawberry,
are low bushes or herbaceous perennials, and are
certainly not fruit TREES in the accepted sense. So also

Online LibraryJohn BorgCultivation and diseases of fruit trees in the Maltese Islands → online text (page 1 of 49)