PINE-APPLE, the fruit of the Ananassa saliva, Lindl., a tropical plant, indigenous to South America and some of the West India Islands. It has become so perfectly naturalised in many parts of the hot regions of Asia and Africa, that it has been thought to be likewise a native of those countries. When the British troops invaded Burma, they found the w-oods around Rangoon abounding in wild pineapples, and a variety from the back of the Black Pagoda was in great request for its excellence: in the Malay Archipelago it acquires an enormous size, and sports into a variety called tlie double pine-ajijile, each pip of its fruit growing into a branch bearing a new pine-apple. It was however first introduced into Europe from South America, and, as it is recorded by M. Le Cour of Leyden, about the middle of the seventeenth century: from Holland it was brought to this country in 1690, by the earl of Portland, according to the Sloanean MSS. in the British Museum. There is a painting, formerly in the collection of Horace Walpole, in which Charles II. is represented as being presented with the first pine-apple by Rose, his gardener; but there are some doubts whether that fruit was grown in England or obtained from Holland. It may however be fairly concluded that pine-apples were exceedingly rare in this country, oven at the tables of the nobility, in the beginning of the last century; for in 1716, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu remarks that pine-apples were on the electoral table at Hanover when she was there in that year, on her journey ^Constantinople; and she states that she had never previously seen that species of fruit. (Letters of Lady M. W. Montagu) Since that period the cultivation of the pine-apple has been prosecuted with perseverance in Britain, but frequently the results have been very disproportionate to the expense incurred. Within the last twenty years however, success has been more general; and in many instances a surprising degree of perfection has been attained, much greater indeed in England than in any other country having to contend with an extra-tropical climate, for instances are on record of pine-apples weighing 131bs. and 14lbs. avoirdupois, and from 71bs. to Slbs. is by no means an uncommon weight for a single fruit. At the present day the pine-apple in England is so abundantly produced, that although expensive, it is very common. Its delicious flavour, and the noble appearance which a well-grown fruit exhibits, render the cultivation of it a special object of horticultural enterprise and skill.
As, notwithstanding the many treatises that have been written on the subject, failures in the production of fine fruit continue to occur, it seems desirable to point out in what the mismanagement of a gardener is most likely to consist, and how he may apply the directions to be found in books of gardening with least chance of failure.
It has been already stated that this plant is an inhabitant of the tropics, and it may be added, near the level of the sea. The latter circumstance it is necessary to remark, because if it were a mountain plant, even though tropical, it might be natural for it to endure a comparatively low degree of temperature. But according to Bey rich (Gardener's Magazine, iii. 442), 'the pineapple in its wild state is found near the sea-shore, the sand accumulated there in downs serving for its growth, as well as for that of most of the species of the same family. The place where the best pineapples are cultivated is of a similar nature. In the sandy plains of Praya Velha and Praya Grande, formed by the receding of the sea, and in which no other plant will thrive, are the spots where the pine-apple grows best.' The temperature at the level of the sea at or near the equator varies but little throughout the year; for instance, the mean temperature of the warmest month at Cumana, 10° 27'N. Int., is, according to Humboldt, 84-38°, and that of the coldest 79-10". At Havanna, on the skirt of the tropics, the mean of the warmest month is 83-84°; that of the coldest 69-98°. At Vera Cruz the mean temperatures of the warmest and coldest months are respectively 81-80° and 7106°.
In conformity with the above, and also from the results of experience, it may be slated that the artificial temperature of the atmosphere in which the pine-apple is intended to be grown should have a mean of about 80°; or a minimum not lower than 70° at any time of the year, and a maximum not higher than 90°. When, from the shortness of our days in winter, there is a deficiency of light, and when forcing the plant in its absence would produce only imperfectly formed tissue, 70° will be proper. In summer 80° to 85°, or in the case of fruiting plants, from that to 90° -will not be too much. The maximum by sun-heat may extend higher, but 100° should be its limit.
With regard to bottom-heat, it should be in imitation of the heat of the tropical soil; and this varies oven less than the temperature of a tropical atmosphere. The mean temperature of the earth is generally supposed to bo somewhat higher than the mean of the atmosphere, owing to the greater capacity of the soil for retaining caloric. The discrepancy however cannot be great; and if the mean atmospheric temperature at the equator be from 80° to 84°, as has been ascertained from numerous observations, the temperature of Hie soil, it may be presumed, will not average lower; nor will it be many degrees higher where moisture suITicient for vegetation exists, as is generally the case in islands; although on continents it becomes so great as to reduce the soil to a desert. The temperature of the earth u foot below the surface, in New Granada, is 85° during summer, according to a correspondent of Mr. Hay (Garcl. 'Afag.ii'a'ni this degree of heat will be found a very good medium for the roots of the pine-apple. Bottom-heat then ■should Jievcr be allowed to fall below 75°, nor rise higher 'than 90°. The-Boil for pine-apples requires to be rich. A fresh yellowloam, strong, but by no means of a binding nature, -with which is mixed a quantity of cow-dung, will answer 'very Well. The pots require to be well drained, and over t he-drainage some pieces of turf may be placed. Manurewater, made by steeping sheep's dung or cow-dung, is occasionally applied, care being taken that it be properly diluted. If the plants are found not to be thriving, they may be shifted, without hesitation, at any period of their growth.
It is very important that a perfect drainage bo at all times maintained. When pots are plunged in tan, the worms are apt to close the holes in the bottom of the pots by their excretions; or a stoppage may occur in consequence of the pressure of the pot upon the tan when it wastes and becomes capable of being rendered compact. From whatever cause the defect proceeds, a good preventive may be easily effected by simply plunging an empty pot, with its mouth downward*, and on this placing the bottom of that containing the plant, closing the tan round the sides of the latter in the usual way. If at any time the tan should become too hot, it may be partially removed from the sides of the pot.
Moisture is essential for the growth of the pine-apple. The condition of the soil in the pots will of course indicate whether water should be applied or withheld. But in summer the atmosphere should be kept moist by syringing, particularly before shutting up at night. No water should on any account be used of a temperature many degrees lower than that of the soil in the pots where the plants are growing; it should not, in short, be applied lower than 75°, and 80° will prove a good medium. When the fruit is ripening off, moisture of course should be withheld; and in damp cloudy weather in winter, when it is an object to restrain rather than promote growth, they should be kept rather dry than otherwise. Moisture will not prove injurious when it is accompanied by a sufficiently high temperature and a due share of light. The mode of heating by means of hot-water pipes is undoubtedly the best for pine-stoves; and steam from the boiler should be at command, so that it may be introduced to the interior of the house as occasion requires.
Pine-apples may be grown under various modes of treatment. Instead of being confined in pots, they are sometimes planted in a bed of soil. This has been found to answer very well where good drainage was secured, and where a proper degree of bottom-heat could be applied. They have also been grown in pots placed on shelves or on sand; this mode however has not proved fully successful, for the roots are subjected to vicissitudes consequent not only upon the variations in the temperature of the atmosphere of the house, but also its hygrometrical conditions.
A principal cause of failure in the cultivation of the pine-apple appears to have arisen from the idea that the plants will bear a much lower degree of temperature than that above pointed out as being natural to them. T.hey will apparently do so; but although the plants may continue to have a healthy appearance, yet experience proves that their vital energy is interfered with, and their powers of organization diminished, as is continually indicated by the fruitstem being sent up with only a few imperfect pips. The stagnation of water about the roots from defect of drainage, too much heat and moisture, or too much heat and dryness, or checking the plants by cold in order to bring them to a fruiting condition, instead of forwarding them naturally to that state, are other sources of failure on the part of cultivators. With regard to the last, the only method that ought to be taken to bring on the time of fruiting is to inspissate the sap, and to augment the amount of secretions by gradually withholding moisture and increasing the temperature, at the same time admitting a little more air than usual; and after this, by the sudden application of a brisk temperature with more moisture.
To richly manured soil the large size of the pine-apples produced in England may be attributed; and to the means that cultivation under glass affords of progressively inspissating the juices towards the period of ripening, may he ascribed the superiority of the fruit to that produced in countries where the plants are indigenous, as was alluded to under Ananassa sativa.
The varieties of the pineapple are numerous; the best however have been already enumerated [fruits]; and full descriptions of upwards of fifty varieties may be referred to in the Trans. Hort. Soc. of London, 2nd series, vol. i.; and of all the principal varieties in the Guide to the Orchard and Kitchen-Garden.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)