The Florentine Bizzaria

Florentine BizzariaBack when I was researching citrus fruits out of curiosity, I came across an especially curious specimen: the Florentine Bizzaria.  It was first discovered in the mid-1600s in, not surprisingly, Florence.  Pietro Nati found it at the villa of the Panciatichi banking family.  What makes it special is that it wasn’t a hybrid, as most citrus fruits are.  Instead, it’s a graft chimaera, the first one known.  A graft chimaera is formed when two plants are grafted together and form a stable union that contains both “parents'” cells that contain their own genotype, rather than being a hybrid, which has a mix of its parents’ genotypes.

What this means for the Bizzaria is that it produces three distinct fruits.  It not only produces bitter oranges and Florentine citrons, but also produces a fruit that resembles a combination of the two, the bizzaria.  It is said to have been created after a citron bud was grafted to a seedling sour orange, initially failed, but after the graft perished, the stock sprouted to produce the Bizzaria.  Charles Darwin himself was moved to write about it, in his The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication.  It was then lost until rediscovered in the 1970s by Paulo Galleoti, head gardener of the citrus collection at Villa Medicea di Castello.

Personally, I just find its story to be fascinating.  Especially since it seems the first graft chimaera was apparently created by accident, nearly died, and then went on to have such a successful life.  Even though neither citrons nor bitter oranges sound very appetizing, I’d quite like to taste a bizzaria someday.

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