History of Luther Burbank


Born in Lancaster, Massachusetts

Luther Burbank was born on March 7, 1849 in Lancaster,  Massachusetts. Burbank was the thirteenth of fifteen children in his family. He was educated at the Lancaster Academy in Massachusetts, where he received the equivalent of a high school education.

Plant Research

Burbank held the belief that inheritance was determined by acquired characteristics, which support Lamarch's theory of genetic variation. The works of Gregor Mendel were unknown to Burbank in his early career. Burbank's work focused on hybridization and grafting of plant tissues from one plant to another. Burbank's research focused on making multiple crosses between native plants and introduced new strains of existing plants. Later in his career, Burbank lectured on evolution at Stanford University.

The Burbank Potato

He began breeding plants and conducting genetics research in 1870. In1871 he produced the Burbank potato which was a blight-resistant species used in Ireland to combat the potato epidemic which affected that nation's potato crops and resulted in the emigration of half of that nation's people. With the money he gained by selling his rights to the potato, he moved to Santa Rosa, California.

New Varieties of Plants

During his years in Santa Rosa, Burbank developed more than sixty varieties of plums and ten new commercial varieties of berries. He also developed new species of pineapples, walnuts, and almonds. While truck crops were Burbank's primary interest, he also worked at developing new flowering plants. Burbank is given credit for developing the Fire poppy, Ostrich plume clematis, Shasta daisy, Burbank rose, new varieties of lilies and ornamental shrubs. Luther Burbank's discoveries of new varieties of plants were based on careful and time-consuming experiments. His development of the white blackberry required 65,000unsuccessful crosses before he obtained the desired result. Burbank died in 1926 at the age of 77.

Luther Burbank Home and Gardens

Luther Burbank Virtual Museum

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