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Letter 7205

Darwin, C. R. to Farrer, T. H.

28 May [1870]


Fertilisation of barberries.


Is continuing his experiments on the comparative growth of crossed and self-fertilised plants.


Down. | Beckenham |Kent. S.E.

May 28th

My dear Farrer

I suppose I must have known that the stamens reversed their formerposition in Berberis, for I formerly tried experiments withanæsthetics, but I had forgotten the fact, & I quite agree with youthat it is a sound argument that the movement is not forself-fertilisation.f2 The N. American barberries (mahonia) offer a goodproof to what an extent natural crossing goes on in this genus; for itnow almost impossible in the country to procure a true specimen of the2 or 3 forms originally introduced—f3

I hope the seeds of Passiflora will germinate, for the turning upof the pendent flower must be full of meaning.f4 I am so glad that youare able to occupy yourself a little with flowers: I am sure it is mostwise in you for your own sake & children’s sake.—f5

Some little time ago Delpino wrote to me praising the Swedishbook on the fertilisation of plants; as my son George can read alittle Swedish, I shd like to have it back for a time just to heara little what it is about, if you wd. be so kind as to returnit by book Post.—f6

I am going steadily on with my experiments on the comparative growthof crossed & self fertilised plants, & am now coming to some curiousanomalies & some interesting results.f7 I forget whether I showed youany of them when you were here for a few hours.—f8 You ought to seethem; as they explain at a glance why nature has taken such extraordinarypains to ensure frequent crosses between distinct individuals.

If in the course of the summer, you shd. feel any inclination tocome here for a day or two, I hope that you will propose to do so,for we shd. be delighted to see you; though, as you know, I cantalk with no one except for a very short time.—

Pray believe me | yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S | I remember years ago being surprised at observing that thepollen in the genus Hedaroma (or Darwinia)f9 is almost liquid viscid,& this seemed to me deserving examination. The plant is also ratherornamental & curious.

Linnean Society of London



The year is established by the relationship between this letter andthe letter from T. H. Farrer, 26 May 1870.
See letter from T. H. Farrer, 26 May 1870 and n. 4. No record ofthe experiments CD mentions has been found.
Species of Mahonia native to western North America wereintroduced to Europe in the 1820s (Ross and Auge 2008, p. 22).
See letter from T. H. Farrer, 26 May 1870 and n. 1.
CD alludes to the recent death of Farrer’s wife, Frances Farrer(see letter from T. H. Farrer, 17 May 1870).
CD refers to Federico Delpino’s remarks on Johan Severin Axell’smonograph, Axell 1869 (see letter from Federico Delpino, 20 May 1870and n. 7). CD had lent his copy to Farrer (see Correspondence vol. 17, letter to Federico Delpino, 14 October 1869 and n. 8). CD also refers toGeorge Howard Darwin.
CD refers to his research for Cross and self fertilisation.
The last known visit by Farrer to Down House was sometime shortlybefore 9 October 1869 (see Correspondence vol. 17, letter fromT. H. Farrer, 9 October 1869 and n. 6).
Hedaroma is now subsumed within Darwinia, a genus of Australianplants in the family Myrtaceae.
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