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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Allport Leighton1   19 November 1858

Luciefelde | Shrewsbury

Novr. 19. 1858

My dear Sir,

The perusal of your Paper in the Gard: Chron: of Nov. 13. brought to my recollection that in shelling some seed which I this autumn saved from the common Scarlet Runner I noticed some beans altogether of a black colour.2 The seed from which my crop was grown was given me by a friend whose garden was a mile or more distant from my own.,—so that I know nothing of its antecedent peculiarities, if it possessed any such. I do not recollect to have observed any thing unusual in the colour, size, or markings of the seed. sown.

The quantity of seed I sowed this autumn from these Scarlet Runners was about a quart. These I have now looked over and separated them in a general way into the several variations observable amongst them; which were five, & of which I send you samples.

Assuming those marked A to be the ordinary form & appearance of the seed; B presents a more marbled marking and a somewhat different form; C a similar marbled marking, but darker, with a form akin to B; D has a darker purple tinge, and assimilates the more clumsy shape of A; E is quite black in colour, and with B & C partakes of a comparatively more elegant form—approximating, as it strikes me, that of the dwarf kidney bean. My daughter tells me that from the same row of Scarlet Runners she gathered some beans of a white or cream colour with a patch of buff colour at one end—giving a piebald appearce. but none of these unfortunately were saved. My quart of beans I found on counting to comprise 500 individuals, which resolved themselves into the following proportionate numbers, A=289, B=74, C=114, D=3, E=20.

On the other side of my garden, at a distance of perhaps 40 or 50 feet from the Scarlet runners, I sowed four or five rows of the Mohawk dwarf kidney bean, purchased from Mr. Oldroyd, seedsman, Shrewsbury.3 In the space between these two crops, the only leguminosæ grown were Champion Peas & Johnson’s Wonderful Beans. I did not save any seed from the Mohawks grown in my garden, but on looking over about a handful of the purchased Mohawks, which were preserved as surplus, I notice three variations, of which I send samples; F, tawny, with a few black markings or longitudinal stripings; G with a tawny ground almost entirely obliterated with the dark blotched markings, so as to have become almost black; H very small in size and entirely tawny without any dark markings. The Mohawks were 99 in number in the following proportions F=65, G=31, H=3.

Without jumping to a conclusion on insufficient data, the similarity of the markings and shape, lead one to fancy that they might have been produced by a cross-fertilization effected by the agency of bees or other insects. I should notice that I did not observe any differences in the height of the plants or colour of the flowers of the Scarlet Runners;—or rather I should say that if such differences existed, they were not sufficiently marked as to have attracted my attention, although I passed & repassed the plants at least a score of times every day. I have again mingled all the variations in my seed but have reserved 12 of the black ones E which I will sow apart & note their peculiarities next summer, should they present any.

Believe me | Yours very truly | Willm. Allport Leighton C. Darwin Esq.

If you think it will keep up attention to the subject you are at perfect liberty to insert this in the Gard: Chron. or use it in any other way you like.4


Leighton and CD had been friends during their school-days in Shrewsbury and at Cambridge University. The salutation and the concluding remarks of the letter indicate that Leighton was writing formally to CD with the possibility of publication in mind. See letter to W. A. Leighton, 21 November [1858].
See letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, [before 13 November 1858].
Henry J. Oldroyd, nurseryman and seedsman, High Street, Shrewsbury (Post Office directory, Gloucestershire with Bath and Bristol, Herefordshire and Shropshire 1856).


Sends an account of different colours and shapes of seeds raised from ordinary seeds of scarlet runner. [See Cross and self-fertilisation, p. 151.]

Letter details

Letter no.
William Allport Leighton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 77: 149–51
Physical description
6pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2366,” accessed on 29 January 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7