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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. H. Leggett   15 January 1877

224, E. 10th St., New York,

Jan. 15th, 1877.

Mr. Chas. Darwin,

Dear Sir,

Dr. Asa Gray has requested me to write to you what I know about Pontederia cordata L. In the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, Vol. VI. p. 62, I gave an account of my imperfect observations and expressed a hope of learning something more the next season.1 But I had no opportunity to study the growing plant last summer, and can add little to what was then noted.

The style till after the closing of the flower is intermediate in length between the two sets of stamens. The flower in withering twists up on itself and remains as a sort of button while the ovary enlarges. If when the ovary is well advanced one of these buttons be carefully unfolded,—a difficult matter on account of the decay of the perianth—the style will be found to have considerably elongated, and even to protrude sometimes from the button. But, as it is at this period in a florrid condition, the elongation can have nothing to do with the fertilization, and is perhaps merely the stretching produced by the twisting of the flower, at least, I can see no better means of accounting for it, though not at all satisfied with this.

As the plant is a social one and on the same spike there is a constant succession of flowers in all stages, it would seem likely that cross fertilization might take place without any special arrangement. But the fact that in this family there is a marked difference in the anthers of the same flower, and in this species in particular a very curious difference in the pollen grains, we are led to look for some complexity in the generation.

I suppose you have access to Dr. Torreys Flora of the State of New York prepared for the Geological Survey of the State, in which I think will be found a fuller account of our Ponterdiaceæ than in Grays Manual.2 A friend procured for me last Summer a supply of Schollera grammêa Willd. but I found in them no fourth flower which is said sometimes to occur.3

I enclose some of the Schollera, and Ponterderia in different stages. You will please notice that it is only the nearly ripe ovaries which have the longer styles.

Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be of any service to your valuable investigations, and you will oblige me by showing me how.

Yrs truly, | Wm. H. Leggett


At Asa Gray’s request, writes what he knows about Pontederia cordata.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Henry Leggett
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
New York
Source of text
DAR 109: B127–8
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10790,” accessed on 17 November 2019,