From Asa Gray 9 November 1861
Nov, 9th, 1861
I asked Torrey to tell me about what he knew of diœcio-dimorphism in Borragineæ 1 He writes that he has observed it mostly in Amsinckia, but gives me no details. I have asked him for details.
In his Bot. of U.S. & Mexican Boundary, p. 140a I see he has published “The insertion of the stamens is not constant in this genus. In the same species they are sometimes placed near the base of the corolla, sometimes in the upper part of the throat.”2
I have just had occasion to study carefully all the specimens I have of the genus Mertensia—of this order. I looked out for this matter. Of the 9 species examined all the specimens of 8 of them have stamens inserted on the throat, i.e. subexsert staminate. But the style is long also. In one species—viz. M. alpina some specimens are so also, but others have the stamens inserted so low down in the tube that they are wholly included—the tips of the anthers where the bases are in the common way. But in these the style is short too! as much shorter as the stamens are lower!
So here is a riddle for you! How varied Nature is in her ways of doing things!
Looking however now at Amsinckia in my herbm., I find a pencil note of Dr. Torrey’s, long ago, on Amsinckia spectabilis.— the specimens of “504 Coulter,California.— Torrey’s mem. is—“In specimens 1 & 2 the stamens are inserted on the upper part of the corolla, and the style is short. In 3, they are inserted near the base, and the style is elongated,—a kind of dioicality as in Hedyotis, Mitchella, &c.” J. T.
That is all right again. Torrey is quite right about it! I fish up and send you the two sorts of flowers, by which you can verify the observation, in a good light even without dissecting the flowers.3
Capt. Anderson, of the Cunard Steamer “Europa”,4 has kindly consented to take any parcel for you which needs prompt delivery, & send up from Liverpool. So I went into the fields to find Houstonia for you,—supposing I could find the little seedlings which are to blossom early next spring. But not one can I find.—they are so tiny & concealed in the grass. Well, 〈 〉 would b〈 〉 by this means 〈 〉ance i〈 〉 〈 〉 picked up the 〈 〉 〈su〉bsexes! 〈 〉 early spring I may get young plants over to you, under glass, late enough to select the two sorts—as they flower for some weeks, I hope to try.5
We are just awaiting tidings of our Naval expedition to Beaufort &c, S. Car. We only know that our Armada has mostly survived & weathered the gale, and is effecting a landing.6
I confess to have been irritated for a while by the nasty articles upon us in the Saturday Review. But now that they are said to be written by Grattan, formerly British Consul at Boston, we are quite indifferent. Grattan was never seen in good Boston society, and I am told was excluded for some disgraceful conduct or other.— Hence the spite of which we have had specimens before.7
Ever, dear Darwin, | Yours most cordially | Asa Gray
Discusses observations of his own and of John Torrey on dimorphism, especially in Amsinckia.
Is trying to find specimens of Houstonia for CD.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3313,” accessed on 27 October 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3313