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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. E. Darwin   9 July [1862]1


July 9th.

My dear William

Lenny is very ill, but Mr Engleheart does not think there is danger:2 his kidneys hardly act & his urine is tinged with blood— His liver is much disordered & he vomits. Poor dear little man, he is so patient.—

I have not much heart for Botany. I forget whether I said that pollen-tubes of wheat are same diameter as the cells of stigma—3 it is very improbable that they run down it, but if they do, they could be distinguished, I think, from the cells of stigma by not having transverse septa— It is much the most probable that they penetrate to hairs near where they adhere.— But it is very odd that tubes shd. come out on opposite side to point of adhesion— A rather oldish flower of wheat with anthers gone would be best; put in water & under thin glass.—

The Valerian (what species?) does seem case for me; it is, as in Primula, that some plants should have, all flowers with longer pistil than others.4 In Primula there is no gradation. Are stamens shorter in those flowers with long pistils? It would, I think, be better to look at a good many flowers on same two plants, if all on one have long pistil & all on other short pistil, I shd. very much like to see specimens. This would perhaps be better than marking plant & comparing at different ages—certainly in several plants pistil does elongate with age.—

Vaucher asserts that in all parts of Europe, plants of Lythrum salicaria occur of 3 forms;5 some with long, some with mid- & some with short pistil, & that all flowers on same plant are alike.— I have so many young plants growing up, that I hope I shall get all 3 forms next year.—6

Mamma, thank God, keeps pretty well with all our anxiety. All the rest are pretty well

Good Bye | My dear old fellow | C. Darwin


The year is established by reference to Leonard Darwin’s illness (see n. 2, below).
Stephen Paul Engleheart was a surgeon in Down (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1862); Leonard Darwin had been suffering from scarlet fever since 12 June 1862 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
In the letter to W. E. Darwin, 4 [July 1862], CD had encouraged William to make observations on the pollination of wheat.
William’s letter has not been found. CD had learned from Asa Gray that some species of Valeriana were dimorphic (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter from Asa Gray, 31 December 1861). For William’s observations on Valeriana, see the letter from W. E. Darwin, 14 July 1862.
Vaucher 1841, 2: 371. There is a heavily annotated copy of this work in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 812–15).
CD had noted the occurrence of trimorphism in Lythrum salicaria and L. thymifolia on reading Lecoq 1854–8 in December 1861, and had asked Joseph Dalton Hooker to provide him with seeds or plants of the genus for experiment (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to J. D. Hooker, 18 [December 1861]). Hooker did so in March 1862 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [19 January 1862], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 [March 1862]).


Lenny [Leonard Darwin]’s illness.

Polymorphism in valerian and Lythrum salicaria.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 185: 11
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3649,” accessed on 23 March 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10