To John Scott 19 November 1
Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.
I am much obliged for your letter which is full of interesting matter.2 I shall be very glad to look at the capsule of the Acropera when ripe & pray present my thanks to Mr McNab.3 I shd. like to keep it, till I could get a capsule of some other member of the Vandeæ for comparison; but ultimately all the seeds shall be returned in case you would like to write any notice on subject:4 It was as I said only “in desperation” that I suggested that the flower might be a male & yet occasionally capable of producing a few seeds.5 I had forgotten Gärtner’s remark;6 in fact I know only odds & ends of Botany & you know far more. One point makes the above view more probable in Acropera than in other cases,—viz the presence of rudimentary placentæ or testæ; for I cannot hear that these have been observed in other male plants. They do not occur in male Lychnis dioica;7 but next spring I will look to male Holly Flowers.—8
I fully admit difficulty of similarity of stigmatic chamber in the two Acroperas.9 As far as I remember the blunt end of pollen-mass would not easily even stick in the orifice of the chamber. Your view may be correct about abundance of viscid matter, but seems rather improbable.10
Your facts about female flowers occurring when males alone ought to occur is new to me: if I do not hear that you object, I will quote the Zea case on your authority in what I am now writing on the varieties of the Maize.—11
I am glad to hear that you are working on the most curious subject of Parthenogenesis.12 I formerly fancied that I observed female Lychnis dioica seeded without pollen.13 I send by this post a paper on Primula, which may interest you.14 I am working on this subject, & if you shd. ever observe any analogous case I shd be glad to hear. I have added another very clever pamphet by Prof. Asa Gray.—15 Have you a copy of my Orchis Book? if you have not, & would like one, I shd. be pleased to send one.—
I plainly see that you have the true spirit of an Experimentalist & good observer. Therefore I ask, whether you have ever made any trials on relative fertility of varieties of plants (like those I quote from Gärtner on the varieties of Verbascum)16 I much want information on this head, & on those marvellous cases (as some Lobelias & Crinum & Passiflora) in which a plant can be more easily fertilised by the pollen of another species than by its own good pollen.—17
I am compelled to write in haste. With many thanks for your kindness. | Dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin.
Praises JS’s experimenting.
Has he ever studied the relative fertility of varieties? CD very interested in this subject.
Wants to quote JS on Zea [Variation 1: 321].
CD sends his Primula paper [Collected papers 2: 45–63].