From John Scott 18 February 1
Edinburgh | Botanic Gardens
In my last, I asked you if I might now send the capsule of Acropera, thinking it might be sometime before it matured. I am now, however, forced to do so, in consequence of its unexpected partial dehiscence.2 A few days before I last wrote, it changed colour slightly around the apex, this has slowly increased, though still as you will observe confined to the upper part. I, thus, had not the least suspicion of its bursting for some weeks at least, and I can assure you I was not a little vexed yesterday on observing what had happened, as I have thus lost a number of seeds. It is, I think, unusual to see them burst, before being at least partially coloured over. Perhaps the abnormalities of placentæ, utriculii, &c. which you first drew our attention to in this orchid, may have something to do with this.3 I will be anxious to hear the results of your dissection.
I have no doubt you will be somewhat astonished—though not entirely unprepared—on actually seeing the straight, plump capsule produced by Acropera, in view of your careful dissections; and certainly, fully justifiable deductions.4
I have just placed a few seeds, which dropped into my hand, when I sent it off: under the microscope, a slight majority of these look to be quite perfect. These—30 or so—I will sow, and see if I can succeed in raising a few plants, which would be interesting as affording a chance for the solution of your query, as to what the other sexual forms of Acropera may be.5 This chance will be increased if—as I believe—it have never been raised from seed in this country, all its representatives being mere divisions of the originally imported plant. Now, believing, as I do, that merely vegetative multiplication will never render the slightest degree of permanency to a variation when tested by seeds. It will, I believe, from information I have been collecting on this point—after years of this kind of multiplication have as great a tendency to produce the form from which it originally sported, as it would if tried by seeds while still in organic connection with its parent, i.e. supposing a “bud-variation.”6
If then, Acropera, be as you are inclined to believe in a fluctuating state, we might expect some of the progeny at least to present the other forms. An important question, however, here presents itself. If Acropera be the male incipient form,7 and not yet perfectly sterile, will it when self-impregnated produce both forms? I am inclined to believe it will not. I think, I have indications of this in a variety of the Primrose in our gardens, all of which are long-styled. You, however, will be able to correct me on this point.8 I have great hopes that Parthenogenisis in plants, if established satisfactorily, will show this. I am led to hope for this result from my observation on the reproduction of variations in Cryptogams.9
Excuse this hurried note. | I remain | Sir, | Yours very respectfully | John Scott.
I have just received your letter with varieties of Maize.10 I am glad that you have been able to afford me so many.
Sends Acropera capsule for CD to dissect.
Will try to raise Acropera from seed (never done before in Britain) to examine its sexual forms.
Studying primroses, parthenogenesis, and reproduction of some cryptogams.
Received maize varieties from CD.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3997,” accessed on 28 May 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3997