From John Scott 28 May 1
Botanic Gardens [Edinburgh]
I enclose copy from the Edinburgh Courant, of notice of late meeting of the Bot. Soc.2 The abstract of paper on Orchid I made at the request of the Secretary;3 as I did it hurriedly with pencil, however, he has copied it very incorrectly; indeed in one place it is impossible to understand it at all. This I have attempted to correct in enclosed copy.— Similar mistakes will therefore be occurring in Gard. Chron.4 It is very teasing.
You will perhaps be surprised at title now given. I think it is much less appropriate than the one I originally intended—Individual Sterility of Orchids: which clearly defined its nature.5 Prof. Balfour proposed that now substituted: it has given it the appearance of a simple record of experiments destitute of any theoretical application.6 The general reader at least will be somewhat surprised on passing from title to introductory remarks on Sterility! I was also anxious to emphasize the possibly individually limited nature of sterility manifested under my experience. Some may now be inclined to attribute to me a belief in the general sterility of their cultivated individual representatives; which is far from the truth. Indeed—as I have already stated—I am inclined to suppose that this will rarely if ever be the case—structural dimorphism of course excepted— certainly in cases of Passiflora & Lobelia fulgens, it has only a limited application. Individual plants of the latter, as well as the former, produce seeds with own pollen—while others are absolutely self-sterile.7
Perhaps farther illustrations may be afforded after the notice of my experiments in Gard. Chron. In the event of such it will be necessary to state the existence of an individual sterility; otherwise, they might be thought to disprove mine: as I have made no special allusion to it.
Will you kindly excuse the liberty I take, in asking you—time & health permitting—to reply and afford an explanation of the different results.8
In notice you will also find a curious case of variation—at least the writer seems to consider it such—9 Perhaps, I am wrong, in regarding it as of a similar nature to the well-known laburnum case. 10 The specimens sent are much mutilated—from careless packing—which prevents satisfactory comparisons; otherwise we might have been better able to judge. Differing, however, as it does in so many characters from the supposed normal form—more evidence is certainly required before we can regard it as simply a “bud-variation”.11
I remain | Sir | Yours very respectfully | J. Scott
Sends abstract from Edinburgh Courant of his orchid sterility paper [see 4087]. Balfour altered title to obscure its theoretical nature.
Sends specimens showing curious variation.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4190,” accessed on 26 February 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4190