To Asa Gray 28 May 1
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Gray
Your kindness will make you glad to hear that I am nearly as well as I have been of late years, though a good deal weaker. I have been slowly writing a paper on Lythrum,2 & this has disinclined me for the exertion of writing letters. It has been so pleasant doing a little work after 8 months inaction. Speaking of Lythrum reminds me to say that your Nesæas are looking very healthy, & Mitchella moderately so.3 Some time ago I received Dr. Wrights letter about Orchids:4 if you write to him, beg him to note what attracts insects to Begonias? do they gnaw or penetrate the petals? Also, but I care less, what attracts them to Melastomas?5 Poor Dr. Cruger of Trinidad, who promised to observe, is dead.—6
Whenever my Lythrum paper is printed I will of course send you a copy,7 & I shall like to hear whether you think it as curious a case as I do.— I have got another new sub-class of dimorphic plants.—8
An Irish nobleman on his deathbed declared that he could conscientiously say that he had never througout life denied himself any pleasure; & I can conscientiously say that I have never scrupled to trouble you.— So here goes.— Have you travelled south, & can you tell me, whether the trees, which Bignonia capreolata climbs, are covered with moss, or filamentous lichen or Tillandsia; I ask because its tendrils abhor a simple stick, do not much relish rough bark, but delight in wool or moss.9 They adhere in curious manner, by making little disks at end of each point, like the Ampelopsis; when the disk sticks to bundle of fibres, these fibres grow between them & then unite, so that the fibres of wool end by being embedded in middle: By the way I will enclose some specimens & if you think it worth while you can put them under the simple microscope. It is remarkable how specially adapted some tendrils are; those of Eccremocarpus scaber do not like a stick, will have nothing to say to wool; but give them a bundle of culms of grass or bundle of bristles & they seize them well.—10
I have been reading with great interest von Mohls paper in Bot. Zeitung on imperfect self-fertile flowers.11 He quotes you that perfect flowers of Voandzeia are quite sterile—12 How is this known, for is it not a Madagascar plant?13 I presume you know that wild plants of Amphicarpea are generally sterile.14 How I shd. like to have seed to ascertain whether this plant is sterile when fertilised.— What a curious analogous case is that of Leersia: I have just got plants of this grass.—15 Please remember, if you ever come across it, seeds of the Campanula perfoliata.—16
Lastly (God forgive me) can you tell me whether any of your Hollies are in state of Thyme viz some plants hermaphrodites & some Females: I have a dimorphic case which, I think, will show how this state of Thyme &c arises.—17
Do you see the Reader: it is the best newspaper for science ever published in England: there was lately a capital article in it by Wallace.18 He has, also, published lately in the Anthropological Review a short, but most suggestive article on the natural selection of Man.—19
When inclined, do write & tell me a little about yourself & what you are doing. Is the museum for your Herbarium settled?20 I hope sincerely that my former fellow-sufferer Mrs. Gray is quite well again.—21 What utter misery the stomach causes!— As for public news I am much in arrear, for I gave up for months hearing the newspaper, as I found it more fatiguing than novels. I have heard during late 9 months an astounding number of love scenes.—
What dreadful carnage you have just recently suffered.—22 What will the end be? Will slavery perish, if so the cost is not too dear?
Farewell my dear & good friend. You will see that I have regained my ten-horse-interrogoratory-power:—farewell— yours most sincerely | C. Darwin
I send a Photograph of myself with my Beard. Do I not look venerable?23
Is slowly writing Lythrum paper [Collected papers 2: 106–31].
Thanks for [Charles?] Wright’s observations on orchids
– could he note what attracts insects to Begonia and Melastoma? H. Crüger, who was going to observe Melastomataceae, has died.
Describes the climbing habits of Bignonia capreolata and Eccremocarpus scaber.
How does AG know the perfect flowers of Voandzeia are quite sterile?
He has a case of dimorphism in holly; asks AG to report on American hollies.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4511,” accessed on 20 February 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4511