skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Farrer   21 November 1868

3 Gloucester Terrace | Regents Park

21 Nov/68

My dear Mr Darwin.

Since I saw you I have been looking over some notes—made in September.1 And I think something might be made out of an attempt to explain many parts at any rate of the structure & variations of Papilionaceous flowers by your views concg insect agency & crossing. For instance I believe the following features may be traced to this cause.

1. The varied bendings of the peduncle before & in flowering so as to make wings & keel a lighting place.

2 The attachment of the wings to the keel; and of the sides of the keel to each other; in other words the more or less development of gamopetalism.2

3 The stiffness or otherwise of the filaments—correlated to the character, moist or dusty, of the pollen—and absence or presence of a brush on the style.

4. The character of the pollen

5. The Shape & position of style & stigma; and the presence or absence & position of hairs upon it.

Other points—such as shape & colour of vexillum:3 solitary carpel: & staminal coherences suggest themselves to the imagination— As regards this latter point & the free stamen—which you suggested there is one case of totally separate stamens (Chorozēma) which struck me as very curious & which may possibly give some hints. Of this I venture to send you a note.4

Now might I ask you quite at your leisure to tell me whether you think this subject at all worth following up. It is simply an amusement and relaxation to me— But one would rather spend leisure hours in a right than in a wrong direction.

I think the “hairs” also would be extremely interesting.

Believe me | Sincerely yours | T H Farrer


CD and Farrer evidently met during CD’s visit to London from 7 to 16 November 1868 (see letter from T. H. Farrer, 2 November 1868; see also ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 16, Appendix II)).
In papilionaceous flowers, the lateral petals are referred to as wings, while the two joined anterior petals are the keel. Flowers in which these petals are united are referred to as gamopetalous.
In papilionaceous flowers, the large petal opposite the keel is referred to as the vexillum or standard.
See enclosure. Chorozema or Chorizema is an Australian papilionaceous genus. For more on the genus Chorizema, including history, diagnosis, and synonymy, see Taylor and Crips 1992.


Thinks CD’s views of insect agency and crossing might explain structure and variations of papilionaceous flowers. Lists five points. Asks CD’s opinion.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Farrer, 1st Baron Farrer
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Gloucester Terrace, 3
Source of text
DAR 164: 49; Linnean Society of London, MS Case 6B, No. 299
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6470,” accessed on 21 January 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16