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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Adolph Reuter   18 July 1869

Sanssouci near Potsdam

the 18. 7. 1869


I am uncapable to express you my feeling, when I did have the honour to receive your very amiable letter and I beg your pardon, that I have retarded so long-times my answer, because one of my colleagues is dead and I am now obliged to conduct two gardens till to the next October.1

I assure you my dear Sir, I am not only very glad—no I am proud indeed, that you have been so kind to give me the permission, by entering with you in correspondence and I should be only sorry when it would be seeming as when I would publish my small German knowledge— no Sir not at all, my intention is only to send it to you, perhaps that then one or the other object would be interesting for you and worth to find a small place in your publications.2

I should be glad, when I could give you more then only some proofs of my practical experience, but you know very well, the Gardener has much business and so you may excuse me when I talk about an object not quite scientifically and sometimes also more as it would be necessary.—

For the first, I send you some arguments about the more or less constancy of trees and shrubs variety’s seedling’s and also some remarkable facts of some woody climbers, changing their character in an older state; with the next letter I suppose to deliver to you interesting examples; where grafted trees have changed their characteristic etc.—

But forgive me my very dear Sir, when I am unpolite, molesting you so long-times.—

I wish, that your weakness may not derange you longer and my letter may find you healthy and happy.—

With my greatest respects and the assurance of my attraction at all times | I am dear Sir | Your very obedient servant | Ad. Reuter

[Enclosure 1]

The propagation by seeds of different trees and shrubs’ varietys and their resultance:

1. Acer Pseudoplatanus foliis variegatis: Travelling with Mr. Linné, the late Director of our Royal Gardens, I did find near Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) in the Garden of a medicine a very fine looking exemplar of Acer Pseudoplat. foliis variegatis.3 The tree was nearly 1 foot big and the ground round the Acer covered with white spotted seedlings, what is most remarkables indeed, because the possessor did affirm me that it were the same appearance every year.

2. Acer Pseudoplatanus foliis purpureis,4 which has the under site of the leaves red coloured, exist also in our Botan. Garden at Berlin as a beautiful tree. Mr. Bouché, Inspector of the Garden, was so kind to show me last autumn some pots full of seedlings, where all the young plants did have the same peculiarity like the mother-tree.

3. Berberis vulgaris foliis purpureis,5 from this fine coloured shrub exist at Sanssouci a strong exemplar and I was sawing very often the fruits, but (between 100 plants) I was only so happy to find 1–2 red exemplars; all the others were green leaved like the mother plant.—

An argument, that no rule is without exception may be, that we did receive very often Seedlings for our nursery of trees etc. from Mr. Grundel at Offenbach and Mr. Dauveli at Orléans,6 where between 100 and more red leaved plants seldom one green leaved was discovered.—

4. Corylus Avellana foliis laciniatis (urticaefolia), I saw this shrub (at Magdeburgh in the Garden of Mr. Häneb) propagated by seeds and it was about 13 of the seedlings constant, the other did have the common character.7

5. Corylus Avellana foliis purpureis has sometimes the affection so generate by seeds mostly red seedlings but also sometimes 13 red plants, 13 with red brown leaves and 13 with common green leaves. The first case passed in the Garden of Mr. Vogel at Potsdam, the other in my garden at Sanssouci.8

6. From the common Daphne Mezereum (with red flower and berry), we did have in our nursery of trees etc also a variety with yellow flower and fruit — Daphne Mezereum fructa lutea.9 More then six times I was sawing the fruits of the last variety and allways I was so happy to bring up again plants like the mother shrub (without any exception.).—

7. Fagus sylvatica foliis purpureis 10 Seedlings I have seen not only in Germany also in Belgium and the resultance was: 13 with fine red coloured, 13 with rust-brown and the other 13 with quite green leaves.

8. Some years ago I did receive by a Gentleman a great quantity of seeds, from Fraxinus excelsior monophylla (simplicifolia), which I was sawing directly. The resultance has been extraordinarily because between more then 3–400 seedlings were not more then about 30 exemplars, looking like the mother-plant, all the other seedlings were common ashs.—

9. From Quercus pedunculata var. pyramidalis 11 I did saw also often the glans and mostly the seedlings has been again fine looking pyramidal trees, the rest allways more or less slightly or quite complete common Oaks.

10. Quercus pedunculata foliis argent. variegatis,12 I did also propagate by glans but the essays has been not succeeding because between about 100 plants only two did have the leaves a little spotted.

11. Very interesting indeed has been the resultances of the Quercus pedunculatæ foliis argent. marginalis,13 one of the finest varietys, where all the leaves have small white edges and the glans also is white striped.

I was so glad to receive 30 Seedlings but all and every plant was covered with leaves so white as snow and curious fact the little oaks were expiring in some months, because the nature did not like to protect the existence of them.

12. Ribes nigrum crispum (aconitifolium) (spectabile) I propagated 8 years ago also by seeds and obtained 13 common black currants, 13 like the mother plant and 13 with frizzled leaves, which was called by Prof. Koch Ribes nigrum apiifolium.14

The last again to propagate by seeds, was quite impossible because my seedling did never show a flower, he was a regular monstrosity and I was allways obliged to propagate by cuttings.

13. For to be sure, that berry varietys could be also propagated sometimes by seeds, I slected Ribes rubrum var. cerasiferum (Grosseille à cerise).15 In the fourth year all the seedlings did show their fruits and alltogether so also the leaves were looking like the mother plant.

14. Rubus laciniatus I was very often sawing nd between all the seedlings and the mother was never a difference, so that I believe it will be perhaps a pure species!— 16

15. Thuja orientalis var. aurea 17 is also sometimes propagated by seeds and a great quantity of the young plants has then the same originellity as the old plant.

16. Thuja occidentalis var. Wareana 18 was also propagated in our Botan. Garden at Berlin by seeds and all the seedlings did have a similar appearance as the mother tree.

17. Taxus hibernica (fastigiata.)19

A friend at England was so kind to give me one day a small portion of Seed, which rised in the second year, but also not one plant did have the character like T. hibernica. The were alltogether looking like the common Yew with the exception of 3 exemplars, growing more pyramidal like Taxus baccata var. erecta.

At least I mention yet two examples of 2 very known species of Spiraea, which I was propagating by seeds: Spiraea callosa and Douglasii.20

18. Spiraea Douglasii one of our oldest red flowering Spiraees, I was allways obliged to propagate by cuttings, because between more then 400 seedlings scarsely 10 exemplars has been, which did have the same figure like Sp. Douglasii, the seedlings were representing the forms: Billardi, eximia, carpinifolia etc.21 so that I believe, we are not more in the possession of the right old Spiraea Douglasii or what also possible — it is only a variety.—

The same resultance was stated at Muskau in Prussia (Possession of His Roy. H. the Prince of Low-land.)22

19. Spiraea callosa this nice and very much estimated Spiraea was propagated all and every year in our nursery in great quantity and allways the curiosity has been, that some exemplars (between 5-600) did have red grape-like flowers and not like all the other umbelliferous, also the leaves were differently looking.

Because the variety was trained at Sanssouci so Prof. Koch did give her the signification Spiraea Sanssouciana. Some times later we did receive from England Sp. Nobleana, trained at Bagshot (?) and Sp. Regeliana from Frankfurth trained in Mr. Rinz’s nursery, but all the three varietys seemed me to have the same mother— that is to say—Sp. Callosa!—23

Climbers changing their character in an elder state:—

1. Hedera Helix the common Ivy with all his varietys is allways changing the physicomie, when he is beginning to show his flowers and it is a very curious fact that propagated in this period by cuttings the Ivy will not accept again his original character. We find this form announced in the Catalogues of the nursery men as Hedera Helix arbuscula.24

2. Lonicera brachypoda has as a creeper allways more tender leaves but because the plant in our country will be very often attacked by the frost, so we find her sometimes cultivated in pots on sticks, 2-3’ long, where the leaves are changing their character in a manner that they are looking like evergreen as the leaves of a Viburnum Tinus.—25

3. In a similar way as the first it is also the case with Decumaria barbara.—

4. Cissus acuminata, a fine looking climber from the Himalaya is allways in my country a very sensible plant and is to be covered in the winter. Some plants standing on a wall are at once producing on the top very notable leaves (Cissus acuminata. [symbol].) what is indeed very curious, because I never saw such a fact at the similar Cissus quinquefolia (Ampelopsis hederacea).26

5. Ficus stipulata (a) is no dought the most interesting example of all because planted on the wall one our houses (for forcing beans) would not change her character till to the time where she was showing the fruits, then the now leaves at once were beginning to be larger and longer, so that no person would know again the Ficus stipulata27

In our Botan. Garden at Berlin is such a shrub propagated by a fruit-branch in a pot, which is every year full of fruits and which will never return again to his true character.

The fact is almost incredible, but Mr. Bouché,28 Inspector of the Roy. Botan. Garden at Berlin is capable to affirm the truth.—

[Enclosure 2]

[Reuter enclosed a number of leaves: see plates on pp. 324 and 325.]

CD annotations

2.1 Acer] ‘acer’ added above pencil
34.1 In … character. 34.3] scored pencil
Top of enclosure: ‘[illeg] Plants & [illeg]ink
End of enclosure: ‘Herr Reuter | of Sanscouci, Potsdam | Inheritance. Difference (like Ivy) between leaves of Branches & flowering Branches can be propagated & do not [revert]ink


See letter to Adolph Reuter, 2 June 1869.
In his letter of 2 June 1869, CD advised Reuter to publish his observations on horticulture.
‘Foliis variegatis’: with variegated leaves (Latin) Acer pseudoplatanus is the sycamore maple; there is a cultivar ‘variegatum’. Reuter also refers to Peter Joseph Lenné.
‘Foliis purpureis’: with purple leaves. The cultivar Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Atropurpureum’ has leaves that are dark green above with purple undersides.
Berberis vulgaris is the common barberry; there is a cultivar ‘variegata’.
Offenbach is a city in Hesse, Germany, on the river Main near Frankfurt; Mr Grundel has not been identified. Orléans is a city in north-central France in the Loire valley. Mr Dauveli has not been identified.
‘Foliis laciniatis (urticaefolia)’: with slashed leaves (nettle-like leaves). Corylus avellana is the hazel tree; the modern cultivar is called C. avellana ‘heterophylla’ (the cutleaf hazel).
There are now several red or purple cultivars of Corylus avellana; in some varieties, like ‘Rote Zeller’ the anthocyanins (red pigments) are affected by temperature and humidity.
The more common form of Daphne mezereum (‘rubrum’) has pink flowers and red berries. The form Reuter describes as ‘fructa lutea’ (yellow fruit) is the modern ‘album’, which has cream flowers and yellow fruit.
Fagus sylvatica is the beech tree; ‘purpurea’ is the most common purple-leaf variety.
Quercus pedunculata is now Q. robur (the English oak or pedunculate oak); the variety ‘pyramidalis’ is now ‘fastigiata’ (cypress oak).
‘Foliis argent. variegalis’: with silver variegated leaves.
‘Foliis argent. marginalis’: with silver-edged leaves.
Ribes nigrum is the blackcurrant. ‘Crispum (aconitifolium) (spectabile)’: curled (with aconite-like leaves) (showy). Ribes apiifolium is now considered to be a synonym of R. nigrum. Reuter also refers to Karl Heinrich Emil Koch and Koch 1869–73, 1: 661.
Ribes rubrum is the redcurrant. ‘Cerasiferum’: bearing wax (Latin). ‘Grosseille à cerise’ (cherry currant) is not a currently recognised variety, however, there is a western North American species, Ribes cereum, the wax currant.
Rubus laciniatus is the cut-leaved blackberry and is a distinct species.
Thuja orientalis is now Platycladus orientalis, the oriental arborvitae; ‘aurea nana’ is a modern golden-leaved variety.
Thuja occidentalis is the eastern white cedar; ‘Wareana’ is a cultivar with blue-green leaves.
Taxus hibernica is now T. baccata ‘hibernica’ (the Irish yew); T. baccata ‘fastigiata’ is a synonym. T. baccata ‘erecta’ is a cultivar of the English yew.
Spireaea is meadowsweet. S. douglasii is sometimes called western spiraea.
Spiraea x billardii is a hybrid of S. douglasii x S. salicifolia; S. eximia and S. carpinifolia are synonyms of S. salicifolia (willow spiraea).
Muskau Park is a large English-style park founded in 1815 in Prussia (the park is now in both Germany and Poland). It was taken over by Prince Frederick of the Netherlands and extended from 1852 to 1881 (Oxford companion to gardens).
Spiraea sanssouciana is a synonym of S. douglasii (see Berliner allgemeine Gartenzeitung 25 (1857): 214 for Koch’s description). Spiraea nobleana is a synonym of S. douglasii; Charles Noble was the owner of a nursery in Bagshot (Post Office directory of the six home counties). Reuter also refers to the nursery in Frankfurt am Main founded by Sebastian Rinz.
The cultivar Hedera helix ‘arbuscula’ (‘small tree’) has not been identified.
Lonicera brachypoda is now L. japonica (Japanese honeysuckle). Viburnum tinus is laurustinus.
Reuter refers to Cissus acuminata A. Gray (now Vitis acuminata) and to C. acuminata Thwaites. Cissus quinquefolia or Ampelopsis hederacea is now Parthenocissus quinquefolia (American ivy).
Ficus stipulata is now F. pumila (climbing fig).
Carl David Bouché.


Koch, Karl Heinrich Emil. 1869–73. Dendrologie. Bäume Sträucher und Halbsträucher, welche in Mittel- und Nord-Europa im Freien kultivirt werden. 2 vols. Erlangen: F. Enke.

Oxford companion to gardens: The Oxford companion to gardens. Consultant editors Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe and Susan Jellicoe; executive editors Patrick Goode and Michael Lancaster. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1986.

Post Office directory of the six home counties: Post Office directory of the six home counties, viz., Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. London: W. Kelly & Co. 1845–78.


Sends notes on lack of variation in seedlings of trees and shrubs

and on climbers changing their character with age.

Letter details

Letter no.
Adolf Reuter
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Sans Souci, Potsdam
Source of text
DAR 176: 125
Physical description
4pp, encl Amem 8pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6836,” accessed on 19 November 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17