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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Federico Delpino   25 June [1873]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

June 25th

My dear Sir

I thank you sincerely for your letter. I am very glad to hear about Lathyrus odoratus; for here in England the vars. never cross, & yet are sometimes visited by Bees.2 Pisum sativum, I have also many times seen visited by Bombus. I believe the cause of the many vars. not crossing is that under our climate the flowers are self-fertilised at an early period before the corolla is fully expanded.3 I shall examine this point with L. odoratus.4

I have read H. Müller’s book, and it seems to me very good. Your criticism had not occurred to me, but is, I think just, viz that it is much more important to know what insects habitually visit any flower, than the various kinds which occasionally visit it.—5 Have you seen A. Kerners book “Schutzmittel des Pollens: 1873: Innspruck.”—6 It is very interesting, but he does not seem to know anything about the work of other authors.

I have Bentham’s paper in my house, but have not yet had time to read a word of it. He is a man with very sound judgment & fully admits the principle of evolution.—7

With many thanks for your kindness, I remain Dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin

I have lately had occasion to look over again your discussion on anemophilous plants, & I have again felt much admiration at your work.—8


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Federico Delpino, 18 June 1873.
For CD’s observations on Pisum sativum, see Cross and self fertilisation, pp. 160–2.
CD concluded that Lathyrus odoratus, though self-fertilised in Britain, was not fertilised before the corolla opened (see Cross and self fertilisation, p. 156).
Anton Kerner’s Die Schutzmittel des Pollens gegen die Nachtheile vorzeitiger Dislocation und gegen die Nachtheile vorzeitiger Befeuchtung (Preventive measures of pollen against damage by premature dislocation and moistening; Kerner 1873), is cited in Cross and self fertilisation.
See letter from Federico Delpino, 18 June 1873 and n. 8. CD’s annotated copy of Bentham 1873a is in the collection of unbound journals, Darwin Library–CUL. On George Bentham’s support for evolution, see Bentham 1863 and Correspondence vol. 11, letter to George Bentham, 19 June [1863].
For Delpino’s work on anemophily (pollination by means of the wind), see especially Delpino 1871. CD discussed Delpino’s work on anemophilous plants in Cross and self fertilisation, pp. 400–14.


Bentham, George. 1863. [Anniversary address, 25 May 1863.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 7 (1864): xi–xxix.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Kerner, Anton. 1873. Die Schutzmittel des Pollens gegen die Nachtheile vorzeitiger Dislocation und gegen die Nachtheile vorzeitiger Befeuchtung. Berichte des naturwissenschaftlich-medizinischen Vereins in Innsbruck 3: 100–68.

Müller, Hermann. 1873. Die Befruchtung der Blumen durch Insekten und die gegenseitigen Anpassungen beider. Ein Beitrag zur Erkenntniss des ursächlichen Zusammenhanges in der organischen Natur. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.


Discusses role of insects in crossing varieties of Lathyrus odoratus and other species.

Comments on Hermann Müller [Die Befruchtung der Blumen (1873)],

and Anton Kerner ["Die Schutzmittel des Pollens", Ber. Naturwiss. Med. Ver. Innsbruck, 3 (1873): 100–68].

Admires FD’s work on anemophilous plants.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Federico Delpino
Sent from
Source of text
Anna Barone (private collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8951,” accessed on 24 October 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21