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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Peter Henderson   16 December 1876

Peter Henderson, | Seedsman and Florist. | New York,

Greenhouses, Jersey City Heights, N.J. | Seed Store, No. 35 Cortlandt Street, New York,

December 16 1876

Mr Charles Darwin,

Dear Sir,

Yours is at hand, and bearing on the subject in question I may state the fact that during the past ten years, I have propagated and sold an average of two millions of plants annually,—mostly Greenhouse and Store plants— This is a greater number perhaps, than is propagated by any one establishment in Europe, This immense number of subjects has given me opportunities of observation equal to that of any man of my age, and in many instances I think I have seen branches “sports” as distinctly marked as that of the Cytisus laburnum and C. purpureus.1 We grow here large numbers of Bouvardia Hogarth—from that we have bud variations from the original Carmine color, of Pure White lilac & striped pink & white, all from “cuttings” taken from the original variety— Again from the pure rich Scarlet colored seedling “Monthly” Carnation we have pure white, striped & light rose color again all from cuttings, from the one original plant, and even the leaves of the “sports” are so markedly different in the Bouvardias, that any one familiar can pick them out the red from the white when not in flower.—2 I have at this date a plant of Hibiscus rosea sinensis—in full bloom, (the original color of which is dark crimson) and on the plant is some six flowers of the crimson color, and two on a shoot of deep orange yellow!—3 I have cultivated from the same stock for the past 15 years, and I am certain as I am of my existence that there never was a plant either buded or grafted here, nor would there be any likely hood of it ever having been done any where else,— I think all nature cries against the belief— Every generation has a distinct individuality, that in my humble opinion cannot be blended unless by generation,— I have not got your second Edition of Plants & Animals under Domestication”,4 but will get it at once, and trust that my desire to get at truth will enable me to read it with a mind free from prejudice, even though it uproot the settled convictions of my 30 years experience of Plant culture.—

Very truly yours | Peter Henderson


CD’s letter to Henderson has not been found. In his letter of 15 November 1876, Henderson had criticised CD’s views on graft hybrids; see also Henderson [1875], pp. 49–50. CD described Cytisus adami, a hybrid of C. laburnum and C. purpureus in Variation 1: 387–91. Cytisus adami is a synonym of +Laburnocytisus adamii, C. laburnum is a synonym of Laburnum anagyroides (the common laburnum), and C. purpureus is a synonym of Chamaecytisus purpureus, purple broom.
Hogarth was a horticultural variety produced from a cross of Bouvardia longiflora and B. leiantha by the nurserymen E. G. Henderson and Son of Wellington Road, St John’s Wood, London (Proceedings of the Royal Horticultural Society of London 1 (1859–61): 276–7). Monthly or perpetual carnations were continually flowering varieties, the result of long hybridisation of Dianthus caryophyllus (Allwood [1912], pp. 1–8).
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is the China rose or Chinese hibiscus.
Variation 2d US ed. was published in 1876 (Freeman 1977).


Allwood, Montagu Charles. [1912.] The perpetual flowering carnation: with a chapter on the American system of carnation culture, by George W. Allwood. London: Cable Printing and Publishing Co.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Henderson, Peter. [1875.] Gardening for pleasure. A guide to the amateur in the fruit, vegetable, and flower garden, with full directions for the greenhouse, conservatory, and window-garden. New York: Orange Judd Company.

Variation 2d US ed.: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. New York: D. Appleton. 1876.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


His long experience with propagation of Cytisus and other "sports".

Letter details

Letter no.
Peter Henderson
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
New York
Source of text
DAR 166: 141
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10725,” accessed on 2 October 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24