skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. M. Tracy   11 January 1877

Redlands | Edenbridge Kent

Janry. 11th. 1877


Having observed in “The Times” of today a quotation from the ‘Gardener’s Chronicle’ in which you treat of the scarcity of holly berries this winter, I beg leave to furnish you with a few facts in relation thereto which have come under my own notice.1 It is perfectly true that the berries hereabouts are unusually scarce, but there are two exceptions—one in the case of a young tree in a wood of mine, the other in that of a yellow berried holly growing by the side of a house at Crockham Hill— The former, from which branches have been gathered, was especially provided with an abundance of beautiful coral berries—the latter fairly so, with the yellow variety— Both trees much sheltered from easterly winds— It is to be remembered that the weather in March last spring was wet & comparatively mild, but that in May we had true March weather— To this has been attributed hereabouts not only the scarcity of holly berries but the absence of those of the hawthorn and the limited supply of the fruit of the Apple, the filbert and hedge nut— It happened I was walking one day through a small orchard here with an experienced fruit grower from East Kent— He picked up some apple blossoms—pointing out that they had prematurely fallen, and foretelling a short crop of fruit—a prophecy unfortunately fully verified— In the article referred to you observe that the clover plant in your neighbourhood was very deficient in seed, and that there appeared to be a connection between that & the few bees to be seen in the fields— In this locality there was a great mortality among bees last winter—some keepers lost two thirds of their hives—in one instance I learned eleven out of twelve hives perished— Owing to the dry summer the second growth of clover was very short & thin, yet the flowers were found to be remarkably full of fine plump seed—so much so that a neighbouring farmer assured me that short as the yield of a field would be owing to its stunted growth yet he never knew the individual “heads” so well set

Respecting the hardihood of the common holly I may add that I have seen it stripped of nearly every leaf in a severe season   It has appeared to me that in this climate trees & plants, in themselves hardy, not unfrequently suffer in a severe & sudden fall of temperature through being caught, as it were, in the process of growth—which trees & plants in a more exposed situation would have sooner felt the effect of cold, and assumed a condition similar to that of hybernation2

I venture to send you, Sir, the foregoing facts & observations in the consciousness that their only value lies in the contributing a mite to extended observation, & as such not wholly indifferent to the philosophic student of nature— With much respect | Your obedt. Servant | G Murton Tracy

C— Darwin Esqr


See letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, 3 January [1877]. The letter was reprinted in full in The Times, 11 January 1877, p. 7.
In his letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle of 3 January [1877], CD had remarked that holly-trees would not be affected by spring frosts, since they were hardy as far north as 62° latitude in Norway.


Observations on and explanations of the scarcity of fruit and berries (especially holly berries) evident that year.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Murton Tracy
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 178: 174
Physical description
7pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10779,” accessed on 27 February 2021,