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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   23 January 1877

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

Jan 23. 77

My dear Gray,

Thanks for the card about Pontederia, & I have written to Mr Leggett.1 I am going to trouble you once again but I honestly believe for the last time. In a letter dated Nov 21, 1870 you say that Phlox subulata presents two forms which have been named as species & which you are inclined to think is a case of di or tri morphism: you speak of this as a common species, & if so could you send me two or three dried flowers of the different forms that I might compare their pollen grains & stigmas.2 In the same letter you mention Gilia aggregata (pulcella) with the stamens & pistils varying much in length; I suppose this is a rare plant; but if not so, I should much like to examine the two forms.—3

Forgive me & believe me | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The card has not been found, but Gray had asked William Henry Leggett to write to CD about Pontederia cordata (pickerel weed; see letter from W. H. Leggett, 15 January 1877). CD’s letter to Leggett of 22 January 1877 evidently crossed in the post with Leggett’s.
See Correspondence vol. 18, letter from Asa Gray, 21 November 1870. Gray’s description of Phlox species is in A. Gray 1870, pp. 248–58, and his discussion of P. subulata and P. nivalis is in ibid., pp. 248, 252. Gray suggested that the two species might be different forms of the same species; CD referred to Gray’s conclusions in Forms of flowers, p. 120.
In A. Gray 1870, p. 275, Gray wrote of Gilia: ‘the tendency to dimorphism, of which there are traces, or perhaps rather incipient manifestations in various portions of the genus, is most marked in G. aggregata’. CD quoted him in Forms of flowers, p. 118. Gilia aggregata, a synonym of Ipomopsis aggregata (scarlet gilia), is highly variable, and as a result various epithets including pulchella have been applied to it (see A. Gray 1870; see also Grant and Wilken 1986, p. 359).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Forms of flowers: The different forms of flowers on plants of the same species. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1877.

Gray, Asa. 1870. Revision of the North American Polemoniaceae. [Read 14 June 1870.] Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 8 (1873): 247–82.


Thanks AG for card about Pontederia.

Asks for specimens of Phlox subulata and Gilia aggregata to check for dimorphism.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Gray Herbarium of Harvard University (120)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10811,” accessed on 7 May 2021,