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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Gardeners’ Chronicle   19 February [1877]1

In the last number of the Gardeners’ Chronicle (p. 203) Mr Henslow quotes my words that “the seeds from which the self-fertilised plants of the third generation” (of Petunia) were raised were not well ripened.”2 The word self-fertilised is a misprint for crossed, as he would have seen if he had looked to the full account of my experiments given at p. 191, where I say, “The sole conjecture which I can form is that the crossed seeds had not been sufficiently ripened, &c.”3 But I have no right to expect a critic to take so much trouble, and I am much obliged to him for having led me to detect this unfortunate misprint. Mr. Henslow then goes on to say that “Mr. Darwin also accounts for the greater growth of the eighth generation of Ipomœa from them having been raised from unhealthy seeds.” He ought, I think, to have added that the greater growth of the self-fertilised plants was confined to the early part of their lives, & that they were ultimately beaten in height by the crossed plants in the ratio of one hundred to eighty-five. It was this anomalous manner of growth which led me to compare these plants with those of Iberis which were raised from seeds not well ripened.4 I have long been convinced that controversy is a mere waste of time; I will, therefore, not make any other remarks on Mr. Henslow’s criticisms, though I think that I could answer them satisfactorily. I hope that any reader who is interested in the subject will not take Mr. Henslow’s interpretation of my statements without consulting my book.

Charles Darwin, February 19.


The year is established by the date of publication of this letter in Gardeners’ Chronicle.
George Henslow’s review of Cross and self fertilisation appeared in seven parts in Gardeners’ Chronicle (13 January 1877, p. 42, 3 February 1877, p. 139, 17 February 1877, pp. 203–4, 3 March 1877, pp. 270–1, 17 March 1877, p. 336, 28 April 1877, pp. 534–5, and 5 May 1877, pp. 560–1).
See Gardeners’ Chronicle, 17 February 1877, p. 204. CD compared self-fertilised and crossed specimens of Ipomoea purpurea (morning-glory) over ten generations (see Cross and self fertilisation, pp. 38–43). On specimens of Iberis umbellata (candytuft) raised from less well-ripened seed, see ibid., p. 103.


Cross and self fertilisation 2d ed.: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. London: John Murray. 1878.

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


Replies to some of George Henslow’s criticisms [of Cross and self-fertilisation] made in his article ["Fertilisation of plants", Gard. Chron. n.s. 7 (1877): 203–4].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Gardeners’ Chronicle
Sent from
Source of text
Gardeners’ Chronicle, 24 February 1877, p. 246
Physical description
Printed & AdraftS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10854,” accessed on 13 April 2021,