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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Gibbs   22 February 1877

Writtle Road Chelmsford

22nd February 1877

Dear Sir

Allow me to thank you heartily for the advice you have kindly given in your esteemed favor of yesterday which came duly to hand this morning.1

I have no doubt that one may be much misled by the results of a few experiments in matters on which so many opposing forces come into play. I have now 23 plants of Lychnis Githago from the seeds of a single capsule which I sowed in a row last November.2 I mean to note the day when each of them shall come into flower and will make the results a basis for future experiments. I have chosen that plant as being more manageable than many others though perhaps less variable and suppose that the results I shall obtain will throw light on the variations of Dianthus and other Caryophyllaceæ.3

In the autumn of 1873 I cut a cabbage which proving very tender when cooked I resolved on sowing seed from the plant which I accordingly did and finding a few seeds ripe in the middle of August 1874 I sowed them at once but was disappointed at finding that they had been spoiled apparently by the pollen of Borecole4 and that the leaves were very rough   One of the plants started into flower the first thing in the spring notwithstanding the lateness of the time of sowing. I should have attributed the precocity to the flowers having been crossed but that some seedling plants of Portugal cabbage raised in like manner from seed sown immediately on its ripening in August 1875, blossomed in the spring of 1876 when the plants were no larger than a 10 week stock: which makes me think that the seed first ripened produces plants that will make haste to flower and in the course of several generations would probably give origin to annual plants instead of perennials. Annual and perennial species being frequently found in the same genus. I should imagine the perennial to be the original form.

Wishing you yet many years of active and happy life | I remain | Dear Sir | yours very respectfully | John Gibbs

To | C. Darwin Esqre.


CD’s letter, evidently a reply to Gibbs’s letter of 20 February 1877, has not been found. Gibbs had suggested that the character of seedlings was related to the position of the seed in the inflorescence of the parent plant.
Lychnis githago is a synonym of Agrostemma githago, common corncockle. See letter from John Gibbs, 20 February 1877.
Like the genus Agrostemma, Dianthus (the genus of pinks and carnations) is in the family Caryophyllaceae.
Borecole (curly kale) is a cultivar of the species Brassica oleracea (wild cabbage).


Thanks CD for his advice. No doubt one may be misled by a few experiments in matters on which many forces come into play. Describes his plans to observe the flowering of 23 plants of Lychnis gilhago raised from a single capsule.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Gibbs
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 165: 39
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10860,” accessed on 21 June 2024,