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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   8 March 1877

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

March 8th 77

My dear Gray

Perhaps you wd like to hear what little I have been able to make out about your flowers.

Leucosmia Burnettiana is in all probability dimorphic judging from relative length & positions of stamens & pistils, but more especially from difference in the stigmas of the 2 forms, but the pollen-grains do not differ in size, which is the best evidence.—1

Gilia pulchella: the two forms differ in their stigmas & do not differ in their pollen-grains, & I shd. have left this case quite doubtful, had not G. micrantha differed in exactly the same manner in the stigma, & moreover in the diameter of the pollen-grains: therefore I do not doubt that both Gilias & others to which you allude are truly heterostyled.2

Phlox subulata is a devil incarnate & as bad as Rhamnus: perhaps it was once heterstyled, with the short-styled form since rendered more feminine in nature.3 Altogether I now know on fairly good evidence of 39 genera, in 14 Families, which include heterstyled species.4 This pleases me.

It is dreadful work making out anything about dried flowers; I never look at one without feeling profound pity for all botanists, but I suppose you are used to it like eels to be skinned alive.— With hearty thanks | Ever Yours | Ch. Darwin


In his letter of 22 December 1876 (Correspondence vol. 24), Gray had offered to send two flowers of Leucosmia burnettiana (a synonym of Phaleria disperma, a tropical plant in the family Thymelaeaceae). CD received flowers from Kew and described them in Forms of flowers, pp. 114–15. See also letter to Asa Gray, 3 January 1877.
Gray sent a flower of Gilia aggregata (a synonym of Ipomopsis aggregata, scarlet gilia) with his letter of 6 February 1877. In his letter of 22 December 1876 (Correspondence vol. 24), Gray instructed CD to grow Gilia micrantha (a synonym of Leptosiphon parviflorus, variable linanthus), but CD received damaged flowers from Kew (Forms of flowers, p. 119). CD described both these species in ibid., pp. 118–19.
See letter to Asa Gray, 23 January 1877 and n. 2. Phlox subulata is moss phlox; Rhamnus is the genus of buckthorns. See also Forms of flowers, pp. 119–20.
For the genera and families that CD examined in which heterostyly was present, see Forms of flowers, p. 255.


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.


Leucosmia burnettiana is in all probability dimorphic. Thinks Gilia is truly heterostyled and Phlox subulata was, perhaps, once heterostyled. Has good evidence of heterostyly in 39 genera from 14 families.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Gray Herbarium of Harvard University (117)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10883,” accessed on 9 May 2021,