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Darwin Correspondence Project

To George Bentham   12 July 1877

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

July 12. 1877

My dear Mr Bentham,

I am very much obliged for your corrections about Cleistogamic Plants.— I have great confidence in Gärtner, & my statement was founded on what he says, supported by other observations. He adds that his rule does not apply to cultivated plants, & I should not expect that it would hold good with variable plants in a state of nature. As Verbascum does not I think vary much I was surprised at the case which I record. Your facts clearly show that the rule is very far from always holding good.1

My son Francis & I are trying to make out the function of bloom or waxy secretion on leaves fruit &c of plants; but I much doubt whether we shall succeed.2 It would be a guide to us if you have any decided opinion whether bloom-producing plants are more common under a hot or cold climate, under a dry (such as in Australia or the Cape of Good Hope) or rainy climate. Judging from the plants of England, the species which grow close to the sea seem to be often covered with bloom. If you can give us any hints we should be greatly obliged.

Believe me, my dear Mr Bentham | Yours sincerely | Charles Darwin


See letter from George Bentham, 10 July 1877. Bentham had queried CD’s statement in Forms of flowers, p. 79, that hybrids of the first generation, if raised from uncultivated plants, were generally uniform in character. CD made the statement in the context of a discussion of wild and highly variable first-generation hybrids of Verbascum lychnitis (white mullein) and V. thapsus (great or common mullein; see also ‘Specific difference in Primula, p. 454). CD’s heavily annotated copy of Karl Friedrich von Gärtner’s Bastarderzeugung im Pflanzenreich (Creation of plant hybrids; Gärtner 1849) is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 256–98).
For CD and Francis Darwin’s work on bloom, see the letter to Fritz Müller, 14 May 1877 and n. 2.


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

Gärtner, Karl Friedrich von. 1849. Versuche und Beobachtungen über die Bastarderzeugung im Pflanzenreich. Mit Hinweisung auf die ähnlichen Erscheinungen im Thierreiche, ganz umgearbeitete und sehr vermehrte Ausgabe der von der Königlich holländischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Stuttgart: E. Schweizerbart.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

‘Specific difference in Primula’: On the specific difference between Primula veris, Brit. Fl. (var. officinalis of Linn.), P. vulgaris, Brit. Fl. (var. acaulis, Linn.), and P. elatior, Jacq.; and on the hybrid nature of the common oxlip. With supplementary remarks on naturally produced hybrids in the genus Verbascum. By Charles Darwin. [Read 19 March 1868.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 10 (1869): 437–54.


Thanks GB for corrections to chapter on cleistogamic flowers [Forms of flowers].

Asks for his opinion on "bloom"-producing plants in different climates.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Bentham
Sent from
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Bentham Correspondence, Vol. 3, Daintree–Dyer, 1830–84, GEB/1/3: f. 721)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11049,” accessed on 27 February 2021,