skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To James Torbitt   28 June 1878


June 28, 1878.

My dear Sir

3 lines excised〉 considering to how many risks seedlings are exposed, I cannot but think that the saving of the half the crossed ones, is upon the whole fairly good fortune. The crossed seedling which you sent seemed an extraordinarily fine plant.1

With respect to your question about opening the potato and fertilising the stigma in the bud, it does not seem to me adviseable, and it would cost you much additional labour.2 It is quite likely that the stigma would not then be mature. The maturity with most plants can be judged of by its surface being coated by a very thin layer of viscid fluid. Your plan of obtaining and using the pollen seems to me a very good one. It would be, I believe, quite sufficient if you were to apply the pollen on 2 successive days;—or on one day and then on the third day.

The statements about the dropping off and sterility of the flowers on the old varieties seem to me very interesting.3

Many thanks for your enquiries about my health; until the last week I have been considerably better than usual.

My dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | Chas. Darwin.


In his letter of 26 June 1878, Torbitt said that he had sent specimens from his experimental programme for raising disease-resistant potatoes from seed.
Torbitt had asked CD’s advice on cross-fertilising large numbers of potato varieties in his letter of 26 June 1878.
Torbitt had made these statements about the Skerry Blue and Cruffle potato varieties; see letter from James Torbitt, 26 June 1878.


Discusses methods of fertilising potatoes.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Torbitt
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 148: 105
Physical description
2pp inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11574,” accessed on 16 April 2021,