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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   16 December 1879

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

Dec. 16 1879

My dear Gray

It is uncommonly good of you to have taken so much trouble about the seeds; but it makes me feel rather guilty, for though I was very curious to see them germinate, yet the points in question were not of much importance.1 Ipomœa leptophylla has not yet germinated, but I have a good many seeds to sow again in the early spring, if those already sown do not germinate; & I have often suspected that some kinds of seeds have an obstinate inherited habit of not germinating & dying if sown in the winter.— I have just put 5 of the seeds of Megarrhiza to soak, but only one sinks & this alarms me.— I very much want to see whether the curious heel-like projection at the base of the hypocotyledenous stem, described by Flahault, & which splits the seed-coats so beautifully in other Cucurbitaceæ, is here absent, as I hope & as ought to be the case as the Cotyledons are not with-drawn from the seed-coats.2

Now do not waste your very valuable time, but if you cd. easily send me a score of seeds of the common cotton, (Gossypium), I shd. be glad; for oddly enough I can get no seeds in England. They have written for me to abroad from Kew, but seem doubtful of the result.— The cotyledons behave oddly at night, for when old & only when old they sink downwards, & I did not when I had seedlings investigate the point sufficiently.3

Ever yours very truly | Ch. Darwin


See letter from Asa Gray, 6 November 1879. CD had requested seeds of Ipomoea leptophylla (bush morning-glory) and Megarrhiza californica (a synonym of Marah fabacea, California manroot).
CD figured the ‘projection’ and described his observations on Megarrhiza californica in notes dated between 10 and 30 January 1880 in DAR 209.6: 106–11. For CD’s discussion of Megarrhiza californica and Ipomoea leptophylla, see Movement in plants, pp. 81–4. Charles Flahault commented on the early growth of Citrullus and Cucurbita in Flahault 1877, p. 201. Megarrhiza, Citrullus, and Cucurbita are all in the family Cucurbitaceae.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 29 November 1879. By ‘common cotton’ CD probably meant Gossypium herbaceum (see Movement in plants, p. 303).


Thanks for AG’s trouble about the seeds. Is curious to see their germination and the early seedling growth.

Asks for cotton seeds, as he observes odd movements of the cotyledon.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University (130a)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12357,” accessed on 12 April 2021,