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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Henslow   11 July [1855]

Down Farnborough Kent

July 11th

My dear Henslow

As I see Babington makes some differences between Lychnis diurna & vespertina; & as he says that the red species is sometimes white, & white sometimes red,1 it strikes me as quite necessary that a good specimen, of the same plant from which the seeds were got or from same group of plants shd. be dried as a standard of comparison, shd. I succeed in making the seedlings from your seed sport & vary.— Do you not think that this will be quite necessary?— otherwise it will be asserted that it was a red var. of L. vespertina.

I have planted part of the seed in good sunny ground, & as soon as I can get young plants, I will begin to manure & torture them in every way, which I can think of.—

I have, also, some Myosotis in two situations; but I care most about the Lychnis, as Gærtner has laboriously experimented on its powers of crossing.2

Ever your’s most truly | C. Darwin

Do you think you could by any correspondent get me some seed of the wild Dianthus caryophyllus; I want some to try some experiments in hybridising, & I shd. likewise like to see whether I could break the plant & get pretty varieties.—


Gärtner 1849, pp. 218–19, discussed in Natural selection, pp. 393–4.


Babington, Charles Cardale. 1851. Manual of British botany, containing the flowering plants and ferns arranged according to the natural orders. 3d edition. London: John van Voorst.

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.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.


Asks for advice on establishing a control group in his experiments to produce sports and varieties of Lychnis diurna.

Seeks seeds of wild Dianthus for hybridising and producing varieties.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Stevens Henslow
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 93: A38–A39
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1716,” accessed on 3 February 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5