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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Gardeners’ Chronicle   [before 1 December 1855]

In my communication of last week it is printed by mistake that the fruit of “evergreens,” instead of the fruit of the Euonymus, did not sink after immersion in salt water during a month. I may add that I think that the experiments on immersion of seeds in sea water have some little interest, as showing that we cannot infer from seeds of certain orders long retaining their power of germination in a dry condition, that these same seeds will retain it under different conditions. Thus the Solaneæ and Leguminosæ are believed to keep longest when preserved in the ordinary way in a dry state, and the Solaneæ seem generally to resist well the salt water, whereas most Leguminosæ resist much worse, as I have shown in your number of the 26th May, than other orders. I have lately tested this conclusion with quite fresh seeds of Trifolium incarnatum and Kidney Beans. Indeed with respect to some Leguminosæ I have reason to believe that a short immersion in plain water will kill them. So with respect to the subject lately discussed in your columns, namely how long seeds will remain alive when buried in damp earth, I do not see that any safe conclusion can be drawn from the length of time during which the same seeds can retain their vitality whilst dry. C. Darwin, Down, Bromley, Kent.


Corrects a misprint in his letter [1783].

Adds that his experiments show that one cannot infer from the vitality of seeds under dry conditions that they will be preserved in different conditions. Cites the poor ability of Leguminosae to withstand immersion.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Gardeners’ Chronicle
Sent from
Source of text
Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, no. 48, 1 December 1855, p. 789

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1787,” accessed on 17 May 2022,

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