skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Gardeners’ Chronicle   [before 29 December 1855]

As several different statements have been published on how far the different varieties of our fruit trees produce seedlings like their parents, I think very interesting information might be given by some few of your correspondents who may have carefully sown named seeds and have noted the result. Jourdan (in the “Mémoires de l’Acad. de Lyons,” vol. ii., p. 94, 114)1 states most positively that he has tried repeatedly, and that all the many seedlings which he raised from the same variety of fruit tree resembled each other in foliage and general manner of growth as perfectly as do the young plants of any wild species whatever; and therefore that they differed from the seedlings of every other variety of the same fruit tree. Hence, also, as he asserts, the seedlings of one variety can never be confounded by an experienced eye with those of another variety, being as distinct as were their parents. Moreover, he states that the fruit of seedling Pears and Apples, though differing greatly in size, succulency, and flavour from those of their parents, yet resemble them in the more important characters of form and in the nature of their seeds. On the other hand Van Mons2 asserts that he sometimes raised from the seed of one variety of Pear a quite distinct kind; but it now appears that Van Mons was careless in marking the varieties sown.3 If any one can give accurate information on this curious subject, I hope that he will be so kind as to take the trouble to do so; and will give, as far as he can, some idea what proportion of seedlings are produced which resemble their parents in foliage and general habit; for if seedlings differ from their parents only in a few rare instances, this might perhaps be attributed to an accidental cross from some neighbouring tree. Is it known whether some varieties of Pears and Apples tend to produce truer offspring than other varieties? Plums are said to come very true. Mr. Rivers,4 and possibly others, could probably give very interesting details on this head. C. Darwin.


CD had read Alexis Jordan’s article on fruit-trees (Jordan 1852) in September 1855 (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 128: 14). His copy of the volume of the M’{emoires de l’Academie Royal des Sciences, Belles-Lettres, et Arts de Lyon}, in which the article appeared, is in the Darwin Library–CUL. On the cover, CD wrote ‘Given me by Dr Lindley’.
Thomas Rivers, nurseryman, specialised in fruit-trees and roses. He was a regular contributor to the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette. CD cited him frequently in Variation.


CD requests accurate information on the extent to which the different varieties of fruit-trees produce seedlings like their parents. Do some varieties of pears and apples tend to produce truer offspring than other varieties?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Gardeners’ Chronicle
Sent from
Source of text
Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, no. 52, 29 December 1855, p. 854

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1803,” accessed on 22 August 2019,

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