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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   14 July [1856]1

Down Bromley Kent

July 14th

My dear Dr. Gray

You have been so very kind in giving me information of the greatest use to me;2 that I venture to trouble you with a question, which cannot cause you much trouble.— I have been reading a paper by you on plants on mountains of Carolina, (in London Journal of Botany)3 in which you state that most are the same with the plants of the N. States & Canada.— Now what I want to know is, whether the Alleghenies are sufficiently continuous so that the plants could travel from the north in the course of ages thus far south?4 I remember Bartram makes the same remark with respect to several trees on the Occone Mts.,—not that I know where these Mountains are.—5

How does your memoir on Geograph. Distrib. get on?6 I do heartily wish it was now published; for I have been trying to make out how many plants are common to Europe, which do not range up to the Arctic shores, & they seem to be very few.—

I have just thought of one other question, connected with my subject, which I cannot resist asking.— I have seen it remarked by entomologists, that it often happens that the intermediate varieties connecting together two varieties (& thus showing that such are varieties) are less common or numerous in individuals, than the two varieties themselves.7 If you can enlighten me on this head I shd. be very much obliged. I am inclined to think there must be some truth in it; otherwise varieties would not be so well marked as they often are.— I wrote some time ago, a troublesome letter, in which I begged for information on the amount of variability of your naturalised & your agragrian plants, as compared with other species of the same genera.—8

But I know I have been scandalously troublesome to you.— Can you forgive me? & believe me, Yours truly obliged | Ch. Darwin


Dated by the relationship to the letter to Asa Gray, 2 May [1856].
See letter to Asa Gray, 2 May [1856], and the letters exchanged between Gray and CD in 1855 (Correspondence vol. 5).
A. Gray 1842. CD cited the paper in his species book (Natural selection p. 537) but later cancelled the citation when he found more extensive data in Gray’s ‘Statistics of the flora of the northern United States’ (A. Gray 1856–7).
See Natural selection, p. 537.
William Bartram discussed the flora of Mount Oconee (now called Stratton Mountain) in South Carolina in Bartram 1791, p. 335, which was cited by CD in Natural selection, p. 537 n. 2.
The revised edition of Gray’s Manual of the botany of the northern United States was published later in the year (A. Gray 1856a).
This point is made in Wollaston 1856, pp. 105–6. See CD’s comments in letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 July [1856].


Bartram, William. 1791. Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, the Cherokee country … containing an account of the soil and natural productions of those regions. Philadelphia.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Gray, Asa. 1842. Notes of a botanical excursion to the mountains of North Carolina, &c.; with some remarks on the botany of the higher Alleghany mountains. In a letter to Sir W. J. Hooker. London Journal of Botany 1 (1842): 1–14, 217–37; 2 (1843): 113-25; 3 (1844): 230–42.

Gray, Asa. 1856–7. Statistics of the flora of the northern United States. American Journal of Science and Arts 2d ser. 22: 204–32; 23: 62–84, 369–403.

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.

Wollaston, Thomas Vernon. 1856. On the variation of species with especial reference to the Insecta; followed by an inquiry into the nature of genera. London: John van Voorst.


Asks whether Allegheny Mountains are sufficiently continuous so that plants could travel from north to south along them.

Hopes AG’s work on geographical distribution is progressing, as he has questions on plants common to Europe which do not range up to Arctic.

Are intermediate varieties less numerous in individuals than the varieties they connect?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden (Charles Finney Cox Collection)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1926,” accessed on 15 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6