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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Henslow   6 August [1856]1

Down Farnborough Kent

Augt 6th

My dear Henslow

I received your letter dated 2d. only yesterday: I shall not come to Cheltenham, though your presence & L. Jenyns paper would be a great temptation.

I am particularly pleased to hear about the Centaurea, the seed, which you gave me did not germinate.2 Your Ægilops has come up & has ripened seed: I forced it so as not to flower at same time with wheat: it has not varied: you formerly called it Æ. ovata now Æ. squarrosa.—3

The Myosotis was sown in open ground, both in sunny & shady places;4 in former place, whence the specimens sent to you came, it was watered weekly with Guano water. Nearly all the flowers are brightish blue, & only a very few on dwarf branches are pink.— The specimens in the more shady place have the lobes of corolla slightly emarginate. The tube of corolla, in comparison with the Calyx seems to be longer in the blue than in the smaller pinkish flowers.

With respect to seeds: I shd. be extremely glad of any water plants; especially of Callitriche verna, Limosella aquatica & Montia fontana, (if such you have).—5 I want, also, to try whether the ripe pods on heads of seed would float in sea-water; if you could help me by sending a few specimens in Box by Post. I have just been correcting my paper on salting seeds for Linnean Journal.—6

My dear Henslow | Yours most truly | Ch. Darwin

The seed of Rosa tomentosa did not come up.—


This letter was endorsed ‘1858’, but the contents and the relationship to the letter from J. S. Henslow, 2 August 1856, indicate that 1856 is the correct year.
In his Experimental book, p. 3 (DAR 157a), CD recorded that he planted seeds of Centaurea nigra var. decipiens from Henslow on 1 March 1856. In May 1856 he further recorded: ‘Centaurea nigra, var decipiens. Seedling 2d. removed from original plant wild at Bath. From Henslow Hitcham. 1855.’
See letter from J. S. Henslow, 2 August 1856. CD’s Experimental book, p. 1 (DAR 157a), includes the entry: ‘Ægilops ovata, seed from Henslow “(2d generation in Hitcham Garden 1855”.—’. On the facing page adjoining the entry, CD wrote: ‘(Henslow, now Augt 6th 56 calls it Æ squarrosa)’.
CD had also asked Joseph Dalton Hooker, in the letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 [July 1856], for specimens of these water plants.
CD’s paper ‘On the action of sea-water on the germination of seeds’, read 6 May 1856, was published in Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 1 (1857): 130–40 (Collected papers 1: 264–73).


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.


Reports on results of forcing and other attempts to produce variations in plants. Asks for some seeds.

Is correcting his Linnean Society paper ["On the action of sea-water", Collected papers 1: 264–71].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Stevens Henslow
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 93: A55–A56
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1939,” accessed on 27 January 2022,

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