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Darwin Correspondence Project

From James Drummond   17 September 1860

Hawthornden Farm

Sep 17th 1860

Dear Sir,

In compliance with your request,1 I have paid particular attention to the Goodeniaceus plants which I have met with in flower, since I received your letter, I met with Lechenaultiae Grandiflora, in abundance covering the flat top of an ironstone Gravelly hill several acres in extent and so profusely covered with the flowers of this beautiful plant that the whole surface of the ground seems of a blue colour from its blossoms, but I have not been able to learn much relating to this genus which you have not found out by observing L Formosa in your greenhouse, the pollen leaves the anthers long before the flower opens, just when the lips of the indusial cup reaches as high as the filmens which support the anthers, it therefor receives almost their whole contents, when the cup is open to the crown of the Germen    it is here no doubt impregnation takes place whenever it does take place but that comparatively speaking, is a very rare event in plants of this genus    I may safely say that one seed vessel in 500 I would probably be within bounds if I said 5000 ever under any circumstances is fertilized by the pollen, and comes to maturity, the Lechenaultias are all creeping rooted plants at least all the ornamental species and they are altogether independant of seeds for their reproduction2    I have been more sucessful in other genera of this family    the curious Genus Distylis a yellow flowered annual plant growing in this neighbourhood shows clearly the Eoconomy of this family of plants, to understand it the flower but3 must be taken very young long before the flower opens, I then find that the double cupped Indusium which can only be considered two branches of the style, has just risen to the height of the filaments which support the anthers, the anthers and filaments are closely invested by the unexpanded corolla at this stage therefor the whole of the pollen contained in the anthers is discharged into the two indusial cups and it is evident in this plant that impregnation imedeattely takes place, as the seeds which are many in number and large for the size of the plant very soon begin to enlarge, by the time the flower opens the two indusial cups are greatly altered in appearance    they look like two simple ciliated filaments, but by this time the germen is considerably enlarged, I have made observations on another curious annual genus of this order, the capsule of which contains two seeds very large for the size of the plant, and resembling grevilleae in the way they lie in the seed vessel, each seed is furnished with a broad wing which goes all round the seeds    I have examined 2 species I do not know the name of the genus, I shall try and send you seeds of these two species, and distylis    the œconomy with regard to the Anthers and Indusium is exactly the same, as in distylus, neither of them are ornamental plants but I think they will clearly explain the Mystery about the impregnation of the Goodeniaceae

I have not yet been able to make any observations on Brunoniae, the habbitat I knew of near my residence had been destroyed by a flock of sheep grazin over it, and I have not yet found another

I am Sir Your obedient Humble Servant | James Drummond

CD annotations

0.1 Dear … colour 1.5] crossed ink


See the letter to James Drummond, 16 May 1860, in which CD asks for information about the fertilisation of Leschenaultia formosa. Drummond was superintendent of the government botanic gardens in Western Australia, where Leschenaultia is common.
According to a later letter, Drummond wrote two letters to CD on or around 17 September (see letter to James Drummond, 22 November [1860]). The other letter has not been found. It appears that Drummond did not provide CD with information about the activities of insects in the fertilisation of species of Leschenaultia until the end of the year (see letter to James Drummond, 20 December [1860] and n. 4).
Butt: ‘the end or tip of a branch’ (OED).


OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.


Reports observations on the fertilisation of Goodeniaceae, and particularly Leschenaultia. [See 2992.]

Letter details

Letter no.
James Drummond
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Hawthornden Farm
Source of text
DAR 157a

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2920A,” accessed on 1 June 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8