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Darwin Correspondence Project

From James Drummond   8 October 1860

Hawthornden Farm

October 8th | 1860

Dear Sir,

Since I wrote you by the last mail for England1 I have met with Brunoniæ,2 in flower I ⁠⟨⁠wa⁠⟩⁠s anxious to see it as I perceive that Dr. Lindley, has made of it a ⁠⟨⁠se⁠⟩⁠parate Order,3 whatever other ⁠⟨⁠diffe⁠⟩⁠rences may exist between it ⁠⟨⁠and Goo⁠⟩⁠deniaceæ, it agrees with it ⁠⟨⁠in the⁠⟩⁠ remarkable character of ⁠⟨⁠the an⁠⟩⁠thers discharging their pollen some days before the flower expands, in Brunoniæ the stigma surrounded by the open indusium, passes up between the anthers when discharging ⁠⟨⁠the⁠⟩⁠ pollen, and when the flower opens ⁠⟨⁠the⁠⟩⁠ stigma is seen with the lips of the indusium closed over it, but in this genus there are no overlapping Ciliæ, and it is easily opened, I observed a small bee bussily ⁠⟨⁠em⁠⟩⁠ployed in extracting the pollen, but I suppose there is always e⁠⟨⁠nough⁠⟩⁠ left to fertilize the seed, b⁠⟨⁠ees⁠⟩⁠ cannot reach the anthers ⁠⟨⁠of⁠⟩⁠ this Genus    they remain incl⁠⟨⁠osed in⁠⟩⁠ the undivided part of ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ of the flower,

I have ⁠⟨⁠observed⁠⟩⁠ several Goodeniaceus plants in which the lips of the indusium never closes, in one a large blue flowered plant I have by ⁠⟨⁠me⁠⟩⁠ at present, the pollen is ⁠⟨⁠shed⁠⟩⁠ as ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ into the indusial cup when it is not more than a tenth part of an inch high, but by the time the flower is fully expanded the stigma crowned with the indusium has grown to be full half an inch high, it occupies the upper part ⁠⟨⁠of⁠⟩⁠ the flower while the five ⁠⟨⁠divis⁠⟩⁠ions of the corolla occupy ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠, the lips of the open ⁠⟨⁠indusium⁠⟩⁠ is well protected from insects or wet by a mass of long white hairs,

I inclose you a few seeds of the curious Genus distyllus 4    if they grow with you I think ⁠⟨⁠they⁠⟩⁠ will clearly explain the ⁠⟨⁠wh⁠⟩⁠ole curious process of fertilization ⁠⟨⁠in⁠⟩⁠ this family, what appear as two very questionable styles when the flower opens, are seen when examined early enough to be two funnel shaped membranes beautifully adaped for the use for which they evidently intend⁠⟨⁠ed⁠⟩⁠ to convey the pollen to the st⁠⟨⁠igma⁠⟩⁠    in this genus and the two sp⁠⟨⁠ecies⁠⟩⁠ of another which I describ⁠⟨⁠ed in⁠⟩⁠ my last letter, the Peta⁠⟨⁠ls, stamens,⁠⟩⁠ indusial cup, and St⁠⟨⁠igma are⁠⟩⁠ all deciduous leaving only the calyx, and fertilized seed-vessels, I have observed a curious property in the seeds of Disty⁠⟨⁠lus⁠⟩⁠ wherever they happen to lie ⁠⟨⁠when⁠⟩⁠ the first shower of rain f⁠⟨⁠alls⁠⟩⁠ on them, earth, stones, Gum leaves, &c, they adhere firmly by a sort of gummy matter which surrounds the seed, a simillar property exists in the seeds of several ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ Compositae of the tribe ⁠⟨⁠An⁠⟩⁠gianthæ particularly in the ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ plant which Steets in the ⁠⟨⁠Plantae⁠⟩⁠ Preissiana, refers to Styloncerus ⁠⟨⁠humifusus⁠⟩⁠ of Labillardiere,5 the little acheniæ of this plant are elegant cup-shaped little things, very beautiful when examined with a high power of the Microscope, these fall off and are blown about by the wind ⁠⟨⁠un⁠⟩⁠till a shower of rain falls when they attach themselves to the soil by their lower end at the same time setting themselves perfectly upright, they ornament many a barren spot, in this country throughout the ⁠⟨⁠dry season⁠⟩⁠ and they are not easily re⁠⟨⁠moved⁠⟩⁠    floods of several hours dur⁠⟨⁠ation⁠⟩⁠ from thunder showers ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ sometimes happen, cannot ⁠⟨⁠remove⁠⟩⁠ them unless it moves the ⁠⟨⁠soil⁠⟩⁠ to which they are attached,6 I inclose you some of the seeds of this curious little plant, it was when trying some experiments with this plant that I first noticed the extraordinary movements that take place in the hairs of plants

I am Sir Your | obedient humble Servant | James Drummond

P.S. We naturally associate in ⁠⟨⁠our⁠⟩⁠ minds the discharge of the ⁠⟨⁠pollen⁠⟩⁠ from the anthers with ⁠⟨⁠the fu⁠⟩⁠ll blown flower, but in the Order Goodeniaceæ it seems to have little connection with it, and in a curious Malvaceus, Sida like, plant we have (I cannot say in flower) for it never flowers but when the flower bud is examined in a very young state it is found to have a large plicate Calyx, very like in shape and size the Calyx of Physalis Peruviana, when that is removed, it is found to have a c⁠⟨⁠orolla of⁠⟩⁠ a pale straw colour clos⁠⟨⁠ely en⁠⟩⁠velloping the anthers and Stigma, ⁠⟨⁠at⁠⟩⁠ this time the anthers ⁠⟨⁠appear⁠⟩⁠ to have shed their po⁠⟨⁠llen and⁠⟩⁠ effectually fertilized the many celled, many seeded Capsule    nothing is ever seen of the Corolla, anthers, or stigmas, of this plant untill they are carried up in ⁠⟨⁠a⁠⟩⁠ withered state on the top of the seed vessel when they are grown so large ⁠⟨⁠as⁠⟩⁠ to burs open the calyx

CD annotations

3.8 I have observed … Servant 4.1] crossed pencil
5.4 flower bud] ‘Good’ added brown crayon, circled brown crayon
5.5 very like … large 5.11] scored brown crayon

CD note:7

Drummond: Oct 8./60/

Bee removing pollen from indusium of Brunonia8 | singular indusium of Distylis | Case of Malvaceous flower which never opens. *& is self fertilised [interl]— like Drosera(?) & Chlora perfoliata?


See letter from James Drummond, 17 September 1860. Drummond lived near Perth, Western Australia.
CD had asked Drummond to observe the fertilisation of various species of Goodeniaceae, plants native to Western Australia. The pollen-cup of Brunonia is very similar to that of the Goodeniaceae.
John Lindley classified Brunonia as the only genus in the order (family, in modern terms) Brunoniaceae (Lindley 1853, p. 657–8).
Distylis is native to Indochina and Australia.
Joachim Steetz contributed the section on Compositae to Lehmann ed. 1844–7, 1: 417–90. In this work, Steetz described three species of Styloncerus, including S. humifusus Spreng., which was also known, Steetz noted, as Siloxerus humifusus (procumbent siloxerus), the name assigned to the species by Jacques-Julien Houtou de Labillardière and the accepted name of this species (ibid., 1: 435). See also letter to Daniel Oliver, 20 December [1860].
CD discussed the nature of gummy seeds in a paper published in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 5 January 1861, pp. 4–5. Although CD primarily discussed the species Pumilio argyrolepis, sent to him by Drummond, he quoted information from this section of the letter in his paper. See Correspondence vol. 9, letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, [before 5 January 1861], and Collected papers 2: 36.
The note is in DAR 162.2: 242/2; it was written on what seems to be the accompanying envelope.
This sentence was marked by CD in ink.


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

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

Lindley, John. 1853. The vegetable kingdom; or, the structure, classification, and uses of plants, illustrated upon the natural system. 3d edition with corrections and additional genera. London: Bradbury & Evans.


Observations of Brunonia and a case of a malvaceous flower, which never opened and was self-fertilised.

Letter details

Letter no.
James Drummond
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Perth , W. Australia
Source of text
DAR 162.2: 242
Physical description
ALS 8pp damaged †, CD note

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2944,” accessed on 20 July 2024,

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