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Darwin Correspondence Project

To James Drummond   20 December [1860]1

Down Bromley Kent

Decr 20th

Dear Sir

I received your extremely interesting letter of Oct 8th this morning.2 I thank you much for the Distylis seeds which I will plant in greenhouse in the Spring.3 I will also have the pleasure of exaning the seed of the Compos. plant, which you describe as so remarkable.4 It seems a trifling point, but I have been extremely much interested by what you tell me of the small Bee extracting the pollen from within the indusium of the Brunonia. If you have any opportunity of observing, I should so much like to hear whether Bees do the same for Leschenaultia; or whether, as I suspect, in sucking the nectar of the flowers, their hairy abdomens do not brush over & partly open the slightly protuberant upper lip of the indusium—5

Another fact which you mention has interested me particularly, namely the Malvaceous plant setting seed with its flower never opening. I have observed something of this in Drosera rotundifolia & in Chlora perfoliata. Have you observed the Malvaceous plant during more than one year? And are you sure that it has not two periods of flowering (like some Campanulas) at one period opening its flowers & another period not opening them.—

Pray accept my cordial thanks for your very great kindness & believe me | Dear Sir | Yours truly obliged | Charles Darwin

P.S. I have kept back this note for a couple of days just to say that I have been interested by watching the achenia of the Styloncerus placed on damp paper. The vesicles which contain the dried mucus seem to me a pretty & curious adaptation; & the whole object very pretty under the microscope. I will communicate with Dr. Hooker, & if he thinks fit, I will insert an extract out of your note together with some account of the structure of the achenia, in some Periodical.6


Dated by the relationship to the letter from James Drummond, 8 October 1860.
Drummond sent CD some seeds of Distylis, a genus of Goodeniaceae, in his letter of 8 October 1860.
Drummond also enclosed in his letter of 8 October 1860 seeds of the plant Styloncerus humifusus. The genus is confined to Australia.
CD evidently received an answer from Drummond on this point in a letter that is now missing. In CD’s paper on the fertilisation of Leschenaultia formosa, published in the Cottage Gardener, 28 May 1861, p. 151, CD stated that Drummond had seen a bee ‘cleverly opening the indusium and extracting pollen’ (see Collected papers 2: 42–3).


Responds to JD’s letter [2944]. Would like to know whether bees extract pollen from within the indusium of Leschenaultia. He suspects they brush over and partly open the indusium while sucking nectar from the flower.

Asks also about malvaceous plant that set seed although its flower never opened.

Has been watching the achenia of the plant sent by JD and, if Hooker agrees, will publish a note on it ["Achenia of Pumilio argyrolepis", Collected papers 2: 36–8].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Drummond
Sent from
Source of text
J. S. Battye Library of Western Australian History, State Library of Western Australia (Accession 2275A)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3026,” accessed on 22 July 2024,

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