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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Gardeners’ Chronicle   [before 14 September 1861]1

A writer in your columns (p. 699) states that he caused Vinca rosea to seed at the Royal Gardens, Kew, by imitating the action of an insect in inserting its proboscis, as I had succeeded with the common Periwinkle.2 By implication it may be presumed that V. rosea had not previously seeded at Kew. But another writer, “F. A. P.” (p. 736) states that his Vincas seed profusely.3 Mr. Horwood, gardener to G. H. Turnbull, Esq., of this place,4 has just been so kind as to bring me a small plant of Vinca rosea with nine flowers fertilised by the insertion of a horse-hair, and it now bears nine fine pods. Mr. Horwood says he has grown many plants for the last eight or nine years, and never before saw a pod. What can be the cause of the difference in the results obtained on the one hand by “F. A. P.”, and on the other by the writer from Kew and Mr. Horwood? Will “F. A. P.” have the kindness to state, if he sees this notice, whether his plants were in a greenhouse with the windows left open, so that the moths could get access at night?5

Charles Darwin, Down, Bromley, Kent.


The letter was printed in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 14 September 1861, pp. 831–2. See also Collected papers 2: 41.
See letter to the Gardeners’ Chronicle, [before 15 June 1861] and n. 2. The author of the notice was Charles William Crocker, foreman of the propagating department at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
The note, published in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 10 August 1861, p. 736, reads: I am surprised at “C. W. C.’s” assertion in your number for July 27, that “Tropical Vincas never produce seed under cultivation if left to themselves,” for I find both the white and pink kinds seed most profusely; in proof of this I enclose a small spray with seed pods on it. They sow themselves in the neighbouring pots, but the produce has never been different from the parent plants. F. A. P.
George Henry Turnbull resided at the Rookery in Down. CD thanked Turnbull in Orchids, p. 158 n., for allowing him ‘the free use of his hot-houses’ and for giving him ‘some interesting Orchids’; he also thanked Turnbull’s gardener, ‘Mr. Horwood’, for help with some of his observations.
No response to CD’s letter has been found.


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

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.


Two correspondents report fertilising Vinca rosea by imitating the action of an insect inserting its proboscis. Another says his Vinca rosea seed profusely without artificial fertilisation. CD asks what might explain the difference in results. In the latter instance, are the plants kept in a greenhouse with windows left open, so that moths could get access at night?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Gardeners’ Chronicle
Sent from
Source of text
Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 14 September 1861, pp. 831–2

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3253,” accessed on 20 September 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9