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Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Bentham   26 November 1861

91 Victoria Street

Nov 26 /61

My dear Darwin

Your note which reached me last night crossed mine1   I am writing to Mr Currie who as our Botanical Secretary edits the botanical part of the journal to know when your paper could appear in the Journal as we are anxious to meet the views of authors as to which of the publications they wish their papers to appear in.2 The Council meets on Thursday in next week when the publication of yours and other papers will be decided on. The part now printing is far advanced and I almost fear there will not be room for yours till the next but we will see what can be done3

Your paper on hearing it read threw quite a new light on the kind of semidioicality which had been so much observed of late and which in the course of our examinations for Genera Plantarum4 had become quite so common a thing that precise instances no longer attract much attention and I only mentioned a few that occurred on the spur of the moment   The Labiatæ I particularly alluded to were many forms of Mentha arvensis and Thymus serpyllum and other common species of those genera which in local Floras have been distinguished as species on the character staminibus exsertis and staminibus inclusis— Kunth and others divided the ægiphilos of tropical America into two sections on that character and we now find that each species in one section has its correspondent in the other.5 Planchon observed that long styles & short stamens & short styles with long stamens in several Linums, and abandoned that character which had been previously made use of when he monographised the genus in Hooker’s London Journal of Botany6—but I forget whether he remarks on the question in print although I remember conversing with him on it. So in Oxalis Jacquin distinguished some Cape species then in cultivation on that character and I think Zuccarini remarks upon its being not specific in his Monograph of Oxalis but I will look as to what are the species when I am at Kew this morning & write again—7 In Rubiaceæ I have observed the exserted and included stamens in many species but as I say it is so common that I forget exactly which are the species— the most common in European plants that occur to me are in Mentha & Thymus as above.

I should be very anxious you would look at the case of Viola for its fertilisation is always a puzzle to me   In V. canina, V. odorata, V. palustris and all of that section (but not V. tricolor V. arvensis etc) I can never find any of the perfect flowers that appear in winter and spring set their seed although both stamens and ovaries appear perfect. After these are all gone by a number of minute apetalous flowers in which we very seldom find any more than rudimentary stamens, go on for months setting seed in the greatest abundance— How do they get impregnated by insects when there are no flowers about for insects to get the pollen from? In most orders where this kind of dimorphism have been observed the two sets of flowers are contemporaneous— In Ononis minutissima however the apetalous and apparently stamen-less but fertile flowers appear in spring whilst the perfect (also fertile ones) come out in summer.8 In Viola the two may be contemporaneous for a few days when one is going out and the other coming in but the majority appear at a great interval

Yours very sincerely | George Bentham

CD annotations

1.1 Your … moment 2.5] crossed pencil
2.1 Your … contemporaneous— 3.9] crossed red crayon
2.9 ægiphilos] ‘Aegiphilos (Labiate)’ added pencil
2.10 Planchon … Botany 2.13] ‘Reference about Linum’ added pencil 2.13 the genus … print 2.14] double scored pencil 2.18 Rubiaceæ] ‘Rubiaceæ’ added pencil 3.10 In … interval 3.13] crossed pencil Top of first page: ‘Cleistogamy’ red crayon


Letter to George Bentham, 24 November [1861]. Bentham’s note has not been found.
Frederick Currey was the botanical secretary of the Linnean Society of London. CD had asked Bentham, who was president of the society, whether his paper on dimorphism in Primula, read at the meeting of 21 November 1861, could be published in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society rather than in the Transactions of the Linnean Society of London (see letter to George Bentham, 24 November [1861]).
CD’s paper appeared in the 1862 volume of the Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (see also Collected papers 2: 45–63).
Bentham refers to the major work that he and Joseph Dalton Hooker were engaged in: the production of a systematic compilation of all known vascular plant genera. The first part of the first volume of Genera plantarum appeared in 1862 (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83).
The German botanist Karl Sigismund Kunth had described many of the plants collected in South America by Alexander von Humboldt.
Planchon 1847–8.
Jacquin 1794 and Zuccarini 1825.
CD included this information about Ononis minutissima in Forms of flowers, p. 326.


Remarks about Labiatae, Linum, Oxalis and Viola occasioned by hearing CD’s paper ["Two forms of Primula", read 21 Nov 1861, Collected papers 2: 45–63].

Letter details

Letter no.
George Bentham
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Victoria St, 91
Source of text
DAR 111: 73–4
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3331,” accessed on 18 July 2019,

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