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Darwin Correspondence Project

From C. W. Crocker   [before 13 March 1862]1

28 South St.   Chich⁠⟨⁠ester⁠⟩⁠

Ma⁠⟨⁠r.⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠

Dear Sir

I cannot tell you how much pleasure your long letter gave me—2 I shall have much real enjoyment in trying the experiment upon Hollyhocks.3 I shall also try the Larkspurs if possible, I have seeds of several kinds— I had also promised myself that I would try Beaton’s long and short stamened experiment on Pelargoniums—4 I always like to prove these kinds of things for myself.

Mr. Black from the Herbarium at Kew was stopping at Shanklin for his health last week, so taking advantage of a leisure day I ran down to see him.5 Walking along the cliff near the landslip we saw what we took to be a cluster of wild carrots. I took up a few roots, would you like to have one or two? The celery and beet, too, grow wild here— would they be of any service to co⁠⟨⁠mpare⁠⟩⁠ with the cultivated vars.

⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠flo⁠⟩⁠wer find the two forms of Linum6 ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ but then we never raised it from seed, ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠possi⁠⟩⁠bly all I observed might have originated ⁠⟨⁠from⁠⟩⁠ ⁠⟨⁠c⁠⟩⁠uttings from one individual. I must try if I can get seed of it.

We have still a few bits of marshy ground left undrained near here—some in-land towards the downs and some near the shore with brackish water. Pray let me know what plants growing in such places are likely to be dimorphous.

I do not know for certain whether Mormodes &c eject their pollen-masses to a distance;7 it is better to keep silence than to state anything upon which there is a doubt in one’s mind. To be candid I must admit that I have less practical acquaintance with Orchids than, perhaps, with any family of plants.

Do not fear that I shall take less interest in any experiment you suggest than in any thing I might myself originate. It has ⁠⟨⁠alw⁠⟩⁠ays been my opinion that persons situated ⁠⟨⁠as I⁠⟩⁠ am should be satisfied with observing ⁠⟨⁠and rec⁠⟩⁠ording little facts—leaving the Master-minds to show what is their practical use and bearing; and at the same time to suggest what sort of facts are most worthy of being sought for, and where most likely to be found. There is yet so much to be learned in the way of experiment that I have often thought it would be only right for the Government, or better still one of the great scientific societies, to furnish the means for carrying them out in a systematic manner. A little bit of ground, a director, and one or two earnest enquirers after truth, would be all that would be required. There is too much to be done at Kew, the men are too busy to be able to follow out an experiment with the necessary patience and constant attention. At least that was my case while there.

I am very sorry to hear that you are unwell— as for myself I am by degrees regaining strength and hope as the sprin⁠⟨⁠g⁠⟩⁠ advances I shall be myself again. C⁠⟨⁠lose⁠⟩⁠ confinement in the hot-houses at Ke⁠⟨⁠w tried⁠⟩⁠ me severely; had I taken more out-of-doors exercise perhaps I should not have felt it so much, but I was too anxious about my plants and even on a Sunday I was afraid to lose sight of them. In the hands of a careless man so much damage may be done in so short a time.

Believe me, dear Sir, to remain | ever yours very respectfully | C. W. Crocker

C. Darwin Esqe

CD annotations

2.3 I took … vars. 2.5] scored brown crayon
4.1 We … dimorphous. 4.3] scored brown crayon
4.2 Pray … dimorphous. 4.3] ‘—Epipactis palustris—’8 pencil
5.1 I do … plants. 5.4] crossed pencil
6.6 There is … would 6.7] double scored brown crayon
6.7 be only … manner. 6.9] scored brown crayon
Top of first page: ‘Cut off petals of Hollyhock’ pencil


Dated by the relationship to the letter from C. W. Crocker, 13 March 1862.
CD’s letter has not been found, but see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 March [1862].
CD told Crocker of some points about hollyhocks on which he wished for more information in the letters to C. W. Crocker, 18 May [1861] and 1 June [1861] (Correspondence vol. 9).
Donald Beaton contributed a regular column to the Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener. Beaton referred to the occurrence of both long and short stamens in geranium flowers (the term ‘geranium’ is often applied to cultivated varieties of the genus Pelargonium) in the Journal of Horticulture n.s. 1 (1861): 312. In ibid., p. 355, he stated: in Pelargoniums … the pollen of the shortest stamens has been proved to produce seedlings of more dwarf habit than the parents; and by applying from the shorter stamens to the stigmas of the dwarf race, again and again, the seedlings at last will be so faint … that no art can grow them.
Allan A. Black was the curator of the herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where Crocker had been foreman of the propagating department before retiring to Chichester, West Sussex. Shanklin is on the Isle of Wight.
Having studied dimorphism in Primula, CD was interested in investigating similar cases in other plant genera (see letters to Asa Gray, 22 January [1862] and 16 February [1862]). He referred to the incidence of dimorphism in two species of the genus Linum in his paper ‘Dimorphic condition in Primula, p. 96 (Collected papers, 2: 62–3), stating his intention to carry out further crossing experiments on the two forms during the following summer; he had begun experimenting on the genus in September 1861 (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to Asa Gray, 16 September [1861]). CD’s experiments with Linum are described in his paper ‘Two forms in species of Linum, written in December 1862 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II)).
CD had contacted Crocker to inquire about the orchid genus Mormodes earlier in the year (see letter to J. D. Hooker, [before 15 February 1862], and letter from J. D. Hooker, [before 15 February 1862]). Mormodes is discussed in Orchids, pp. 249–69.
CD inquired about this orchid in a subsequent letter to Crocker, now missing (see letter from C. W. Crocker, 13 March 1862).


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–.

‘Dimorphic condition in Primula’: On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations. By Charles Darwin. [Read 21 November 1861.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 77–96. [Collected papers 2: 45–63.]

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 forms in species of Linum’: On the existence of two forms, and on their reciprocal sexual relation, in several species of the genus Linum. By Charles Darwin. [Read 5 February 1863.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 7 (1864): 69–83. [Collected papers 2: 93–105.]


Will experiment on hollyhocks as CD suggests.

On desirability of a place for experiments to be set up by Government or a scientific society. Kew is too busy for experiments.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles William Crocker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 161.2: 255
Physical description
ALS 4pp damaged †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3464,” accessed on 16 August 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10