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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   8 July [1862]1


July 8.

My Dear Father,

I am very glad to hear that you are better, I suppose it is your face that is right.2 I went and got some grass yesterday, and have been looking at it this morning  I found pollen grains sticking to the treelike stigmas, but it takes a high power, and I expect it will take a lot of fiddling and looking at different spec. before one sees how they stick, I mean to get a bit of wheat today.3 it is very odd but I dont feel quite certain what you wanted me to look for in Valerian or Lithrum,4 unless it is whether the stigmas are of different lengths. Yesterday I gathered 15 bits of V. and examined them carefully writing note of each examined the stigma in some were certainly longer than others, but then they seemed almost to graduate from short to long, and I think the old flowers had them much longer than the young. if it is about the stigmas you want to know, I will mark a plant and see whether they do get so much longer as they get old. Also about the Lithrum though I am no so sure after all that I can find any.

Some of the stigmas in Valerian were twice as long as others above the base of the petals.

I am sorry to hear old pouter is bad, I suppose his banishment is over.5

I was going to have Clement down from L.H.P, for Sunday but a two day’s post upset his plans so that he is now at Hartfield6

I am your affect son | W. E. Darwin

did not you tell me something about Boragineæ?


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. E. Darwin, 4 [July 1862] (Correspondence vol. 10).
See Correspondence vol. 10, letter to W. E. Darwin, 4 [July 1862], which mentioned that CD was better and that Emma Darwin had suggested that he wear a beard. In April 1862, Emma had reported that CD’s health was poor and his ‘face terribly inflamed’ (letter from Emma Darwin to W. E. Darwin, [c. 27 April 1862] (DAR 219.1: 54)).
CD had suggested that William investigate the fertilisation of wheat by observing the stigma and pollen-tube under a high-powered microscope (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to W. E. Darwin, 4 [July 1862]). William’s botanical sketchbook (DAR 186: 43) contains a note dated 10 July 1862, describing pollen-masses and pollen-tubes of grasses.
Valerian: Valeriana officinalis). Lythrum: a genus of loosestrife. CD’s query has not been found.
Pouter was a nickname for Leonard Darwin, who had developed swollen glands after having scarlet fever (Correspondence vol. 10, letter to W. E. Darwin, 4 [July 1862]). Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) records that Leonard ‘went to Mrs Parslow’ on 19 June 1862 after contracting scarlet fever on 12 June. Eliza Parslow, wife of CD’s butler Joseph Parslow, lived at 18 Home Cottage, Down.
Clement Francis Wedgwood, William’s cousin, was visiting Leith Hill Place, Dorking, Surrey, home of Josiah and Caroline Sarah Wedgwood, and Hartfield Grove, Sussex, home of Charlotte and Charles Langton.


WED reports on studying the pollen of grass and Valerian through his microscope.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 3)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3644F,” accessed on 12 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24 (Supplement)