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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   14 July 1862

Southampton & Hampshire Bank, | Southampton

July 14 1862

My Dear Father,

I believe there is something in Valerian after all. A day or two ago I gathered parts of flowers pairing them as to their apparent age.1 And this morning I examined one pair taking 6 flowers of each, as they are withered rather & I had not time to send them off this morning. I send you an analysis I made of them; I send a fair copy as I doubt if you could make out my hieroglyphics.2

This was the first pair I examined so that I was lucky.

The species is Officinalis, I call them A and B, A has a decidedly pinker tint than B.

You will see by Elbow what I mean in the rough sketch I send.3

I judge length of pistil, by turning back a petal and then using the tube of Corolla down to the Elbow as standard of comparison

diagram is the pistil and a stamen   in (1) I call the stamen longer by an anther, in (2) by two anthers and so on.

I am not sure whether you will read my fair copy— at all events I will send you some actual flowers.

Did you know or am I wrong that Centaury is dimorphic? on back of my rough copy, I send a rough sketch I made this morning with naked eye,4 these two forms run thro’ the whole of their particular plants as I opened buds— The sketch is not exaggerated   the pistil has the odd side twist but I dare say I shall find it a mistake on looking at other plants—

I have found plenty of Lithrum not yet in flower—5and a large bed of Lysimachia Thyrsiflora where I mean to look for dimorphism6

What a wonderful thing the Scarlet fever coming back.7

I am your affect | son | W E Darwin

[Enclosure 1]


[Enclosure 2]


CD annotations

8.1 Did … back. 10.1] crossed pencil


William had apparently offered to examine plants of the genus Valeriana for signs of dimorphism (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 9 July [1862]); his botanical notebook includes a note dated 13 July 1862 stating that he had ‘got some Valerian to look at—’ (DAR 117: 1).
For the fair copy of William’s notes, see enclosures 1 and 2; William also sent a rough copy of his notes, crossed out, on the reverse of the diagram in enclosure 4.
See enclosure 3.
See enclosure 4; the diagram is on the reverse of the piece of paper on which William wrote a rough copy of his notes on Valeriana (see n. 2, above). There is a series of observations and drawings of the pistils and stamens of Erythraea centaurium, dated ‘July 1862’, in William’s botanical notebook (DAR 117: 16–31).
On 13 July 1862, William recorded in his botanical notebook: ‘Looked at Lithrum, for two or 3. length of pistil’ (DAR 117: 1).
William detailed his observations on ‘Lysimachia vulgaris’, dated 20 July 1862, in his botanical notebook (DAR 117: 2–11).
Leonard Darwin had been sent home from school with scarlet fever on 12 June 1862 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)); he had suffered a relapse at the beginning of July (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 9 July [1862]).


Sends observations on Valeriana officinalis.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 110 (ser. 2): 23, 41–2, 81–2
Physical description
ALS 4pp †, diag, encl 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3657,” accessed on 24 May 2024,

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