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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 4 June 2023,

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