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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Daniel Oliver   14 September [1862]1

Cliff Cottage | Bournemouth

Sept. 14th.

Dear Oliver

My sister-in-law sent me several specimens dried of Lythrum hyssopifolium to compare with the fresh specimen, which you kindly sent me,2 & amongst them was the enclosed: it is clearly not L. hyssopifolium or L. salicaria: it has 12 stamens, large petals, smooth calyx, & flowers not in whorls. Could you find out its name?3 I fancy the genus is not large. It is a European specimen. The specimen sent answers to the “short-styled” in L. salicaria, but differs in many important respects. The stigma of “mid-styled” would not project beyond the calyx, & this perhaps led old Vaucher (who always blunders when that is possible) to assert that some species are dimorphic like Primula.4 It would be a very interesting aid to me if you could name this species for me, & at same time, when you find the specimens in the Herbarium, (if the species be not rare) pluck off a single young unopened flower from a few specimens, as I shd. very much wish to compare the pollen of the two sets of anthers in the “long-styled” or “mid-styled” form of this new species.5

I hope you will not think me very unreasonable to ask all this; for I hope & believe that the species of Lythrum are not numerous; & I have been much perplexed, how any of the species could be dimorphic, as old Vaucher says.—

Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin


The year is established by CD’s reference to having received dried specimens of Lythrum hyssopifolia from Sarah Elizabeth Wedgwood (see n. 2, below).
The reference is to Sarah Elizabeth Wedgwood; in DAR 27.2 (ser. 2): 14, there is a note by CD, dated 8 September 1862, which records: Elizabeth sent me 3 specs of L. hyssopifolia from different countries   these all agreed with Kew specimens; so that I have seen 4 specimens. *very improbably [del] *This species is probably not [interl] dimorphic.— These specimens are preserved in DAR 142 in a wrapper marked ‘Lythrum hyssopifolium from Elizabeth from 3 countries.—’ Oliver had sent CD specimens of L. hyssopifolia from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, with his letter of 4 September 1862; CD’s notes on those specimens are in DAR 27.2 (ser. 2): 17.
Oliver’s reply to this letter has not been found. However, in DAR 21.2 (ser. 2): 14, CD noted: E. sent me a 4th spec. *of L Graefferi (named at Kew) [interl] with larger leaves & larger petals & longer flowers than L. hyssopifolia; & differing quite in narrow smooth *& longer [interl] calyx from L. salicaria.— The specimen is preserved in DAR 142 in a wrapper marked ‘Elizabeth W’; this was preserved, together with several other specimens of Lythrum Graefferi, in an envelope addressed to CD by Oliver, postmarked 16 September 1862, and annotated by CD ‘Lythrum Graefferi’ (Calendar no. 13891f). See also letter to Daniel Oliver, [17 September 1862] and n. 2.


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

Vaucher, Jean Pierre Etienne. 1841. Histoire physiologique des plantes d’Europe ou exposition des phénomènes qu’elles présentent dans les diverses périodes de leur développement. 4 vols. Paris: Marc Aurel Frères.


Asks DO to name enclosed Lythrum received from CD’s sister-in-law [Sarah Elizabeth Wedgwood]

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Daniel Oliver
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 261.10: 37 (EH 88206020)
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3720,” accessed on 13 June 2021,

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