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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Journal of Horticulture   [before 2 December 1862]1

As you have been so obliging as to insert my query on the crossing of Strawberries,2 perhaps you will grant me the favour to insert two or three other questions, for the chance of some one having the kindness to answer them. I am writing a book on “Variation under Domestication,” in which I treat chiefly on animals; but I wish to give some few facts on the changes of cultivated plants.3

1st. The fruit of the wild Gooseberry is said to weigh about 5 dwts. (I am surprised that it is so heavy), and from various records I find that towards the close of the last century the fruit had doubled in weight; in 1817, a weight of 26 dwts. 17 grs. was obtained; in 1825, 31 dwts. 13 grs.; in 1841, “Wonderful” weighed 32 dwts. 16 grs.; in 1845, “London” reached the astonishing weight of 36 dwts. 16 grs., or 880 grains. I find in the “Gooseberry Register” for 1862,4 that this famous kind attained only the weight of 29 dwts. 8 grs., and was beaten by “Antagonist.” Will any one have the kindness to inform me whether it is authentically known that the weight of 36 dwts. 16 grs., has, since the year 1845, been ever excelled?

2nd. Is any record kept of the diameter attained by the largest Pansies? I have read of one above 2 inches in diameter, which is a surprising size compared with the flowers of the wild Viola tricolor, and the allied species or varieties.5

3rd. How early does any variety of the Dahlia flower? Mr.  Salisbury, writing in 1808, shortly after the first introduction of this plant into England, speaks of their flowering from September, or the end of September, to November.6 Whereas, Mr. J. Wells, in Loudon’s “Gardener’s Magazine” for 1828, states that some of his dwarf kinds began flowering in June.7 I presume the end of June. Do any of the varieties now regularly flower as early as June? Have any varieties been observed to withstand frost better than other varieties?8

If any one will give me information on these small points, I shall feel greatly obliged.— Chas. Darwin, Down, Bromley. Kent.


The letter was published in the issue of 2 December 1862.
Letter to Journal of Horticulture, [before 25 November 1862].
CD prepared a draft of the part of Variation dealing with ‘Facts of variation of Plants’ between 7 October and 11 December 1862 (Variation 1: 305–72; see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II)).
Gooseberry Grower’s Register (1862): 192, 210. CD’s copy of this volume of the journal is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 335).
In his discussion of the pansy in Variation 1: 368–9, CD stated that the great number and recent origin of the varieties of this plant had made it seem worth studying, ‘more especially from the great contrast between the small, dull, elongated, irregular flowers of the wild pansy, and the beautiful, flat, symmetrical, circular, velvet-like flowers, more than two inches in diameter, magnificently and variously coloured, which are exhibited at our shows.’ However, he noted that upon closer inquiry he had found that, despite their modern origin, there was much doubt about the parentage of the different varieties.
Gardener’s Magazine 3 (1828): 179. The reference is to Joseph Wells. The passage was marked by CD in his copy of this volume of the Gardener’s Magazine, which is in the Darwin Library–CUL. John Claudius Loudon founded the Gardener’s Magazine, and register of rural & domestic improvement in 1826 and edited it until his death in 1843 (DNB).
In Variation 1: 370, CD cited information on this point provided by ‘Mr. Grieve’. No such letter has been found, but the reference is probably either to Peter Grieve or James Grieve (R. Desmond 1994).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Desmond, Ray. 1994. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers. New edition, revised with the assistance of Christine Ellwood. London: Taylor & Francis and the Natural History Museum. Bristol, Pa.: Taylor & Francis.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Salisbury, Richard Anthony. 1808. Observations on the different species of Dahlia, and the best method of cultivating them in Great Britain. [Read 5 April 1808.] Transactions of the Horticultural Society of London 1 (1812): 84–98.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Asks for authentic information on following questions: 1. Has the weight of the gooseberry variety London subsequently exceeded the 1845 record of 880 grains?

2. Is any record kept of the diameter of the largest pansies?

3. How early does any variety of Dahlia flower and do some varieties withstand frost better than others?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Journal of Horticulture
Sent from
Source of text
Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener, and Country Gentleman n.s. 3 (1862): 696

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3840,” accessed on 22 January 2020,

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