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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Asa Gray   29 December 1862

Cambridge. [Massachusetts]

Dec. 29, 1862

My Dear Darwin

A happy New Year to you and yours,—and another stamp for Leonard!1 Also some corn (maize) of a few distinct sorts.2

To-day a student of Agassiz (entomological)3 brought up to show me a small butterfly received from Canada, “with a singular disease”   The student, who last summer studied your book and made some observations,—of course detected the nature of the disease. viz—a pollinium of Platanthera I think Hookeri, neatly affixed by its disk to each eye;—and both had lost some pollen-packets from the upper part; showing it had done work before being captured.

It is a day-flyer. I judge from structure it is either P. Hookeri or P. orbiculata, and from size rather the former.— And the head is just about the size to catch both discs of the former—as it has done—but to small to have done that with P. orbiculata.

The young man will give me the name of the butterfly in a few days,—when you shall have it.4

I thank you heartily for your long and interesting letter of Nov. 23.–26.5 I have not had the time nor the spirits to write to you,—and have no time now, tho‘ the spirits are better.

Edinb. Review & Argyle’s article has not come to me yet.6 When it does I shall read it with interest; I heard it well spoken of by a very fair and good judge the other day.—who had no idea who wrote it.

McMillan I do not see, without going to libraries to look it up.7 As Agassiz does nothing at ⁠⟨⁠section missing⁠⟩⁠

I do not at all object to your criticisms on my Dimorphous notes in Sill. Jour.8

My object was not so much to commend the terms I had used, as to note that we had here long ago observed (tho’ we did not comprehend the meaning of) these facts.—and to say that I thought the terms not bad even now. I know nothing of Sprengel’s ‘dichogamy’.9 Where?

“Dichogamous” then every way better, as well as older term.— extend the meaning and use it.

As to Plantago, my words “closed corolla” show it was the short-stamened & long-styled I was speaking of, as that alone closes the corolla   But the whole of that 2d paragraph was introduced in proof, and as short as possible—hence partly the obscurity.— I saw no sense, and the printers as you see made bad work with it.10

“Precocious fertilization” I incline to stand by.—11 In Violets & Impatiens, Lespedeza, &c &c— I believe that the condition is not so much “special modification” as it is arrest of development.

While it is the earlier flowers in Abronia, Nyctaginia, Pavonia hastata, Ruellia &c—that are thus fertilized in the bud,—and partly so in Impatiens, in Viola sagittata, cucullata, rotundifolia, &c—12 the vernal flowers are the ordinary,—but the peculiar closed ones are produced all summer long.

(I cant tell you about Specularia, as I could get no plants of it last summer.13

The main object of my note was to correct Oliver, who, I suspect, took his cue from Hooker—who, I believe, now came to understand this matter as you and I do.—14

We have, at least, a clear & consistent notion about it, and I believe it is a correct one.

The various suggestive matters in your long letter I must let drop— —only answering your question in P.S.—about Fragaria15

CD annotations

0.3 My Dear … sorts 1.2] crossed ink
2.1 To-day] after opening square bracket, ink; ‘Orchids’ ink; ‘Platanthera’ red crayon
5.1 I thank … nothing at 7.2] crossed ink
8.1 I do … use it 10.2] crossed ink
13.1 While … &c 13.2] cross in margin, red crayon
15.1 The main … Fragaria 17.2] crossed ink Top of letter: ‘Return this’16 ink


Since June 1862, Gray had regularly sent North American postage stamps for Leonard Darwin’s collection.
Gray had promised to send seeds of several North American varieties of maize in response to CD’s request for specimens (see letter to Asa Gray, 6 November [1862], and letter from Asa Gray, 24 November 1862).
Gray refers to Louis Agassiz, professor of natural history at Harvard University, and Samuel Hubbard Scudder (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from Asa Gray, 27 January 1863).
See the enclosure to the letter from Asa Gray, 27 January 1863 (Correspondence vol. 11). Platanthera hookeri is Hooker’s orchid; P. orbiculata is the lesser roundleaved orchid.
Gray refers to a review of Max Müller 1861 in Macmillan’s Magazine ([J. Wedgwood and F. J. Wedgwood] 1862), which CD had recommended to him (see letter to Asa Gray, 23 November [1862] and n. 8).
In his letter to Gray of 26[–7] November [1862], CD had expressed a fear that his extensive criticisms of the botanical terminology used in A. Gray 1862e would cause Gray to think him ‘in the most unpleasant, contradictory, fractious humour’.
See letter to Asa Gray, 26[–7] November [1862] and n. 10, and A. Gray 1862e, p. 419.
CD enclosed this letter with his letter to J. D. Hooker of 13 January [1863] (Correspondence vol. 11), asking him to rewrite the names of the four genera listed here (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, [15 January 1863]). Abronia is the genus of sand verbena; Nyctaginia is a genus of four o'clocks; Pavonia hastata is spearleaf swampmallow; Ruellia is the genus of wild petunia. Viola sagittata is arrow-leaved violet; V. cucullata is marsh blue violet; V. rotundifolia is early yellow violet
See letter to Asa Gray, 26[–7] November [1862] and nn. 18 and 19. Specularia is a genus of harebells.
See letters to Asa Gray, 23 November [1862] and n. 12, and 26[–7] November [1862] and n. 35.
See n. 12, above. Fragaria is the genus of strawberries.


[Campbell, George Douglas.] 1862. [Review of Orchids and other works.] Edinburgh Review 116: 378–97.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Max Müller, Friedrich. 1861. Lectures on the science of language delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in April, May, and June, 1861. London: Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts.

Sprengel, Christian Konrad. 1793. Das entdeckte Geheimniss der Natur im Bau und in der Befruchtung der Blumen. Berlin: Friedrich Vieweg.


Encloses maize seeds.

Has heard of a butterfly with pollinia of Platanthera stuck to it.

Comments on AG’s notes ["Dimorphism in the genitalia of flowers", Am. J. Sci. 2d ser. 34 (1862): 149–50].

"Precocious fertilisation".

Letter details

Letter no.
Asa Gray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Cambridge Mass.
Source of text
DAR 109: 85, DAR 165: 126
Physical description
inc †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3882,” accessed on 23 July 2024,

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