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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Isaac Anderson-Henry   26–7 January 1863

Hay Lodge, | Trinity, | Edinburgh.

Jany 26/63

My dear Sir

I had much pleasure in receiving your Letter of the 20th.1 As for the Strawberry I do not set much by it. I have little doubt of its seeds being fertile—2 “Myatts Pine” was not an alpine— And, for aught I know the Chilian sps crossed upon it might have been some remote ally. I have a plant in my warm Pits being forced—a very singular dwarf form of the Cross; and I will send you a berry when ripe, if you wish

The Strawberry crossed with the Raspberry (of which cross I have large plants above 5 years old, has not yet flowered—3 It is about coeval with the above cross which has been fruiting for the bygone 3 or 4 years. Its tardiness & its wiry stalked foliage encourages the hope that it is not quite a miss. If it fruit this year I will report to you.

In this family I have made numerous attempts besides the above.— I tried to X the Potentilla with the Strawberry. I crossed, as I believed, the latter with Rubus glabratus—an Andean species, which I believe no one else has, as I raised it from seeds transmitted by Dr Jameson of Quito.4 Of this cross I have several plants; but tho’ different in foliage from its female parent, I can see little of the male parent, the rubus glabratus, which is a very dwarf bramble with deep dark shining foliage. Here I was at much pains to prevent self fertilization, by carefully opening and cutting off the male organs of the flower ere the pollen passes from its green,—unripe condition. And, as this tube is much infested by an insect of the bee family a rapacious eater of pollen I invariably pot my plants under experiment, remove them to the Greenhouse,—& farther admit no other flower on the same plant, from which pollen might be transported.— Yet with all my care I may have been thwarted by some of these pests, whom the better to beguile, I invariably dismantle the bloom of the flower operated on by cutting away the corolla

The Blackberry & Raspberry I have strong hopes of.5 I tried it early last year at Woodend, my place in Perthshire, putting gauze over the blooms, the Raspy plant acted on being in the open garden, but birds interfered with some, and when I returned after a 7 or 8 Weeks absence on the Continent, I found only one fruit & but with one seed partially ripe, which I sowed but which has never yet sprung   I do not know if you have found, or whether you have tried these severe crosses & found, like me, that tho you get ripe seeds you can’t get them to vegetate. The instance I am now to notice bears upon a question you put to me about the Short anthers 6

About the month of March 1851 I crossed—I should rather say hybridised, if not muled the Rhodothamnus Chamæcistus with pollen of a large species of Rhododendron I had from M. Van Houtte,7 which, as it resembled, I named “R. Nilaghericum” which, however, it was not.8 I find from my Garden book for that year, the following entry under date “May 10 1851— Rhod. Chamæcistus. Counted 7 pods all finely set with seed—(pods size of sweet peas—all (save one) marked Castrate, and all crossed with my R NilaghericumShort stamens” I had also crossed the same R. Chamæcistus with R. glaucum (a fine dwarf Rhodn. one of Dr Hookers Sikkim sps)9 at the same time with the above; and the memorandum goes on. Or again looking at this mem. I find I have written R glaucum for “K. glauca”—ie Kalmia glauca, with which the cross was attempted & not with Rhod glaucum as I had erroneously read & have here written10   “Those cast and done with K glauca (blue silk) appear to have failed, a certain proof of the others being true”— The seeds of Rhodothamnus Chamæcistus from the cross with the large Rhodn., (called by me R Nilaghericum) a white flowered Indian species came to full maturity. But tho I sowed them & watched them for years they never vegetated—not one of them. Now there was a very improbable looking cross effected by the short anthers of a large Rhododendron, having large white flowers, fully as large as those of R. cinnamomeum—on this heath like Rhodothamnus—effected at least to the point of producing seed beautifully ripened, but which proved abortive   The seeds I remember well were so well ripened that, as is the case with seeds of R. Chamæcistus, they were quite round and ran along paper like small shot infinitely less of course

I had attempted the same cross in the month of March in the immediately previous year 1850—and I have noticed this in an article I wrote for “The Book of the Garden vol. II, p 31911 and which Dr Lindley has done me the honour to cite, and to give at considerable length in “The Theory & Practice of Horticulture” (vid 2d Edn. p 490)12 These seeds too failed to vegetate. I find I have first noticed the capability of working with these short stamens by the following Mem under date “27 April 1850 & May 9th” Discovered that the Short stamens of Rhod n . Cinnamomeum (allied to R arboreum) & and particularly of R Catawbiense—crossed the small Rhodoth. Chamæcistus—which appear now (11 May) to be fully fertilized & pods swelling—the operation having been performed about the 27 April and castn. performed. See also operation on Azalea Phœnicea by the Short Stamens of R Cinnamomeum. Tried also on Menziesia but failed”. I find another Mem of May 1850 which refers to the cross in the article given by Dr Lindley.13 “The first (cross) on my own old (separate Plant) of R Chamæcistus by R. Nilaghericum (so called by me) now well on to ripening performed about 5 March, supposed to have been done with the Short stamens” Again, of same date, I notice a cross on the same R. Chamæcistus by Azalea procumbens which “appears to hold”. But I forget what came of this—a failure probably. I find that I tried the same R Chamæcistus with Erica Odororosea which I note “appears also to hold”.

These operations are somewhat akin to the one effected by Mr Cunningham of Comely bank Nursery here, by which he produced between the Menziesea (some say M Cærulea some M Empetriformis) and the same R Chamæcistus,—the Bryanthus erectus.14 Mr C. rather imposed on Dr Graham by this hybrid and was not fond of admitting it to be a hybrid at all while Dr G. lived—15 He did so to me however, for happening to be in his nursery he showed me the plant under a hand glass—and asked me, as he had done Dr G, to say what it was— And as I had been myself at work before on a Cross between the same parents—I at once guessed it to be a hybrid between the M. Cærulea & R Chamæcistus when he owned I was not far off it. I found out afterwards that he had made the Menziesia the seed bearer, while I had failed, from making it the male parent. I returned to the experiment and made it on the Menziesea Cærulea (Mr C’s experiment must have been on M empetriformis) I succeeded fully & sowed the ripened seeds on 18 June 1850 and had 4 young plants through on 10 Septr. same year. These were afterwards destroyed most ignobly by a marauding snail— So, if we make crosses we must learn to bear them—a lesson I am often taught and am now smarting under from this morning discovering that perhaps the only plant of Eccremocarpus longifolus 16 in Europe, which after some 6 months waiting for had sprung with me, is devoured root & branch if I may so speak of a thing in its seed leaves, by some wretched grub, even tho I had it covered up with glass. I saw it yesterday & today it is non est.

But of these short stamens:—from the above results I took a fancy to them, believing their pollen to have more activity in it—or at least to be better adapted, from its supposed smaller granules, for fertilising Congeners of a lesser growth. Please observe my whole working with them was among the Rhod n . family whose flowers are alike in form & similar in having almost invariably 2 short stamens,—with the Pelargonia, I entertained the firm belief also that as they were themselves of miniature dimensions, they would be likely to produce a dwarfish progeny17

The magnificent scented Rhod n . Edgworthii, (of Hooker fil.) with foliage of a distinct cast from all other species fascinated everyone.18 But it had one great drawback being “leggy” to an undue degree. I set to work upon it, making it the male parent and effected various crosses with its pollen on R. Ciliatum a Dwarf sikkim sps., using the short stamens. Now as noticed in article in the Cottage Gardener,19 I got a brood of dwarfs some of which I yet have not 2 inches high. I believe these to be the progeny of the Short anthers—and had determined on watching it better ere saying aught about it, when Donald Beaton drew me out by some remarks I sent the same publication as confirmation of a like observation made by him on the Pelargoniæ tribes.20 But it is right to observe that I at first wrought with long & short anthers from getting pollen from friends who were before me in blooming the R Edgworthii. But I know when I could get them I wrought with Short & Shorter stamens as I could get them in preference to the longest ones. Your expressed doubt however of our friend Donalds accuracy demands a precise testing of the thing afresh.21 And I will try it: But the sad sad thing is, “life is too short for the Experiment among my favourite Rhodn. tribes—but the Pelargonium family may be tried.

I fear I am trying your patience sadly in giving you a bundle of chaff to look over for the one or two grains you may be in quest of in this absurdly too long Letter— But I must digress again by mentioning a fact in regard to crossing which I found invariable with all I tried upon R. Edgworthii that while its pollen would readily fertilise several (not all of its congeners) I could never effect one cross on it by foreign pollen. I have found this in many plants. I noticed above the same result where Rhodothamnus Chamæcistus was made the female to Menziesia—(now Phyllodoce) Cærulea while inverted the cross held & produced seeds which vegetated.22 But I find I must refer you to the Book of the Garden Vol II p 320 for this Experiment,23 for Dr. Lindley does not quote my entire article—.24 I find my article there, is given at length in the 26th Vol (for 1858) of Harrisons Floricultural Cabinet p 60.25 My ideas then ran after Lamarck.26 But I have been so often baffled in attempts, where I expected success as inevitable, that I have been forced to give up a great part of that bewitching theory. Yet there are times & seasons & influences when I have effected crosses I would have attempted in vain at other times & diverse circumstances. Have you considered this?— But here I am repeating myself in the Article referred to—& must now forbear to tire you longer

To return. I will most gladly try my hands on the pelargoniums both for the above experiment of the Short anthers—and to test the fertility of the Central flower, peloria, of that tribe.27 In all my crosses I invariably avoided that central flower, just from the impression I had of its infertility

I shall be delighted to receive your article on the Linums.28 They are a most anomalous tribe; but I have no doubt you will throw new light upon it. I will cheerfully try the experiment you point at and report the result.29 What I meant by L rubrum is the same which you with equal correctness name L grandiflorum. I believe the true name is L rubrum grandiflorum—an annual, and the only crimson sps. I know of in the family

You ask me if I have any quite sterile hybrid with a rather large stigma. I know of none nearer your mark than Mr Cunninghams mule the above Bryanthus erectus, which I am sorry I have lost; but it will be found in almost every Nursery. It is a thing of high interest. I have a singular hybrid—which I have kept for nearly 10 years—it is between Phlox subulata (if that be a true Phlox)—a thing with awl shaped or grass like foliage, and P. verna a broad leaved dwarf species, with rose coloured flowers. It flowered one year & bore no seed, the bloom had all the appearance of sterility—& so far as I remember had its sexual organs quite imperfect. I have various things coming on of which, if true, will put fertility to its severest test of this again.

27th. I have this morning the pleasure of your Letter of yesterday30   Dr Jamesons address—as I address him is;

illiam Jameson Esq MD.31

Director of The Mint


Ecuador via Panama

And the mail leaves here on the 1st & 16th. of every month—being the West India mail. By all means; use my name. I believe Dr Jameson must be on the wintry side of 60 but the “sacred fire” burns in him as intensely as ever. He has been and I believe is still Professor of Botany and of Chemistry in the University of Quito. It is years since he told me that he had ceased to speak English for 30 years having all that time lectured in Spanish; but he writes it well. He is a good naturalist. I sent an article of his on the River system of the Napo a new territory to Dr Shaw who inserted it in the Transactions or Journal of the Royal Geographical society.32 But the Dr complains bitterly of his new avocations with Mint as affording no time for his Explorations either up or down the glorious mountains amid which he is perched halfway up. How it will delight him to hear from you. Depend upon him if it be in his power at all to serve you. He has sent me several species of those Melastomaceous things33—of which I have 3 or 4 sps. of the tribe Rhexia. I have not flowered one of them—but will if you desire it send you blooms when they flower

Meantime, & asking your kind indulgence for so severe an infliction on your valuable time, I remain | Yours most faithfully | I. Anderson Henry

If I can find any specimen to answer of the male tribes I will either send you a bit of the plant or the flowers as you may desire

Charles Darwin Esq FR.Sc. | &c &c &c

CD annotations

1.1 I had … sprung 4.5] crossed ink
3.12 Yet with … corolla 3.14] double scored pencil
4.6 I do not … anthers 4.9] ‘Bigeneric crosses’ added ink
7.1 These … far off it. 7.10] ‘Menziesia cærulea & Rhodothamnus chæmæcistus | Bigeneric forms’ added ink
10.3 But I … Cærulea 10.8] scored ink; ‘Reciprocal infertile’ added ink
10.8 But I find … Experiment, 10.9] double scored brown crayon
10.10 I find … p 60. 10.11] double scored brown crayon; ‘I. Anderson Henry Esqre | Books on Hybrid by do’ added at top of page, ink
11.1 To return.... tribe. 11.3] crossed ink
12.1 I shall … Phlox) 13.5] crossed ink
13.1 I know … Nursery. 13.3] scored brown crayon
15.13 I have 3 … flower 15.14] double scored brown crayon


In a letter written on 14 January 1863, which is now missing (see letter from Isaac Anderson-Henry, 17 January 1863), CD may have sought information from Anderson-Henry on strawberry crosses (see also Correspondence vol. 10, letter to Journal of Horticulture, [before 25 November 1862]). Anderson-Henry discussed strawberry hybrids in his letter to CD of 17 January 1863. See letter to Isaac Anderson-Henry, 20 January [1863] and n. 3.
CD was curious as to whether Anderson-Henry’s strawberry–raspberry cross would produce fertile seeds in the spring (see letter to Isaac Anderson-Henry, 20 January [1863]).
William Jameson.
In his letter of 20 January [1863], CD expressed curiosity about Anderson-Henry’s proposed attempt to hybridise a raspberry and a blackberry.
Anderson-Henry refers to the Belgian horticulturist Louis Benoit van Houtte.
Anderson-Henry misspelled Rhododendron nilagiricum.
Joseph Dalton Hooker is credited with introducing the rhododendrons of Sikkim to Britain; he collected many species during his Himalayan expedition from 1848 to 1851, publishing an account of these Himalayan shrubs in J. D. Hooker 1849 (DNB).
This sentence was written as an addition in the margin. In the following sentence, Anderson-Henry crossed out ‘R. glaucum’, and substituted ‘K. glauca’.
John Lindley cited Anderson-Henry’s observations on hybridising (Anderson[-Henry] 1853) in Lindley 1855, pp. 490–4.
See n. 12, above.
James Cunningham of the Cunningham & Fraser nursery, Comley Bank, Edinburgh, successfully propagated the hybrid Bryanthus erectus (Gardeners’ Chronicle, 1 November 1851, p. 695). Bryanthus erectus is now known as Phyllothamnus erectus, an intergeneric hybrid. This dwarf evergreen shrub reportedly resulted from a cross between Rhodothamnus chamaecistus and Phyllodoce caerulea (also known as Menziesia caerulea); however, it was generally believed that P. empetriformis (also known as M. empetriformis) was the second parent (see Bean 1970–88, 3: 173).
Robert Graham was professor of botany at the University of Edinburgh from 1820 until his death in 1845 (R. Desmond 1994).
Anderson-Henry refers to Eccremocarpus longiflorus, a Peruvian evergreen climber of the Bignoniaceae (Index Kewensis).
CD’s question about short stamens concerned pollination in Pelargonium (see letter to Isaac Anderson-Henry, 20 January [1863]), and whether short stamens produced dwarf plants. See n. 20, below.
Rhododendron edgworthii was described in J. D. Hooker 1849.
Anderson-Henry refers to his article, ‘Variegation, cross-breeding, and muling of plants’, in the Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener n.s. 2 (1861): 41–3.
Donald Beaton was one of the gardening editors of the Journal of Horticulture. For Beaton’s observations on Pelargonium, see the letter to Isaac Anderson-Henry, 20 January [1863] and n. 11.
See n. 14, above.
Anderson[-Henry] 1853 was republished in 1858 in the Horticultural Cabinet and Florists’ Magazine, which was edited by Joseph Harrison.
Anderson-Henry refers to Jean Baptiste de Lamarck’s theory of transmutation (Lamarck 1809).
For CD’s interest in peloric flowers, see the letter to Isaac Anderson-Henry, 20 January [1863].
In his letter of 20 January [1863], CD promised to send Anderson-Henry a copy of his paper on dimorphism in Linum when it was printed; ‘Two forms in species of Linum was read at a meeting of the Linnean Society on 5 February 1863 (Collected papers 2: 93–105). For CD’s presentation list for the Linum paper, see Correspondence vol.11, Appendix IV.
The letter has not been found.
Although CD did write to Jameson (see letter from Isaac Anderson-Henry, 17 April 1863), the correspondence has not been found.
Henry Norton Shaw was secretary of the Royal Geographical Society and editor of its journal, in which Jameson 1858 was published.
CD was interested in botanical collectors to whom he could apply for seeds ‘in the native land’; in the early 1860s, he was keen to obtain Melastomataceae seeds for experiments on flower dimorphism (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to J. D. Hooker, 14 [October 1862]).


Anderson[-Henry], Isaac. 1853. [Observations on hybridising.] In The book of the garden, vol. 2, pp. 319–22, by Charles Mackintosh. 2 vols. Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood & Sons. 1853–5. [Reprinted in Floricultural Cabinet and Florists’ Magazine 26 (1858): 60–7.]

Bean, William Jackson. 1970–88. Trees and shrubs hardy in the British Isles. 8th edition, fully revised by D. L. Clarke and George Taylor. 4 vols. and supplement. London: John Murray.

Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 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.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1849. The rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya; being an account, botanical and geographical, of the rhododendrons recently discovered in the mountains of eastern Himalaya, from drawings and descriptions made on the spot, during a government botanical mission to that country. Edited by William Jackson Hooker. London: Reeve, Benham & Reeve.

Index Kewensis: Index Kewensis: plantarum phanerogamarum, nomina et synonyma omnium generum et specierum … nomine recepto auctore patria unicuique plantae subjectis. 4 vols., and 20 supplements. Compiled by Benjamin Daydon Jackson, et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 1893–1996.

Jameson, William. 1858. Excursion made from Quito to the River Napo, January to May 1857. Journal of the Royal Geographical Society 28: 337–49.

Lamarck, Jean-Baptiste-Pierre-Antoine. 1809. Philosophie zoologique; ou exposition des considérations relatives à l’histoire naturelle des animaux; à la diversité de leur organisation … et les autres l’intelligence de ceux qui en sont doués. 2 vols. Paris: Dentu; the author.

Lindley, John. 1855. The theory and practice of horticulture; or an attempt to explain the chief operations of gardening upon physiological grounds. 2d edition. London: Longman, Brown, Green, & Longmans.

‘Two forms in species of Linum’: On the existence of two forms, and on their reciprocal sexual relation, in several species of the genus Linum. By Charles Darwin. [Read 5 February 1863.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 7 (1864): 69–83. [Collected papers 2: 93–105.]


Has done extensive plant hybridisation: strawberry, raspberry, Rhododendron.

Letter details

Letter no.
Isaac Anderson/Isaac Anderson Henry
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 159: 61
Physical description
ALS 13pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3948,” accessed on 25 June 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11