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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Isaac Anderson-Henry   31 January 1863

Hay Lodge, | Trinity, | Edinburgh.

Jany 31/63

My dear Sir

I cannot deny myself the pleasure of saying however briefly at present, how much gratified I am by the receipt, this morning, of yours of the 29th.1 Every line of it is suggestive of things to do, as well, alas, as of opportunities neglected. That is a new idea to me of counting the seeds.2 Many, many a time have I had my attention called to the paucity of seeds on crossing alien things—and even I observed where fewest they were the most obstinate in vegetating. And yet in that very severe cross of Rhodothamnus Chamæcistus with the large species of Rhodn. the seeds were abundant & ripe—3 the seeds of this cross were not long & elliptical in form as in the male parent (Rhodn.) but rounded as is the characteristic of the female parent

I yesterday got the same Bryanthus from a Nursery with Menziesea Cærulea— The M empetriformis I have ordered from Veitch London. So I shall again test the experiment.4 I do believe, and all here do,—that the empetriformis was what Mr Cunningham wrought upon.5 His nephew, I think I mentioned,6 said he really believed his Uncle was unable to say which,—whether that or the M. Cærulea was the female parent.

Having since I wrote you, answered some 20 questions submitted to me a M Neumann, describing himself as “Chef de Culture Jardins des Plantes”, Paris,7 an intelligent and most earnest Enquirer into these mysteries, I am perplexed whether certain explanations I gave were to you or to him. For this was a second Letter from the same Gentn. who wished what light I could give him for some Conference to be held at the end of this month. He besought of me for leave to publish my Letters,8—very hasty things they were, but I hope their imperfections will be concealed under a French petticoat

This is the day I send off my despatches to Dr Jameson, and I shall mention your desire to correspond with him.9 These Rhexias relaise Humboldts fear (I think it is Humboldts)10 that certain plants from these elevated Plateaus are difficult to bring into bloom in Europe—& vice versa, Dr J mentions the same difficulty there with some European fruits. I have one thing more than 10 years old not l foot high, a Rhexia,11 which shows no symptom of blooming yet.

But I must defer till next Letter further remarks on your Letter, merely observing now, that I will most gladly cooperate not only in the Experiments you have suggested but in any others you may point out. Certainly D. B.12 is loose & as fast as he is loose—often wrong & incorrigible when he is. Yet there is matter in him, tho not the root of it. Long before Donald stumbled on about these “short anthers” I had not only come to regard them as the parents of my puny things—13 But I took up the idea that each separate pair had their functions separate from others—some conducing to to precocious fertility—some to more robust & others to a more tender constitution;—some to finer flowers & fruit & some to hardier & some to more tender constitutions. Hence it may be that Cultivation, in due time tends so much to improve our cultivated fruits & flowers. Again (do forgive my trespassing on your valuable time) I have ever held that there is much in times & seasons for accomplishing crosses which at other times I wd never endeavour to essay. Is it Ozone, which, at times they say (and I think in Spring most) intermixes with the air in greater degree, that may produce these general influences. Some days I have found several hopeless seeds, long sown, to spring & crosses to take which, at other times it were in vain to try. Do turn your powers of mind and observation to atmospheric conditions and influences

But now I must come to the single line I intended to write. Did I tell you of an Association formed here to send a Collector to Vancouver Island & B. Columbia.14 I intended to do so and to send a Print of our proceedings—but I forget if I did either. I now enclose the Print.15 It occurs to me that you might kindly throw out some valuable suggestions for what our Collector,—an intelligent Botanist, might look after— And he at same time might pick up seeds of some things for crossing—those strawberries e.g.16 He sails immediately ie in some 10 or 14 days going by Cape Horn direct then for Vancouver Island

It is odd that if these American species won’t cross with ours, I certainly failed with some cross I attempted on F Indica a beautiful but insipid fruited thing.17 One cross I have fought & wrought with for years,—to cross Australian Veronicas with our native suffruticose kinds e.g. V fruticulosa to V. saxatalis. Yet I have plants much dwarfer than the female (V Speciosa. N Zealand) but the foliage tho’ smaller is that of the Mother, and I fear it is her repeated— we will see

But I must resist all temptation to go into the other points in your letter till another time. Oh that I had sooner had the incentives applied which your intelligence & ardour now so late inspire me with. But now I have the time I never had before, and with the electric light which you hold up & the spark communicated my time may not be wasted on merely producing a beautiful thing, the admiration of a day then to be forgotten forever.

Believe me | Yours very Sincerely & most obliged | Is Anderson Henry

Chas Darwin Esq | F.R.S.


CD’s letter has not been found, but see the letter from Isaac Anderson-Henry, 26–7 January 1863.
CD often counted seeds as a measure of the fertility of a cross and advised others to do the same (see ‘Dimorphic condition in Primula, and Correspondence vol. 10, letter to John Scott, 3 December [1862]).
In his letter of 26–7 January 1863, Anderson-Henry described a cross he attempted in 1851 between Rhodothamnus chamaecistus and a large species of Rhododendron.
The reference is to the Chelsea nurserymen, James Veitch and James Veitch Jr. Anderson-Henry earlier described his attempts to repeat the cross made by the Edinburgh nurseryman, James Cunningham, which resulted in the hybrid Bryanthus erectus (see letter from Isaac Anderson-Henry, 26–7 January 1863 and n. 14).
See n. 4, above.
No previous mention of Cunningham’s nephew has been found. A later letter mentions that the nephew, who has not been identified further, had started working at a nearby nursery, Peter Lawson & Sons (see letter from Isaac Anderson-Henry, 24 April 1863, and Post Office Edinburgh directory 1867–8).
Louis Neumann was a gardener at the Jardin des Plantes, the botanical department of the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle. Neumann’s inquiries to Anderson-Henry were probably made under the direction of Bernard Verlot, who was the chef de culture at the Jardin des Plantes (see n. 8, below).
Anderson-Henry’s replies to Neumann’s inquiries were published in Verlot 1864, pp. 10–11; Verlot’s essay was prepared as an entry for an open competition of the Société Impériale et Centrale d’Horticulture in Paris (see letter from John Scott, 3 March 1863, n. 7). The deadline for the essay was 1 February 1863, with the prize a gold medal worth 300 francs.
Anderson-Henry refers to the Scottish botanist William Jameson, who was living in Ecuador. See letter from Isaac Anderson-Henry, 26–7 January 1863.
In his letter to Anderson-Henry of 20 January [1863], CD stated that he was ‘a little doubtful’ about Beaton’s claim that the pollen of the two shortest anthers of scarlet Pelargoniums produced dwarf plants ‘in comparison with plants produced from same mother-plants by the pollen of longer stamens from same flower’. CD expressed a wish to have this point tested by ‘systematic experiments’. Anderson-Henry responded at length to CD’s comments regarding short anthers in his letter of 26–7 January 1863. See also Appendix V.
Anderson-Henry refers to the British Columbia Botanical Association of Edinburgh, a shareholding venture launched in 1849 for the further exploration of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. Anderson-Henry was secretary to the association (Journal of Horticulture n.s. 3: 451). The collector chosen was Robert Brown; an account of Brown’s expedition appeared in the Transactions of the Botanical Society [of Edinburgh] (McNab 1872).
The enclosure has not been found.
Fragaria indica was the Indian, or yellow, strawberry. For CD’s and Anderson-Henry’s interest in strawberry hybrids, see the letter to Asa Gray, 2 January [1863] and n. 17, and the letter from Isaac Anderson-Henry, 26–7 January 1863 and nn. 2 and 3.


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

‘Dimorphic condition in Primula’: On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations. By Charles Darwin. [Read 21 November 1861.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 77–96. [Collected papers 2: 45–63.]

McNab, James. 1872. On the discoveries of Mr John Jeffrey and Mr Robert Brown, collectors to the botanical expeditions to British Columbia between the years 1850 and 1866, with remarks on the cultivation of certain species. [Read 14 March 1872.] Transactions and Proceedings of the Botanical Society [of Edinburgh] 11: 322–38.

Post Office Edinburgh directory: Post-Office annual directory and calendar. Post-Office Edinburgh and Leith directory. Edinburgh: Ballantyne & Hughes [and others]. 1845–1908.

Verlot, Bernard. 1864. Mémoire sur la production et la fixation des variétés dans les plantes d’ornement. Journal de la Société Impériale et Centrale d’Horticulture 10: 243–56, 305–20, 375–84, 420–32, 468–80, 518–28, 571–6, 624–40.


Thanks for CD’s experimental suggestions. Will count seeds of hybrid crosses.

Requests suggestions for Edinburgh Botanical Society expedition to British Columbia.

Letter details

Letter no.
Isaac Anderson/Isaac Anderson Henry
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 159: 62
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3958,” accessed on 22 March 2023,

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