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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Isaac Anderson-Henry   2 February [1863]1

Down, Beckenham, Kent S.E.2

Feb. 2nd. 1863.

My dear Sir,

I am not well today and leave home tomorrow for a week or ten days to try and get some rest;3 so I must write briefly; and thank you for your very kind letter briefly.4

I have really not knowledge sufficient about Columbia to make any suggestions.5 If the Latitude had been given, I should have strongly urged (but this will have occurred to you) to have collected seeds from individual trees growing at great heights. I allude, of course to Hooker’s observation that seeds collected at different heights of some species produced seedlings with different constitution.6 Mr. Thwaites of Botanical gardens of Ceylon tells me that this is the case in that island.7 It might even be worth attending to in your present expedition as a point of science; i.e. to compare character of seedlings from great height and low places.— Many thanks for corrections about the Menziesia, and about the hybrid sent to Hooker.—8

Here is odd chance! I have made two or three trials to see whether seeds from short anthers germinated at different rates, as yet with no result; and I have tried ozonised water, with no result.—9 Not that I have tried nearly enough to come to any conclusion worth anything. Pray forgive brevity, and, with cordial thanks.

Believe me, | Yours Sincerely. | C. Darwin.

Mr. Neumann I believe to be the man who has worked at fertilization of stove orchids and in good gardens.10 I suspect he is working under M. Naudin (who is Decaisne right hand man and capital Botanist)11 M. Naudin writes to me, that he is going to publish on Hybridity and he believes he has discovered the physiological cause of sterility of Hybrids!!!12 I doubt.

If by any chance you have raised seedlings from any “weeping” tree, I should be grateful for information to quote on degrees of inheritance of “weeping” quality.—13

Pray forgive this wretchedly untidy note; but I am good for nothing.


The text of the letter is taken from a copy made for Francis Darwin when he was preparing editions of his father’s letters (LL and ML). The copyist included the year in the date line, although this was not CD’s usual practice. The year is confirmed by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Isaac Anderson-Henry, 31 January 1863.
The copyist wrote ‘Beckenham’ in error; the embossed address on CD’s writing paper at this time read ‘Bromley’.
On 2 February 1863, Emma Darwin recorded in her diary (DAR 242) that CD was ‘very languid in mg’ and, on 3 February 1863, ‘Ch. ditto’. CD was in London from 4 to 14 February 1863 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II)).
In his letter of 31 January 1863, Anderson-Henry informed CD that a collector (Robert Brown) had been sponsored by the British Columbia Botanical Association of Edinburgh to gather plants and seeds in Vancouver Island and British Columbia. Anderson-Henry asked CD whether he had any suggestions regarding what Brown ‘might look after’.
Joseph Dalton Hooker’s observations that altitude materially altered the habits of plants of the same species, and that seeds gathered at high altitudes produced hardier plants than seeds gathered at lower altitudes, were made in J. D. Hooker 1852, pp. 69–71, and J. D. Hooker 1853, pp. xi–xii. There is a copy of J. D. Hooker 1853 in the Darwin Library–CUL.
George Henry Kendrick Thwaites was superintendent of the Peradeniya botanic gardens in Ceylon (DNB). Thwaites communicated his observations on the acclimatisation of plants at different altitudes in a letter to CD of 28 December 1857, but the letter has not been found (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to G. H. K. Thwaites, 7 February [1858]). Thwaites’s observations were cited in Origin, p. 140, and in the manuscript of CD’s ‘big book’ on species (see Natural selection, p. 286).
For Anderson-Henry’s comments on Menziesia, see the letter from Isaac Anderson-Henry, 26–7 January 1863. The hybrid sent to Hooker was probably sent in response to CD’s request for ‘any quite sterile Hybrid plant with a rather large stigma’ (see the letter to Isaac Anderson-Henry, 20 January [1863]). CD wanted to compare the stigmas of a hybrid plant with the stigmas of its parent-species by dissection (see letter to John Scott, 21 January [1863]). In a letter to Anderson-Henry, now missing, but written before 27 January 1863 (see letter from Isaac Anderson-Henry, 26–7 January 1863, n. 30), CD may have asked that the plant be sent to Hooker at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where the parents of the hybrid could be located and where the dissection could be conducted conveniently. According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), CD visited the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on 11 February 1863.
In his letter to CD of 31 January 1863, Anderson-Henry remarked on his hypothesis that pollen from the short anthers of plants might have the property not only of producing dwarf offspring, but also of effecting ‘precocious fertility’ and differences in the hardiness of offspring. Anderson-Henry also suggested that increases in atmospheric ozone might promote the germination of seeds.
In his letter of 31 January 1863, Anderson-Henry informed CD that he had been corresponding with Louis Neumann, a gardener at the Jardin des Plantes, the botanical department of the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. CD knew of Neumann’s work with orchids through the publications of Adolphe Théodore Brongniart, the professor of botany at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle (see Collected papers 2: 70 n. 6).
The references are to Charles Victor Naudin and Joseph Decaisne. Naudin was aide-naturaliste and Decaisne was professor of plant cultivation at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle (DBF, Taxonomic literature). However, Neumann’s inquiries to Anderson-Henry were probably made under the direction of Bernard Verlot, chef de culture at the Jardin des Plantes (see Verlot 1864). See also letter from Isaac Anderson-Henry, 31 January 1863 and n. 8.
Naudin’s letter has not been found; however, see the letter to C. V. Naudin, 7 February 1863. See also letter from J. D. Hooker, 24 January 1863.
CD wanted information on weeping trees for chapter 12 of Variation, which he had begun writing on 23 January 1863 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II), and Variation 2: 18–19). See also letter to Thomas Rivers, 1 February [1863] and n. 6.


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. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

DBF: Dictionnaire de biographie Française. Under the direction of J. Balteau et al. 21 vols. (A–Le Nain) to date. Paris: Librairie Letouzey & Ané. 1933–.

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. 1852. On the climate and vegetation of the temperate and cold regions of East Nepal and the Sikkim Himalaya Mountains. Journal of the Horticultural Society of London 7: 69–131.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1853. Introductory essay to the flora of New Zealand. London: Lovell Reeve.

LL: The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Edited by Francis Darwin. 3 vols. London: John Murray. 1887–8.

ML: More letters of Charles Darwin: a record of his work in a series of hitherto unpublished letters. Edited by Francis Darwin and Albert Charles Seward. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1903.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Taxonomic literature: Taxonomic literature. A selective guide to botanical publications and collections with dates, commentaries and types. By Frans A. Stafleu and Richard S. Cowan. 2d edition. 7 vols. Utrecht, Netherlands: Bohn, Scheltema & Holkema. The Hague, Netherlands: W. Junk. 1976–88.

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

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.


Suggests collecting seeds at different heights from British Columbia.

Describes experiment on seeds from short anthers.

C. V. Naudin writes he has discovered cause of hybrid sterility.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Isaac Anderson/Isaac Anderson Henry
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 145: 2
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3964,” accessed on 5 March 2021,

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