skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Daniel Oliver   28 March [1863]1

Down Bromley Kent

March 28th

Dear Oliver

You have indeed sent me some interesting specimens. Every part of the base of the flower of Edwardsia seems to secrete a surprising quantity of nectar: I thought from what Treviranus says it did not secrete till stamens or petals were broken off, which would have been a very surprising fact.—2 What a very curious stamen you sent me: it would be fine sport to observe the living plant.3 Can it serve as protection to stigma: in a Nierembergia, I saw the stamens formed into a sort cupola over the stigma; but I neglected to get the plant for observation. What singular bracts of the Marcgraviaceæ; if I can make anything of the Pitcher plant, which I do not suppose I shall, then Marcgraviæ would be interesting to observe.—4

I will send bottle with monstrous Primrose on Monday or Tuesday,5 with the Medallion for Hooker of Dr. Darwin, (please tell him):6 I have seen one flower with 4 pistils;7 there is one in bottle one specimen with corolla removed. I remember I observed that 9 or 10 bundles of spiral vessels ran up in outer case of ovarium & up pistil, & none ran up the central needle, prolonged up the middle of pistil in growth from the placenta. I concluded at time that the single pistil is really ten pistils.— I had never heard of Caspary, but speculate whether what you say is the placenta, was not an inner whorl of pistils without stigmas.—8

With many thanks   Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin

I have been looking at anther again, would it not force insects to approach only on one side & so rub against the side of anthers which dehisce?9


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, [28 March 1863]; see also n. 2, below.
See letter to Daniel Oliver, 24–5 March [1863], and letter from Daniel Oliver, [27 March 1863]. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 24[–5] February [1863] and n. 19. The reference is to Treviranus 1863a, p. 10; CD’s copy of this paper is in the Darwin Library–CUL. A note in DAR 49: 84, dated 28 March 1863, records CD’s observations on the specimens sent by Oliver: Edwardsia tetraptera— anther protruded from carina even in young flower & stigma— An immense quantity of nectar in drops [‘nea’ del] at bases of all petals & all stamens; this even in rather early flower hardly fully expanded— I scarcely ever saw so much.— When petals and stamens broken off [‘not’ del] no soon secretion from stumps.— I daresay old flower goes on secreting— What rubbish of old Treviranus.—
Oliver had apparently sent CD one of the anthers with a ‘curious crest’ that were typical of species of Amomum, on which he was working (see letter from Daniel Oliver, [27 March 1863]).
See letter to Daniel Oliver, 24–5 March [1863] and n. 6. In 1864, CD obtained information about Marcgravia and Nepenthes (the pitcher plant) in the context of his work on climbing plants (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 12, letter to J. D. Hooker, 26[–7] March 1864, and letter from Richard Spruce, 29 July 1864).
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [28 March 1863] and n. 10. The reference is to Erasmus Darwin.
CD’s notes recording this observation, dated 24 March 1863, are in DAR 108: 165 v.
See letter from Daniel Oliver, [26 March 1863] and n. 3. The reference is to Johann Xaver Robert Caspary.
CD refers to the specimen of Amomum (see n. 3, above).


Nectar secretion in Edwardsia. Could the stamen protect stigma?

Sends monstrous Primula with three pistils.

Had never heard of Robert Caspary, but what DO thinks is the placenta could be a whorl of pistils without stigmas.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Daniel Oliver
Sent from
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4063,” accessed on 17 July 2018,

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