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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Arthur Rawson   1 April [1863]1

Bromley Common

April 1

Dear Mr. Darwin

I send you a little novelty in (what I suppose the literati call) morphology. I never observed a similar case. In the truss of primula accompanying this you will see that the crown flower though having only one corolla has two (apparently) perfect pistils and set of stamens. I don’t know whether this may be a novelty to you, but it is to me.2

I ought to have written to you about the Gladiolus experiment, which I carried out strictly according to yr. letter,3 and wh answered exactly as you expected, and according to my previous experience. The pollen of the same variety is not potent on itself, even when taken from one plant and applied to flowers on another.4

I have Ophrys aranifera in bloom, and shall soon have a good pot of Cypripedium pubescens— I shall be glad to loan them to you if you want to make any experiments.5 I have just been reading your “orchis” book with great interest.6

Ys. very truly | A Rawson

Since writing the above, I have thought you may not be at home. The primula will be in bloom for some days. Will you send me a line if you wish to see it


The year is established by CD’s reference to the loan of Cypripedium pubescens in his letter to Asa Gray of 20 April [1863].
CD discussed double flowers in Variation 1: 167–8, 171–2, 200.
CD’s letters to Rawson have not been found. However, see the letter from Arthur Rawson, [6 April 1863], and n. 4, below.
In Variation 2: 139–40, CD provided an account of the experiments carried out by Rawson, a ‘skilful horticulturist’, who worked with complex French varieties of hybrid Gladiolus. For other evidence of CD’s interest in cross and hybrid sterility, see, for example, the following letter, and Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix VI.
Orchids was published on 15 May 1862 (Freeman 1977, p. 112).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.

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


Conducted crosses on Gladiolus varieties exactly according to CD’s letter. Flowers of same variety are self-sterile, whether from the same plant or not.

Letter details

Letter no.
Arthur Rawson
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Bromley Common
Source of text
DAR 176: 22
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4072,” accessed on 21 October 2019,

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