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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Arthur Rawson   [6 April 1863]1

Bromley Common

Monday night

Dear Mr. Darwin

I did not expect the arrival of any one for the Cypripedium quite so soon, but it is all right, and will bloom in a fortnight or three weeks.2 It should be kept in a cold frame. Of course you may mutilate the flowers to any extent you please. The plant I should like back when you have done with it.

As to the Gladiolus experiment,—your statement is quite correct, and I tried the experiment carefully.3 A. would not fertilize A. (I wish it would)—but B.C.D. would fertilize A. to any amount, and I have done this in many cases,—in fact I get all my seeds by thus crossing.4 I find somewhat the same in Epimediums, but cannot speak so certainly.

Have you ever observed in Dianthus (or in other species, I have only in Dianthus) that in a pan of seedlings several will always come with three instead of two seed leaves, and that whenever this is so three true leaves follow? I have often noticed this, and intended, last year, to grow them separately, to see the result on the bloom, but something prevented me.

Once more. Have you ever studied “Dielytra spectabilis”?5 I cannot cross it, or seed it, though I have tried this 6 years. If you can put me up to that, I shall be much obliged

Yr. very truly | A Rawson


Dated by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Arthur Rawson, 1 April [1863], and by the date of flowering of Rawson’s Cypripedium pubescens (see n. 2, below); in 1863, the first Monday following 1 April was 6 April.
In his letter of 1 April [1863], Rawson offered CD a loan of the orchid Cypripedium pubescens in bloom ‘to make any experiments’ he wanted. CD had wished to examine additional specimens of Cypripedium after reading Asa Gray’s observations on American species (A. Gray 1862a, pp. 427–8). Gray’s observations were made partly in response to Orchids, pp. 274–5. See letter from Asa Gray, 2 January [1863] and n. 7. CD recorded his experiments with the flowers of the C. pubescens specimen sent by Rawson in DAR 70: 112–13; these notes are dated ‘April 19’.
CD’s letters to Rawson have not been found; however, see n. 4, below, and the letter from Arthur Rawson, 1 April [1863] and n. 4.
In Variation 2: 139–40, CD provided an account of Rawson’s pollination experiments with varieties of a complex hybrid Gladiolus: Mr. Rawson, after repeated trials, found that none of the varieties would set seed with their own pollen, although taken from distinct plants of the same variety, which had, of course, been propagated by bulbs, but that they all seeded freely with pollen from any other variety.
CD had studied Dielytra spectabilis, but primarily with regard to insect pollination (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 April [1860], Correspondence vol. 10, letter to Daniel Oliver, 12 [April 1862], and Variation 2: 59).


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

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.


Provides evidence of self-sterility in Gladiolus.

Has observed three seed-leaves in some Dianthus seedlings.

Cannot cross, or grow from seed, Dielytra spectabilis.

Letter details

Letter no.
Arthur Rawson
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Bromley Common
Source of text
DAR 176: 23
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4074,” accessed on 5 December 2019,

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