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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Thomas Rivers   17 August [1863]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Aug 17th

My dear Sir

The almond tree which you gave me has produced no fruit; but the Double Chinese Peach has 3 fruit.2 Now, if you have any bearing Almond trees, would you have kindness, when fruit ripe to send me 2 or 3; & if you have any other odd peach 2 or 3 to compare the stones.—3 The best address is

“C. Darwin”

“care of Down Postman”

per Rail “Bromley”


I presume you have no more facts for me to quote on inheritance of weeping trees; you said, if you had time, you could prove the weeping elm.—4

Now I am going to beg another favour. Have you yourself seen any kind of modification in fruit or foliage any fruit-tree from being grafted. Andrew Knight & others assert that slight differences do result;5 others positively deny this. Can you give me any certain facts?6

Lastly I ask on mere improbable chance of the point having occurred to you: viz do you believe & can you any how account for the positive statements of several good pears (& several varieties of wheat) having been discovered as seedlings in hedges & woods. On mere doctrine of chances, this might perhaps have occasionally occurred; but the occurrence seems too frequent for mere chance. I have not yet collected such recorded cases, as I have met with, but I know that I have several. & in a day or two shall collect them.7

Pray excuse me thus troubling you, & believe me, My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Thomas Rivers, 21 January 1863.
See letter to Thomas Rivers, [9 May 1863] and n. 4. CD acknowledged Rivers for providing specimens of peach and almond stones in Variation 1: 338–9.
This comment may have been in the part of the letter from Thomas Rivers, [3 February 1863], that is now missing. CD cited observations made by Rivers on seedlings of varieties of weeping elm in Variation 2: 19. See also letters to Thomas Rivers, [14 February 1863] and nn. 3 and 6, and 5 March [1863].
The reference is to Thomas Andrew Knight and to Knight 1815. CD discussed Knight’s conclusions on the effects of grafting in Variation 1: 387, and 2: 278 n. 29.
No letter from Rivers in answer to this query has been found; however, Rivers evidently provided examples of cases in which grafting had produced alterations in the stock plants (see Variation 1: 394).
Examples of new varieties of fruit-trees and wheat occurring in woodland and wasteland, including one provided by Rivers, are given in Variation 2: 260–1. This information appeared in the section of Variation entitled ‘Causes of variability’ (Variation 2: 250–70); CD had completed the draft of the preceding section, entitled ‘Selection’, on 20 July 1863 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II)).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Knight, Thomas Andrew. 1815. On the want of permanence of character in varieties of fruit, when propagated by grafts and buds. [Read 4 April 1815.] Transactions of the Horticultural Society of London 2 (1817): 160–1.

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


The almond-tree TR gave him produced no fruit, but the Chinese double peach has three. Asks for ripe almond fruits and any odd peaches, to compare the stones.

Asks about modification in fruit or foliage in any fruit-trees from being grafted,

and about seedlings of pears and wheat said to have been found in hedges and woods.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Rivers
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 185: 85
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4270,” accessed on 16 June 2021,

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