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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Erasmus Darwin   [late February–May 1865]1

Yellow Short styled Yellow Long styled Red Long Styled

P. P. Primrose Magnified 350—

CD annotations

Left column: Yellow Short styled P.] ‘Common Primrose | 1865’ added below, pencil
Middle column: Yellow Long styled P.] ‘Long styled’ underl pencil; ‘Common Primrose’ added below, pencil
Right column: Red Long Styled] ‘Red’ double underl pencil; ‘Plants which I have crossed this year’2 added below, pencil
Bottom of page] ‘for Oxlips’3 added red crayon
Verso: ‘Size of Pollen in long-styled Red Primrose’ pencil; ‘Use’4 added & circled pencil


The date is conjectured from the flowering season of the common primrose (Primula vulgaris) and from CD’s annotations. See also nn. 3 and 5, below.
In 1865 and 1866, CD made a series of experimental crosses with red (purple) long-styled primroses (Primula vulgaris var. rubra) raised from seed sent by John Scott in 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from John Scott, [26 July – 2 August 1863], Correspondence vol. 12, letter from John Scott, 16 May [1864], and CD’s notes in DAR 108 and DAR 110). See also this volume, letter to B. D. Walsh, 19 December [1865], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 December [1865]. CD published his results in ‘Illegitimate offspring of dimorphic and trimorphic plants’, pp. 420–3, Variation 2: 109 n., and Forms of flowers, pp. 224–8.
CD may have intended to use the data on primrose pollen in his ongoing investigation into the differences between Primula vulgaris and P. veris, and their relationship to the common oxlip (now P. veris x vulgaris) and the Bardfield oxlip (P. elatior). He published his results in ‘Specific difference in Primula, and Forms of flowers, pp. 55–75.
In ‘Illegitimate offspring of dimorphic and trimorphic plants’, p. 421, CD described the pollen of the red (purple) long-styled primrose as ‘of the small size proper to the long-styled form’ but ‘mingled with many minute and shrivelled grains’. See also note in DAR 108: 93, in which CD wrote that William made this observation after the pollen from the red long-styled primrose was sent to him.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Forms of flowers: The different forms of flowers on plants of the same species. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1877.

‘Illegitimate offspring of dimorphic and trimorphic plants’: On the character and hybrid-like nature of the offspring from the illegitimate unions of dimorphic and trimorphic plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 20 February 1868.] Journal of the Linnean Society of London (Botany) 10 (1869): 393–437.

‘Specific difference in Primula’: On the specific difference between Primula veris, Brit. Fl. (var. officinalis of Linn.), P. vulgaris, Brit. Fl. (var. acaulis, Linn.), and P. elatior, Jacq.; and on the hybrid nature of the common oxlip. With supplementary remarks on naturally produced hybrids in the genus Verbascum. By Charles Darwin. [Read 19 March 1868.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 10 (1869): 437–54.

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


[Outline sketches of pollen from short-styled yellow primrose and from long-styled yellow and red primroses.]

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 108: 89a
Physical description
sketch †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4729,” accessed on 22 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13