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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Thomas Rivers   17 May 1866

Bonks Hill, | Sawbridgeworth.

May 17/66

My dear Sir/

I hope to be at home when the Cytissus & Laburnum show their flowers & to a certainty will send you some of each.1

I found to day a curious (to me) instance of the Wistaria frutescens turning back on its own shoots— they will make a light package but too long for the post so I intend to send them per rail tomorrow paid to London.2

I rejoice much to hear of yr. restoration to health & hope to meet you on Saturday at Dr. Gray’s3

I am My dr Sir | Yrs. very truly | Thos. Rivers

I am trying to get the stain by cutting out the buds of Negundo variegata leaving the shields4   this is the most thorough variegation I know of in deciduous trees.


See letter to Thomas Rivers, 27 April [1866]. CD had requested that Rivers send him specimens of ‘Cytisus purpureus-elongatus’ and C. adami. On CD’s interest in Cytisus, see the letter to Robert Caspary, 21 February [1866] and n. 2, and the letter from Robert Caspary, 25 February 1866 and nn. 4 and 9.
Wisteria frutescens is a species native to the south-eastern United States. CD had briefly discussed the climbing habit of Wisteria in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 21–2. He had also remarked that hanging shoots of some climbing plants twined back around themselves in order to grow upwards (ibid., p. 14). For CD’s interest in Wisteria, see also Correspondence vol. 12.
John Edward Gray had invited CD to dine on Wednesday 16 May (see letter from J. E. Gray, 9 April 1866); however, CD evidently declined (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 May [1866] and n. 8). No record that CD dined at Gray’s on 19 May has been found.
Rivers refers to the variegated tree Acer negundo ‘Variegatum’; the variety is described in Bean 1970–88, 1: 214. A ‘shield’ is ‘a shield-shaped portion of a branch, containing a bud, cut for use as a graft’ (OED). Rivers was interested in the possible effect of scion wood on the coloration of stock tissue in Acer; by removing the bud from the shield, he would have prevented the scion from making new growth (see Rivers 1866a, p. 237). CD had previously consulted Rivers about cases of stock being affected by grafts (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to Thomas Rivers, 28 December [1862], and Correspondence vol. 11, letter to Thomas Rivers, 7 January [1863]). CD had also asked Asa Gray about cases of buds with blended characters produced at the junction of stock and graft (see letter to Asa Gray, 16 April [1866]).


Bean, William Jackson. 1970–88. Trees and shrubs hardy in the British Isles. 8th edition, fully revised by D. L. Clarke and George Taylor. 4 vols. and supplement. London: John Murray.

‘Climbing plants’: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 2 February 1865.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 9 (1867): 1–118.

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

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.


Will be sure to send the Cytisus and Laburnum blooms when they flower.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Rivers
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 176: 165
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5094,” accessed on 24 November 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14