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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Erasmus Darwin   [7 May – 11 June 1866]1



My Dear Father,

I went over yesterday to Isle of Wight to get Buckthorn, but unluckily it was not properly out.3 I send a few flowers (male) but will send you some more when I have got each sex. As far as I can judge it is merely ordinaryly diœcious, but I have only roughly looked at a bud. The petals in female certainly are smaller, & the sterile stamens exist, as do the stigmas in male flower. the buds have an odd little husklike scale on them, which

CD annotations

1.4 female certainly … stamens exist 1.5] scored pencil
Top of p. 2: ‘1866 Rhamnus catharticus’ pencil


The year is established by CD’s annotation. The date range is established by the flowering season of Rhamnus cathartica (May to June), and by the relationship between this letter and the letter from W. E. Darwin, [18 June 1866]. In 1866, the first Monday in May was 7 May.
William Erasmus Darwin lived in Southampton, where he was a partner in the Southampton and Hampshire Bank.
CD became interested in Rhamnus (buckthorn) in 1861, when Asa Gray informed him that a North American species, R. lanceolatus (now called R. lanceolata) was dimorphic; CD had then written to Joseph Dalton Hooker about obtaining a specimen (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter from Asa Gray, 11 October 1861, and second letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 November [1861]). CD had asked William to collect specimens from the Isle of Wight in 1864 (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from H. E. Darwin to W. E. Darwin, [18 May 1864], and letter from W. E. Darwin, [19 May 1864]). It is the only species of Rhamnus native to Britain (Stace 1997, p. 463).


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

Stace, Clive Anthony. 1997. New flora of the British Isles. 2d edition. London and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Sends flowers of buckthorn [Rhamnus catharticus] collected on Isle of Wight.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 109: A76
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5108,” accessed on 18 January 2022,

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