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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. E. Darwin   [24 June 1866]1



My dear W.

Send me dry in paper a few youngish flowers of two males, that I may put pollen of both close together under microscope. Attend well to gradation between the 2 males & between the 2 females— I feel great interest in your discovery, if it will but hold good.—2

Please send 3 or 4 twigs, about as thick as tobacco-pipes, (of last year’s shoots bearing this year’s sprouts) of all 4 forms, & we will try whether they will strike, but the chance is poor.—3 Tie up & damp each lot of 3 or 4 separately; ; & then tie 4 bundles close together into one & perhaps roll the whole in tin-foil.— I will repay postage—but it need not be more than about a shilling—

Your affect. Father | C. Darwin

Thanks for note by George about ovules.4 I suppose there is no difference in length of stamens in the 2 males.—5

I wish to Heaven pollen-grains had not been largest in your “pistillate males”:—6

Hooker is here & very pleasant.7 I have been telling him about Rhamnus & he is much surprised; but I fear, I fear.

Does Rhamnus grow in sandy, or clay soil— In sun or shade??8


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. E. Darwin, 22 June [1866], and by the reference to Joseph Dalton Hooker’s visit (see n. 7, below). In 1866, 24 June was the first Sunday after 22 June.
William had discovered that there were four flower forms in Rhamnus cathartica, two male and two female, and speculated that the plant might once have been dimorphic (see letter from W. E. Darwin, 20 June [1866]).
In his letter to William of 22 June [1866], CD had suggested waiting until autumn to plant the slips.
The note from George Howard Darwin has not been found. George had visited his brother William on 21 June (see letter from W. E. Darwin, 20 June [1866]).
CD had asked the same question in his letter to W. E. Darwin, 22 June [1866].
Hooker visited CD at Down from 23 to 25 June 1866 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Rhamnus cathartica is found in peaty habitats; it grows well in dry or moist soil, in full sun or light dappled shade (The new Royal Horticultural Society dictionary of gardening; London: Macmillan, 1992).


Polymorphic flowers of Rhamnus [see Forms of flowers, p. 294].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 185: 16
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5132,” accessed on 19 May 2022,

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