skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   29 June [1866]1


June 29th

My Dear Father,

I enclose what flowers I could find of the different kinds; I am afraid it is doubtful whether you will find any pollen, as the flowers are very much past. I suppose it will turn out all rubbish, & I think gradations will probably turn up.2

Still I think it ought to be the explanation, as it is much neater— And I do not quite see how supposing it to have been originally hermaphrodite & female explains it, as tho’ one can understand hermaphrodite become male, why should the female become male?3

I enclose outlines of pollen, & styles cut off close to ovary.4

There is a great difference in the length of papillæ on the two male flower stigmas;5 the long styled is much the roughest

I hope the twigs will grow;6 one has taken root in my friend Dunn’s garden.7

I am going to look at the white broom this evening.8

I am glad the boys are going a trip in Wales.9

I hope mamma is pretty brisk10


[Enclosure 2]


[Enclosure 3]

[Enclosure 4]

CD annotations

4.1 There is … roughest 4.2] scored red crayon
Enclosure 1: ‘In ♀ flower do the reverting stamens differ in length—the longer’12 pencil
Enclosure 2: ‘short st | [Mean length] | Females with aborted anther’ pencil
Enclosure 3: ‘Very little difference’ pencil
Enclosure 4: ‘Certainly larger— first [instance] of what ought to occur if once [1 word illeg]pencil . Original, 16 August 1996. ASB . Reference to papillae on stigmas in Forms of flowers, p. 294. ASB . n. 8: Diary entries say ‘Boys went to Wales’ and ‘Lenny and F. came home’; Francis and HED were in Ireland. Have not found mention of Wales visit in family letters. PW . ‘going a trip’ sic AMP.


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. E. Darwin, [24 June 1866].
In the letter to W. E. Darwin, [24 June 1866], CD had requested that William send him ‘a few youngish flowers’ of the two male forms of Rhamnus cathartica. William had discovered two male and two female forms in the species, and speculated that the plant may once have been dimorphic (see letter from W. E. Darwin, 20 June [1866]). CD had advised William to look for gradations in his letters of 22 June [1866] and [24 June 1866].
CD had initially suggested that Rhamnus cathartica had once existed in hermaphrodite and female forms (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 19 [June 1866]). He later suggested that if William’s belief proved true, then two hermaphrodite forms, long-styled and short-styled, had given rise to four unisexual forms (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 22 June [1866]).
See enclosure.
In Forms of flowers, p. 294, CD noted that on some male flowers of Rhamnus cathartica, the pistil was ‘much more developed, with the papillae on the stigmatic surfaces moderately large’.
William had sent twigs of Rhamnus cathartica so that CD could plant them as cuttings (see letters to W. E. Darwin, [24 June 1866] and 30 [June 1866]).
The reference is to Robert Dunn, curate of Gatecombe, Isle of Wight (Alum. Cantab.).
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Francis and Horace Darwin went to Wales on 7 July 1866 and returned on 16 July.
The diagrams associated with this letter are reproduced at approximately 40 per cent of their original size.
In Forms of flowers, pp. 294–5, CD notes that the two female forms of Rhamnus cathartica are distinguished only by their pistils; the stamens of both forms are described as ‘in an extremely rudimentary condition’.


Alum. Cantab.: Alumni Cantabrigienses. A biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900. Compiled by John Venn and J. A. Venn. 10 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1922–54.

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


Sends flowers of the differing kinds [of Rhamnus?] with observations.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 109: A78–9, A47–9
Physical description
AL inc? †, encl 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5134,” accessed on 22 May 2022,

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