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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Gardeners’ Chronicle   [before 11 August 1866]1

Oxalis Bowei.2 I should be much obliged to any one who will be so kind as to look at his flowers of this Oxalis, and observe where the summits of the branching stigmas stand with respect to the two sets of anthers. In all my plants the stigmas stand close beneath the lower anthers; but I have good reason to believe that two other forms exist—one with the stigmas standing above both sets of anthers, and the other with the stigmas between the two sets. If any one has flowers in either of these latter states, that is long-styled or mid-styled, I should be grateful if he would send me a few rather young flowers wrapped up in tin-foil or oil-silk; for I should thus be enabled to fertilize my own flowers and obtain seed.3

Charles Darwin

Down, Bromley, Kent


The letter was published in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette on 11 August 1866; see also Collected papers 2: 132.
The species, which CD also referred to as Oxalis bowii, is now known as O. bowiei.
On CD’s interest in trimorphism in Oxalis, see the letter to Friedrich Hildebrand, 16 May [1866] and n. 10. In Forms of flowers, p. 179, CD remarked that he had cultivated the short-styled form of a species purchased under the name of O. Bowii but had some doubts whether it was rightly named, noting that it was sterile when self-pollinated. In a note dated July 1866, CD wrote, ‘Oxalis bowii   I can perceive in short-styled no certain difference in pollen of two sets of anthers’ (DAR 109: B101). Oxalis has an inner and outer series of stamens; those forming the inner series are longer.


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

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


Asks readers to examine the flowers of Oxalis bowei to observe where the summits of the branching stigmas stand with respect to the two sets of anthers. In CD’s plants the stigmas stand beneath the lower anthers, but he believes two other forms exist: long-styled and mid-styled. Would be grateful for flowers of these types so he can fertilise them and obtain seed.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Gardeners’ Chronicle
Sent from
Source of text
Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette (1866): 756

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5188,” accessed on 7 July 2020,

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