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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Fritz Müller   22 April [1867]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Ap 22.

My dear Sir

I am very sorry your papers on climbing plants never reached you.2 They must be lost, but I put the stamps on myself, & I am sure they were right. I despatched on the 20th all the remaining copies, except one for myself. Your letter of Mar 4th contained much interesting matter,3 but I have to say this of all your letters.

I am particularly glad to hear that Oncidium flexuosum is endemic, for I always thought that the cases of self-sterility with orchids in hot-houses might have been caused by their unnatural conditions.4 I am glad also to hear of the other analogous cases, all of which I will give briefly in my book that is now printing.5 The lessened number of good seeds in the self-fertilized Epidendrons is to a certain extent a new case.6 You suggest the comparison of the growth of plants produced from self-fertilized & crossed seeds; I began this work last autumn & the result in some cases has been very striking, but only as far as I can yet judge with exotic plants which do not get freely crossed by insects in this country. In some of these cases it is really a wonderful physiological fact to see the difference of growth in the plants produced from self-fertilized & crossed seeds, both produced by the same parent-plant; the pollen which has been used for the cross having been taken from a distinct plant that grew in the same flower-pot.7 Many thanks for the dimorphic rubiaceous plant.8 Three of your Plumbagos have germinated, but not as yet any of the lobelias.9 Have you ever thought of publishing a work which might contain miscellaneous observations on all branches of natural history, with a short description of the country & of any excursions which you might take. I feel certain that you might make a very valuable & interesting book, for every one of your letters is so full of good observations. Such books, for instance Bates’s Travels on the Amazons,10 are very popular in England.

I will give your obliging offer about Brazilian plants to Dr. Hooker, who was to have come here to day, but has failed.11 He is an excellent good fellow, as well as naturalist: He has lately published a pamphet, which I think you wd like to read, & I will try & get a copy & send you.12

Yours most sincerely. | C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Fritz Müller, 4 March 1867.
CD told Müller in his letter of [before 10 December 1866] (Correspondence vol. 14) that he was sending copies of Müller’s paper on climbing plants (F. Müller 1865; also printed in Correspondence vol. 13 as the letter from Fritz Müller, [12 and 31 August, and 10 October 1865]); Müller mentioned that the copies had not arrived in his letter of 4 March 1867.
Müller had written that Oncidium flexuosum was completely infertile with its own pollen and fertile with the pollen of any other plant of the same species in his letter of 1 December 1866 (Correspondence vol. 14). CD had asked Müller whether this Oncidium was endemic to Brazil (see ibid., letter to Fritz Müller, [late December 1866 and] 1 January 1867). CD reported Müller’s findings in Variation 2: 134.
In his letter of 4 March 1867, Müller listed some orchids whose pollen and stigma had the same deleterious effect on one another as did those of Oncidium flexuosum; CD named some of these in Variation 2: 135. CD was checking the proof-sheets of Variation. See also Correspondence vol. 14, letter from Fritz Müller, 1 December 1866, and this volume, letters from Fritz Müller, 1 January 1867 and 2 February 1867.
In his letter of 4 March 1867, Müller recorded the production of seeds in Epidendrum cinnabarinum after pollination with own pollen, pollen of a distinct plant of E. cinnabarinum, and pollen of E. schomburgkii. CD reported the E. cinnabarinum results in Variation 2: 134.
In his letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 [March 1867], CD mentioned that Müller had sent him seeds of a dimorphic Plumbago and of two types of Lobelia, one of which was a climber. CD thanked Müller for them in his letter of 25 March [1867].
Müller had expressed surprise that Joseph Dalton Hooker and George Bentham had not been able to examine the seeds of some common Brazilian plants described in their Genera plantarum (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83), and had offered to ‘satisfy any wish’ of theirs regarding Brazilian plants (letter from Fritz Müller, 4 March 1867). Hooker had planned to visit CD from 20 to 22 April 1867 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 13 April 1867).
CD refers to a privately printed version of Hooker’s article on insular floras in the Gardeners’ Chronicle (J. D. Hooker 1866a). The text of the privately printed version, which had some changes from the Gardeners’ Chronicle version, is reproduced in Williamson 1984. Müller thanked CD for the paper in his letter of 17 July 1867.


Bates, Henry Walter. 1863. The naturalist on the River Amazons. A record of adventures, habits of animals, sketches of Brazilian and Indian life, and aspects of nature under the equator, during eleven years of travel. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.

Williamson, M. 1984. Sir Joseph Hooker’s lecture on insular floras. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 22: 55–77.


Self-sterility in orchids.

Growth differences in plants raised from self- and cross-fertilised seed.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Johann Friedrich Theodor (Fritz) Müller
Sent from
Source of text
The British Library (Loan MS 10 no 15)
Physical description
LS(A) 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5509,” accessed on 4 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15