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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Fritz Müller   3 April [1868]

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

Ap 3.

My dear Sir

I have been staying for a month in London, & am at present, on my return home, somewhat overwhelmed with correspondents, so that I write merely to thank you for yr letter of Jan 29. (which, as usual, abounds with most curious facts) & to enclose seeds from crossed flowers of the Eschhotzia Californica.1 I am very much obliged for yr seeds (which however appear to be rather injured by pressure) which shall be sown, & I shall be very curious to hear how my enclosed seeds behave with you.2 Your diagram of the movements of the flower-peduncle of the Alisma is extremely curious: I suppose the movement is of no service to the plant, but shews how easily the species might be converted into a climber.3 Does it bend through irritability when rubbed? If you can prove alternate generation with neuter ants you will indeed make a remarkable discovery.4 I shall be very anxious to hear whether Pontederia turns out trimorphic.5 None of the plants which I have raised from yr seeds have as yet flowered so that I cd experiment on them.6 I have never examined the flowers of any Maranta; but the whole vegetable kingdom seems to abound with beautiful contrivances for crossing.7

Before this letter reaches you I hope that you will have recd my new book, which on the whole has been received well in England. At some distant day I shall be intensely curious to hear what you think of the hypothesis of Pangenesis; but I shall not be at all surprized if you disapprove.8

Your next letter will I hope tell me what you think of my plan of getting a translation of your book published.9

With very sincere thanks believe me yours very truly | Ch. Darwin


CD had been in London from 3 March to 1 April 1868 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 16, Appendix II)). Müller’s letter of 29 January 1868 has not been found. Müller first discussed the self-sterility of Eschscholzia californica (California poppy) in a letter of 2 August 1866 (Correspondence vol. 14). In his letter of 30 January [1868], CD had enclosed seeds from cross-pollinated plants of E. californica and asked Müller to perform experiments to determine whether plants raised from the seed would be self-fertile.
In Cross and self fertilisation, pp. 331–3, CD described changes in the degree of self-sterility in plants raised from seeds of Eschscholzia californica sent to him by Müller and also gave the results of experiments made by Müller on plants raised from seeds sent by CD.
The letter and diagram concerning Alisma have not been found (see n. 1, above), but in February 1868, Müller wrote a paper on Alisma that contained a table charting the movement of the pedicel between 8 and 10 January 1868 (see F. Müller 1870, p. 134; CD’s heavily annotated copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL). CD cited F. Müller 1870 in Climbing plants 2d ed., p. 198, and in Movement in plants, p. 226. He also mentioned Müller’s observation in Origin 6th ed., p. 197.
The reference to ants has not been identified. Müller later worked on termites (white ants) and leaf-cutting ants. For more on this research, see West 2003, pp. 170–8.
Müller had mentioned Pontederia, a water-hyacinth, in a now missing section of a letter (see Correspondence vol. 14, letter from Fritz Müller, [2 November 1866], n. 16). Müller eventually discovered evidence of trimorphism in Pontederia crassipes (now Eichhornia crassipes); CD referred to Müller’s article on the topic, F. Müller 1871, in Forms of flowers, pp. 183–5.
On some of the plants raised from seeds sent by Müller, see Correspondence vol. 15, letter to Fritz Müller, 15 August [1867] and nn. 7 and 8.
For more on Maranta, see letters from Fritz Müller, 3 April 1868 and 17 June 1868. Müller had earlier mentioned that he had observed conspicuous seeds in plants of the Marantaceae (Correspondence vol. 15, letter from Fritz Müller, [8 October 1867]).
CD refers to Variation and to his provisional hypothesis of heredity, pangenesis (see Variation 2: 357–404).
CD hoped to have Müller’s Für Darwin (F. Müller 1864) translated into English. See letter to Hermann Müller, 23 February [1868], and letter to Fritz Müller, 16 March [1868].


Climbing plants 2d ed.: The movements and habits of climbing plants. 2d edition. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

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

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

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

Movement in plants: The power of movement in plants. By Charles Darwin. Assisted by Francis Darwin. London: John Murray. 1880.

Müller, Fritz. 1871. Ueber den Trimorphismus der Pontederien. Jenaische Zeitschrift für Medicin und Naturwissenschaft 6: 74–8.

Origin 6th ed.: The origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 6th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

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

West, David A. 2003. Fritz Müller. A naturalist in Brazil. Blacksburg, Va.: Pocahontas Press.


Movement in plants.


Would welcome FM’s opinion of Pangenesis.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Johann Friedrich Theodor (Fritz) Müller
Sent from
Source of text
The British Library (Loan MS 10 no 23)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6085,” accessed on 4 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16