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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Smith   8 April 1868

Royal Gardens Kew

April 8th 1868.


In reference to the fertilisation of the flowers of Victoria regia, I beg to inform you that the self fertilised flowers produced from 8, to 15. Seeds in a Capsule, flowers fertilised artificially with pollen from the same plant produced from 15 to 30. seeds in Capsule and flowers fertilised with pollen from the Chatsworth plant produced from 60, in one to 75, in a second, Capsule, and seeds much larger than either of the former.1

I am | Sir | Your Obedient Servant | John Smith

C. Darwin Esqre.

CD annotations

1.2 the self fertilised flowers] ‘Perhaps did not get pollen [easily]added above, pencil
Top of letter: ‘Perhaps introduce with table F as also in [case] of self sterile species without aid ??’2 pencil


See letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 April [1868] and nn. 2 and 3. Victoria regia is now V. amazonica; Smith also refers to the garden of Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, which had a greenhouse designed by Joseph Paxton to house specimens of the plant (R. Desmond 1994). CD cited Smith’s information on V. regia under the synonym Euryale amazonica in Cross and self fertilisation, p. 358.
‘Table F’ refers to a list in Cross and self fertilisation, pp. 322–3, comparing the relative fertility of flowers using pollen from a distinct plant or own pollen. Smith’s data on Victoria regia was not included.


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

Desmond, Ray. 1994. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers. New edition, revised with the assistance of Christine Ellwood. London: Taylor & Francis and the Natural History Museum. Bristol, Pa.: Taylor & Francis.


Notes the differences in seed production between cross- and self-fertilized flowers of Victoria regia.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Smith
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 76: B175
Physical description
ALS 2pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6108,” accessed on 7 October 2022,

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