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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Friedrich Hildebrand   4 November 1868

Freiburg im Breisgau

Novbr 4th 1868.

Dear and Honoured Sir

I intended to send you this autumn an off-spring of the graft-hybrid of the potatoes, that you have mentioned so kindly in your admirable work on domestication, but I am very sorry that I cannot do it.1 The two bushes that were going on very well when I wrote to you last in July made an immense quantity of very large shoots in the next months, but when I looked for the potatoes they might have produced I found only a very few and these were not larger than hazle-nuts and quite unripe.2 I fear that it will be very difficult to get such a graft-hybrid again, all the experiments I made this year in that direction had no result.

Experimentizing with bumpkins to 〈ascer〉tain the direct influence of the pollen 〈on t〉he fruit I found that the pollen 〈ta〉ken from several different forms did not act on the fruit’s form or colour in any way, but I made out that the seeds of one and the same bumpkin produced plants, the fruits of which had three or four different forms and their colour and largeness were very different too.3 This shows that in the fertilization that produced the mother fruit, some of the different sortes of pollen had such a preponderance over the others that it annihilated their action on the ovule.

The botanical garden of Freiburg is in a great disorder, but I hope that I shall have now a better opportunity to go on with my experiments next year.4 When you have anything that you would like to have ascertained by another botanist, I should be very glad to be made aware of it.

I embrace this opportunity to ask from you a favour: Professor Weismann, whose speech on your “Origin of species” you will have got, intends to go on with his experiments on butterflies and wishes very much to know something more about the observations of Mr A. R. Wallace and Dr Wallace; you only hint at them in the second volume of your “domestication”. Now perhaps you would be so kind to let me know occasionally the adress of the two gentlemen, that Professor Weismann might write to them in behalf of their papers on polymorphic butterflies and the Sterility of Sphingsidae etc.—5 Your usuall kindness will excuse my asking you this question.

Hoping that you are in good health | I remain | dear Sir | yours | faithfully | Hildebrand


In the second printing of Variation, CD reported Friedrich Hildebrand’s success in grafting a red variety of potato with a white (see letter from Friedrich Hildebrand, 2 January 1868 and nn. 3 and 6 and Variation 1: 396 (2d printing)).
By ‘bumpkin’, Hildebrand evidently meant ‘pumpkin’. In Variation 1: 400, CD had cited Hildebrand’s experimental results with maize, showing the direct action of pollen on the mother plant.
Hildebrand had recently become professor of botany at the university in Freiburg (see letter from Friedrich Hildebrand, 3 July 1868).
August Weismann had sent CD a copy of his inaugural lecture on the justification of Darwinian theory (Weismann 1868; see letter to August Weismann, 22 October 1868 and n. 1, and letter to Friedrich Hildebrand, 14 November [1868]). In Variation 2: 158 n. 61, CD had referred to Alexander Wallace’s note, ‘Remarks on the occurrence of rarer British Sphingidae’ (A. Wallace 1860). In Variation 2: 399–400, he mentioned A. R. Wallace’s description of polymorphic butterflies, but did not cite a specific work (see letter to Friedrich Hildebrand, 14 November [1868] and n. 6).


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

Wallace, Alexander. 1860. Remarks on the occurrence of rarer British Sphingidae. [Read 4 June 1860.] Transactions of the Entomological Society of London n.s. 5 (1858–61), Proceedings, pp. 119–20.

Weismann, August. 1868. Über die Berechtigung der Darwin’schen Theorie: ein akademischer Vortrag gehalten am 8 Juli 1868 in der Aula der Universität zu Freiburg im Breisgau. Leipzig: W. Engelmann.


Potato graft-hybrid fails to give potatoes.

August Weismann requests Wallace’s address to find out about experiments on butterflies hinted at in Variation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Friedrich Hermann Gustav (Friedrich) Hildebrand
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 166: 210
Physical description
3pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6448,” accessed on 13 June 2021,

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