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Darwin Correspondence Project

To George King   27 January [1871]1

Down | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

Jan 27

Dear Sir,

I am much obliged for yr letter & for the great trouble which you have taken in sending me the specimens of the Paritium. I have no doubt this is the case to which I referred in my book.2

The difference in the leaves of the sport & parent-tree is most surprising, but perhaps essentially not more than between a fern-leaved and common hornbeam. If you should succeed in proving that the characters of the sport are inherited; & if you will compare the flowers & calycine glands of the two forms, I think your M.S. wd be well worth publication, & I wd with pleasure send it to the Linn. Soc. or to some Journal.3

With my best thanks for your great kindness, I beg leave to remain | dear Sir | yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the form of the address, with ‘Bromley’ crossed through and ‘Beckenham’ added by hand, which CD used between April 1869 and May 1871, and by the fact that the copy made for Francis Darwin (DAR 146: 11) is dated 27 January 1871.
The letter from King has not been found. In Variation 1: 377–8, CD referred to a Cistus tricuspis in Saharunpore (now Saharanpur), India, some branches of which produced leaves and flowers widely different from the normal form. King had been temporary superintendent of the Botanic Gardens at Saharunpore in 1868 and 1869 (ODNB). In Variation 2d ed., 1: 402, CD corrected the name of the plant to Hibiscus (Paritium) tricuspis, and added: Dr. King … informs me that a tree of Paritium tricuspis (probably the very same plant) growing there [at Saharanpore], had a branch buried in the ground, apparently by accident; and this branch changed its character wonderfully, growing like a bush, and producing flowers and leaves, resembling in shape those of another species, viz., P. tiliaceum. A small branch springing from this bush near the ground, reverted to the parent-form. Both forms were extensively propagated during several years by cuttings and kept perfectly true. Hibiscus tricuspis is now Talipariti hastatum. Paritium tiliaceum is now Hibiscus tiliaceus.
King published a note on his observations in the Journal of the Linnean Society of London (G. King 1875).


King, George. 1875. Note on a sport in Paritium tricuspe, G. Don. [Read 16 December 1875.] Journal of the Linnean Society of London (Botany) 15 (1875–7): 101–3.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

Variation 2d ed.: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1875.

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


Obliged for specimens [of Paritium?].

Discusses difference between sport and parent tree.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George King
Sent from
Source of text
Joseph R. Sakmyster, ADS Autographs (dealer) (no date)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7461,” accessed on 13 June 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19