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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Philip de Malpas Grey-Egerton   5 May [1844]

30 Eaton Place

May 5.

Dear Darwin.

I send you Enniskillen’s1 account of the discovery of the Irish Yew.2 “Old Hugh” (not Yew) “Willis of Ahaterourke under Ben Achlin found two upright Yews in the mountain between the Cove and the Ben near Lugahurra hollow about 80 years ago. He brought one to his Landlord and planted the other in his own Garden where it now stands a fine tree. The remnants of the other are now in the Flower garden here. I have always heard that the first plants raised were from cuttings, and to judge from the appearance of the mother plant it must be true. I never heard of seed being sown till Mr Young our Gardener tried it and raised 3 plants which differ from the parent and are intermediate between it and the Common Yew Florence Court3

April 26.

CD annotations

1.10 Yew] ‘ ‘’ ’ added pencil
Top of first page: ‘Wild vars’brown crayon ‘Ch IV’ circled brown crayon ‘Just allude to these & describe under wild vars.4 pencil
End of letter: ‘Ennuskillen. | P. G. Egerton’ pencil


William Willoughby Cole, 3d Earl of Enniskillen, Fermanaugh, Ireland.
CD had heard of the discovery earlier from Egerton and had apparently asked him to obtain an account from Enniskillen. On 20 April 1844 CD made the following note: Sir. P. Egerton tells me that he [altered from ‘has’] has seen original Irish Yew at [over illeg ] Florence Court; it was found as young tree in open [interl ] mountains & removed—. reproduced by cuttings & seeds. believes that former truest.— One seedling has come up different & Lord E. has promised one to Sir P. E.— I think this proves a natural seedling & weeping yew.— Species will turn out (N.B Leighton says there is difference in leaves of weeping yew??) made by jumps—curious both these yews coming true to seeds.— (DAR 163). Leighton is William Allport Leighton and the reference is to Leighton 1841, pp. 497–8.
Lord Enniskillen’s seat.
CD preserved the letter for possible use in chapter four of his ‘big book’ which was to be devoted to ‘Variation under nature’. However, the yew is not mentioned in chapter four of either Natural selection or the Origin. The sudden appearance of useful or ornamental varieties of trees, including the weeping yew, is discussed in Variation 1: 361.


Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

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


Sends Lord Enniskillen’s account of origin of the Irish yew: transplanted from the wild; propagated by cuttings thereafter. Offspring recently raised from seed are intermediate between common and Irish [weeping] yew.

Letter details

Letter no.
Philip de Malpas Grey- Egerton, 10th baronet Egerton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Eaton Place, 30
Source of text
DAR 163: 6
Physical description
CD note

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 750,” accessed on 15 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 3