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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Friedrich Hildebrand   5 February 1872

Freiburg i/B.

Febr 5th 1872.

Dear and honoured Sir

You will excuse me that I have not answered before your very kind letter of August last, but I had nothing to communicate to you that was worth your while.1 I was very pleased that you were contented with my experiments on Oxalis Valdiviana, and surely I shall follow your advice in behalf of further experiments about this matter.2 I hope that your health has become now better again that you may be able to publish all your important observations.

With very great interest I have read your last work on the Origin of Man,3 and in reading a great many questions on botanical matters have come to my mind, but most of them will not be easy to answer. Perhaps you will accept it kindly when I say that one of the very great merits of all your works is, that they lead to a great many questions and observations, nobody has thought or dreamed of before!

You will have received my little paper on the fruit of Composits, that I have sent you some time ago, another on the origin and the mechanism of expansion of the tails of seeds is in preparation, but it will last some time before, though small, it will be printed.4 The means with which seeds are provided for their spreading seem to me very interesting and perhaps I shall make and publish in future days some more experiments and observations on this matter.5

As I remember that you asked me some time ago for several seeds, I send you the catalogue of our botanical garden; perhaps you find one or the other species that you would like to cultivate, so you will be so kind as to point them out on the catalogue and send it back again.6

Hoping that your health is recovered now I remain | dear Sir | yours | respectfully | Hildebrand

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘ Askenasy | Achenia of Pumilio 1861 p. 5.’7ink


Oxalis valdiviana is now known as O. valdiviensis (Chilean yellow sorrel). CD advised Hildebrand to perform further experiments to determine the degree of fertility of illegitimate plants compared with legitimate ones under the same conditions (Correspondence vol. 19, letter to Friedrich Hildebrand, 10 August [1871]). CD referred to crosses made using pollen of the same form of flower in dimorphic or trimorphic plant species as illegitimate, and those fertilised by pollen of a different form as legitimate (see ‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria, p. 186).
Hildebrand’s paper on the means of dispersal of the seeds of Compositae (the family is now called the Asteraceae) appeared in Botanische Zeitung, 5 January 1872 (Hildebrand 1872a). His paper on the development of hairy appendages in the seeds of plants appeared in the issues of 12 and 19 April 1872 (Hildebrand 1872b). CD’s annotated copies of these articles are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Hildebrand published two further articles, on the means of dispersal of the seeds of Graminae, and on the dispersal of seed by adherent organs, both of which appeared in Botanische Zeitung in December 1872 (Hildebrand 1872c and 1872d). CD’s annotated copies of these articles are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
See Correspondence vol. 19, letter to Friedrich Hildebrand, 10 August [1871]. No copy of the catalogue from the botanic garden of the University of Freiburg has been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
CD’s annotations are notes for his reply; see letter to Friedrich Hildebrand, 9 February 1872 and nn. 2 and 6.


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

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria’: On the sexual relations of the three forms of Lythrum salicaria. By Charles Darwin. [Read 16 June 1864.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 8 (1865): 169–96. [Collected papers 2: 106–31.]


Praise for Descent.

Letter details

Letter no.
Friedrich Hermann Gustav (Friedrich) Hildebrand
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 166: 212
Physical description
3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8201,” accessed on 28 February 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20