skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Farrer   10 August [1873]1

Bassett | Southampton

Aug 10th

My dear Farrer

If you have an idle 12 hour do look at 2 or 3 old flowers of Coronilla, especially any which you could see that Bees have visited. Look with rather high power & very good light at base of vexillum beneath the single stamen, & see if any trace of ruptured or bored cell. It seems possible (& the stage of probabilities is long passed) that bees may then bore a minute hole & visit very quickly the same orifice again & again.2

I am now become mad about drops of water injuring leaves. Please ask Mr Paine3 whether he believes from his own experience that drops of water injure leaves or fruit in his conservatories. It is said that the drops act as burning glasses; if this is true they wd. not be at all injurious on cloudy day. As he is so acute a man I shd. very much like to hear his opinion— I remember when I grew hot-house orchids I was cautioned not to wet their leaves; but I never then thought on subject.

I enjoyed my visit greatly with you, & I am very sure that all England could not afford a kinder & pleasanter host & hostess than you two were to us4

Yours most truly | Ch. Darwin

Here is a maxim for you “It is disgraceful to be beaten by a Coronilla.”


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from T. H. Farrer, 12 August 1873.
Farrer was investigating the floral morphology of some species of Coronilla, the genus of crown vetch (family Fabaceae). The single stamen that CD refers to is typical of those papilionaceous flowers whose stamens fuse together during growth so that nine of the stamens form a tube-like structure with the tenth (vexillary) stamen free, leaving the tube unclosed. The androecium (the collective term for all the stamens) in such flowers is called diadelphous. In other papilionaceous flowers the stamens are all fused and the androecium is then referred to as monadelphous (for more on the different types of androecium in the Fabaceae, see Rodríguez-Riaño et al. 1999). Diadelphous flowers usually have nectar at the base of the staminal tube, whereas monadelphous flowers do not.
George Payne was the gardener at Abinger Hall in Surrey.
CD visited Farrer and his wife Katherine Euphemia Farrer at Abinger Hall from 5 to 9 August 1873 (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).


Asks THF to examine old flowers of Coronilla for holes bored by bees.

Is investigating whether drops of water injure leaves.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Farrer, 1st baronet and 1st Baron Farrer
Sent from
Source of text
Linnean Society of London (LS Ms 299/20)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9003,” accessed on 22 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21