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Darwin Correspondence Project

From C. J. Monro   26 April 1874

Hadley, Barnet

26 April 1874


I hope you will excuse my troubling you, if there should be no novelty in the subject of my letter. I thought of communicating with you through Mr. Litchfield,1 with whom I have a friendship of old standing; but the enclosure would not be the better for any delay. It consists of a few cherry blossoms sent me last night by a lady whose attention I had called to your letter in Nature about primroses.2 She had observed the ground under a particular tree to be much strewn with them for some years past, and it now appeared that the calyx-tubes were cut some way round as you will see by the specimens. I have been to the place to-day; but yesterday’s cases are more marked, in spite of withering. I observed however that there were a good many blossoms thus attacked on the tree, but I think with these differences:

1. on the tree the aperture was less in the nature of a clean cut, and more like a hole nibbled:

2. it was the exception on the tree when the little cherry inside was attacked, whereas on the ground this seems to be the rule:

3. on the tree I should say a large minority of blossoms were attacked; on the ground I believe the large majority are visibly so.

With respect to primroses it may be worth while to mention that in the only place I know hereabouts in which they are abundant, I could not see any instance of what you describe. But I could only observe them across a hedge.

I am Sir | Your obedient servant | C. J. Monro.

CD annotations

5.1 With respect to … across a hedge. 5.3] double scored blue crayon
Top of letter: ‘& Primrose’ blue crayon; ‘Mr Strachey’3 pencil
Verso of last page: ‘Ap. 21. I examined 10 of flowers sent, 6 of them had ovarium or young cherry blackened & marked, in one case only slightly— the 7th had a very small minute [interl] aperture; 8th & 9th had rather large hole, & the 10th had ovarium cut right through— I infer from this that in biting & [interl] making holes through calyx the ovarium which I suppose lives on is always more or less pinched, & is sometimes cut into; but that the bird does not search for the ovarium, but probably for nectar, or minute insects?’4 ink, crossed pencil


Richard Buckley Litchfield was CD’s son-in-law.
Letter to Nature, 18 April [1874]. The lady has not been identified.
CD had received information from Richard Strachey about bees biting the tubes of flowers to extract nectar (see Correspondence vol. 21, letter from Richard Strachey, 9 December 1873, and letter to Richard Strachey, 10 December [1873]).
CD discussed the cherry blossoms in his letter to Nature, 7 and 11 May [1874].


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


Sends cherry blossoms damaged by birds in response to CD’s letter in Nature ["Flowers of the primrose", Collected papers 2: 183–4].

Letter details

Letter no.
Cecil James Monro
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 171: 230
Physical description
3pp ††

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9428,” accessed on 26 September 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22