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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Thomas Meehan   9 October 1874

Down. | Beckenham Kent.

Oct 9. 1874.

My dear Sir

I am much obliged for your kind letter & photograph.1 I am always glad to know the appearance of any one for whom I feel respect   I was glad to receive sometime ago the reports &c. to which you refer.2 I feel doubts whether sudden & great variations often occur under nature, & still more whether they are often long propagated. I am glad that you are attending to colours of diœcious flowers, but it is well to remember that their colours may be as unimportant to them as those of a Gall, or indeed as the colour of an amethyst or ruby is to these gems.—3 Some 30 years ago I began to investigate the little purple flowers in the centre of the umbels of the carrot;—4 I suppose my memory is wrong but it tells me that these flowers are female, & I think that I once got a seed from one of them; but my memory may be quite wrong—5

I hope that you will continue your interesting researches & I remain Dear Sir. | Yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin.


See letter from Thomas Meehan, 22 September 1874; the photograph has not been found.
Meehan sent CD a copy of a newspaper report on his address at American Association for the Advancement of Science at Hartford, ‘Change by gradual modification not the universal law’ (Meehan 1874), and a report of the discussion following it; the reports are in DAR 45: 183–4. See letter from Thomas Meehan, 22 September 1874 and n. 2.
In 1861, CD responded to a query from ‘D of Deal’ (Henry Honywood Dombrain) about the cause of variation in flowers, writing: ‘In the common Carrot the central floret in the umbel is dark purple and very different from the others; and I find that this central little flower is extremely variable. Are there not other cases of species which habitually have the central flower different from the others?’ (Correspondence vol. 9, letter to Journal of Horticulture, [before 18 June 1861]).
See letter from Thomas Meehan, 22 September 1874 and n. 6, and Forms of flowers, pp. 8–9, in which CD stated that he obtained a seed.


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

Forms of flowers: The different forms of flowers on plants of the same species. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1877.

Meehan, Thomas. 1874. Change by gradual modification not the universal law. Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1873) pt B: 7–12.


Doubts whether sudden and great variations often occur.

Comments on colours of flowers.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Meehan
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 146: 353
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9672,” accessed on 24 September 2020,

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