skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Gardeners’ Chronicle   [after 28 February 1857]1

As you have noticed hybrid Dianths,2 you may like to hear that the summer before last I fertilised a poor single pale red Carnation with the pollen of a crimson Spanish Pink; and likewise a Spanish Pink with the pollen of the same Carnation.3 I got seed from both crosses in fair number; namely, 77 seed from two pods of the Spanish Pink, and raised plenty of seedlings. In the eyes of a florist they would be, I presume, quite worthless from their straggling habit; but they were showy, and like most hybrids produced during a long time an extraordinary abundance of flowers. They varied somewhat in colour, but in no other respect; and one variety was of a really beautiful pale crimson. Taken in a mass there was no difference between the reciprocal crosses. Not one plant of either lot set a single seed. One plant came up identical with the Spanish Pink; no doubt owing to a few grains of the pollen of the Spanish Pink not having been removed; for Gærtner has shown that this is sometimes the result when a flower is fertilised with mixed pollen.4 I may add that Gærtner raised many hybrids between various species of Dianthus. C. Darwin, Down, Bromley, Kent.


Dated on the basis that the letter was written in response to an item published in the Gardeners’ Chronicle, 28 February 1857, p. 132 (see n. 2, below).
Gardeners’ Chronicle, 28 February 1857, p. 132, described two hybrid Dianthus plants with quite different flowers that were believed to have grown from seeds from the same seed-capsule.
CD also carried out hybridising experiments on wild Dianthus caryophyllus in the summer of 1855 (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to J. S. Henslow, 11 July [1855]).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Gärtner, Karl Friedrich von. 1849. Versuche und Beobachtungen über die Bastarderzeugung im Pflanzenreich. Mit Hinweisung auf die ähnlichen Erscheinungen im Thierreiche, ganz umgearbeitete und sehr vermehrte Ausgabe der von der Königlich holländischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Stuttgart: E. Schweizerbart.


Reports that he fertilised a single pale red carnation with the pollen of a crimson Spanish pink, and a Spanish pink with the pollen of the same carnation. He got seed from both crosses and raised many seedlings. There was no difference between the seedlings from reciprocal crosses, not one plant set a single seed.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Gardeners’ Chronicle
Sent from
Source of text
Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 7 March 1857, p. 155

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2061,” accessed on 6 December 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6