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Darwin Correspondence Project

To G. H. K. Thwaites   29 December [1862]

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Dec. 29th

My dear Mr Thwaites

Can you give me any cases of what some gardeners call “Sports”, but what I shall call “bud-variations”, ie when a leaf-bud assumes suddenly a new character—like moss-rose on Provence &c.— I shd be very grateful for any authentic cases.—1 Why I more particularly ask you, is that Sir R. Schomburghk says that at St Domingo, introduced flowers from the warmer temperate regions were there particularly apt to sport in this manner.2

I wrote some time ago to you about Cinchona being dimorphic like Primula;3 I have now better reason to believe that this is the case, & I I have proof that some of these dimorphic plants are absolutely sterile with their own-form pollen.—4

You mentioned two Ceylon genera (I have your note but names forgotten; one was allied to Menyanthes)5   Would you have kindness to examine them & see that both forms produce pollen & if you will, compare size of pollen. Or if you prefer could you send me the two forms of these genera in a letter, well dried, but not much pressed & named & then I could compare by soaking the pollen. The flowers shd not be old.6

I believe that you will forgive me for troubling you, & I remain | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

I am hard at work at a book on “Variation under Domestication”.7


According to his ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II), CD began working on chapter 11 of Variation, ‘On bud-variation, and on certain anomalous modes of reproduction and variation’, on 21 December 1862.
Schomburgk 1858.
See letter to Asa Gray, 14 July [1862] and nn. 11 and 12.
See letter from G. H. K. Thwaites, 15 May 1862, and letter to G. H. K. Thwaites, 20 June [1862].
See Correspondence vol. 11, letter from G. H. K. Thwaites, 17 February 1863, and letter to G. H. K. Thwaites, 30 March [1863].
CD had begun work on Variation, the first part of a projected three-part work on natural selection, in January 1860 (Correspondence vol. 8); it was not published until 1868.


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

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Asks for any authentic cases of "sports", which CD calls "bud-variations". Flowers introduced from warmer temperate regions are said to be particularly apt to sport in this way.

CD now has proof that Cinchona is dimorphic and that some dimorphic plants are absolutely sterile with their own-form pollen.

Asks GHKT to examine or send pollen specimens of two Ceylon genera.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Henry Kendrick Thwaites
Sent from
Source of text
Cleveland Health Sciences Library (Robert M. Stecher collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3880,” accessed on 18 January 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10