From L. E. Becker 28 May 1
Altham | Accrington.
At the risk of being troublesome I cannot refrain from expressing my thanks for your letter and the paper you have done me the honour to send me which I do indeed highly prize.2 I had seen an abstract of it, and this induced me to send you the Lychnis.3 I am of course much disappointed that it does not possess the interest you at first thought it might possibly have but I cannot regret having sent it as it has procured for me the pleasure and honour of the communications with which you have favoured me.4 The resemblance of the black powder on the anthers to the smut of wheat had struck me but I never thought of the obvious inference that it was a similar cryptogamic growth. And there are one or two points which still excite my curiosity How is it that this parasite invariably attacks the hermaphrodites, and how does it get into the unopened buds? Can it be that the plant is weakened in the endeavour to perfect both stamens and pistils and so rendered liable to the attacks of disease. And does this presumed weakness in the plant account for the small size of the pistils?5
I found one solitary f〈emale〉 plant with small p〈istils〉 and upon watching it for three days to see if the pistils would grow, I cut off and send you the only flower expanded. Though the plant looks vigorous enough I suspect it is accidental weakness and not divergence of form which causes the peculiarity but I will try to save seed from it and also test the goodness of the seed of the hermaphrodites.
I am sorry to have troubled you with sending the roots now that they are not likely to prove interesting6 indeed I hope they will not do mischief by spreading among other plants the insinuating parasite with which they 〈ar〉e charged, and I beg you to believe that I am not so unreasonable as to expect you to give yourself any further trouble on my account though I should be very glad if my difficulties could be satisfactorily explained.7
Again thanking you for your extreme courtesy and kindness—I am Sir—yours much obliged and very respectfully | L. E. Becker
Thanks for CD’s paper [not named].
Inquires whether Lychnis, as an hermaphrodite, is more susceptible to fungus, disease, other weaknesses.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4189,” accessed on 21 October 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4189