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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. T. Moggridge   3 August [1866]1

3 Marlborough Villas | Richmond

Aug. 3

Dear Mr. Darwin

I received this morning from M. Ardoino—a botanist at Mentone—the small packet of seed of Ononis Columnæ enclosed, which he kindly spared me from his herbarium.—2

With a view to finding out what species of Ononis there might be answering to your description I looked through the genus at Kew, & found one bit of Ononis Columnæ labelled in Mr. Bentham’s handwriting, “var. vernalis apetala”— —3

I then referred to MM. Grenier & Godron’s Flore de France (I. 377) where mention is made of abortion in the following terms “Corolle plus courte que le calice ou l’égalant, presque avortée dans les fleurs automnales (Vill.)”— —4 It seems, however, from the quotation of Villars name that MM. G. & G. had not observed the fact themselves—

In Villars’ Histoire des Plantes de Dauphiné (III, 430) I find the following passage alluding to this plant— “—dans les derniers temps de sa floraison, en automne, ses petales deviennent si petits, qu’ils restent cachés sous le germe, dans le fond du calice, de maniere qu’on ne les apperçoit pas du tout— Le fruit n’avorte cependant pas—” —5

I have applied in several other quarters for seed, & if successful I shall send it at once— —

Pray remember me very kindly to Mrs. Darwin6 & all your circle | & believe me | yrs. very sincerely | J. Traherne Moggridge.

We remain at the above adress till Sept. 4, after which date I shall be in Wales for a month the adress being J. D. Llewelyn Esq Penllergare near Swansea—7

I do hope that some of your sons will look me up here some day!

CD annotations

2.2 & found … handwriting, 2.3] scored red crayon
5.1 I have … Swansea—7.2] crossed blue crayon
Top of letter: ‘Keep | ([Barents])’ pencil, del pencil; ‘Ononis Columna’ pencil


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. T. Moggridge, 5 and 6 July [1866].
Moggridge refers to Honoré Jean Baptiste Ardoino. CD evidently planted the seeds in 1866 (see Forms of flowers, p. 326; see also letters from J. T. Moggridge, 5 and 6 July [1866] and nn. 3 and 7, and 9 November [1866] and n. 3).
No letter from CD to Moggridge containing a description of Ononis has been found. The reference is to George Bentham, who had donated his plant collections to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Moggridge refers to the description of Ononis columnae in Flore de France by Charles Grenier and Dominique Alexandre Godron (Grenier and Godron 1848–56, 1: 377). The passage may be translated as ‘Corolla shorter than the calyx or equal, almost aborted in autumn flowers.’
The reference is to the description of Ononis columnae in Histoire des plantes de Dauphiné by Dominique Villars (Villars 1786–9, 3: 430). The passage may be translated as ‘in the final phase of flowering, in autumn, its petals become so small that they remain hidden under the ovary in the base of the calyx, in such a way that they cannot be seen at all— The fruit, however, does not abort.’
Emma Darwin.
Moggridge refers to John Dillwyn Llewelyn.


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

Villars, Dominique. 1786–9. Histoire des plantes de Dauphiné. 3 vols. in 4. Grenoble: Chez l’Auteur & Chez les Libraires.


Sends packet of Ononis columnae seed and references to the species.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Traherne Moggridge
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 111: A86–7
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5175,” accessed on 1 March 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14