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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. T. Moggridge   9 November [1866]1

St. Roch | Mentone

Nov. 9

Dear Mr. Darwin

I have gathered you some seeds of Ononis minutissima which I enclose.—2 They are the product of fully developed flowers, which are the only ones out now & seem to be amply fertile.3

About the Peas;—when I was leaving London I went to Butler & M’Culloch’s, Seedsmen in Covent Garden, & bought packets of each of the varieties of Sweet Peas & two of the most marked forms of eatable Peas for sowing here.—4 I then asked the 〈third of page excised

〈    〉 varieties I am selling you are artificial hybrids, as for example this one’, & he took up a packet marked ‘Clarks hybrid’.5

I asked the same question of an intelligent gardener here at Mentone, & he likewise said that these plants are always separated when seed is wanted from different varieties—.

These answers may perhaps only point to a common prejudice in favour of separating all varieties for seed; & I shall try to get evidence of spontaneous crossing if possible—6third of page excised


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. T. Moggridge, 5 and 6 July [1866].
Moggridge had earlier sent CD seeds of Ononis columnae that he had obtained in England and later sent seeds obtained from Mentone, a region of the French and Italian Riviera, where Moggridge lived during the winter months (see letters from J. T. Moggridge, 5 and 6 July [1866] and n. 3, and 3 August [1866]).
Ononis minutissima bears both opening and non-opening flowers. Moggridge’s seeds were from opened flowers. CD reported his observations on the seed produced by both types of flowers of O. minutissima in Forms of flowers, pp. 326–7, and further observations on the seedlings of both types in Cross and self fertilisation, pp. 167–8.
Butler & M’Culloch had premises at South Row, Covent Garden, London (Post Office London directory 1866). In the second letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, [before 11 August 1866], CD had reported on some of his experiments in crossing peas, noting that he had succeeded in crossing Lathyrus odoratus (sweetpea) and L. grandiflorus (everlasting pea).
‘Clarks hybrid’ has not been further identified.
In Cross and self fertilisation, pp. 168–9, CD observed that although varieties of Lathyrus odoratus did not intercross in England, they were believed to do so in northern Italy. He suggested that efficient insect pollinators were lacking in England.


Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

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

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.


At CD’s request he is looking into the gardeners’ custom of separating all sweetpea varieties in order to obtain pure seed.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Traherne Moggridge
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 171: 201
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5272,” accessed on 30 March 2020,

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