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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Hermann Müller   1 April [1867]1

Lippstadt April 1. Dear Sir

I am very much obliged to you for your extraordinary kindness in having sent me the paper on climbing plants by my brother and moreover your own work on this object, from which I had only read an abridgement in the botanical journal Flora, likewise for your bountiful communications on the papers published lately on the fertilization of flowers.2 The lecture of Hildebrand’s book “Geschlechtervertheilung”, sent me several days ago by Prof. Hanstein, has convinced myself that this department of observation, in which I intended to betake myself, is reaped almost as thoroughly as the fertilization of Orchids has been by your admirable work. Some few important details would possibly be found in examining in this regard our indigenous flowers, but of decisive importance would chiefly rest only the trial of breeding for several generations plants of the small always closed flowers of Lamium amplexicaule and of other similar species.3

I congratulate with my brother for having so abundant an opportunity and so perfect an ableness in discovering new interesting facts of some importance for your theorie.

With respect to Subularia I am sorry to say that it does not grow in Westfalia.4

Of Pyrola two species (minor and rotundifolia) grow near Lippstadt and I shall not neglect to look on whether one of them is dimorphic and to advertise you.5

With Lopezia at this day at first I have begun, reminded by you and by Hildebrand’s book, to mark the individual flowers in order to watch more closely the revolution of the single parts. Indoubtedly L. miniata will behave as L. coronata observed by Hildebrand.6

With my sincere thanks I remain | My dear Sir | Yours most respectfully | H Müller


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to Fritz Müller, [late December 1866 and] 1 January 1867 (Correspondence vol. 14).
CD had sent Müller a copy of Fritz Müller’s paper on climbing plants (F. Müller 1865; see Correspondence vol. 14, letter to Fritz Müller, [late December 1866 and] 1 January 1867, and this volume, letter to Hermann Müller, 29 March [1867]). CD had also sent a copy of his own paper, ‘Climbing plants’. A summary of ‘Climbing plants’ was published in the German journal Flora in June 1866 (Flora n.s. 24 (1866): 241–52). Müller had asked about recent literature on the pollination of plants by insects in his letter of 23 March 1867. The letter in which CD sent this information has not been found.
Müller refers to Friedrich Hildebrand, to Hildebrand’s Die Geschlechter-Vertheilung bei den Pflanzen (Sexual division in plants; Hildebrand 1867a), to Johannes von Hanstein, and to CD’s Orchids. In his letter to CD of 23 March 1867, Müller had offered to repeat CD’s observations on the pollination of orchids by insects, using plants available to him in Westphalia. He discussed Lamium amplexicaule briefly in H. Müller 1873, pp. 312–13.
The letter in which CD enquired about Subularia has not been found. Subularia was thought to flower under water with the corolla closed, which would make crossing with another individual impossible (see Natural selection, pp. 62–3 and n. 2, and Correspondence vol. 6). In a letter to Asa Gray, 18 June [1857] (Correspondence vol. 6), CD wrote: ‘Podostemon & Subularia under water (& Leguminosæ) seem & are strongest cases against me.’ See also Forms of flowers, pp. 311–12.
The letter in which CD made this enquiry has not been been found. In a letter to C. C. Babington, 20 January [1862] (Correspondence vol. 10), CD wrote that he had read that Pyrola was dimorphic, and complained that he himself would never be able to see or experiment on it. In Forms of flowers, p. 54, CD wrote: ‘from other statements it appeared probable that Pyrola might be heterostyled, but H. Müller examined for me two species in North Germany, and found this not to be the case’.
Hildebrand had discussed Lopezia coronata in Hildebrand 1867a, pp. 22–3; CD remarked that the case was new to him in his letter to Friedrich Hildebrand, 20 April [1866]. Müller described the structure and pollination mechanism of L. miniata in his letter to CD of 23 March 1867. He thought he had identified male and female flowers; however, Hildebrand had observed that in L. coronata, the male parts of the flower matured first, and were replaced by the female parts when they had withered away. The flowers were therefore dichogamous and it was impossible for them to pollinate themselves.


‘Climbing plants’: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 2 February 1865.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 9 (1867): 1–118.

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

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

Müller, Hermann. 1873. Die Befruchtung der Blumen durch Insekten und die gegenseitigen Anpassungen beider. Ein Beitrag zur Erkenntniss des ursächlichen Zusammenhanges in der organischen Natur. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.


Thanks for "Climbing plants" offprint and for references on fertilisation of flowers.

Considering the bounty of work already done, he is looking for something original to do.

Subularia does not grow in Westphalia.

Letter details

Letter no.
Heinrich Ludwig Hermann (Hermann) Müller
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 171: 289
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5481,” accessed on 17 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15