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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Ogle   22 July [1876]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | (Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.)

July 22d

My dear Dr. Ogle

In my next book I have a discussion on bees perforating flowers, & I shd. much like to give your case of blue & white Monks-hood (Aconitum napellus) which I think was the species to which you referred.2 This would not at all prevent your publishing separately. If you do not object will you give me the details so that I may introduce a sentence or two. But I must send my M.S. immediately to the Printers, so shd. be grateful for a prompt answer3

Do you know whether the plant is sterile if insects are excluded? It probably is so, as Sprengel says it is proterandrous.4

Believe me | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from William Ogle, 23 July 1876.
No earlier letter from Ogle describing his observations on Aconitum napellus (monkshood) has been found, but see the letter from William Ogle, 23 July 1876.
CD had been going over the manuscript of Cross and self fertilisation since 11 June 1876 and received proofs on 19 August (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
In Das entdeckte Geheimniss der Natur im Bau und in der Befruchtung der Blumen (The secret of nature discovered in the structure and fertilisation of flowers; Sprengel 1793, pp. 278–9 and pl. XXIV, figs. 13 and 14), Christian Konrad Sprengel described and figured the sexual parts of a flower of Aconitum napellus, showing anthers opening first and the stigma only becoming receptive after the anthers had withered. The term proterandrous had not been coined when Sprengel 1793 was published; he had described the maturing of the anthers before the stigma as male–female dichogamy (männlich–weiblich Dichogamie; see ibid., p. 19).


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

Sprengel, Christian Konrad. 1793. Das entdeckte Geheimniss der Natur im Bau und in der Befruchtung der Blumen. Berlin: Friedrich Vieweg.


Would like to cite WO’s case of bees perforating white but not blue monkshood (Aconitum napellus) in his next book [Cross and self-fertilisation, pp. 427–8]. Believes it is probably sterile if insects are excluded.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Ogle
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 261.5: 16 (EH 88205914)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10563,” accessed on 16 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24