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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Asa Gray   22 December 1876

Herbarium of Harvard University, | Botanic Garden, Cambridge, Mass.

Dec. 22 1876

My Dear Darwin

I have now yours of the 4th.1 There is nothing I would not send you if I had it. But what scanty material we had in Wilkes’ Expedition collection has been distributed since I did the descriptions—to Washington, Kew, Paris, & to our herb. here, that I have nothing fit to send;2

As to the Leucosmia Burnettiana Benth.” Dais disperma Forst.) I have left for my share only 2 flowers, detached, from difft. plants—in a dilapidated state. One has the style exserted out of the throat of corolla to nearly the length of the lobes, while the tips of the taller anthers, or say half the anther, is seen in the throat. The other, which is partially laid open, answers to Bentham’s figure—which you can refer to—the higher stamens inserted in the throat, elevating the anthers, as you will see, to a height little below the tip of the lobes of corolla. The anthers in my flower are effete.3

I will risk these two flowers if you say so. But if what I say does not tell the story, probably better materials may be found at Kew.4 Also a better specimen than mine of Harvey’s5 collecting. Mine is the longer stamened—but I note that the style brings the stigma up to the throat.

Of my Leucosmia acuminata I have equally a pair of corollas both of which had detached—so the style is not present.— one with 4 exserted stamens; the other with anthers all in or below the orifice. These are in a fragile state

Of my L. pubiflora,6 again I have only separated flowers—all of which have been soaked & opened, all with higher stamens exserted

The substance of what I have in herb of U.S. expd, is printed in Seeman’s Journal of Botany, iii (1865,) pp. 305,306.7

Enclosed are long-styled & short-styled flowers of Rhamnus lanceolata which are figd. in Gen. Fl. t. 168. In this case I suppose there is a tendency toward dioicism.8 Of other outlying orders I think only Polemoniaceæ.

Sending a flower or two would be of no use. Send to Hooker for the cover of Gilia, § Leptosiphon, and see what you can make of it. Get seed also—at the shops—and cultivate.9

You have time to look to it, and can find out what it amounts to—

Your sheets of X Fert. all come— thanks (& to your son Francis for his pamphlet) I shall notice in Sill. Amer. Jour Sci.— Perhaps in Nature later, after I get Orchids & your other papers.10

Heartiest good wishes for the New Year from Mrs. Gray11 & myself to you & yours | Ever Yours | A. Gray

CD annotations

7.1 Enclosed … 168. 7.2] crossed ink
8.1 Sending … yours 11.1] crossed ink

CD note:

American Journal of Science 1865 p. 101 Leucosmia [underl pencil] & [interl pencil] dimorphic Asa Gray says Clei〈s〉tog〈amic〉 [blue crayon, circled blue crayon]


Charles Wilkes commanded the United States Exploring Expedition from 1838 to 1842. It explored the north-west coast of America, the Antarctic coastline, and the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Gray was responsible for describing the seed-plants collected by the expedition (A. Gray 1854–6).
See letter to Asa Gray, 4 December 1876 and n. 2. Leucosmia burnettiana and Dais disperma are synonyms of Phaleria disperma, a tropical plant in the family Thymelaeaceae. Bentham’s figure of Leucosmia burnettiana appeared in Bentham and Hinds 1844, pl. 56; it was described in ibid., pp. 179–80.
CD described flowers acquired from Kew in Forms of flowers, pp. 114–15.
Probably William Henry Harvey.
Leucosmia pubiflora is a synonym of Phaleria pubiflora.
The Journal of Botany, British and Foreign was edited by Berthold Carl Seemann until his death in 1871. CD cited Gray’s article ‘New or little known Polynesian Thymeleæ’ (A. Gray 1865, p. 305) from the Journal of Botany as a source for information on L. burnettiana and L. acuminata (a synonym of Phaleria acuminata) in Forms of flowers, pp. 114–15.
Rhamnus lanceolatus (a synonym of R. lanceolata) is a North American species of buckthorn. Gray and CD previously corresponded about its dioecism; see Correspondence vol. 14, letter to Asa Gray, 10 September [1866]. Rhamnus lanceolatus was described and figured in Genera floræ Americæ (A. Gray 1848–9, 2: 179–80 and pl. 168); CD described it in Forms of flowers, pp. 295–6.
Polemoniaceæ was formerly a natural order in many classificatory sytems, but it is now classed as a family in the order Ericales, and includes Gilia and Leprosiphon (linanthus). Cover of Gilia: i.e. the operculum of the pollen-grains. Gilia (Leptosiphon) micrantha is a synonym of Leptosiphon parviflorus, variable linanthus; it is a Californian species. See also Correspondence vol. 18, letter from Asa Gray, 21 November 1870. CD described pollen-grains in Gilia in Forms of flowers, pp. 118–19.
CD had been sending the proof-sheets of Cross and self fertilisation, and had sent a second, nearly complete set at the same time as his letter to Gray of 27 November 1876. Gray reviewed it in February 1877 in the American Journal of Science and Arts 3d ser. 13: 125–41; Benjamin Silliman Jr was one of the proprietors and editors of the journal. Francis Darwin probably sent an offprint of F. Darwin 1876d. CD had been correcting the proof-sheets for Orchids 2d ed., and intended to send them to Gray so that Gray could write a notice of it; see letter to Asa Gray, 27 November 1876. Gray did not review these works in Nature.
Jane Loring Gray.


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

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.

Gray, Asa. 1848–9. Genera floræ Americæ boreali-orientalis illustrata. The genera of the plants of the United States. 2 vols. Vol. 1: Boston: James Munroe and Company. New York and London: John Wiley. Vol. 2: New York: George P. Putnam.

Gray, Asa. 1854–6. Botany. Phanerogamia. United States Exploring Expedition during the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842, under the command of Charles Wilkes, U.S.N., vol. 14. Vol. 1 (no more published) and atlas. Philadelphia: C. Sherman.

Hinds, Richard Brinsley, ed. 1844. The zoology of the voyage of HMS Sulphur, under the command of Captain Sir Edward Belcher … during the years 1836–42. 2 vols. London.

Orchids 2d ed.: The various contrivances by which orchids are fertilised by insects. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition, revised. London: John Murray. 1877.


Discusses some dimorphic plants.

Sends specimens of Rhamnus but his few specimens of Leucosmia are very poor.

Letter details

Letter no.
Asa Gray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Herbarium of Harvard
Source of text
DAR 110: B36–7, B74–5
Physical description
4pp †, CD note

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10731,” accessed on 21 September 2021,

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