skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From D. T. Fish   7 February 1877


Feby 7th 1877

Dear Sir

No apology is needed from you   On the contrary had it not been for troubling you I have often longed for the privilege of sending singular specimens to you— The holly is not yet in flower. But I send you a specimen as it is No 1— to show you how late it is in flowering in comparison with other specimens 2— 3— and 4 sent—1

It may seem presumptuous in me—to state that I believe this difference of season of flowering among individual plants of the same family—is one great cause of the degrees of barrenness and fertility so often met with. For instance the varigated holly sent No 4, is generally an early flowerer—and never shows fruit   I have also sent three examples of Yews collected—almost side by side to illustrate the wide differences in their season of flowering  The Irish yew never misses a crop of seeds here—and you will observe that it is a long way the latest—in flowering—

We are familiar with the fact among fruit trees— it is the late flowerers that win on the crops in spite of spring frosts and had we a race of Apples as late flowering as Court pendu Plat we would be sure of a crop in all seasons.2 The pruning of pyramidal and other pears and also of Roses is often left as late as possible to assure the safety of the late buds and fruits—

It also occurs to me that failure of berries and fruits often arises from the male and female flowers—not advancing simultaneously. Often for instance there is an absence of yew berries which can hardly arise from a scarcity of pollen—for that is so plentiful as to fill the air with golden dust—to such an extent that it resembles a fog—

Assuring you of the pleasure it will to send samples of the holly when in flower and thanking you for your letter and communication in the Gardeners Chronicle on this subject | I am dear Sir | Your obedient servant | D T. Fish

Chas. Darwin Esqre


No. 1— specimen of holly—that bore the berries— a second specimen shall be sent when in flower  a berry or two only left after Christmas decorations and birds

2. Holly in full flower ♂

3. Common Holly do— ♂

4. Varigated holly always flowers with the utmost profusion has not produced a berry for 20 years

5 specimen of the variegated Irish or common yew showing the different seasons of flowering,

6. Common hazel nut male and female in full flower—


CD had evidently requested holly specimens from Fish. In his letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, 17 January [1877], CD had acknowledged Fish and others for correcting an error of his regarding the scarcity of holly-berries across England (see also letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, 3 January [1877], and Fish’s letter in Gardeners’ Chronicle, 20 January 1877, p. 83).
Court-Pendú-Plat is a dessert apple, known as the wise apple because its late flowering makes it less susceptible to spring frosts (see Hogg 1884, pp. 53–4).


Hogg, Robert. 1884. The fruit manual: a guide to the fruits and fruit trees of Great Britain. 5th edition. London: Journal of Horticulture Office.


Sends holly specimens. Differences in flowering times of various hollies.

Letter details

Letter no.
David Taylor Fish
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 164: 123
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10834,” accessed on 21 September 2021,