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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Adam Fitch   20 July 1877

The Vicarage | Thornton Steward | Bedale

July 20th. 1877

Dear Sir,

The recollection of the very kind way in which you have replied to my gardening queries from time to time, induces me to trouble you on the present occasion.1

A few years since Messrs. Veitch introduced an autumnal Cauliflower, which I then considered a most valuable vegetable, fit to cut latter end of August and continuing to latter end of Novr.2 Its character quite different from Asiatic Cauliflower, which if it buttons early runs at once to seed— On the other hand Veitch’s Cauliflower as soon as it buttons, instead of running to seed, goes on increasing its head—3 I have cut specimens more than a foot in diameter.

When I commenced growing it some four years ago, the only objection was its tendency to go blind, this tendency I find increases year by year, and this season from 200 plants, sown at different times—some under glass—some in open air—I have only 20 plants left— this blindness occurs in different stages of growth, from plants in seed pan or bed, to plants 1 inch diameter in the stem.4 I should feel so much obliged if you could tell me the cause of this blindness and suggest a remedy.

As I am troubling you with a letter, I enclose two leaves from a seedling mulberry, about seven years old—taken out of a geranium pot, near to a mulberry tree at Waterbeach—5 of course this leafy development as regards seedling mulberries may be common, but as I never saw a seedling mulberry before, I venture to call your attention to the fact.

I have the honor to be | Dear Sir | Faithfully yours | A. Fitch.

Charles Darwin Esqre.


Only one previous letter from Fitch survives; see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from Adam Fitch, 18 November 1862.
James Veitch & Sons was a nursery firm based in Chelsea, London. Their ‘Veitch’s Autumn Giant’ cauliflower was awarded a first-class certificate by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1870 (Gardeners’ Chronicle, 26 November 1870, p. 1564).
Buttoning: the premature production of heads on relatively small plants (OED). The Asiatic cauliflower was a variety originating probably in the 1840s (Crozier 1891, pp. 130–1).
Blind: failing to produce expected growth or flowers (Chambers).
The leaves have not been preserved with the letter. CD’s reply has not been found.


Chambers: The Chambers dictionary. Edinburgh: Chambers Harrap Publishers. 1998.

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

Crozier, A. A. 1891. The cauliflower. New York: The Rural Publishing Company.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.


Queries about cauliflowers.

Letter details

Letter no.
Adam Fitch
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Thornton Steward
Source of text
DAR 164: 128
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11063,” accessed on 20 January 2022,