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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. S. Wilson   24 April 1878


April 24. 1878

My dear Sir

I send you herewith some specimens which may perhaps interest you, as you have so carefully studied the vars. of wheat. Any how they are of no use to me as I have neither knowledge or time sufficient. They were sent me by the Governor of the Province of Samara in Russia, at the request of Dr. Asher (son of the great Berlin publisher) who farmed for some years in the province.1 The specimens marked Kubanka is a very valuable kind, but which keeps true only when cultivated in fresh Steppe-land in Samara, and in Saratoff.2 After two years it degenerates into the var. Saxonica or its synonym Ghirca. The latter alone is imported into this country. Dr. Asher says that it is universally known, and he has himself witnessed the fact, that if grain of the Kubanka is sown in the same steppe-land for more than two years it changes into Saxonica. He has seen a field with parts still Kubanka and the remainder Saxonica. On this account the government in letting steppe-land contract that after two years wheat must not be sown until an interval of eight years. The ears of the two kinds appear different as you will see, but the chief difference is in the quality of the grains. Dr. Asher has witnessed sales of equal weights of Kubanka and Saxonica grain, and the price of the former was to that of the latter as 7 to 4. The peasants say that the change commences in the terminal grain of the ear. The most remarkable point as Dr. Asher positively asserts is that there are no intermediate varieties; but that a grain produces a plant yielding either true Kubanka or true Saxonica. He thinks that it would be interesting to sow here both kinds in good and bad wheat soil and observe the result. Should you think it worth while to make any such trial, and should you require further information, Dr. Asher whose address I enclose, will be happy to give any in his power.

I hope that I have not troubled you uselessly and remain, my dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin.

P.S.— | I received Rimpau safely.3


Georg Michael Asher was the son of Adolf Asher; he lived in Samara and Saratov in Russia for a period in the 1870s. G. M. Asher had sent CD the wheat specimens in February, after receiving them from Mikhail Nikolaevich Galkin-Vraskoi, the governor of Saratov province (letter from G. M. Asher, 14 February 1878).
CD obtained this and the following information about Russian wheat from Asher’s letter to John Murray, 1 November 1877, and the letter from G. M. Asher, 7 November 1877 (see Correspondence vol. 25).
Wilson had borrowed CD’s copies of Wilhelm Rimpau’s papers on the varying degrees of self-sterility in different varieties of wheat and rye (Rimpau 1877a and 1877b; letter to A. S. Wilson, 23 February 1878 and n. 7).


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


Sends specimens of Russian wheat variety kubanka, which after sowing for two years degenerates into a different variety, saxonka. Suggests that ASW conduct experiments.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alexander Stephen Wilson
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 148: 364
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11483,” accessed on 20 September 2021,