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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Cardale Babington   22 November 1856

St John’s College | Cambridge

22 Nov. 1856

Dear Darwin

I do not now remember to have ever gathered the Subularia otherwise than totally submersed.1 Koch (Syn. Fl. Germ.) describes the flowers as they appear when open above the water & so I think that we may fairly believe that it does flower above the water—at least sometimes.2 On thinking again, I strongly suspect that I have seen it out of water at the edges of Welsh lakes when they had run low. I cannot be quite sure either that I have or have not seen the aerial flowers.

I have not been able to find any anonymous book upon Pigeons in the University Library.3 The word is in the Catalogue and refers to a class that has been “broken up many years since” and no trace of the book is to be found. The officials think, after consulting all the probable records in their possession that the book is not now in the library. The Catalogue does not describe the book.

Yours truly | Charles C. Babington—

I have very seldom seen Limosella growing, but believe that it is an aerial flowerer.


Subularia aquatica, a hermaphroditic water-plant, was thought to flower under water with the corolla closed, which would make crossing with another individual impossible. CD, who was at this time writing his chapter on the crossing of animals and plants (Natural selection, pp. 35–91), doubted that such ‘eternal and absolute’ hermaphrodites existed and was investigating all instances of alleged cases that he could find.
Koch 1843–4. The work is cited in Natural selection, p. 63, and in a note CD further commented: ‘I am indebted for this reference to Mr Babington & to Mr H. C. Watson’. See also letter from H. C. Watson, 26 November 1856, and letter to J. D. Hooker, [early December 1856].
CD had probably asked Babington to look for [J. Moore] 1765 in the Cambridge University Library.


Koch, Wilhelm Daniel Joseph. 1843–4. Synopsis florae Germanicae et Helveticae, exhibens stirpes phanerogamas rite cognitas, praemissa generum dispositione secundum classes et ordines systematis Linnaeani conscripta. 2d edition. 2 vols. Frankfurt: Fridericus Wilmans. Leipzig: Gebhardt & Reisland.

[Moore, John]. 1765. A treatise on domestic pigeons; comprehending all the different species known in England … Carefully compiled from the best of authors. To which is added, a most ample description of that celebrated and beatiful pigeon called the almond tumbler. London.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.


He is not sure whether he has seen Subularia flowering above the water, but thinks it probably is an aerial flowerer, at least sometimes.

Has been unable to find an anonymous book on pigeons in the University Library.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Cardale Babington
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
St John’s College, Cambridge
Source of text
DAR 207: 15
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1996,” accessed on 26 July 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6