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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Miss Holland1   [April 1860]2

Down Bromley Kent

My dear Miss Holland—

About a year ago I heard indirectly from you about a Mountain-Ash, of which the berries were greedily sought by Birds.—3 I shd. be particularly obliged for more precise observations made this Autumn. Namely dates of how much sooner this tree is completely or almost completely stripped of berries before the other trees in same garden.—

What birds are the eaters? Is there any difference in appearance of tree or berries? Do the berries taste differently to us? Are the berries ripe earlier than in other trees.— And any other particulars

Perhaps you would be so kind as to keep this note & read over my queries at time.—4

Pray believe me | My dear Miss Holland | Yours very truly | Charles Darwin


It has not been possible to identify Miss Holland (see n. 3, below). Mary, Lucy, Elizabeth, and Hannah Holland are listed as living in Knutsford, Cheshire (Post Office directory of Cheshire 1857).
The date is suggested by a note dated April 1859 in which CD recorded the information referred to in the letter (see n. 3, below).
A note by CD in DAR 46.1: 47 reads: Ap. 28/59/ Amy tells me that at Knutsford she saw in Miss Hollands Garden the thrushes eating the fruit of one particular Mountain-ash, before that of any other tree; & was assured that this happened every year: this tree being cleared of its fruit, which no doubt was better; this tree is largely sowed by Birds: & so wd be favoured by being devoured. CD refers to his niece Amy Wedgwood, the daughter of Francis (Frank) Wedgwood, and Frances Mosley Wedgwood.
CD used this, or very similar, information in Variation 2: 230, although Miss Holland was not cited.


Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Asks for information about birds eating berries of a mountain-ash.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Miss Holland
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2395,” accessed on 16 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8