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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Hugh Gower   23 November 1861


Nov. 23. 1861

To Mr. Darwin


Having mentioned to Dr. Hooker a few notes which I had made upon the fertilization of the Victoria regia in these Gardens this Summer,1 he expresed a wish to send you word concerning it, but I fear notes so brief will be of little service to you, though from them I am led to believe that for the production of great quantities of seeds the Stigma must be impregnated with foreign pollen. 1st I noticed flowers left to impregnate themselves and they produced from 20 to 30 seeds in each Capsule, those flowers which I fertilized with their own pollen produced from 60 to 80 seeds in each Capsule, but one flower which was fertilized with the pollen of another flower though upon the same Plant, produced the immense number of 251 seeds quite perfect, but I cannot say if there would have been any perceptible difference in the Plants from these seeds and I shall not be able to come to any conclusion as they have unfortunately been mixed

I remain Sir Most | respectfully | Wm. Hugh Gower

CD annotations

Top of first page: ‘would not do to trust without capsule’ pencil; ‘Ch III’2 brown crayon


Gower was a foreman at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Victoria regia (V. amazonica), the giant waterlily, had flowered for the first time at Kew in 1850.
The annotation refers to chapter three of CD’s ‘big book’ on species entitled ‘On the possibility of all organic beings occasionally crossing’ (Natural selection, pp. 35–91).


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.


Sends notes on fertilisation of Victoria regia tending to show that impregnation with foreign pollen increases productivity of seeds.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Hugh Gower
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 165: 81
Physical description
3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3327,” accessed on 16 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9