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Darwin Correspondence Project

To H. T. Stainton   28 February [1868]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Feb. 28th

My dear Mr Stainton

As you said you would be so good as to write again I trouble you with one other question.2 I want to distinguish, as far as I can, sexual & protective colouring. Now do the females of the common Brimstone & common Orange-tips emerge from their cocoons & haunt the same places, mingled with large & small Cabbage Butterflies, for which, it is possible, they might be mistaken by birds, & thus escape danger.—3

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from H. T. Stainton, 20 February 1868.
CD refers to Gonepteryx rhamni (the brimstone) and Anthocharis cardamines (the orange tip). Females of these species are not as conspicuously coloured as males. CD also refers to Pieris brassicae (the cabbage butterfly). In Descent 1: 409, CD remarked that female A. cardamines resembled the white butterflies (Pieris) common in gardens.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.


Asks whether the colouring of particular butterflies has any protective function, to ascertain whether the function is other than sexual.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Henry Tibbats Stainton
Sent from
Source of text
E.W. Classey Ltd (dealers) (1974)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5949,” accessed on 27 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16