skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Joseph Bullar   23 May 1868

Basset Wood Southampton

May 23 1868

Dear Sir,

Having been much interested in your inferences as to the influence of the pollen on the ovarium in actually modifying it,1 I take the liberty of sending you some inferences I made two years ago in confirmation.

Trying to ascertain the relations between the numbers of the stamens & pistils & the seed vessels I tabulated in columns these parts of all our British genera of flowering plants, & came to the conclusion—that whenever the ovarium was divided, and its divisions did not follow the number (or its multiples) of the styles, which is usually the case,—it followed the number (or its multiples) of the stamens—or in other words when the ovarium was not determined in its divisions by the female it was by the male

For instance

Hyoscyamus—2 5 stamens 2 lobed pistil— ovary 2 celled

Primula— 5 stamens 1 pistil 5 celled & 5 lobed ovarium

This I found held good as a general rule in all British genera of flowering plants, & it seems to me strikingly to confirm your view that the male actually has the power under certain circumstances of modifying the female organization   a physiological point of so great importance—

Believe me | dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Joseph Bullar

Mr. Darwin Esq


See the section headed ‘On the direct or immediate action of the male element on the mother form’, in Variation 1: 397–403.
Hyoscyamus: henbane.


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


Is interested in CD’s remarks on role of pollen in modifying ovarium. Sends his own observations on numerical relations of stamens and pistils to divisions in the ovarium.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Bullar
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Bassett Wood
Source of text
DAR 160: 372
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6201,” accessed on 23 September 2021,

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