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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Syer Bristowe   17 September 1868

11 Old Burlington St.

Sept. 17 /68

Dear Sir,

I dont know that the following case can be of any interest to you; but as you mention analogous peculiarities in regard to other vegetable productions,1 & omit so far as I know to notice this particular case, I intend to send you a very brief account of it.

My brother, who has somewhat recently come to reside on Denmark Hill,2 has there a vine growing in the open air. Last year it bore no fruit: this year it has a considerable number of large bunches of small grapes— The great majority of the grapes are purple; but every one (I think) of the bunches has from one to several & sometimes a cluster of green grapes, of the same size as the purple grapes, equally ripe with them, & resembling exactly what are called I believe the “sweet-water” grape. But besides these there are in probably every bunch, certain grapes of which a definite segment (34 12, 14 or a smaller fractional part) is purple, the remainder being green, & the differently coloured portions being separated by a well defined limit.3

Of the vine itself I can give no history: it is I think a tolerably old vine—

If this case is, or can be made, of the slightest interest to you, I shall be happy to furnish you with further partiulars, and to send you several bunches of the grapes—

Yours very truly | J. S. Bristowe (M.D)


C. Darwin Esq F.R.S


Bristowe refers to portions of CD’s discussion of plants in Variation 1: 305–411. See n. 3, below.
Thomas Bristowe and William Bristowe lived on Denmark Hill Road, Camberwell, in south London (see Post Office London suburban directory 1868); they have not been further identified.
In Variation 1: 375, 393, and 399–400, CD had mentioned cases of the same stalk of grapes (Vitis vinifera) bearing differently coloured fruit.


Post Office London suburban directory: The Post Office London suburban directory. Kelly’s London suburban directory. London: Kelly & Co. 1860–1903.

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


Reports a case of peculiar colouring in grapes, each with well-defined segments of purple.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Syer Bristowe
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Old Burlington St, 11
Source of text
DAR 160: 311
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6371,” accessed on 22 September 2021,

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