RECORD: Farrer, Thomas Henry. 1868. On the manner of fertilization of the Scarlet Runner and Blue Lobelia. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 4th ser. 2: 255-63.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 7.2022. RN1

NOTE: See the record for this item in the Freeman Bibliographical Database by entering its Identifier here. The German quotation that closes the article is by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, "Only what is fruitful is true".

The article itself is not transcribed here but available in the PDF version.

[page] 255

On the manner of Fertilization of the Scarlet Runner and Blue Lobelia. By T. H. FARRER, Esq.

To the Editors of the Annals and Magazine of Natural History.


The following notes of observations on the fertilizing-apparatus of the scarlet runner and the common blue lobelia, made by one who has not the slightest pretence to scientific knowledge, would never have been sent to the press, but for the kind suggestion of Mr. Charles Darwin, to whom they have been communicated. That these interesting facts, if not mentioned by previous observers, should have escaped his notice never occurred to me for a moment, although at the time this paper was written I had not seen his papers on the fertilization of the kidney bean in the 'Gardeners' Chronicle' of the 24th October 1857 and the 14th November 1858, which he has kindly sent me. In these papers the structure and functions of the kidney bean are fully given, with his own interesting experiments; and though in them the details of the lobelia

[page] 256

are not given, there is a reference to that flower which shows clearly enough that they had not escaped him.

Whatever these facts are worth, they are obvious results of Mr. Darwin's own most suggestive papers on Primula, Linum, and Lythrum, referred to in such high terms by Dr. Hooker in his Norwich address. To an amateur, dismayed by the difficulties of botanical classification, perplexed by his own incapacity for microscopical dissection, and disgusted by the mere cataloguing of species, Mr. Darwin's suggestion that the true account of the structure and functions of flowers is frequently to be found in their capacity for fertilization, and especially in their capacity for cross fertilization with the pollen of other flowers, is a ray of light which opens out an endless field of interesting observation. And to those who look in science for wider speculations, the grand generalization contained in these and other papers of Mr. Darwin's, to the effect that fertility in the animal and vegetable world requires the union of elements which are neither identical nor dissimilar, but different and yet similar, with all its consequences, affords endless matter for thought, whilst it receives life and reality from the minute observation of details in which his papers abound, and of which they set such wonderful and stimulating examples. I know of no writings which so well illustrate the axiom of the great German poet and observer─

"Was fruchtbar ist, allein ist wahr.'

Sept. 17, 1868


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File last updated 25 September, 2022