Darwin’s Flower Experiments

Darwin did a LOT of stuff. It is amazing how often one can trace some basic bit of modern scientific knowledge to an observation or experiment Darwin while travelling on the Beagle, later on in his bathtub, or in his back yard. The NYT has a nice piece on one example of this.

IN 1860, while studying primroses in the garden of Down House, his home in Kent, England, Charles Darwin noticed something odd about their blooms.

While all the flowers had both male and female parts — anthers and pistils — in some the anthers were prominent and in others the pistils were longer. So he experimented in his home laboratory and greenhouses, cross-pollinating some plants with their anatomical opposites. The results were striking.

“He determined that if they cross-pollinate, they produce more seed and more vigorous seedlings,” said Margaret Falk, a horticulturalist and associate vice president at the New York Botanical Garden. The variation is evolution’s way of increasing cross-pollination, she said.

Read the rest here: What Darwin Saw Out Back


  1. #1 Jason Failes
    April 29, 2008

    I was both impressed and surprised to find out that, as an aside to his biological work, Darwin solved the riddle of how Atolls formed:


    Smart guy, Charles.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    April 29, 2008

    Darwin’s first major work was on Coral reefs, and it was a very important piece of science for a number of reasons. I’ve written about it:


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    December 1, 2009

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