Primula elatior, Jacq. Bardfield oxlip of English authors.

This plant, as well as the last or cowslip (P. veris, vel officinalis), and the primrose (P. vulgaris, vel acaulis) have been considered by some botanists as varieties of the same species. But they are all three undoubtedly distinct, as will be shown in the next chapter. The present species resembles to a certain extent in general appearance the common oxlip, which is a hybrid between the cowslip and primrose. Primula elatior is found in England only in two or three of the eastern counties; and I was supplied with living plants by Mr. Doubleday, who, as I believe, first called attention to its existence in England. It is common in some parts of the Continent; and H. Muller has seen several kinds of humble-bees and other bees, and Bombylius, visiting the flowers in North Germany. (1/9. 'Die Befruchtung der Blumen' page 347.)

The results of my trials on the relative fertility of the two forms, when legitimately and illegitimately fertilised, are given in Table 1.8.

TABLE 1.8. Primula elatior.

Column 1: Nature of the Union. Column 2: Number of Flowers fertilised. Column 3: Number of good Capsules produced. Column 4: Maximum Number of Seeds in any one Capsule. Column 5: Minimum Number of Seeds in any one Capsule. Column 6: Average Number of Seeds per Capsule.

Long-styled by pollen of short-styled. Legitimate union : 10 : 6 : 62 : 34 : 46.5.

Long-styled by own-form pollen. Illegitimate union : 20 : 4 : 49* : 2 : 27.7. (*These seeds were so poor and small that they could hardly have germinated.)

Short-styled by pollen of long-styled. Legitimate union: 10 : 8 : 61 : 37 : 47.7.

Short-styled by own-form pollen. Illegitimate union : 17 : 3 : 19 : 9 : 12.1.


The two legitimate unions together : 20 : 14 : 62 : 37 : 47.1.

The two illegitimate unions together : 37 : 7 : 49* : 2 : 35.5. (*These seeds were so poor and small that they could hardly have germinated.)

If we compare the fertility of the two legitimate unions taken together with that of the two illegitimate unions together, as judged by the proportional number of flowers which when fertilised in the two methods yielded capsules, the ratio is as 100 to 27; so that by this standard the present species is much more sterile than P. veris, when both species are illegitimately fertilised. If we judge of the relative fertility of the two kinds of unions by the average number of seeds per capsule, the ratio is as 100 to 75. But this latter number is probably much too high, as many of the seeds produced by the illegitimately fertilised long-styled flowers were so small that they probably would not have germinated, and ought not to have been counted. Several long-styled and short- styled plants were protected from the access of insects, and must have been spontaneously self-fertilised. They yielded altogether only six capsules, containing any seeds; and their average number was only 7.8 per capsule. Some, moreover, of these seeds were so small that they could hardly have germinated.

Herr W. Breitenbach informs me that he examined, in two sites near the Lippe (a tributary of the Rhine), 894 flowers produced by 198 plants of this species; and he found 467 of these flowers to be long-styled, 411 short-styled, and 16 equal- styled. I have heard of no other instance with heterostyled plants of equal- styled flowers appearing in a state of nature, though far from rare with plants which have been long cultivated. It is still more remarkable that in eighteen cases the same plant produced both long-styled and short-styled, or long-styled and equal-styled flowers; and in two out of the eighteen cases, long-styled, short-styled, and equal-styled flowers. The long-styled flowers greatly preponderated on these eighteen plants,--61 consisting of this form, 15 of equal-styled, and 9 of the short-styled form.

Primula vulgaris (var. acaulis, Linn.) The primrose of English Writers.

(FIGURE 1.3. Outlines of pollen-grains of Primula vulgaris, distended with water, much magnified and drawn under the camera lucida.

The Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species Page 16

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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