A straggly bush

Berberis darwinii
The Berberis dawinii in my garden this morning.

The Darwin's Barberry in my garden is in flower already. It's supposed to flower from April to May. There's global warming for you.

Berberis darwinii, to give it its scientific name, was named by William Hooker, after it was first collected in Chiloe, Chile in 1835 by Charles Darwin during the Beagle voyage. The plant later became of interest to Darwin, because it was believed to be self-fertilising (although Darwin correctly dismissed this idea). It is now a very popular garden shrub.

The Berberis darwinii in my garden was a gift from my father, who is a keen gardener. I had asked him for something named after Darwin. The week after my father presented me with the plant, my favourite science writer, Stephen Jay Gould died, so I planted the Berberis darwinii in his memory.

I fully approve of the modern secular practice of planting trees as living memorials to the deceased, but I like to think Gould would have preferred a Berberis darwinii: partly because it is named after his personal hero, but mainly because—thanks partly to my supreme laziness as a gardener—it should soon grow into his favourite evolutionary motif: a straggly bush.

I am sure Gould would have approved.

Postscript: My Gould bush became huge and straggly before it was blown down in a gale in 2012. Natural Selection in action: I'm sure Gould would have appreciated the irony.

Richard Carter, FCD

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteNewsletterMastodonetc…

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