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Letter 10390

Herrick, S. M. B. to Darwin, C. R.

12 Feb 1876


Inquires whether insectivorous habit in plants supplements or replaces the normal method of plant nutrition.


34 McCulloh St. Baltimore Md USA,

Feb 12th. 1876.

Dear Sir,

I have read with the most intense interest your volume, lately published, on Insectivorous Plants.f1 The positive testimony is absolutely conclusive. But I want to ask you whether you have ever experimented upon these plants in order to determine whether they can sustain life, as other vegetation does, only upon inorganic matter. Whether, in fact, this wonderful power of assimilation is only supplementary to the ordinary powers of vegetation, or takes in any degree its place. “It appears, therefore”, you say on p 18. of the Appleton Edition, “that the roots serve only to imbibe water”.f2 Is this because there is only water to imbibe, or because they lack the normal power of roots?

In very carefully examining portions of Dionæa leaf through the Microscope it seemed to me that the sessile glands must be morphologically stomata; by throwing the object a little out of focus they look exactly like the stomata on the back of the leaf, both belonging to the epidermal systems, it seemed not improbable that this might be so.f3 Have you ever studied the development of the glands? Mirbels observations upon the gemmæ of Marchantia polymorpha, that whichever side happens to lie uppermost developes stomata and whichever undermost root hairs, seems to give some color to the supposition.f4

Enclosed please find addressed envelope, if my questions are not too silly to deserve an answer, will you give me one in a few words; if they are, or you are too busy to spare the time pardon the intrusion, and the questions which are inspired by a real desire to know, not mere idle curiosity | Yours truly & respectfully. | Sophie B. Herrick.

DAR 166: 189


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