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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 isabsolutely conclusive. But I want to ask you whether you have everexperimented upon these plants in order to determine whether theycan sustain life, as other vegetation does, only upon inorganicmatter. Whether, in fact, this wonderful power ofassimilation is only supplementary to the ordinary powers ofvegetation, or takes in any degree its place. “It appears, therefore”,you say on p 18. of the Appleton Edition, “that the roots serve onlyto imbibe water”.f2 Is this because there is only water to imbibe, orbecause they lack the normal power of roots?

In very carefully examining portions of Dionæa leaf through theMicroscope it seemed to me that the sessile glands must be morphologicallystomata; by throwing the object a little out of focus they lookexactly like the stomata on the back of the leaf, both belonging tothe epidermal systems, it seemed not improbable that this might be so.f3Have you ever studied the development of the glands? Mirbels observationsupon the gemmæ of Marchantia polymorpha, that whichever side happensto 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 toosilly to deserve an answer, will you give me one in a few words; ifthey 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 mereidle curiosity | Yours truly & respectfully. | Sophie B. Herrick.

DAR 166: 189


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