Letter icon
Letter 11096

Darwin, C. R. to Romanes, G. J.

9 Aug [1877]


Comments on GJR’s papers in Nature [see 11103].

Mentions manuscript by Miss Lawless on fertilisation in plants.

Discusses work of Francis Darwin on Dipsacus

and his own experiments on Drosera.


Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

Augt. 9th

My dear Romanes

I have read your two articles in Nature, & nothing can be clearer or more interesting, though I had gathered your conclusions clearly from your other papers. It seems to me that unless you can show that your muslin (in your simile) is rather coarse the transmission may be considered as passing in every direction from cell or unit of structure to cell or unit; & in this case the transmission would be as in Dionæa; but more easily effected in certain lines or directions than in others. It is splendid work & I hope you are getting on well in all respects. The Mr Lawless to whom you refer is the Honble Miss Lawless; as I know for she sent me a very good M.S. about the fertilisation of plants, which I have recommended her to send to Nature.

As for myself Frank & I have been working like slaves on the bloom on plants, with very poor success: as usual almost everything goes differently to what I had anticipated   But I have been absolutely delighted at two things: Cohn of Breslau has seen all the phenomena described by Frank in Dipsacus & thinks it a very remarkable discovery, & is going to work with all reagents on the filaments, as Frank did, but no doubt he will know much better how to do it. He will not pronounce whether the filaments are some colloid substance or living protoplasm; I think he rather leans to latter, & he quite sees that Frank does not pronounce dogmatically on the question.—

The second point which delights me, seeing that half-a-score of Botanists throughout Europe have published that the digestion of meat by plants is of no use to them, (—a mere pathological phenomenon as one man says!—) is that Frank has been feeding under exactly similar conditions a large number of plants of Drosera, & the effect is wonderful. On the fed side the leaves much larger, differently coloured & more numerous— Flower-stalks taller & more numerous & I believe far more seed-capsules, but these not yet counted. It is particularly interesting that the leaves fed on meat contain very many more starch granules, (—no doubt owing to more protoplasm being first formed) ie so that sections stained with iodine of fed & unfed leaves are to naked eye of very different colour.—

There, I have boasted to my heart’s content; & do you do the same & tell me what you have been doing.—

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

American Philosophical Society (518)


Maximized viewPrint letter