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Letter 2995A

Oliver, Daniel to Darwin, C. R.

23 Nov 1860

    Summary Add

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    Dr Hooker has given him CD's memorandum on the fly-catcher.

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    Copies out extract from Curtis' Botanical Magazine [On Apocynum androsæmifolium, 8 (1794): tab.]: 280 and gives a further reference in Erasmus Darwin's The loves of plants [1789]. Suggests that they look at Apocynum.



23. XI. 60 | Friday morng

My dear Sir

Dr. Hooker has given me your memorandum about the Fly-Catcher. Looking again at the notice of Asclepias in Konig & Sims' Annals of Botany. I find reference there to an account of the Fly-catching Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) by Curtis in Bot. Mag. 280. This is doubtless the plant. Dr. Hooker recollects it I think at Glasgow. & I believe quite thinks yours must have been the same. Curtis says ``The flowers of this Apocynum have a sweet honey-like fragrance, which perfumes the air to a considerable distance x x x x when a plant x x is fully blown one may always find flies caught in its blossoms, usually by the trunk, very rarely by the leg x x x —. x x x x x x the sweet viscid substance    x    secreted by the stigma within the antherae x x the fly endeavours to obtain, & to this end insinuates its trunk first into the lowermost & widest part of the slit, betwixt each of the antherae x x pushing it of necessity upwards: when gratified, not having the sense to place itself in the same position, as that in wh. it stood when it inserted its trunk & to draw it out in the same direction downwards, unfortunately for it, it varies its position, & pulling its trunk upwards, draws it into the narrow part of the slit, where it becomes closely wedged in, & the more it pulls the more securely it is caught,'' &c &c

See also Darwin (!) Botanic Garden, Supplement. p— ?.

Shall I copy you all Curtis' account? We must make a point of looking at this Apocynum. Yours very faithfully | Danl. Oliver

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 2995a.f1
    Letter to Daniel Oliver, [21 November 1860].
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    f2 2995a.f2
    The reference was written in the margin of the letter. Oliver refers to an item in the `Miscellaneous articles' section of Annals of Botany 1 (1805): 398--9, edited by Karl Dietrich Eberhard Koenig and John Sims. The article is an abstract of Barton 1806, in which Asclepias syrica, the fly-catcher, is described. The abstract also mentions Apocynum androsaemifolium.
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    f3 2995a.f3
    A. androsaemifolium was figured in William Curtis's Botanical Magazine 8 (1794): tab. 280.
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    f4 2995a.f4
    CD's grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, provided a plate of A. androsaemifolium in The loves of the plants (E. Darwin 1789--91, pt 2, facing p. 182). He described plants of this species growing in the garden of his brother, Robert Waring Darwin of Elston, Nottinghamshire. Oliver's reference to the `Supplement' is explained by the plate and description being in a section of the book entitled `Additional notes'.
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