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Letter 5620A

Müller, J. F. T. to Darwin, C. R.

[8 Oct 1867]

    Summary Add

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    Has CD ever considered that the colour of seeds of Amarantaceae would attract the attention of birds?

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    Describes case of a climbing Chamissoa of the local flora.

Transcription

Itajahy

&lldots; . Hätten Sie je gedacht, dass die Familie der Amarantaceen auch auffällige Samen darbieten möchte, welche die Aufmerksamkeit von Vögeln erregen? Nun, dies ist der Fall bei einer kletternden Chamissoa unserer Flora. Die schwarzen Samen sind beinah vollständig von einem weissen Arillus umgeben und bleiben am Grunde der Kapsel angeheftet, deren obere Hälfte abfällt (``utriculus circumscissus'') wie bei Anagallis. Nach Endlicher's Beschreibung scheint es, dass in andern Arten jener Gattung der Arillus viel kleiner ist (``arillo brevi albo, umbilicum lateraliter cingente''), und so bilden diese Formen ein verbindendes Glied zwischen unserer Art und einer andern Amarantacee (Celosia?), bei der die kleinen, schwarzen und glänzenden Samen überhaupt keinen Arillus haben und, obwohl sie nicht sehr ansehnlich sind, dennoch fest angeheftet auf dem Grunde der Kapsel bleiben, welche nach dem Abfallen ihrer oberen Hälfte einen halbkugeligen Becher bildet. Die Thatsache, dass ansehnliche Samen an den offnen Hüllen festhaften, kommt auch bei Monocotyledonen vor. Ich beobachtete sie bei Hedychium (coronarium?—nicht einheimisch hier) und bei einer Marantacee&lldots; .

Translation

Itajahy

&lldots; . Would you ever have thought that the Amarantaceae family could also present conspicuous seeds that attract the attention of birds? Well, this is the case with a climbing Chamissoa in our flora. The black seeds are almost completely surrounded by a white arillus and remain attached to the base of the capsule, the upper half of which falls off (``utriculus circumscissus'') as with Anagallis. According to Endlicher's description it seems that in other species of that genus the arillus is much smaller (``arillo brevi albo, umbilicum lateraliter cingente''), and so these forms constitute a connecting link between our species and another Amarantaceae (Celosia?), in which the small, black, and shiny seeds have no arillus at all, and although not very sizeable, remain firmly attached to the base of the capsule, which forms a hemispherical cup when its upper half has fallen off. The fact that large seeds stick to the open hull also occurs in monocotyledons. I observed this in a Hedychium (coronarium?—not indigenous here) and in a Marantaceae&lldots; .

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 5620a.f1
    For a translation of this letter, see Correspondence vol. 15, Appendix I. For an account of the reconstruction of Fritz Müller's letters to CD, see the letter from Fritz Müller, 17 July 1867, n. 1.
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    f2 5620a.f2
    The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letters to Fritz Müller, 15 August [1867] and 30 January [1868] (Correspondence vol. 16). Alfred Möller dated the letter fragment `September 1867' when he published it in German translation (Möller ed. 1915--21, 2: 132). CD thanked Müller for information `about conspicuous seeds' in his letter of 30 January [1868], and also mentioned receiving Müller's answers on expression written on 5 October. It is likely that Müller answered the queries on expression on a separate sheet, dated 5 October 1867, which was included with the letter written on 8 October 1867. Müller had written at the top of CD's letter of 15 August [1867], `Received Octobr. 5.— | Answered Octobr. 8.—'
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    f3 5620a.f3
    The modern spelling is `Amaranthaceae'.
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    f4 5620a.f4
    `Arillus': aril; `utriculus circumscissus': utricle circumscissile (Latin; the characterisation comes from Endlicher 1836--42, s.v. Chamissoa).
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    f5 5620a.f5
    The genus Anagallis belongs to the family Primulaceae.
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    f6 5620a.f6
    Arillo brevi albo umbilicum lateraliter cingente: with a short white aril surrounding the hilum laterally (Latin). Müller refers to Stephan Ladislaus Endlicher and Endlicher 1836--42 (s.v. Chamissoa).
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    f7 5620a.f7
    Hedychium coronarium, though native to tropical Asia, is widely naturalised in tropical America (Mabberley 1997).
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