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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Daniel Oliver   [15–16 October 1860]1

From ‘Botanische Zeitung’ (Regensburg) 1833. p. 96 Notice of Prof. Burnett on irritable plants & the insects wh. they secure.2

“Ich habe einen Versuch mit 2 Exemplaren der Dionæa muscipula gemacht, und zu dem Ende 2 von beinahe gleicher Grösse & Gesundheit gewählt. Die eine davon bekam weder Würmer noch Fliegen u.s.w., während die andere täglich mit kleinen Ueberbleibseln von Thieren gefüttert wurde: das Ergebniss dieser Versuchs war, dass die erste pflanze, bei ihrer strengen Diät, allmählig hinwelkte, die andere aber, bei ihrer Fleischkost(?) sich vortrefflich befand.”—

Nuttal, in Gena. No. American Plants, p. 277, (note)— “This sensibility is said to reside principally in the 4 capillary processes situated upon the disk of the lamina. While engaged in collecting this plant in its singularly insulated situation near Wilmington, in North Carolina, I had occasion to observe that a detached leaf would make repeated efforts towards disclosing itself to the influence of the Sun, these attempts consisted in an undulating motion of the marginal ciliæ, accompanied by a partial opening & succeeding collapse of the lamina, which at length terminated in a complete expansion & in the destruction of sensibility.”—3

Note fr. Drummond. Swan River Boty. Kew Jl. Boty. v. 345.4

Speakg. of a sp. of Elatine.— “I have ascertained that in the minute submerged concealed flowers, the anthers burst internally, & the seeds arrive at maturity in a much shorter time than they require when the inflorescence is exposed to the air.” x x x x x x

CD annotations

1.1 From … befand.“— 2.6] ‘comparison of 2 Plants with flies & without    not enough.’ added pencil
2.3 täglich] underl pencil; ‘!!’ added pencil
3.1 “This … Carolina, 3.4] double scored pencil
3.4 I had occasion] paragraph divided before ‘I had’, brown crayon
3.6 these attempts … sensibility“.— 3.8] scored brown crayon; line added after ‘sensibility’, ink; ‘Does this refer to young leaf first opening’ added pencil
4.1 Note … x x x x 5.4] scored ink over pencil; one word illeg added ink
Top of first page: ‘Opening’ brown crayon; ‘Dionæ a & Intercrossingink
End of letter: ‘Intercrossing’ ink


Dated by the relationship to the preceding and following letters.
A note in the botanical information section in Flora, oder allgemeine botanische Zeitung pt 1 (1833): 96 describes the digestive activity of Dionaea and other species. The information appears to have been taken from a work by the medical botanist Gilbert Thomas Burnett, professor of botany at King’s College, London. The passage is translated as follows: I have conducted an experiment with 2 specimens of Dionaea muscipula and for this purpose chose 2 of almost the same size and condition. One got neither worms nor flies, etc. while the other was fed daily with small remnants of animals: the result of this experiment was that the first plant, because of its strict diet, gradually withered away; the other, however, fared excellently on its meat regime.
Nuttall 1818, 1: 277–8. CD cited this information in Insectivorous plants, p. 318 n., thanking Oliver for the reference.
Drummond 1853, p. 345. For CD’s correspondence about the fertilisation of Australian plants, see the letter to James Drummond, 16 May 1860, and the letters from James Drummond, 17 September 1860 and 8 October 1860.


Extracts from botanical literature dealing with Dionaea, intercrossing, and sensitivity. [Bot. Ztg. (1833): 96; Thomas Nuttall, Genera of N. American plants (1818)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Daniel Oliver
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 58.2: 53
Physical description
Amem 2pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2623,” accessed on 21 May 2018,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8