From Alfred Newton 21 March 1863
21 March 1863.
My dear Sir,
A few days ago I received from Mr. Sclater a note written to him by Dr. Hooker mentioning your wish to obtain a tuber of the Wild Potato—1 I am very glad to say that it is in my power to supply you with two—the only two I have left— Had I known you were desirous of a specimen—I should certainly have placed the whole dozen that I brought home at your disposal. They were given to me by a Mr. Colchester who is a merchant at Valparaiso, and was my fellow passenger from the West Indies a short time ago—2 He told me he dug them up just before he came away—I suppose in November last—
He said they were growing on low hills near the sea, and on ground which had never been disturbed, for I asked him as to the possibility of their having been descended from cultivated ancestors— This gentleman though no naturalist, is very intelligent in matters of natural history—and if you wanted a correspondent in that part of the world might prove very useful. He assured me however that these wild potatoes are very bitter to the taste—which does not accord with your experience of the Chiloë ones, as given in your ‘Journal’—3
I hope shortly to send you the foot of a Red-legged Partridge to which an enormous ball of clay is attached, in illustration of what you have said as to Birds transporting seeds4—though in this case I am not sure that the bearer of the incumbrance could have ever flown with it.
I mean to show the specimen at a meeting of the Zoological Society—and will then, with the owner’s permission, hand it over to you—5 If this bird could have flown it could certainly have conveyed a very extensive Flora to a new island—the mass of clay being about 3 inches x 2 x 2.
I hope the potatoes will arrive safely, and I remain, Yours very truly | Alfred Newton
Charles Darwin Esqre. | F.R.S.
Sends tuber of Chilean wild potato, requested through Hooker and P. L. Sclater.
Plans to exhibit a bird’s foot with a large ball of clay attached. This phenomenon supports CD on seed dispersal.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4054,” accessed on 29 July 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4054