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Darwin Correspondence Project


From Daniel Oliver   [1 April 1864]1

vide Palm,—‘Ueber das Winden der Pflanzen’.— 8vo. Tubingen. 1827.2

M. Léon’s résumé is as follows (Bulletin, Soc. bot. France V. 684)3 1. Le mouvement révolutif, la torsion des tiges sur elles-mêmes et l’enroulement des tiges volubiles et des vrilles dépendent de conditions organiques 2. Le mouvement révolutif spontané des vrilles et des sommets des tiges volubiles … 4 est un phénomène d’antagonisme oscillant entre l’endosmose implétive du tissu cellulaire et l’implétion d’oxygène du tissu fibreux; il est favorisé par la texture et les propriétés des tissus. 3. La torsion des axes des tiges volubiles et non volubiles, et l’enroulement spiral des vrilles, des pétioles et pédoncules cirriformes, des appendices végétaux de toutes sortes, sont deux formes du même phénomène: la torsion par endosmose implétive ou déplétive des tissus à mailles variables en grosseur, selon une multitude de lignes parallèles à l’axe; cette inégalité de volume des utricules ou fibres n’affectant aucun ordre régulier et constant dans leur disposition, il en résult une inflexion, un déplacement latéral, dont la tendance à droite ou à gauche n’a aucune fixité. 4. L’enroulement spiral des tiges volubiles, souvent en sens inverse de la torsion, est essentiellement distinct du phénomène de spiralation des organes appendiculaires ou des organes axiles aphylles, comme les pédoncules; bien qu’il ait aussi pour agents les tissus élémentaires, il reconnait pour cause de sa direction constante dans l’un ou l’autre sens, selon les espèces, outre un antagonisme de tendances à l’incurvation des tissus cellulaire et fibreux des systèmes central et cortical, luttant sur deux côtés opposés d’une tige, une solidification des tissus par zonés spirales, procédant de la disposition, soit primitive, soit altérée, des organes d’où émane la foliation, concordant dans le premier cas avec une élaboration inégale des deux systèmes opposés.’—

I do not know Palm’s Treatise named above,—referred to by Léon,—but I see he counts some 600 plantes volubiles, belonging to 34 Families.5

He also refers to a paper by St. Pierre (Compt. rend. Acad. 1854. XXXIX).6

In vol. IV Bull. Soc. Bot. de France also, there are several papers on tendrils which it might be worth yr. while to glance over in case you send to the Linn. Soc. for vol. V.7

Mohl.—Ueber d. Bau &c. d Windung d. Ranken 8 & Duchartre art. Vrilles in Dict. univ. d’Hist Nat.9—are referred to.

What a pity you cannot put all this rubbish through some sort of sifting process before it reaches Bromley!

Yours very sincerely | D. O.

Dr. Hooker is down at Isle Wight for a few days.10 Scott’s letter I shall attend to.11

CD annotations

1.1 vide … Families. 7.2] crossed pencil
9.1 In vol. IV … Bromley! 11.2] crossed pencil


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to Daniel Oliver, 31 March [1864], and by the reference to Joseph Dalton Hooker’s visit to the Isle of Wight (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [2 April 1864] and n. 9).
An annotated copy of Palm 1827? is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 662–3).
In his letter of 31 March [1864], CD thanked Oliver for a reference to Léon 1858 and requested a résumé. Oliver in this letter transcribes Isidore Léon’s conclusions (Léon 1858, pp. 684–5). A translation follows: 1. The revolving movement, the twisting of the stems on themselves and the coiling of the twining stems and of the tendrils depend on organic conditions. 2. The spontaneous revolving movement of the tendrils and of the tips of the twining stems … is a phenomenon of antagonism oscillating between endosmosis through the cellular tissue and the flow of oxygen to the fibrous tissue; this is stimulated by the texture and properties of the tissues. 3. The torsion of the axes of the twining and non-twining stems, and the spiral coiling of the tendrils, of the petioles and of the cirriform peduncles, of vegetable appendages of every kind, are two forms of the same phenomenon: the torsion through inflowing or depleting endosmosis of the tissues that are made up of meshes of varying size, according to a multitude of lines parallel to the axis; since this inequality of volume of the utricles or fibres shows no sign of occurring in a regular and constant manner, the result is an inflection, a lateral movement, which has no fixed tendency towards the right or the left. 4. The spiral coiling of the twining stems, often in opposite direction to the torsion, is essentially distinct from the phenomenon of twining of the appendages or of the leafless axial parts such as peduncles; although this also occurs through the action of primary tissues, he recognises as cause of its twining consistently one way or the other, according to the species, apart from an antagonism between the curving tendencies of the cellular tissues and of the central and cortical fibrous systems, struggling against each other on two opposite sides of a stem, a solidification of the tissues within spiral zones, originating from the predisposition, be it original, or created artificially, of the organs from which foliation originates, in accordance in the first case with an unequal development of the two opposing systems. Darwin’s references in ’Climbing plants’, pp. 5–6, 20, 25, and 96, to Léon’s work indicate that he later saw a copy of Léon 1858.
The missing section refers to René Joachim Henri Dutrochet: ‘… découvert par Dutrochet, mais vaguement attribué par lui à une force intérieure et vitale, ce movement …’ (‘discovered by Dutrochet but vaguely attributed by him to an interior vital force, this movement …’) (Léon 1858, p. 684; Dutrochet made this attribution in Dutrochet 1837).
See Léon 1858, p. 351, for the reference to Ludwig Heinrich Palm’s study of 600 plants in 34 families (Palm 1827?, table facing p. 15). Darwin first mentioned Palm’s work in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 1–2: ‘My observations were more than half completed before I became aware that the surprising phenomenon of the spontaneous revolutions of the stems and tendrils of climbing plants had been long ago observed by Palm and by Hugo von Mohl, and had subsequently been the subject of two memoirs by Dutrochet.’ CD referred in notes also to Mohl 1827, Henfrey trans. 1852, pp. 147–58, and Dutrochet 1843 and 1844; there are annotated copies of Mohl 1827 and Henfrey trans. 1852 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 589–94, 662–3). See also Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, [2]9 June 1863 and n. 3, and this volume, letter to Daniel Oliver, 15 June [1864].
See Léon 1858, p. 352, for his reference to Germain de Saint-Pierre 1854.
In ‘Climbing plants’, p. 73 n., CD wrote that the fourth volume of Bulletin de la Société Botanique de France included ‘numerous discussions on the nature of the tendrils’ in the family Cucurbitaceae; for the discussions, see Bulletin de la Société Botanique de France 4 (1857): 109–11, 142–6, 322–4, 744–56, and 787–8.
Mohl 1827. CD frequently referred to Mohl’s work in ‘Climbing plants’ (see n. 5, above).
Pierre Etienne Simon Duchartre discussed tendrils in the Dictionnaire universel d’histoire naturelle 10: 96–7 and 13: 285–6.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [2 April 1864].
Oliver refers to the postscript to the letter from John Scott, 28 March 1864 (see letter to Daniel Oliver, 31 March [1864] and n. 5).


References to and résumés of articles on climbing plants.

Letter details

Letter no.
Oliver, Daniel
Darwin, C. R.
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 157.2: 106
Physical description
4pp inc ? †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4443,” accessed on 21 October 2016,