skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin [19? July 1874]1

Ashton Lodge, | Bassett, Southampton.

My dear Father,

I send you a note from Mr Wilkinson, who found me the Utricularia.2

I should have liked to have seen the dragon fly.

We have had a most sweltering day today & I have spent it under a tree on the common.

Please tell Frank I am going to write & see if Hen: will have me to dinner on Wednesday.3

I hope Untricularia is behaving well.

No more news about the house, I have made a final offer to take it if they will take off £200, or get me the covenant from Langstaff.4

Your affect son | W. E. Darwin



Bisterne | Parsonage | Ringwood

Dear Mr. Darwin.

I read in Miss Pratt’s book on British flowers, that Mr. Wilson observes that ‘each bladder of the Utricularia has an aperture closing with an elastic valve, which opens inwards and aquatic insects often enter the orifice and are confined there.5

I examined a number of the bladders and succeeded in finding one with a small water slug, dead, inside—but I don’t think the bladders absorb or digest the insect.

I dont know whether this bears on the point you wish to elucidate but I thought it might be worth mentioning.

Your’s very truly | H. M. Wilkinson

P.S. If I can at any time do any thing for you it will be a pleasure to do it.

July 18. 1874.

I open this again to say that I saw a most interesting sight today. A large Dragon Fly was caught by the Sundew— two of the leaves had hold of the trunk of his body & held him fast like spiders. His head & wings were quite free but he could not escape.

I endeavoured (after watching him for half an hour) to pull up the Sundew so that I might send you them all together, but the jerk set him free & saved his life.

I found lots of moths flys &c &c in process of digestion on the leaves of the round leaved Sundew.6

CD annotations

Bottom of enclosure: ‘Small Heath Butterfly | George says7 | (Rev. H. M. Wilkinson | Letter)’ pencil


The date is conjectured from the date of the enclosure. The enclosure was first published in Correspondence vol. 22, as a letter to CD from Henry Marlow Wilkinson.
CD was interested in Utricularia (the genus of bladderworts) for his book Insectivorous plants, published in 1875.
Francis Darwin and Henrietta Emma Litchfield were William’s brother and sister.
William was buying a new house in Southampton; on 29 July, Emma Darwin wrote to Leonard Darwin, ‘the house is as good as bought! He offered to take it & run the risk if they wd accept £200 less in the price—which they have done, & he thinks he shall give up all thoughts of the covenant’ (DAR 210.3: 220). Charles Langstaff was a friend of William’s. The nature of the covenant, and Langstaff’s involvement, is not clear.
Anne Pratt quoted Mr Wilson (who has not been identified) in Flowering plants and ferns of Great Britain (Pratt [1854], 4: 215–16).
The round-leaved or common sundew is Drosera rotundifolia.
The small heath butterfly is Coenonympha pamphilus. George Howard Darwin may have identified the butterfly.


WED encloses a letter from H. M. Wilkinson about Utricularia and sundew.

H. M. Wilkinson has examined bladders of Utricularia; doubts that they absorb or digest insects.

H. M. Wilkinson describes dragonfly trapped by sundew [Drosera].

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 53); DAR 58.1: 135–6
Physical description
4pp encl 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9554,” accessed on 24 August 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22 and 24 (Supplement)