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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. T. Thiselton-Dyer   3 October [1875]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

Oct. 3d

My dear Dyer

I wish that I had seen your very curious specimen two months ago.— I never saw nearly such large adhesive discs; but the fact is not new, & when you receive in November a copy of my little book on Climbing Plants, do look at my account of Bignonia Capreolata, as it is worth reading, though I say it who should not.—2

The Geum seeds are motionless, ill-luck to them.—3

Will you please to ask Hooker to sign enclosed & will you do so also & return paper to me.—4

I have a great wish next summer to experimentise on some Marantaceous plant to make out meaning of 2 sets of differently coloured stamens. I formerly tried Monochætum eurifolium, having with great difficulty raised seedlings, but these all died.5

The troublesome thing is that it is indispensable that I shd. have 2 seedling plants (i.e. not propagate from cuttings) of the same species. I once raised 2 sets of seedlings of Monochætum which appeared different from the pollen of the 2 sets of stamens; but illness cut short my observations—6 Will you enquire & think of any species which I could raise from seed this autumn, or which could be raised for me at Kew, as they are bad germinators—or again whether 2 seedling plants exist at Kew of any species which could be lent to me.—

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

I have just read (thanks to you) the Aroid paper in G. Chronicle with much interest.7


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 30 September 1875.
The climbing plant specimen has not been identified. Thiselton-Dyer’s name is on CD’s presentation list for Climbing plants 2d ed. (see Appendix IV). In Climbing plants 2d ed., pp. 100–2, CD described the formation of adhesive discs in Bignonia capreolata (crossvine).
Thiselton-Dyer had sent CD seeds of a Geum species he had collected in Switzerland; plants of the species (probably G. montanum, alpine avens) had hairy seed-heads similar to those of Anemone or Clematis. See letter from W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 28 September 1875). CD’s son Francis Darwin was studying the ability of some awned seeds to bury themselves in the ground (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 October [1875]).
CD evidently wrote ‘Marantaceous’ and ‘eurifolium’ by mistake; Monochaetum belongs to the family Melastomaceae (now Melastomataceae), not Marantaceae (see also letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 22 October 1875). He had made observations on Monochaetum ensiferum (a synonym of M. calcaratum,) between February 1862 and May 1863 (Correspondence vols. 10 and 11). Flowers of this species have two sets of stamens that differ both structurally and in colour, having both large crimson and small yellow anthers.
CD’s notes on the crossing experiments with Monochaetum ensiferum are in DAR 205.8: 22–40. They include a final tabulation, dated 28 May 1863, of the numbers of seeds produced following crosses using pollen from the two different kinds of anther and from flowers of different ages (DAR 205.8: 40). Having noticed that there were changes over time in the positions of the pistils and stamens, CD had speculated that the pistil might react differently to the two kinds of pollen produced by this species, depending on its age and position (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to Asa Gray, 16 February [1862]). CD became ill around mid-May 1863 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Thiselton-Dyer had alerted CD to Karl Heinrich Emil Koch’s article ‘Aroid hybrids’ (Koch 1875) in Gardeners’ Chronicle, 25 September 1875, in his letter of 28 September 1875. Koch had raised three hybrids of Philodendron species and one hybrid of Anthurium (laceleafs). Both genera are in the family Araceae (arums). Koch noted that the hybrids, like Cytisus adami (now +Laburnocytisus adamii), produced some branches resembling one or the other parent and others that exhibited a blend of characteristics of both parents.


Climbing plants 2d ed.: The movements and habits of climbing plants. 2d edition. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Koch, Karl Heinrich Emil. 1875. Hybrid aroids. Gardeners’ Chronicle, 25 September 1875, pp. 398–9.


Suggests WTT-D read account of Bignonia capreolata in forthcoming Climbing plants.

Plans experiments [on Melastomataceae]. Describes similar experiment performed on Monochaetum. Interested in meaning of differently coloured stamens.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Turner Thiselton-Dyer
Sent from
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Thiselton-Dyer, W.T., Letters from Charles Darwin 1873–81: 29–30)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10180,” accessed on 19 June 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23