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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. T. Thiselton-Dyer   16 October [1875]1

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

Oct 16th

My dear Dyer

I write to thank you for all your varied information. I am particularly glad to hear about the Imatophyllum, for if I can get the plants to flower I am particularly curious to know whether Beatons story of the direct action of the pollen is true.2

The arms of the anemone do rotate splendidly, but Frank has made only one trial as yet about their power of burying themselves.3 These seeds were some which one of my sons gathered in Switzerland, & Hooker told us nothing of your being sent any, which we shd be glad of4   I have no doubt Dr. Heckel is right, for I have shown that certain (though not all) glandular hairs especially of Saxifrages do absorb weak carbonate of Ammonia, & I have attempted to show how this gave rise to power of digestion.—5

With many thanks for all your kindness | yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 October 1875.
Thiselton-Dyer’s letter with information on Imantophyllum has not been found, but Joseph Dalton Hooker had informed CD that they were inquiring about the plant (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 October 1875 and n. 6). Imantophyllum is now Clivia, a South African genus of the family Amaryllidaceae; Imatophyllum was an alternative spelling. CD received a plant of Imantophyllum cyrtanthiflorum (now Clivia × cyrtanthiflora) on 15 October 1875 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 October [1875] and n. 7, and letter from W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, [16–22 October 1875] and n. 2). Donald Beaton had reported that when two species of Imatophyllum were crossed, the pods of the female parent took on the appearance of pods characteristic of the male parent (Beaton 1860, p. 254; see also Correspondence vol. 11, letter to Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener, [before 27 January 1863] and n. 4).
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 October 1875 and n. 4. Francis Darwin was experimenting with a number of seeds that could bury themselves in the ground.
It is not known which of CD’s sons collected the seeds, but Francis had made botanical observations while on his honeymoon in Switzerland (see Correspondence vol. 22, letter from Francis and Amy Darwin, 8 August [1874]).
Edouard Marie Heckel’s observation may have related to his experiments on the ability of the glands of Parnassia palustris (marsh grass of Parnassus) to dissolve and absorb animal matter. His results were published in 1876 (Heckel 1876). CD had also been interested in the species (see Correspondence vol. 22, letter from Francis and Amy Darwin, 8 August [1874] and n. 4). See also Insectivorous plants, pp. 345–8 (on Saxifraga).


Beaton, Donald. 1860. Crossing flowers. Cottage Gardener 24: 253–5.

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

Heckel, Edouard Marie. 1876. On the floral glands of Parnassia palustris; new physiological functions. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 4th ser. 17: 335–6.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.


Thanks for information. Absorption of ammonium carbonate by glandular hairs.

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: 33–4)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10202,” accessed on 13 April 2024,

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