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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Louis Grenier1   20 May 1876

Tenny

le 20 Mai 1876

Mon cher Monsieur

J’ai bien reçu votre lettre du 26 Decbre., et vous remercie de votre bienveillante autorisation. Mon petit “résumé” est prêt et je me dispose à en faire la lecture a la Soc. bot. de Lyon dans une dizaine de jours.2

Depuis son apparition votre ouvrage à fait sensation en France; et plusieurs publications, telles que la Revue des deux Mondes, le derniér mémoire de M Bellynck etc. en ont parlé, les uns pour, les autres contre:3 Avant de lire mon résumé je désire savoir si vous n’avez pas d’observations nouvelles à ajouter, à votre interessant travail.

Plusieurs d’entre ceux qui ont analysé votre ouvrage admettent que l’irritation produite par l’insecte peut bien provoquer une sécrétion plus abondante des glandes; que cette secrétion peut même dissoudre les matières mises en contact avec elle; mais ils doutent que la plante puisse absorber et surtout s’assimiler le produit de cette dissolution.4

Un jour je lisais dans l’ouvrage de M. Newman (History of British ferns) que M. Ward était l’inventeur d’une méthode de culture en vase clos, qui donnait d’excellents résultats.5 On sème les graines dans un vase en zinc, on y ajoute la quantité d’eau nécessaire pour le devéloppement de la plante, on recouvre ensuite le vase avec un globe en verre, fermé hermétiquement; et la plante lève, croit et se développe ainsi a l’abri de toutes les influences extérieures.

Pensez vous qu’en cultivant les plantes Insectivores, par ce procédé qui permettrait pour ainsi dire de régler leur nourriture, et même de les en priver entièrement on ne pourrait pas trancher définitivément la question?

Enfin, cher Monsieur, je recevrai avec reconnaissance toutes les communications que vous voudrez bien me faire, et je vous en remercie d’avance en mon nom, et [en] nom de la Soc. bot. de Lyon.

Veuillez être assez bon pour me répondre le plus tôt qu’il vous sera possible et agréez, cher Monsieur, | mes bien respecteuses salutations | L grenier

Adresse | Louis Grenier | à Tenay (Ain) france

CD annotations

End of letter: ‘Nothing new to add of value | German Physiologist6 | Dr [Recht]7 | [Protect] plants | Wards cases—fine net [even suffices] & [seems] better8 | Effect on seeding’ pencil

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Appendix I.
CD’s letter has not been found, but it was evidently a reply to Grenier’s letter of 22 December 1875, in which Grenier requested permission to summarise the early chapters of Insectivorous plants (see Correspondence vol. 23, letter from Louis Grenier, 22 December 1875). Grenier’s analysis of Insectivorous plants was presented at the meeting of the Lyon botanical society of 10 February 1876, and his lecture was scheduled to be delivered on 13 July 1876, but was postponed to the following meeting on 27 July. Both appear to be included in Grenier 1876, which was published in 1877 (see Grenier 1876, p. 114, where Grenier refers to CD’s response to his letter, and Annales de la Société botanique de Lyon (1875–6): 185).
A complimentary discussion of Insectivorous plants was published by Jules Emile Planchon in Revue des deux mondes, 1 February 1876 (Planchon 1876). In 1875, Auguste Bellynck had published Les plantes carnivores, a negative five-page discussion of CD’s work (Bellynck 1875).
In Insectivorous plants, p. 129, CD suggested that mechanical irritation of the glands of Drosera (sundews) stimulated the production of acid, and that the ferment necessary for digestion was secreted after the absorption of nitrogenous matter.
Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward’s discovery that plants would thrive for long periods of time in sealed glass containers if planted in moist soil had been described by Edward Newman (E. Newman 1840, pp. xvi–xvii). These containers were known as Wardian cases.
Possibly a reminder for CD to mention Alexander Fraustadt’s work on the anatomy of Dionaea muscipula (Venus fly trap; Fraustadt 1876). Ferdinand Julius Cohn had sent CD a copy of Fraustadt’s dissertation in March (see letter to F. J. Cohn, 31 March 1876). Grenier referred to Fraustadt’s work in Grenier 1876, p. 114.
Dr Recht has not been identified.
In Grenier 1876, p. 114, Grenier mentioned CD’s reservations about using Wardian cases for testing whether insectivorous plants absorbed nutrients from dissolved insects. Instead, CD suggested taking two sets of plants, covering each with very fine netting, and introducing small insects under the net of one set (ibid.).

Bibliography

Bellynck, Auguste. 1875. Les plantes carnivores. Brussels: Alfred Vromant.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Fraustadt, Alexander. 1876. Anatomie der vegetativen Organe von Dionaea muscipula Ell. (Inaugural dissertation, Breslau University.) Breslau: R. Nischkowsky. [Reprinted in: Beiträge zur Biologie der Pflanzen 2 (1876–7): 27–64.]

Grenier, Louis. 1876. Analyse de l’ouvrage de M. Ch. Darwin sur les plantes insectivores. [Read 10 February 1876.] Annales de la Société botanique de Lyon 4 (1875–6): 96–114.

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

Newman, Edward. 1840. A history of British ferns. London: John van Voorst.

Planchon, Jules Emile. 1876. Les plantes carnivores. Revue des deux mondes 3d ser. 13: 631–59.

Translation

From Louis Grenier1   20 May 1876

Tenny

20 May 1876

My dear Sir

I have duly received your letter of 26 December and thank you for your kind authorisation. My little “résumé” is ready and I am preparing to give a lecture at the botanic society of Lyon in about a fortnight.2

Following its appearance your work has made a sensation in France; and several publications such as the Revue des deux Mondes,3 the last memoir of M Bellynck etc. have discussed it, some for, others against: Before presenting my résumé I would like to know whether you have new observations to add to your interesting work.

Many of those who have analysed your work accept that the irritation produced by an insect could well cause a more abundant secretion of the glands; that this secretion could even dissolve the matter placed in contact with it; but they doubt that the plant could absorb and above all assimilate the product of this dissolution.4

One day I was reading in a work of Mr Newman (History of British ferns) that Mr Ward was the inventor of a method of cultivation in a bell jar which gave excellent results.5 The seeds are sown in a zinc container, enough water is added for the development of the plant, then the container is covered with a glass globe, hermetically sealed; and the plant comes up, grows and develops, protected from all external influences.

Do you think that by cultivating insectivorous plants by this method, which would allow so to speak the regulation of their food, and even deprive them completely, that the question could be definitively settled?

Finally, dear sir, I would gratefully receive any statements you would like to make, and I thank you in advance for myself and in the name of the botanic society of Lyon.

Please be so good as to answer as soon as possible and accept, dear sir, | my very respectful greetings | L grenier

Adress | Louis Grenier | at Tenay (Ain) France

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original French, see p. 168.
CD’s letter has not been found, but it was evidently a reply to Grenier’s letter of 22 December 1875, in which Grenier requested permission to summarise the early chapters of Insectivorous plants (see Correspondence vol. 23, letter from Louis Grenier, 22 December 1875). Grenier’s analysis of Insectivorous plants was presented at the meeting of the Lyon botanical society of 10 February 1876, and his lecture was scheduled to be delivered on 13 July 1876, but was postponed to the following meeting on 27 July. Both appear to be included in Grenier 1876, which was published in 1877 (see Grenier 1876, p. 114, where Grenier refers to CD’s response to his letter, and Annales de la Société botanique de Lyon (1875–6): 185).
A complimentary discussion of Insectivorous plants was published by Jules Emile Planchon in Revue des deux mondes, 1 February 1876 (Planchon 1876). In 1875, Auguste Bellynck had published Les plantes carnivores, a negative five-page discussion of CD’s work (Bellynck 1875).
In Insectivorous plants, p. 129, CD suggested that mechanical irritation of the glands of Drosera (sundews) stimulated the production of acid, and that the ferment necessary for digestion was secreted after the absorption of nitrogenous matter.
Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward’s discovery that plants would thrive for long periods of time in sealed glass containers if planted in moist soil had been described by Edward Newman (E. Newman 1840, pp. xvi–xvii). These containers were known as Wardian cases.

Bibliography

Bellynck, Auguste. 1875. Les plantes carnivores. Brussels: Alfred Vromant.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Fraustadt, Alexander. 1876. Anatomie der vegetativen Organe von Dionaea muscipula Ell. (Inaugural dissertation, Breslau University.) Breslau: R. Nischkowsky. [Reprinted in: Beiträge zur Biologie der Pflanzen 2 (1876–7): 27–64.]

Grenier, Louis. 1876. Analyse de l’ouvrage de M. Ch. Darwin sur les plantes insectivores. [Read 10 February 1876.] Annales de la Société botanique de Lyon 4 (1875–6): 96–114.

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

Newman, Edward. 1840. A history of British ferns. London: John van Voorst.

Planchon, Jules Emile. 1876. Les plantes carnivores. Revue des deux mondes 3d ser. 13: 631–59.

Summary

Thanks CD for his authorisation for the résumé which LG will read to the Société Botanique de Lyon.

Insectivorous plants has made a sensation in France. Some are for, some against. Some doubt that a plant could absorb and assimilate the matter dissolved by the secretions. Asks CD if N. B. Ward’s method of culture might be used to answer the question definitively.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-10511
From
Louis Grenier
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Tenay
Source of text
DAR 165: 226
Physical description
3pp (French) †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10511,” accessed on 3 April 2020, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-10511.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24

letter