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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Francis Darwin   [2 June 1876]1

dear father

i’m afraid my discovery must be rather bad for you. there is no more news about it; i want very much to try some dodge to make the protoplasm contract right into the cells.2 i think i have got a dodge to see the protoplasm in drosera in a dead state; it is strasbuger’s plan for delicate prot⁠⟨⁠o⁠⟩⁠plasm. i kill the tentacle in very weak osmic acid; then coagulate them in absolute alcihol, & mount in a particular way in glycerine. i shall now be able to make out what happens to the flowing protoplasm during aggregation.3

we come tomorrow by a train that leaves orp. at 11.34; we have no bradshaw, but we shall come by the first train we can4

my paper went off pretty well, not quite so well as the old s stipa, i think.5 i will have a good look for musk orchids this afternoon.6

yours affec | F D


The date is established by the reference to the reading of Francis’s paper (see n. 5, below), and by the fact that Francis joined the Darwins at Hopedene in Surrey on 3 June (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Francis had discovered protoplasmic filaments protruding from the glandular hairs of the common or fuller’s teasel (Dipsacus sylvestris, now D. fullonum; see letter from Francis Darwin, [28 May 1876], and F. Darwin 1877b).
Francis’s paper on aggregation in the tentacles of Drosera rotundifolia (common or round-leaved sundew) was published in the Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science in July 1876 (F. Darwin 1876b). He cited Eduard Strasburger and his book Sur la formation et la division des cellules (Strasburger 1876a) in F. Darwin 1876b, p. 312; for his use of Strasburger’s method, see ibid., p. 317.
Francis and his wife, Amy, arrived at Hopedene on 3 June (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Francis’s paper ‘On the glandular bodies on Acacia sphærocephala and Cecropia peltata serving as food for ants’ (F. Darwin 1876d) was read at the Linnean Society on 1 June 1876. Acacia sphaerocephala is now Vachellia sphaerocephala (bee wattle or bull’s-horn thorn); Cecropia peltata is the embauba or trumpet tree. His paper ‘On the hygroscopic mechanism by which certain seeds are enabled to bury themselves in the ground’ (F. Darwin 1876c) had been read at the Linnean Society on 16 March 1876; in it he discussed principally Stipa pennata (feather grass).
See also letter from Francis Darwin, 27 May 1876. The musk orchid is Herminium monorchis.


Has got a dodge to see protoplasm in Drosera in dead state. Comes to Hopedene with Amy tomorrow. his paper went off well.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 274.1: 39
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10526F,” accessed on 17 April 2024,

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