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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Thomas Brittain   1 December 1876

The Downs, Beckenham (Kent).1

December 1, 1876.

Dear sir,—

I am much obliged to you for calling my attention to the very curious case of the Apocynum.2 I am quite unable to understand the meaning of this trap-like arrangement. I do not believe that it is of any benefit to the plant, and certainly it is none to the unfortunate insects. I have at present a plant in my hot-house, and if it flowers I shall attempt to solve the problem. I may mention that a well-known naturalist in Brazil, Fritz Müller, has been hitherto baffled in trying to understand this plant.—3

Dear sir, yours faithfully, | Ch. Darwin.


An error was evidently made in copying CD’s address.
See letter from Thomas Brittain, 30 November 1876. Apocynum androsaemifolium (fly-trap dogbane) traps small flies and moths by their tongues in the flower’s V-shaped nectaries. Their proper pollinators, long-tongued butterflies, are able to avoid the trap.
CD had asked Müller to observe Apocynum flowers catching insects by their probosces in his letter of [9 and] 15 April [1866] (Correspondence vol. 14).


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


Thanks TB for calling his attention to the case of the Apocynum; is unable to understand the trap-like arrangement [of the flowers].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Brittain
Sent from
Source of text
Manchester City News, 24 June 1882

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10695,” accessed on 18 April 2021,

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