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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. T. Thiselton-Dyer   18 June [1878]1

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

June 18th

My dear Dyer

Could you give or lend me any fir tree in a pot, between 6 & 24 or 28 inches high (including pot), with longish leaves & in a vigorously growing state. I have been observing many leaves carefully & all circumnutate, except doubtfully those of Pinus pinaster; but this plant was only 112 inches high, raised from Kew seeds.—2

I am at present interested with seedlings of Oxalis, as the cotyledons of O. Valdiviana rise up vertically at night, whilst those of O. rosea & floribunda sink down vertically at night. They thus all three sleep well. Whereas O. corniculata raises its cots only 45o. Moreover O. rosea puzzles me just now greatly by the hypocotyledenous stem being sensitive, but not moving itself, though causing the cotyledons to move. This, fact, however, will require much more observation. Now can you give me seeds of any other species of Oxalis besides those which I have as by enclosed little list.3

Frank seems getting on well at Wurzburg & is working away at physiology & at the accursed German language: Sachs is very kind to him.4

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

My unlucky & unhealthy Arachis hypogea is flowering but will not set a single pod, alas, alas.—5

P.S | I hope that you have good accounts of Mrs Dyer.—6 Where has she gone to?

I know that Hooker7 is so busy & overworked that I avoid writing to him.—8


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 2 June 1878.
For CD’s observations of the leaves of Pinus pinaster (maritime pine), see Movement in plants, pp. 250–1, 269–70.
Oxalis valdiviana is a synonym of O. valdiviensis (Chilean yellow-sorrel); O. rosea is pink sorrel; O. floribunda is abundant flowering wood sorrel; O. corniculata is creeping wood sorrel. The enclosed list has not been found.
Francis Darwin was working at the laboratory of Julius Sachs in Würzburg, Germany, over the summer (see letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 2 June 1878 and n. 5).
Arachis hypogaea is the peanut; see letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 20 [May 1878] and n. 11.
Harriet Anne Thiselton-Dyer; see letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 2 June 1878 and n. 6.
Joseph Dalton Hooker.
A note by Thiselton-Dyer was filed after this letter in the collections at Kew: June 21st. | To Ch. Darwin Esq | Plant Strephinum | Seedlings and seeds | Stapelia Sarpedon | Seeds Oxalis colorata | “ incarnata | “ stricta | “ Valdiviana’. CD’s experiments with Strephium floribundum (an illegitimate synonym of Raddia brasiliensis) and Stapelia sarpedon are described in Movement in plants, pp. 46–7 and 391–2. The seeds of ‘Oxalis colorata’ were later found to be those of O. floribunda; see Correspondence vol. 27, letter from W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 22 April 1879. Oxalis incarnata is the pale pink-sorrel or crimson wood sorrel; O. stricta, the yellow wood sorrel.


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

Movement in plants: The power of movement in plants. By Charles Darwin. Assisted by Francis Darwin. London: John Murray. 1880.


Movements of cotyledons of Oxalis.

Francis Darwin at Würzburg with Julius Sachs.

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: 128–9)
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11556,” accessed on 15 May 2021,