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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Francis Darwin   14 [August 1878]1

[Abinger Hall, Surrey.]


My dear F.

On my study table there are 2 old Boxes with seeds— Please get out packet of Oxalis Valdiviana (not the seeds in white paper from Kew, as they are all bad) O. rosea, O floribunda & O. corniculata (which latter Lettington has) & have one pot of each sown, for I want to trace movement of an old Cotyledon, after its growth has ceased if it ever does cease.—2 Also I want you to examine & compare carefully the pulvinuses of a species which raises & depresses its cotyledons greatly at night, & of O. corniculata which raises them only moderately.—3 I have, however, some in spirits of Wine which will now be beautifully white on shelf by microscope Table.—

I will write to day to Veitch for plant of Bignonia capreolata— read what I say about its Tendrils.— If any Tendrils are ready (& they are ready for Heliotropism before fully expanded). before we return try tips painted with Indian Ink.—4 I use the solution thickened by rubbing.—

I shall have to work you like a Horse when we come back.— De Vries comes here to day for 3 Hours—5 the Lord have mercy on me—

Goodbye dear old Backy C. D.


The month and year are established by the reference to the visit of Hugo de Vries (see n. 5, below).
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. Henry Lettington was CD’s gardener.
The pulvinus is the swelling at the base of the petiole or leaf stalk in some plants; it acts like a joint to allow leaf movement.
Veitch & Sons was a firm of nurserymen. CD had written about the tendrils of Bignonia capreolata (crossvine) in Climbing plants 2d ed., pp. 97–103. CD had noted that the tendrils avoided light (ibid., p. 99).
The Darwins visited family in Surrey and Staffordshire between 7 and 22 August 1878; they were at Abinger Hall, Surrey, when this letter was written (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). De Vries visited CD on 14 August 1878 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


Climbing plants 2d ed.: The movements and habits of climbing plants. 2d edition. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.


Instructs FD to plant some Oxalis seeds.

Wishes to trace the movement of an old cotyledon. Asks him to examine and compare the pulvinus of a species which moves its cotyledon greatly with one of a species that moves it only moderately.

Are the tendrils ready for heliotropic experiment yet?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Francis Darwin
Sent from
Abinger Hall
Source of text
DAR 211: 43
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11658,” accessed on 23 April 2021,