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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Alphonse de Candolle   15 August 1878

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | (Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.) [Abinger Hall, Surrey/Barlaston Hall, Staffordshire.]

August 15/1878

My dear Sir

I thank you cordially for your most kind letter, which has told me much that was new & has interested me much.1 I cannot pretend that I care greatly about my election to the Institut, but I do care very greatly for the kind sympathy of my friends, & for none more than for yours.2

I have been away from home for a fortnight & shall not return for another week; & when there I shall no doubt find the book which you have been so kind as to order to be sent me, & will look to Smilax & any other generalities.3

I am always sorry to hear about the insecurity of the identification of fossil leaves; but Hooker has frequently made with vehemence nearly the same remarks as yours.4

With the greatest respect, believe me | Yours truly obliged | Ch. Darwin

P.S. | If your son is with you pray tell him that I hear that De Barry has cultivated Utricularia with & without acquatic animals, & that the former or fed plant have flourished in a stupendous manner.—5


See letter from Alphonse de Candolle, 10 August 1878 and n. 3. CD had been elected a corresponding member of the botanical section of the Académie des sciences of the Institut de France on 5 August 1878 (see letter from J.-B. Dumas and Joseph Bertrand, 5 August 1878 and n. 2).
The Darwins visited family in Surrey and Staffordshire between 7 and 22 August 1878 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). Candolle had sent CD the first volume of Monographiæ phanerogamarum (A. de Candolle and Candolle eds. 1878–96) and mentioned that CD might be interested in the section on Smilax (the genus of greenbrier; see letter from Alphonse de Candolle, 10 August 1878 and n. 7).
Joseph Dalton Hooker, having seen Oswald Heer’s collections of fossil plants from the Jura, remarked, ‘He has a wonderful collection of fossil insects & crustacea from the same, beside which the fossil plants are as nothing, in point of absolute value of characters for systematic determination—’ (Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, 10 July 1862).
Casimir de Candolle had worked on determining the effect of animal nutrition on the fertility of the insectivorous plant Dionaea muscipula (Venus fly trap) but had inconclusive results (C. de Candolle 1876). Anton de Bary experimented on Utricularia vulgaris (common bladderwort); he later informed CD that his experiments were not sufficiently exact and complete for publication but that they indicated the high efficacy of animal food (Correspondence vol. 27, letter from Anton de Bary, 9 August 1879).


Candolle, Casimir de. 1876. Sur la structure et les mouvements des feuilles du Dionæa muscipula. Archives des sciences physiques et naturelles n.s. 55: 400–31.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


CD cannot say he cares greatly about his election to the Institut but he does care for the sympathy of his friends.

Will look to Smilax when he returns to Down.

Regrets the insecurity of the identification of fossil leaves.

He has heard that De Bary has cultivated Utricularia with and without aquatic animals and that the plants that have been fed flourished "in a stupendous manner".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alphonse de Candolle
Sent from
Abinger Hall Down letterhead
Source of text
Archives de la famille de Candolle (private collection)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11660,” accessed on 29 May 2023,