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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. T. Thiselton-Dyer   24 August [1878]1

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

Aug. 24th.

My dear Dyer

Many thanks for seeds of Trifolium resupinatum which are invaluable to us.—2 I enclose seeds of a Cassia, from Fritz Muller, & they are well worth your cultivation; for he says they come from a unique, large & beautiful tree, in the interior, & though looking out for years, he has never seen another specimen. One of the most splendid, largest & rarest butterflies in S. Brazil, he has never seen except near this one tree & he has just discovered that its caterpillars feed on its leaves.—3

I have just been looking at fine young pods beneath the ground of Arachis: I suppose that the pods are not withdrawn when ripe from ground; but shd. this be the case kindly inform me; if I do not hear I shall understand that pods ripen & are left permanently beneath the ground.—4

If you ever come across heliotropic or apheliotropic aerial roots on a plant, not valuable (but which shd. be returned) I shd like to observe them.

Bignonia capreolata, with its strongly apheliotropic tendrils, (which I had from Kew) is now interesting me greatly: Veitch tells me it is not on sale in any London nursery, as I applied to him for some additional plants—5

So much for business.—

I have received from G. Soc. your lecture & read it with great interest. But it ought not merely to be read; it requires study.— The sole criticism which I have to make is that parts are too much condensed; but good Lord how rare a fault is this.—6 You do not quote Saporta, I think; & some of his work on the Tertiary plants wd. have been useful to you.— In a former note you spoke contemptuously of your lecture: all I can say is that I never heard anyone speak more unjustly & shamefully of another than you have done of yourself!7

Ever yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 2 August [1878].
CD had asked Thiselton-Dyer for seeds of Trifolium resupinatum (Persian clover), to be sent at the end of August. The plant was required for Francis Darwin’s research on bloom (see letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 2 August [1878] and n. 6).
See letter from Fritz Müller, 21 July 1878. Müller had seen caterpillars of Callidryas menippe (a synonym of Anteos menippe, the orangetip angled-sulphur) on the leaves of this Cassia. The species was probably Cassia ferruginea, the principal host plant of Callidryas menippe (Born and Lima 2005, p. 522).
See letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 2 August [1878] and n. 2. CD was making observations on Arachis hypogaea (peanut).
See letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 19 July [1878]. In his letter to Francis Darwin of 14 [August 1878], CD mentioned that he planned to write to the nurserymen Veitch & Sons for a plant of Bignonia capreolata (crossvine).
Thiselton-Dyer sent CD an offprint of his lecture ‘Plant-distribution as a field for geographical research’, delivered on 24 June 1878 at the Royal Geographical Society (Thiselton-Dyer 1878). CD’s annotated offprint is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Thiselton-Dyer probably referred to his lecture in his now incomplete letter of 16 July 1878; see the letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 19 July [1878] and n. 9. See also letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 23 June [1878]. CD refers to Gaston de Saporta; see Saporta 1862–5.


Saporta, Gaston de. 1862–5. Etudes sur la végétation du sud-est de la France à l’époque tertiaire. Annales des sciences naturelles (botanique) 4th ser. 16 (1862): 309–45; 17 (1862): 191–311; 19 (1863): 5–124; 5th ser. 3 (1865): 5–152; 4 (1865): 5–264.

Thiselton-Dyer, William Turner. 1878. Lecture on plant-distribution as a field for geographical research. [Read 24 June 1878.] Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London 22 (1878–9): 412–45.


Heliotropic responses in aerial roots and tendrils.

Sends seeds received from Fritz Müller.

Has been reading WTT-D’s lecture ["Plant-distribution as a field for geographical research", Proc. R. Geogr. Soc. 22: 412–45].

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: 144–5)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11675,” accessed on 9 June 2023,