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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Francis Darwin   [before 22 November 1878]1


My dear Father,

The beastly horse chestnut roots havn’t acted at all well: most havn’t curved at all & only one or two away from the cuts & one or two in directions having no relation to the cut, i e not away or towards2

There is Oxalis tropœoloides come up—& Trifolium subter which I will observe3

I have had a good case with geranium leaves 5 cut leaves—gave up 370 grain (3 milligrams) while the control water had nothing appreciable. The residue dissolved again was strongly alkaline. The fluid I put the leaves in was 30cc & that was perceptibly alkaline to litmus tho’ faintly so.4

I brought Ubbadubba an apron from Idy, & a noahs ark which he likes very much—when he had played a bit down here he took it up to Nanna in great excitement saying to himself “2 pink piggy & 2 dark tina”5

I hope you are having a good time— I put a pamphlet from Shampton inside Oscar Schmidt—it seems a good example of a devil’s flower garden—6

If you want yr Daily News I would suggest that a straight line drawn between Bryanston & New Quebec St doesn’t pass through Down7

Yr affec | F. D.


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to Francis Darwin, [22 November 1878].
CD and Francis were investigating the sensitivity of the tip of the radicle or embryonic root in Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut) and Castanea sativa (Spanish chestnut). See letter to Francis Darwin, 3 August [1878] and n. 6. Francis’s notes on horse chestnut are in DAR 209.5: 112.
Oxalis tropaeoloides is a synonym of O. corniculata var. atropurpurea (creeping wood sorrel; see Movement in plants pp. 118–20). On Trifolium subterraneum (subterranean clover), see ibid., p. 71 and passim. Francis began recording observations of O. tropaeoloides on 22 November (DAR 209.6: 148; his notes on T. subterraneum are dated from 21 November (DAR 209.6: 66).
The experiments with geranium leaves were part of CD’s and Francis’s investigation of bloom in plants (see, for example, letter to Francis Darwin, 12 September [1878]). Francis may have been trying experiments suggested by Julius Sachs to test for dissolved nitrogenous matter from leaves with and without bloom (see letter from Francis Darwin, [4–7 August 1878] and nn. 4 and 8). The common name geranium sometimes refers to species of both Geranium and Pelargonium.
Ubbadubba: Bernard Darwin, Francis’s son. Idy: Emma Cecilia (Ida) Farrer. Nanna is probably Mary Anne Westwood, Bernard’s nurse.
The German zoologist Oskar Schmidt was a supporter of Darwin; his most recent article (Schmidt 1878) is in Darwin Pamphlet Collection CUL. The other pamphlet has not been identified.
There was a newsagent at 10 New Quebec Street, London (Post Office London directory 1878); it was near the home of Richard Buckley and Henrietta Emma Litchfield at 4 Bryanston Street, where CD was staying.


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

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.

Schmidt, Oscar. 1878. Darwinismus und Socialdemocratie. Ein Vortrag gehalten bei der 51. Versammlung deutscher Naturforscher und Aertzte in Cassel. Bonn: Emil Strauss.


Horse chestnut roots have not acted at all well.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 274.1: 42
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11754F,” accessed on 24 September 2023,