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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. T. Thiselton-Dyer   [after 26] July [1879]1

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


My dear Dyer

I have left instructions for the plants to be returned to Kew & I hope not much the worse for their residence here.— I have kept one of the 2 plants of Bignonia capreolata, as I believe these are not very precious.2 The date will be put outside this note when the plants are despatched. I have failed with the aerial roots: I have no doubt that they are apheliotropic, but they move so slowly that sources of error creep in.—3

Very many thanks for yours & for Sir Joseph’s long letters about Ball’s article, which interested me greatly. It is a pity that the substances of these letters were not given as a review, but I daresay that you wd. dislike reviewing his article severely.4

I wish that my holiday were over & that I was safe at home again.5

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. I find Anthaerium Violaceum is just beginning to make numberless aerial roots, so will keep this plant, for chance of success on our return home.—6

This is not one of the more precious plants, as I gather from your letter.7


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 26 July 1879.
In his letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 July [1879], CD had written that he would send plants back to Kew. Some plants had been sent to him on 16 December 1878 and 17 June 1879, but the last record of a plant of Bignonia capreolata (crossvine) being sent was on 16 May 1878; there is an undated record of the return of the plants sent on 17 June 1879 (Outwards book, Archives, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, pp. 459, 486, and 503; Inwards book, p. 164).
The plants sent on 17 June 1879 from Kew had been requested so that CD could study tropic movements in their aerial roots (see letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 5 June 1879 and n. 2).
Thiselton-Dyer’s observations on John Ball’s paper on the origin of alpine flora (Ball 1879) are now missing; see letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 18 June 1879 and n. 5. Joseph Dalton Hooker’s comments on the paper are in his letter of 26 July 1879.
CD was about to leave for a holiday in the Lake District; the Darwins stayed in Coniston from 2 to 27 August 1879 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
Anthurium violaceum (a synonym of A. scandens, pearl laceleaf), an epiphytic vine of the family Araceae, has aerial roots along the stem; it was one of the plants sent on 17 June 1879 (see n. 3, above).
Thiselton-Dyer probably sent a letter with the plants that were sent on 17 June 1879 in which he mentioned which of them were more valuable, but that letter has not been found (see letters to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 5 June 1879 and n. 2, and 18 June 1879 and n. 3).


Ball, John. 1879. On the origin of the flora of the European Alps. [Read 9 June 1879.] Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography 1: 564–89.


Has failed with his experiments on aerial roots.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Turner Thiselton-Dyer
Sent from
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Darwin: Letters to Thiselton-Dyer, 1873–81: ff. 180–1)
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12129,” accessed on 4 March 2024,