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Darwin Correspondence Project

From F. A. Tscherning   6 May 1881


May 6. 1881

Highly honoured Sir!

The interest which your late masterly work on the Power of Movement in Plants shows that you take in the germination (Keimungsgeschichte) of the Cucurbitaceae induces me to take the liberty of sending you my dissertation in which I have touched upon that subject.1

I may add that I experimented on, and observed, germination in sawdust of the fir tree tribe (Nadelholtz) as early as the spring of 1871, and that since then I have found the germination of many of the different Cucurbitaceae to be on the whole identical.2

I hope to return (to this subject) with additional observations in a treatise to be published later, and to complete my first fruit work at present of a fugitive, and far from lucid character.3

Dr. F. A. Tscherning | a pupil of the late Hugo Von Mohl. | At present at Vienna V. Ziegelofen Gasse I.


The original German text of this letter has not been found; this translation was made when Francis Darwin was preparing his collection of CD’s letters (LL). Tscherning’s dissertation was Untersuchungen über die Entwicklung einiger Embryonen bei der Keimung (Investigations on the development of certain embryos during germination; Tscherning 1872); CD’s copy has not been found. Keimungsgeschichte: germination history (German). Cucurbitaceae are the family of gourds and squashes.
A note by the translator on the back of the letter reads: ‘By “the germination of the fir tree tribe” (Coniferæ?) I suppose he means germination of Cucurbitaceæ in saw dust from fir timber—but the words are vague in the German’. Nadelholtz: coniferous wood (German).
Tscherning published a short letter in Botanische Zeitung, 24 June 1881, claiming priority for the observation of a particular feature in the germination of seeds in plants of the Cucurbitaceae. CD had discussed the feature, the development of a peg or heel that held down the lower half of the seed-coat, but had been unaware of Tscherning’s work (see Movement in plants, pp. 102–4). No further publication by Tscherning on the subject has been identified.


LL: The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Edited by Francis Darwin. 3 vols. London: John Murray. 1887–8.

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

Tscherning, Friedrich August. 1872. Untersuchungen über die Entwicklung einiger Embryonen bei der Keimung. Tübingen: Ludwig Friedrich Fues.


Sends a copy of his dissertation on the germination of the Cucurbitaceae.

Letter details

Letter no.
Friedrich August Tscherning
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 178: 195
Physical description
trans 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13147,” accessed on 18 May 2024,