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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Francis Darwin   23 [May 1881]1

Monday | (23?)

My dear Father

I am very glad that the corrections were good—it really isnt much work and it is a change from microscoping all day—2

Also many thanks for your letter   I am v glad poor little Ubbadub is jolly.3

I think I should like some of my notes, as I shall want to refer I think undoubtedly—4 My notes were all classified and pinched in bundles but I am afraid I took the pinchers off— The only ones I should want are marked with a big big D in red or blue pencil, (which means I have made a diagram) & I think these are all together & if so I should like to have them, they wouldn’t be a very big bundle— But dont worry about them

I have been going on at roots Linum, Cucurbita, & Larch & Orchid; Maize I only had a long look at in a prepn of De Bary’s— I never thoroughly understood a root before chiefly because in our English Sachs he didn’t know about the different types and thought that a maize & a sunflower were the same type.5 There is a beautiful drawing of a maize root which is really perfectly right but which Sachs thought was wrong after he had published it because it wouldn’t go with the sunflower type which owing to Reinke was believed to be the universal type.6 This story is rather muddled however.

I didn’t telegraph about the notes because I couldn’t explain in a telegraph—

I went a long expedition in the Schwarzwald yesterday with Wortmann, & two other “praktikanten” Fisch and Bisgen.7 Bisgen has got Drosera to germinate and is going to feed & starve plants from their youth up—8 They only germinate almost in water diagram only on the sides of the lump of peat near the water—a a

Yours affec | F. D.

Please tell mother I am quite content that she should teach Ubbadub what religion she likes9

The man who wrote a dissertn about the Cucurbita peg is going to claim priorität in the Bot Zeitung. De Bary is much amused at him & says he has discovered that he made a discovery10

I suppose certainly no printed proof came from the Linnean   I expect about 2 pages more11


The month and year are established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to Francis Darwin, 20 May 1881. The Monday following 20 May 1881 was 23 May.
See letter to Francis Darwin, 20 May 1881; CD and Francis had begun correcting proof-sheets for Earthworms. Francis was working in the laboratory of Anton de Bary in Straßburg (Strasbourg).
Ubbadub was a nickname for Bernard Darwin, Francis’s son.
The notes have not been identified.
Linum is the genus of flax; Cucurbita is the genus of gourds. The genus of larch is Larix; the family of orchids is Orchidaceae. Maize is Zea mays; the common sunflower is Helianthus annuus. ‘English Sachs’ is a reference to the English translation of Julius Sachs’s textbook of botany (Sachs 1875); in it (ibid., p. 140), Sachs had cited Johannes Reinke’s work ‘Untersuchungen über Wachsthumsgeschichte und Morphologie der Phanerogamen-Wurzel’ (Investigations on the development and morphology of the phanerogam root; Reinke 1871).
Sachs’s illustration of a root of maize at early stages of development is in Sachs 1875, p. 143, fig. 113; in it, the development of the first secondary (adventitious) root is shown in fig. 113, III. In Reinke 1871, p. 43, Reinke stated that root development was essentially the same in both monocotyledons (maize) and dicotyledons (sunflower).
Schwarzwald: the Black Forest; Praktikant: apprentice (German). Julius Wortmann was De Bary’s assistant. Moritz Büsgen was a doctoral student of De Bary’s. Fisch may have been Carl Fisch.
Francis had published results of his experiments on feeding Drosera rotundifolia (common or round-leaved sundew) in F. Darwin 1878. The plants used by Francis were already mature at the start of his experiments (ibid., p. 21).
The Darwin and Wedgwood families were Unitarians; for Emma Darwin’s views on religion, see Keynes 2001, pp. 49–54.
CD discussed the peg or heel that develops from a germinating seed in plants of the Cucurbitaceae (gourd) family in Movement in plants, pp. 102–4. He had recently received a copy of Friedrich August Tscherning’s dissertation on germination in the Cucurbitaceae; Tscherning wrote to Botanische Zeitung to claim priority for his observation of the peg in his dissertation (Tscherning 1872; see letter from F. A. Tscherning, 6 May 1881 and nn. 1 and 3).
The proof-sheets were for Francis’s article ‘On the power possessed by leaves of placing themselves at right angles to the direction of incident light’ (F. Darwin 1880a), which was published in the Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany), June 1881. The sheets had arrived at Down on 22 May 1881 (see letter to Francis Darwin, 22–3 May 1881).


Darwin, Francis. 1878a. Experiments on the nutrition of Drosera rotundifolia. [Read 17 January 1878.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 17 (1880): 17–32.

Darwin, Francis. 1880a. On the power possessed by leaves of placing themselves at right angles to the direction of incident light. [Read 16 December 1880.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 18 (1881): 420–55.

Earthworms: The formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms: with observations on their habits. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1881.

Keynes, Randal. 2001. Annie’s box. Charles Darwin, his daughter and human evolution. London: Fourth Estate.

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

Reinke, Johannes. 1871. Untersuchungen über Wachsthumsgeschichte und Morphologie der Phanerogamen-Wurzel. Botanische Abhandlungen aus dem Gebiet der Morphologie und Physiologie 1 (1870–1): 1–78.

Sachs, Julius. 1875a. Text-book of botany: morphological and physiological. Translated and annotated by Alfred W. Bennett, assisted by W. T. Thiselton-Dyer. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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


Would like some of his notes. Has been looking at roots of Linum, cucurbits, larch, and orchids. Is content that mother should teach Bernard whatever religion she likes.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 274.1: 66
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13170F,” accessed on 1 March 2024,