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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Daniel Oliver   [before 31 March 1864]1


My dear Sir/

I enclose some memoranda of tendril literature which perhaps some day you may look at.2 From analogy, & their relation structurally to Cucurbits I thought the tendrils of Passionflowers must probly. be essentially the same as those of Cucumbers,—but In Modecca (at least one or 2 species) they are axial formations,3 & indeed DeCandolle in Prodromus speaks of them as being Pedunculi axillares. 4 Naudin is very possibly in error or too general in his view of foliar nature of Cucumber-tendrils.5

Yours very sincly | D. O.

Dr. Hooker6 pointed out to me that DeCandolle makes 2 Tribes of Cucurbitaceae differ in their tendrils. Nhandirobeae, cirrhi axillares, pedunculares, & Cucurbiteae,—cirrhi laterales stipulares.7


The foliar nature of the tendril in Modecca (one or two species at least) clearly breaks down:— branches of the tendril bearing flowers & fruit.8

Have you seen ‘Recherches nouvelles sur la cause du mouvement spiral des tiges volubiles’ par M. Isidore Léon.—in ‘Bulletin de la Société Botanique de France’ Vol. V. (351. 610. &c.)?9

If not shall I abstract it for you? | D. O.

CD annotations

1.1 The foliar … fruit. 1.2] scored pencil
2.1 Have you seen … abstract it for you? 3.1] scored pencil; ‘ADO note’ pencil
Bottom of page: ‘See Lindley for Modecca & put note after Passiflorea—Brunichia’10 pencil


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to Daniel Oliver, 31 March [1864].
See enclosure. No further enclosures containing memoranda of tendril literature have been found.
Oliver had thought that the tendrils of Passiflora, and apparently of the Cucurbitaceae, were possibly foliar in origin, but were best described as modified branches; he did not think they were modified flowers, which he said were axial structures (see memorandum and letter from Daniel Oliver, [28 January – 8 February 1864] and 12 March 1864). However, after reading CD’s letter of 11 March [1864], and since writing his letter of 12 March 1864, Oliver was evidently drawing new conclusions about the tendrils of Passifloraceae; Modecca was sometimes placed in the Passifloraceae (see n. 10, below). For Oliver’s continuing consideration of CD’s queries, see also the postscript to his letter of [17 March 1864]. CD suspected that Passifloraceae tendrils were derived from flower peduncles (see letter to Daniel Oliver, 11 March [1864], and letter from Daniel Oliver, 12 March 1864 and nn. 2 and 4). For CD’s earlier queries to Oliver about the origin of tendrils, see letter to J. D. Hooker, [27 January 1864] and nn. 19–23.
Oliver refers to Augustin Pyramus and Alphonse de Candolle’s Prodromus systematis naturalis regni vegetabilis (A. P. de Candolle and Candolle 1824–73). Augustin Pyramus de Candolle, the author of the third volume, includes the following in his description of what he calls the ‘Passifloreæ’ (ibid. 3: 321): ‘Pedunculi axillares, alii abortivi cirrosi, alii floriferi uniflori … [Peduncles axillary, some abortive and tendrilled, some bearing single flowers …]’. In A. P. de Candolle and Candolle 1824–73, 3: 336–7, Augustin Pyramus de Candolle describes four Modecca species as bearing flowers on axillary tendrils.
Charles Victor Naudin discussed the derivation of tendrils in his article ‘Organographie végétale. Observations relatives à la nature des vrilles et à la structure de la fleur chez les cucurbitacées’ (Naudin 1855, pp. 6–11, 17). CD referred to Naudin’s work on Cucurbitaceae tendrils in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 104 and 114, but not to his views on their derivation.
In A. P. de Candolle and Candolle 1824–73, 3: 297, Nicolas Charles Seringe, author of the Cucurbitaceae, wrote under the tribe ‘Nhandirobeæ’: ‘Cirrhi axillares pedunculares [Tendrils axillary and provided with a peduncle]’; under the tribe ‘Cucurbiteæ’, he wrote: ‘Cirrhi laterales stipulares [Tendrils lateral and with stipules]’ (ibid., p. 299). In ‘Climbing plants’, p. 73, CD mentioned this conclusion regarding the different homological natures of tendrils in two of the Cucurbitaceae tribes, and thanked Oliver for the information.
In ‘Climbing plants’, p. 92, CD wrote that he had heard this from Oliver. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 31 [May 1864] and n. 5.
Oliver refers to Léon 1858; see letter from Daniel Oliver, [1 April 1864]. CD cited the work of Isidore Léon in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 5, 25, and 96.
CD refers to John Lindley, who, unlike the Candolles, placed Modecca in the Papayaceae (Lindley 1853, p. 322). CD mentioned the tendrils of Brunnichia and Modecca after discussing Passiflora species in ‘Climbing plants’, p. 92.


Candolle, Augustin Pyramus de and Candolle, Alphonse de. 1824–73. Prodromus systematis naturalis regni vegetabilis, sive enumeratio contracta ordinum generum specierumque plantarum huc usque cognitarum, juxta methodi naturalis normas digesta. 19 vols. Paris: Treuttel & Würtz [and others].

‘Climbing plants’: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 2 February 1865.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 9 (1867): 1–118.

Léon, Isidore. 1858. Recherches nouvelles sur la cause du mouvement spiral des tiges volubiles. Bulletin de la Société Botanique de France 5: 351–6, 610–14, 624–9, 679–85.

Lindley, John. 1853. The vegetable kingdom; or, the structure, classification, and uses of plants, illustrated upon the natural system. 3d edition with corrections and additional genera. London: Bradbury & Evans.

Naudin, Charles Victor. 1855. Organographie végétale. Observations relatives à la nature des vrilles et à la structure de la fleur chez les cucurbitacées. Annales des Sciences Naturelles (Botanique) 4th ser. 4: 5–19.


Encloses memorandum on tendrils. Nature of tendrils in Modecca.

Letter details

Letter no.
Daniel Oliver
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 157.2: 81, 104
Physical description
ALS 2pp, encl Amem 1p inc †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4417,” accessed on 3 February 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12