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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Daniel Oliver   4 May [1864]1

Down, Bromley | Kent

May 4th

Dear Oliver

I am very much obliged to you for your kind present of Elementary Botany, so profusely & beautifully illustrated.2 When I am able to read a little more I am sure it will suit me excellently & I thank you sincerely for sending it. In the back numbers of the Nat. Hist. Rev. I have read some reviews which I am sure are by you, with extreme interest & with amazement at your bibliography.3 Try & remember that it is possible to kill yourself with work.

At any time when botanists congregate thickly, or you come across any one who has studied the order of Passifloræ, will you ask the assembly whether any member of the order climbs without the aid of tendrils i.e. spirally twines; I am really anxious to know; If I do not hear I shall understand no one knows.4 I am glad to say that my health is slowly & with oscillations steadily improving.

Believe me, dear Oliver | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to Oliver 1864b (see n. 2, below).
CD refers to Lessons in elementary botany (Oliver 1864b).
Oliver was a botany editor of the Natural History Review and was responsible for the bibliography of phanerogamic botany that appeared regularly in the journal. CD’s annotated copies of the Natural History Review are among his unbound journals in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
CD’s discussion of Passifloraceae in ‘Climbing plants’ (‘Climbing plants’, pp. 89–98) makes no mention of a species climbing without the aid of tendrils. However, CD noted that while the twining-power had been generally lost by this tendril-bearing family, Passiflora gracilis retained the power of revolving in its internodes (see ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 98–9, 109, and DAR 157.2: 71–2). For CD’s interest in Passifloraceae, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, [27 January 1864] and n. 20, and the letter to Daniel Oliver, 11 March [1864]; CD’s notes on Passifloraceae are in DAR 157. 2: 69–78. CD discussed spirally twining plants in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 2–25.


‘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.


Thanks for DO’s Lessons in elementary botany [1864].

Asks him to inquire whether there are any twining species of Passiflora.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Daniel Oliver
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 261.10: 48 (EH 88206031)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4481,” accessed on 9 March 2021,

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