skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Lucy Caroline Wedgwood   [before 25 September 1866]1

My dear Lieutenant Lucy.—

If the Book with many vols. with coloured plates be the Botanical Mag. please look at Pl. 356 & see whether it mentions that the flowers of the plant, viz Erica Massoni, are glutinous, or the leaves—& whether the glutinous matter is secreted by glandular hairs.—2

How about the Pæony seeds—do the pods open & are they brilliantly coloured—? do Birds eat them? Have the seeds any thin fleshy coat?3

Your affectionate Uncle & Commander | Ch. Darwin


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to Fritz Müller, 25 September [1866] (see n. 3, below), and the letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 September [1866] (see n. 2, below). By 25 September CD had received specimens of peony seeds and would not have needed to ask whether they had ‘any thin fleshy coat’ (see n. 3, below).
The description of Erica massoni in Botanical Magazine (9 (1801): facing 356) mentions that the flowers ‘are so extremely viscous that scarcely a winged insect can settle on them and escape with its life’. The leaves are described as ‘hoary’, but there is no mention of the hairs secreting any substance. CD was investigating insectivorous plants at this time, and wanted to compare the glandular hairs of E. massoni with those of Drosera (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 September [1866]).
In the letter to Fritz Müller, 25 September [1866], CD mentioned that he received peony seeds from a friend the day after he received Müller’s letter of 2 August 1866 (he wrote to Müller that he had ‘just’ received the August letter). It is likely that Lucy sent the peony seeds. She and her sisters had provided CD with specimens in the past (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to K. E. S., L. S., and M. S. Wedgwood, 4 [August 1862]). In his Experimental notebook (DAR 157a: 81), CD noted: ‘Lucy W. case at Leith Hill nothing touches or eats the Pæony seeds.’


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Asks her to see whether the flowers or leaves of Erica massoni are noted as glutinous in the Botanical Magazine.

Inquires about the pods of peony: are they brilliantly coloured and do birds eat them?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Lucy Caroline Wedgwood/Lucy Caroline Harrison
Sent from
Source of text
CUL (Add 4251: 336)
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5203,” accessed on 12 June 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14