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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Henslow   [2 September 1843]1

Down— Bromley | Kent


My dear Henslow

Lindley tells me in a note that he has sent you an Atriplex to look at unknown to him— I do not know whether he has told you its interesting history & how worthy it is of careful examination. A Mr. W. Kemp, (an almost labouring Scotchman) who has occasionally corresponded with me on Geolog: topics, sent me a parcel of seeds, which he found in the bottom-layer of sand in a great sand-pit, many feet deep, near Melrose, & which sand-pit is now much above the level of the river & must have been deposited, when the features of the country were quite different & apparently before a barrier of rock was cut through & a lake drained.— He well says that no geologist will pretend to guess how many thousands & thousands of years must have elapsed.— If he had not shown himself to me a most careful, & ingenious observer, I shd have thought nothing of the case. But he is positive the seeds were embedded with vegetable matter in a layer at the bottom of the sand, & separating it from gravel Now if this Atriplex turns out new to England or a well-marked new variety, it will really be like recovering an extinct creation.— He was going in the Spring to publish an account of this, but I persuaded him to wait till his plants had been examined.— His seeds germinated freely. Do you not think it wd be worth while to send a specimen to Babington,—that man of varieties—2 Do you chance to know where he is? I wd send him one—

Lindley in a note to me, speaks of some great discovery of a monster near Ely, showing that the “nucleus of the ovule is only another form of the growing point”— Can you explain to me, what this means— it is a dead language to me—

When you have made out the Atriplex, will you let me hear what you think, as I am curious myself & want to communicate the result to Mr Kemp.—

With kind remembrances to Mrs. Henslow | Ever yours | C. Darwin


‘8 Sept 1843’ (evidently the date of receipt) has been written at the top of the first page, in Henslow’s hand. The preceding Saturday was 2 September.
Babington’s Manual of British botany (C. C. Babington 1843) earned him a reputation for accurate classification.


Babington, Charles Cardale. 1843. Manual of British botany, containing the flowering plants and ferns arranged according to the natural orders. London: John Van Voorst.


Tells how W. Kemp found the seeds of Atriplex, which Lindley sent to JSH for identification.

Asks about monstrous plant mentioned by Lindley [see 690].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Stevens Henslow
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 93: A8–10
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 691,” accessed on 17 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2