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Darwin Correspondence Project

To William Kemp   [8 September 1843]

Down. Bromley, | Kent

My dear Sir

The seeds you sent me from the sand-pit & which I forwarded to Prof: Lindley, have germinated & turn out to be Rumex acetosella & an Atriplex, which Lindley does not know.— He does not think it can be a variety of A. patula. 1 He has sent specimens to Prof. Henslow who writes to me that he is carefully examining it— He does not recognise it as a British Plant,—but think it may perhaps turn out to be A. hastata, a French species.—2 He seems to have doubted whether it might not be a monstrous variety of A. patula.

If you have any specimens in flower, wd it not be worth your while to send him some by Post in a Fresh condition; it wd, I daresay aid his investigations.— His direction is Prof. Henslow

Hitcham Rectory



If you send any, you must write with them, else he will not know, from whom they come.—

This is really a very curious case, & when the Botanists have made up their minds about the plant, you will I hope publish an account of it, with a careful account of the Quarry.—3 It is a pity, that some of the earth & rubbish, in which the seeds were found, was not preserved, perhaps minute seeds in it might have germinated.—

I did not write some months ago to say that R. Brown wd not offer any opinion on the seeds; the specimens, which I sent him, were too imperfect.—4

Believe me | Very truly yours | C. Darwin


John Lindley had thought one of the seeds to be in the genus Polygonum and the other in the genus Chenopodium. Rumex acetosella, sheep’s sorrel, like Polygonum, is a member of the Polygonaceae. Atriplex, like Chenopodium, is a member of the Chenopodioideae. See Correspondence vol. 2, letter from John Lindley, [before 2 September 1843]. Atriplex patula is the spear saltbush.
The letter from John Stevens Henslow has not been found. See Correspondence vol. 2, letter to J. S. Henslow, [2 September 1843], and letter from William Kemp, 2 October 1843. Atriplex hastata is now A. prostata, the triangle orache.
Kemp replied to CD with an account and map of the situation in which he had found the seeds (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter from William Kemp, 2 October 1843). An account was later published in Annals and Magazine of Natural History as Kemp 1844.
Letters to and from Robert Brown have not been found. See this volume, Supplement, letter to William Kemp, 7 April [1843].


Seeds sent by Kemp have germinated and been identified by Lindley as Rumex acetosella and an Atriplex which has been sent on to J. S. Henslow.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Kemp
Sent from
Source of text
Ruth Cramond and David Cramond (private collection)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 691F,” accessed on 5 December 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18 (Supplement)