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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Daniel Oliver   17 February 1863

Royal Gardens Kew


My dear Sir

Next to save you throwing away valuable time, the connection with the phyllotaxy difficulty it is not worth yr. while reading Braun’s Essay (Verjüngung) excepting at p. 116.—1 the Essays referred to in note same page may throw further light,2 but I think you have enough now for Dr Falconer3

Ever Yours Sincerely | D. Oliver


The reference is to Henfrey trans. 1853. In the letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 January [1863], CD mentioned that he had been attempting to read this English translation of Braun 1851, continuing: ‘literally I cannot read it’. Apparently, CD had sought Oliver’s help in searching the book for information on phyllotaxy (see n. 3, below). An annotated copy of Henfrey trans. 1853 is preserved in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 366–7).
Braun cited Bravais and Bravais 1838, Naumann 1845, Schleiden 1842, and Silfverstrahle 1839 (Henfrey trans. 1853, pp. 116–17).
CD’s interest in phyllotaxy was stimulated by Hugh Falconer’s discussion of Origin in his article ‘On the American fossil elephant of the regions bordering the Gulf of Mexico’, published in the Natural History Review in January 1863 (Falconer 1863a). See letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 January [1863] and n. 22. CD may have discussed Falconer’s statements with Oliver during his visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on 11 February 1863 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)). CD wanted to understand the force of Falconer’s objections to natural selection (see letter to Daniel Oliver, 20 [February 1863]), and began his own research on phyllotaxy. CD prepared a rough draft of a paper on phyllotaxy on 9 June 1863, which is in DAR 51: A1–32, together with a series of undated diagrams; however, the work was never published.


Braun, Alexander Carl Heinrich. 1851. Betrachtungen über die Erscheinung der Verjüngung in der Natur, insbesondere in der Lebens- und Bildungsgeschichte der Pflanze. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann.

Bravais, Auguste and Bravais, Louis. 1838. Essai sur la disposition générale des feuilles rectisériées. Congrès scientifique de France 6: 278–330.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

Naumann, Karl Friedrich. 1845. Ueber den Quincunx als Grundgesetz der Blattstellung vieler Pflanzen. Dresden and Leipzig: Arnoldische Buchhandlung.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


DO thinks an essay [Alexander Braun’s "Rejuvenescence", Ray Society (1853)] is not worth reading with respect to some difficulty concerning phyllotaxy.

Letter details

Letter no.
Daniel Oliver
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 173: 20
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8770,” accessed on 13 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11