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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. M. Canby   22 April 1873

Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.

Ap. 22nd 1873

Dear Sir,

In company with Prof. Gray I spent one day last week looking up Dionæa at Wilmington, North Carolina.1

We brought away quite a number of plants and from my portion I have cut all the leaves that I could find that had prey in them and now enclose them in this for your inspection deeming this better than sending you any notes I might have taken.2

It is so much earlier than I had expected to have gone that old or full grown leaves are still rare.3 I therefore think that some allowance must be made as regards the size of the insects captured.

Knowing how extensive and even troublesome your correspondence must be, I do not wish you to feel obliged to acknowledge this or any other communication I may make on account of mere courtesy. But if I can serve you in any way I shall be happy to be informed of it.

With great respect I am | Very truly | Yours, | Wm M. Canby

CD annotations

3.1 old … captured. 3.3] double scored red crayon


CD had asked Asa Gray and Canby for information on the size of insects captured by Dionaea muscipula (Venus fly trap). CD had asked whether Canby still lived in Wilmington, where he assumed Canby had found D. muscipula; Canby lived in Wilmington, Delaware, but had found D. muscipula in Wilmington, North Carolina. He had offered to make observations when he could. See letter to Asa Gray, 8 January 1873, and letter from W. M. Canby, 1 February 1873.
The enclosures have not been found, but in Insectivorous plants, pp. 312–13, CD noted that Canby had sent fourteen leaves and described the insects captured and the range of sizes. CD noted that only a few leaves ‘wasted their powers by capturing small prey’ and concluded that many small insects would escape through the bars of the closed leaves.
Dionaea muscipula dies back in the winter.


Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.


Sends leaves of Dionaea with insect prey in them. Size of insects captured may be affected by leaves not being fully grown.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Marriott Canby
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Wilmington, Del.
Source of text
DAR 58.1: 26–7
Physical description
2pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8871,” accessed on 13 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21