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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   30 June [1874]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

June 30

My dear Gray

I have received your two letters2 & have forwarded the enclosure, with the page inserted, to Nature; & I hope the Ed will publish it.3 It was very good of you to send me the Sarracenia;4 I soaked it & then stuffed it with cotton wool, so that I have now an excellent idea of the plant. It is as wonderful a case as any orchid Drosera or Dionæa & I cannot say more in honour of a plant.5 I see that the lid is brightly coloured, no doubt to attract insects.

I read with interest your semi-theological review, & have got the book.6 but I think your review will satisfy me. The more I reflect on the subject, the more perplexed I grow.

I wrote a week since to ask you to observe if possible Pinguicula.7 I forget whether I mentioned that the margins of the leaves have the power of movement when excited by solid objects such as bits of glass or by nutritious fluids, but best of all by the two stimulants combined. I believe the purpose of this movement (but I am not yet sure) is to push flies further on to the leaf, when washed by rain into the narrow channel formed by the naturally involuted edge8

Yours most sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. I do not think that I wrote a bit too strongly about your article on me.—9


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letters from Asa Gray, 16 June 1874 and 19 June 1874 (see n. 2, below).
Letters from Asa Gray, 16 June 1874 and 19 June 1874.
See letter from Asa Gray, 19 June 1874 and nn. 2 and 4. The editor of Nature was Joseph Norman Lockyer.
See letter to Asa Gray, 3 June [1874] and n. 5. Drosera is the sundew and Dionaea the Venus fly trap.
Gray had sent CD a copy of his review of Charles Hodge’s What is Darwinism? (Hodge 1874; [A. Gray] 1874d; see letter from Asa Gray, 16 June 1874). Hodge had equated CD’s theories with atheism, a position that Gray rejected. CD’s copy of Hodge 1874 is in the Darwin Library–Down.
In Insectivorous plants, pp. 378–9, CD concluded that the inward movement of the edge of the leaf in Pinguicula (butterwort) both helped to prevent insects being washed away by rain, and brought them into contact with more of the surface area of the leaf, thus stimulating more digestive fluid.
See letters to Asa Gray, 3 June [1874] and 5 June [1874]. CD refers to Gray’s profile of him published in Nature (A. Gray 1874c).


Hodge, Charles. 1874. What is Darwinism? London: T. Nelson and Sons.

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


Thanks for Sarracenia, which is as wonderful as any orchid.

Asks AG to observe Pinguicula.

Has read AG’s semi-theological review [Nation 18 (1874): 348–51] with interest

and has obtained the book [C. Hodge, What is Darwinism? (1874)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University (109)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9520,” accessed on 12 July 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22