skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. T. Thiselton-Dyer   28 [June 1874]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.


My dear Mr Dyer

Hearty thanks for all sorts of information in 2 last letters. I have given you too much trouble about the leaves on Pinguicula— Cast the whole subject on one side. Erica tetralix is far the most important case for me.— Thank Mr. Smith for Heath seeds.—2 I have written to Dr. Moore, & used your name.—3

I shd. be an ungrateful & ungracious dog if I hesitated for a moment about your communicating anything which you may think fit to Hort. Soc.— I do not understand that you want me to draw up a paper, & for this I really have not time or strength. But I enclose memoranda, on which I think you may rely, but you must remember that I am almost daily at work.—4

I am very glad you will hereafter continue to work out Nepenthes.5 Huxley6 has been here, & tells me what hard work you have at present.—

Now will you communicate the substance of what follows to Hooker.— I am getting much overworked & I shall never publish on Drosera &c if I begin on other subjects. Therefore I am sure that I had better defer my work on movements of leaves from rain & on the bloom or waxy secretion on leaves till next summer; though to do so goes to my heart.7

Now can Hooker allow me to keep the young Eucalypti & Acacias & Cassias till next summer. As far as I know I have only 2 precious plants from Kew & both these, I grieve to say, are in a deplorable condition. We got Mimosa [Peruviana] into a splendid state, & it grew up 2 or 3 feet in height in a most healthy condition; & then I suspect it got too much heat & suddenly turned all yellow like a maple in autumn. Acacia farnesiana is the other plant;8 & we have tried little water & a modest supply & cannot keep it in health. It sometimes recovers for a space & then goes back. Shall I return this in its present disgraceful condition? And may I keep Mimosa [Peruviana] for the chance of its recovery, for there are a few all-important observations yet to be made on it. Sometime let me hear what Hooker thinks about this

These 2 plants have troubled me much. Forgive the length of this letter.—

Yours most sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. If I can get English Utricularia I shd extremely like to examine the epiphytic species, & will then let you know.—9


The month and year are established by the relationship between this letter and the letters from W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 25 June 1874 and 26 June 1874.
In his letters of 25 June 1874 and 26 June 1874, Thiselton-Dyer had responded to queries from CD, who was researching the digestive properties of the insectivorous plant Pinguicula (butterwort); Thiselton-Dyer had identified a leaf found sticking to one specimen as Erica tetralix, the cross-leaved heath. CD’s request to Thiselton-Dyer for heath seeds (letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 9 June 1874) was evidently passed on to John Smith, the curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Thiselton-Dyer was one of the editors of the Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society of London; no paper on CD’s researches appeared there, but an account was read to the scientific committee of the society on 1 July 1874, and notices published in both the Garden, 4 July 1874, p. 2, and the Gardeners’ Chronicle, 4 July 1874, p. 15.
CD had been observing the effect of water sprayed onto various specimens since 1873 as part of his research into movement in plants; he theorised that some movements might be an adaptation to prevent rain lodging on leaves, perhaps to protect against damage to their surface coatings, the purpose of which he was also investigating (see Correspondence vol. 21, letters to J. D. Hooker, 12 September [1873] and 24 November 1873; see also letter to Fritz Müller, 14 May 1877 (Calendar no. 10960; ML 2: 361–2)). He continued his research periodically but did not publish any conclusions in Movement in plants; his experimental notes are in DAR 66 and DAR 68. See also letter to Fritz Müller, 19 December 1881 (Calendar no. 13564).
Joseph Dalton Hooker sent CD live specimens of Mimosa albida and Acacia farnesiana in November 1873 (see Correspondence vol. 21, letter from J. D. Hooker, [1 November 1873] and nn. 3 and 4).
Epiphytic species of Utricularia (bladderwort) are only found in tropical parts of America; see also Insectivorous plants, p. 431 et seq.).


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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

ML: More letters of Charles Darwin: a record of his work in a series of hitherto unpublished letters. Edited by Francis Darwin and Albert Charles Seward. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1903.

Movement in plants: The power of movement in plants. By Charles Darwin. Assisted by Francis Darwin. London: John Murray. 1880.


Must stop work on "bloom" and leaf movements if he is ever to get anything published on Drosera, etc.

Sends thanks for seeds. Encloses memorandum in case WTT-D wishes to communicate information to Royal Horticultural Society. Has not time to prepare article.

Discusses condition of plants borrowed from Kew.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Turner Thiselton-Dyer
Sent from
Abinger Hall Down letterhead
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Thiselton-Dyer, W. T., Letters from Charles Darwin 1873–81: 19–22)
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9571,” accessed on 12 September 2023,

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