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Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Cross   23 October 1876

Bolland’s Court | Chester,

23. Oct. ’76

Dear Sir,

The specimens of Sundew have been sent to the Chester station and I hope you will receive them uninjured.1 Owing to absence from home of my friend Mr. Siddall,2 in whose fern case the plants assumed their present character, I have not been able until now to send a careful answer to your enquiries. Perhaps one or two remarks in my last letter will be modified by what I have to say now.3

About the last week in June two or three plants of Sundew collected at Delamere were placed in my friend’s Wardian Case, which in dimensions is 24 in. x 18 in. and 24 inches high.4 They were put on a porcelain saucer in company with Pilularia & some Sphagnum & rested on the peaty soil which had been removed with the former.5 A little water was added at the time and renewed when necessary, so that the plants were kept very moist. Some bog pimpernel was also deposited on the saucer, which did not live long. The Pilularia & Sphagnum have continued a feeble existence until now. In the case were growing Adiantum pubescens, Trichomanes radicans & Selaginella coesium.6 The tendency of any plants placed in the case for preservation is to grow long & thin. With respect to Drosera the phenomenon I described is most noticeable on fresh young plants developed from leaf buds; but one old leaf in particular, which had become detached from the original plant, exhibited the same peculiarity. The plant forwarded to-day, which bears several leaves, was a branch or continuation of the axis of one of the original plants. It may be added that the fern-case is infested with black Padura like insects.7

I shall be glad to hear of their safe arrival.

Yours faithfully. | Geo. Cross

Charles Darwin Esq.

I have omitted to state that the aspect was westerly & that a shade was placed over the case when the sun shone full in the window.

CD annotations

2.1 About … Delamere] double scored blue crayon
2.11 but … insects. 2.15] scored blue crayon
2.15 is … arrival.] ‘1876’ sideways in box red crayon
6.1 I … window. 6.2] double scored blue crayon


In his letter to CD of 4 October 1876, Cross had described changes in the leaves of the common sundew, Drosera rotundifolia. CD asked Cross to send him specimens of his plants (see letter to George Cross, 6 October [1876]).
John Davies Siddall.
Delamere Forest is in Cheshire. A Wardian case was a sealed glazed container developed in the 1830s to transport living plants or to keep tropical plants such as ferns in the home (see Allen 1994, p. 120).
Pilularia (pillwort) is a genus of ferns.
Adiantum pubescens is a species of maidenhair fern; Trichomanes radicans is a species of bristle fern. Selaginella coesium is not a scientific name; it is probably a mispelling of Selaginella coesia, which appears in horticultural catalogues, and may refer to the species Selaginella uncinata (peacock spikemoss).
Podura is a genus of springtails; it is no longer placed in the class Insecta, but rather in the related class Collembola (springtails).


Allen, David Elliston. 1994. The naturalist in Britain: a social history. 2d edition. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.


Sends Drosera plants and details of treatment that led them to form normal leaves when grown without insects.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Cross
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 161: 270
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10650,” accessed on 20 February 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24