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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. T. Thiselton-Dyer   24 October [1878]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

Oct 24th

My dear Dyer

I do not know whether you have returned, but when you do & when you have got through the first rush of business, will you kindly enquire whether you have seeds or plants of the enclosed 5 names.—2

Pfeffer says that they all move considerably their leaves at night, but I cannot make out from what he says whether the leaves rise so as to stand vertically or almost vertically, at night, in which case they would be said to sleep.3

I want to know about the distribution of sleepers in the general system. Perhaps you could get Mr Lynch to look at any of them which you may possess at night—4 I shd. however like seeds of any if you chance to have such seeds.—

I hope that you & Mrs. Dyer have returned or will return refreshed & invigorated by your tour.5

I have nothing to say about myself, except that we have almost finished the experimental part of our work, & must now begin modelling an enormous pile of notes into some sort of fashion, & this will be an awful job.6

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


Siegesbeckia flexuosa

Chenopodium album

Amaranthus reflexus

Wigandia urens7


The year is established by the reference to the Thiselton-Dyers’ tour (see n. 2, below).
Thiselton-Dyer and his wife, Harriet Anne, were away from Kew on a trip to Switzerland from 12 September 1878 until around 18 October (‘Sir William Thiselton-Dyer personal papers. Personal Notes in chronological order recording events in his life and at Kew Gardens’ (Archives, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew); letters from Joseph Dalton Hooker to Asa Gray, 18 September 1878 and 13 October 1878 (Asa Gray Correspondence 39, Archives of the Gray Herbarium)). CD’s list included only four names (see n. 7, below).
Wilhelm Pfeffer had mentioned leaf movements in the species on CD’s list (see n. 7, below) as well as in Nicotiana rustica (Aztec or wild tobacco) and Malva sp. (the genus of mallow); he noted that the movement in these species was analogous to that in Leontodon hastilis (a synonym of Leontodon hispidus, bristly hawkbit), the movements of which he described in greater detail (see Pfeffer 1875, p. 29).
Richard Irwin Lynch was foreman of the propagating department at Kew.
The precise date of Thiselton-Dyer’s return has not been established, but was probably around 18 October 1878 (see n. 2, above).
CD refers to his and Francis Darwin’s work on plant movement; Movement in plants was published in 1880.
Siegesbeckia flexuosa is an unknown combination (‘Siegesbeckia’ is a misspelling of ‘Sigesbeckia’), but probably refers to Sigesbeckia jorullensis (see Correspondence vol. 27, letter from Wilhelm Pfeffer, 22 April 1879; see also Movement in plants, p. 385); Chenopodium album is common lambsquarters; Amaranthus reflexus is a misspelling of A. retroflexus, red-root amaranth; Wigandia urens is the Caracus wigandia. Notes on the list in an unknown hand indicate that only C. album and A. retroflexus could be supplied.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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

Pfeffer, Wilhelm. 1875. Die periodische Bewegungen der Blattorgane. Leipzig: Verlag von Wilhelm Engelmann.


Wants some plants for sleep-movement observations. Has almost finished experimental work and must start sorting his notes.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Turner Thiselton-Dyer
Sent from
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Thiselton-Dyer, W. T., Letters from Charles Darwin 1873–81: 150–2)
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11727,” accessed on 13 June 2021,