skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Thomas Rivers   20 May 1866

Bonks Hill, | Sawbridgeworth.

May 20/66

My Dear Sir/

My son1 was struck last year by observing in his garden the apparent instinct of a “Haricot” French bean—a variety called a dwarf F. B but which puts forth slender twining shoots— one of these was taking an upright direction when suddenly & in calm weather it turned off abruptly to the N.E, & caught hold of the young shoot of a plum tree trained to the wall in front of which the row of beans was growing   the tree here made what gardeners call “foreright” shoots2 & to one of these the bean attached itself. My son was amused & took a sketch which I enclose, it will perhaps give you an idea of what took place.3 The row of beans was 212 feet from the end of the plum shoots,

The Wistaria (Glycine) from which I cut the shoots sent to you are from a tree turned to a S.W. aspect so that their return voyage was due N.E.4

I hope to see you at the Congress on Wednesday next5   I am deputed to follow Decandolle in a short lecture on Horticulture the subject “raising new kinds of fruit from seed”6

I have plenty in me but whether it will come out I can’t say

I am My dr Sir | Yrs. very truly | Thos. Rivers




T. Francis Rivers.
Foreright: ‘Of a branch etc.: Shooting straight out’ (OED).
See enclosure. Rivers had described the climbing bean in his letter to CD of 6 July 1865 (Correspondence vol. 13). CD had briefly discussed varieties of Phaseolus in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 6 and 25, including ‘ “Fulmer’s dwarf forcing-bean,” on which occasionally a long twining shoot appeared’ (p. 25).
See letter from Thomas Rivers, 17 May 1866 and n. 2. Wisteria frutescens was formerly also known as Glycine frutescens.
CD did not attend the International Horticultural Exhibition and Botanical Congress (see letter from Friedrich Hildebrand, 11 May 1866 and n. 4).
Rivers read a paper, ‘On seedling peaches and nectarines’, following the presidential address delivered by Alphonse de Candolle at the opening meeting of the congress on 23 May 1866 (Gardeners’ Chronicle, 26 May 1866, p. 490).


‘Climbing plants’: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 2 February 1865.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 9 (1867): 1–118.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.


Sends a sketch of the haricot climbing the shoot of the plum-tree [see 4866].

Hopes to see CD at the [Horticultural] Congress on Wednesday [30 May].

Sends data on movement direction of Wisteria shoots.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Rivers
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 176: 166; 176: 188.1
Physical description
2pp encl 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5102,” accessed on 14 October 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14