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Darwin Correspondence Project

From H. N. Ellacombe   30 July [1877]1

Bitton Vicarage | Bristol—

July 30th

Dear Sir,

It is a very great pleasure to me in any way to help in your valuable researches.

I have two small plants of Schrankia, both in the open ground— When I was at Kew last week, I offered to send them my second plant— But I have no hesitation in sending it in the first place to you, with the request that after you have quite done with it, you will return it, not to me, but to Kew— I will tell Mr. Smith that I have sent it, to explain to him why it does not come at once to Kew— When they get it I hope they will propagate it, for I think it very likely that mine are the only plants in England.2

The plant is decidedly sensitive— It was sent to me from New York about three years ago— My attention was first drawn to it in the Hortus Collinsonianus,3 as a plant grown by Collinson4 more than 100 years ago— As you may not have the book, the following extract may interest you—

“Arthur Dobbs Esqe. Governor of North Carolina, in a letter to Mr. Collinson dated at Brunswick Jan 24. 1760, says—‘the most curious plants I have seen here are two of the sensitive kind; one grows two or three feet high & the stalks are all over prickly, like a brier; by striking a bush with a whip, it will instantly close up all its leaves, and bears a pretty blush red globular flower, the size of a nut—’ In 1765 Mr. Collinson received ‘a sensitive Brier’ from Mr. Bartram”—5

Hoping that the plant will soon recover its transplanting & interest you—I am | Yours vy faithfuly | Henry N. Ellacombe


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 7 August 1877.
CD was interested in a sensitive Schrankia mentioned by William Turner Thiselton-Dyer in 1875 (see letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 22 July [1877] and n. 4).Thiselton-Dyer had referred him to Ellacombe (letter from W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 25 July 1877). John Smith was curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Peter Collinson.
Dillwyn 1843, p. 50. The plant was listed under the name Schrankia uncinata, which is a synonym of Mimosa microphylla. The sensitive brier came from John Bartram.


Dillwyn, Lewis Weston. 1843. Hortus Collinsonianus. An account of the plants cultivated by the late Peter Collinson, Esq., F.R.S. Swansea: n.p.


Sends a specimen of Schrankia.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Nicholson Ellacombe
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 163: 15
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6298,” accessed on 22 September 2021,