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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Ralfs   8 July 1874

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

July 8th 74

Dear Sir

I am very sorry for my unfortunate blunder. On receiving the Pinguicula, I wrote at once to return you my cordial thanks.1 The plants arrived in rather a dry state, but to my joy have recovered and are now growing. They have answered my question abt their catching insects. The leaves of P. grandiflora would be much the best, (as you suggest) for observing whether they catch seeds or small leaves of other plants. You will have seen in my note to Mr Price that I thought I was sure to receive Utricularia; but I have since heard from my son that he has hunted all the ditches near Winchester & the New Forest with no success, as has a friend in the I of Wight.2 I was promised some from Ireland, but these also have failed.3 Therefore if you could send me soon a plant with floating leaves, it would be a very great kindness; & I do not care the least about the flowers; it is the bladders which I want to experimentize on.

It would be indispensible I think that the plants should be sent in an old tin box or cannister.

From what you tell me of the habitat of P. grandiflora, I think Hooker must be wrong that it is only a Var..4 I should therefore much like to see a plant, & you might perhaps enclose it with Utricularia.— I know that I am very troublesome & asking many favours; but I can assure you I do not do so idly, for I have been working hard for the last 3 weeks on P. vulgaris

Dear Sir | Yours faithfully & obliged | Ch. Darwin

P.S. | I hope whenever my book is published you will do me the pleasure to accept a copy, but it will not be published for many months.—5


No previous letters to or from Ralfs have been found.
CD’s letter to John Price has not been found. CD’s son William Erasmus Darwin lived in Southampton, which is east of the New Forest and south of Winchester. CD had asked William Darwin Fox for a specimen of Utricularia (bladderwort), and had asked him to observe Pinguicula lusitanica (pale butterwort) on the Isle of Wight and to send a specimen (letter to W. D. Fox, 18 June 1874).
CD had written to David Moore, the director of the botanic garden in Glasnevin, Ireland, to request a living plant of Utricularia (see letter to David Moore, 28 June 1874).
Joseph Dalton Hooker had described Pinguicula grandiflora (large-flowered butterwort) as a variety of P. vulgaris (common butterwort) in The student’s flora of the British Islands (J. D. Hooker 1870, p. 297).
Insectivorous plants was published in July 1875. Ralfs’s name is on CD’s presentation list for the book (Correspondence vol. 23, Appendix IV).


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

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1870. The student’s flora of the British Islands. London: Macmillan.

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


Thanks for the Pinguicula plants, which have recovered, and asks if he could also send Utricularia, since his other supplies have failed.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Ralfs
Sent from
Source of text
The Huntington Library (HM 76527)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9534F,” accessed on 28 October 2020,

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