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- More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume II - 80/133 -


Perhaps you may like to see a rough copy of the tracing of movements of one of the cotyledons of red cabbage, and you can throw it into the fire. A line joining the two cotyledons stood facing a north-east window, and the day was uniformly cloudy. A bristle was gummed to one cotyledon, and beyond it a triangular bit of card was fixed, and in front a vertical glass. A dot was made in the glass every quarter or half hour at the point where the end of the bristle and the apex of card coincided, and the dots were joined by straight lines. The observations were from 10 a.m. to 8.45 p.m. During this time the enclosed figure was described; but between 4 p.m. and 5.38 p.m. the cotyledon moved so that the prolonged line was beyond the limits of the glass, and the course is here shown by an imaginary dotted line. The cotyledon of Primula sinensis moved in closely analogous manner, as do those of a Cassia. Hence I expect to find such movements very general with cotyledons, and I am inclined to look at them as the foundation for all the other adaptive movements of leaves. They certainly are of the so-called sleep of plants.

I hope I have not bothered you. Do not answer. I am all on fire at the work.

I have had a short and very prosperous note from Asa Gray, who says Hooker is very prosperous, and both are tremendously hard at work. (743/1. "Hooker is coming over, and we are going in summer to the Rocky Mountains together, according to an old promise of mine." Asa Gray to G.F. Wright, May 24th, 1877 ("Letters of Asa Gray," II., page 666).)

LETTER 744. TO H. MULLER. Down, January 1st [1878?].

I must write two or three lines to thank you cordially for your very handsome and very interesting review of my last book in "Kosmos," which I have this minute finished. (744/1. "Forms of Flowers," 1877. H. Muller's article is in "Kosmos," II., page 286.) It is wonderful how you have picked out everything important in it. I am especially glad that you have called attention to the parallelism between illegitimate offspring of heterostyled plants and hybrids. Your previous article in "Kosmos" seemed to me very important, but for some unknown reason the german was very difficult, and I was sadly overworked at the time, so that I could not understand a good deal of it. (744/2. "Kosmos," II., pages 11, 128. See "Forms of Flowers," Edition II., page 308.) But I have put it on one side, and when I have to prepare a new edition of my book I must make it out. It seems that you attribute such cases as that of the dioecious Rhamnus and your own of Valeriana to the existence of two forms with larger and smaller flowers. I cannot follow the steps by which such plants have been rendered dioecious, but when I read your article with more care I hope I shall understand. (744/3. See "Forms of Flowers," Edition II., pages 9 and 304. H. Muller's view is briefly that conspicuous and less conspicuous varieties occurred, and that the former were habitually visited first by insects; thus the less conspicuous form would play the part of females and their pollen would tend to become superfluous. See H. Muller in "Kosmos," II.) If you have succeeded in explaining this class of cases I shall heartily rejoice, for they utterly perplexed me, and I could not conjecture what their meaning was. It is a grievous evil to have no faculty for new languages.

With the most sincere respect and hearty good wishes to you and all your family for the new year...

P.S.--What interesting papers your wonderful brother has lately been writing!

LETTER 745. TO W. THISELTON-DYER.

(745/1. This letter refers to the purchase of instruments for the Jodrell Laboratory in the Royal Gardens, Kew. "The Royal Commission on Scientific Instruction and the Advancement of Science, commonly spoken of as the Devonshire Commission, in its fourth Report (1874), page 10, expressed the opinion that 'it is highly desirable that opportunities for the pursuit of investigations in Physiological Botany should be afforded at Kew to those persons who may be inclined to follow that branch of science.' Effect was given to this recommendation by the liberality of the late T.J. Phillips-Jodrell, M.A., who built and equipped the small laboratory, which has since borne his name, at his own expense. It was completed and immediately brought into use in 1876." The above is taken from the "Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information," R. Botanic Gardens, Kew, 1901, page 102, which also gives a list of work carried out in the laboratory between 1876 and 1900.)

Down, March 14th, 1878.

I have a very strong opinion that it would be the greatest possible pity if the Phys[iological] Lab., now that it has been built, were not supplied with as many good instruments as your funds can possibly afford. It is quite possible that some of them may become antiquated before they are much or even at all used. But this does not seem to me any argument at all against getting them, for the Laboratory cannot be used until well provided; and the mere fact of the instruments being ready may suggest to some one to use them. You at Kew, as guardians and promoters of botanical science, will then have done all in your power, and if your Lab. is not used the disgrace will lie at the feet of the public. But until bitter experience proves the contrary I will never believe that we are so backward. I should think the German laboratories would be very good guides as to what to get; but Timiriazeff of Moscow, who travelled over Europe to see all Bot. Labs., and who seemed so good a fellow, would, I should think, give the best list of the most indispensable instruments. Lately I thought of getting Frank or Horace to go to Cambridge for the use of the heliostat there; but our observations turned out of less importance than I thought, yet if there had been one at Kew we should probably have used it, and might have found out something curious. It is impossible for me to predict whether or not we should ever want this or that instrument, for we are guided in our work by what turns up. Thus I am now observing something about geotropism, and I had no idea a few weeks ago that this would have been necessary. In a short time we might earnestly wish for a centrifugal apparatus or a heliostat. In all such cases it would make a great difference if a man knew that he could use a particular instrument without great loss of time. I have now given my opinion, which is very decided, whether right or wrong, and Frank quite agrees with me. You can, of course, show this letter to Hooker.

LETTER 746. TO F. LUDWIG. Down, May 29th, 1878.

I thank you sincerely for the trouble which you have taken in sending me so long and interesting a letter, together with the specimens. Gradations are always very valuable, and you have been remarkably successful in discovering the stages by which the Plantago has become gyno-dioecious. (746/1. See F. Ludwig, "Zeitsch. f. d. Geo. Naturwiss." Bd. LII., 1879. Professor Ludwig's observations are quoted in the preface to "Forms of Flowers," Edition II., page ix.) Your view of its origin, from being proterogynous, seems to me very probable, especially as the females are generally the later-flowering plants. If you can prove the reverse case with Thymus your view will manifestly be rendered still more probable. I have never felt satisfied with H. Muller's view, though he is so careful and admirable an observer. (746/2. See "Forms of Flowers," Edition II., page 308. Also letter 744.) It is more than seventeen years since I attended to Plantago, and when nothing had been published on the subject, and in consequence I omitted to attend to several points; and now, after so long an interval, I cannot pretend to say to which of your forms the English one belongs; I well remember that the anther of the females contained a good deal [of] pollen, though not one sound grain.

P.S.--Delpino is Professor of Botany in Genoa, Italy (746/3. Now at Naples.); I have always found him a most obliging correspondent.

LETTER 747. TO W. THISELTON-DYER. Down, August 24th [1878].

Many thanks for seeds of Trifolium resupinatum, which are invaluable to us. I enclose seeds of a Cassia, from Fritz Muller, and they are well worth your cultivation; for he says they come from a unique, large and beautiful tree in the interior, and though looking out for years, he has never seen another specimen. One of the most splendid, largest and rarest butterflies in S. Brazil, he has never seen except near this one tree, and he has just discovered that its caterpillars feed on its leaves.

I have just been looking at fine young pods beneath the ground of Arachis. (747/1. Arachis hypogoea, cultivated for its "ground nuts.") I suppose that the pods are not withdrawn when ripe from the ground; but should this be the case kindly inform me; if I do not hear I shall understand that [the] pods ripen and are left permanently beneath the ground.

If you ever come across heliotropic or apheliotropic aerial roots on a plant not valuable (but which should be returned), I should like to observe them. Bignonia capreolata, with its strongly apheliotropic tendrils (which I had from Kew), is now interesting me greatly. Veitch tells me it is not on sale in any London nursery, as I applied to him for some additional plants. So much for business.

I have received from the Geographical Soc. your lecture, and read it with great interest. (747/2. "On Plant-Distribution as a field for Geographical Research." "Geog. Soc. Proc." XXII., 1878, page 412.) But it ought not merely to be read; it requires study. The sole criticism which I have to make is that parts are too much condensed: but, good Lord, how rare a fault is this! You do not quote Saporta, I think; and some of his work on the Tertiary plants would have been useful to you. In a former note you spoke contemptuously of your lecture: all I can say is that I never heard any one speak more unjustly and shamefully of another than you have done of yourself!

LETTER 748. TO H. MULLER. Down, September 20th, 1878.

I am working away on some points in vegetable physiology, but though they interest me and my son, yet they have none of the fascination which the fertilisation of flowers possesses. Nothing in my life has ever interested me more than the fertilisation of such plants as Primula and Lythrum, or again Anacamptis (748/1. Orchis pyramidalis.) or Listera.

LETTER 749. TO H. MULLER. Down, February 12th [1879].

I have just heard that some misfortune has befallen you, and that you have been treated shamefully. (749/1. Hermann Muller was accused by the Ultramontane party of introducing into his school-teaching crude hypotheses ("unreife Hypothesen"), which were assumed to have a harmful influence upon the religious sentiments of his pupils. Attempts were made to bring about Muller's dismissal, but the active hostility of his opponents, which he met in a dignified spirit, proved futile. ("Prof.


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