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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Price   17 May 1877

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

May 17, 1877.

My dear Price

I quite agree with you that stripes on animals offer a curious subject for investigation, and that every stripe has a meaning of some sort.1 But I am not likely ever again to take up this subject. With respect to your “present craze”, as you call it, I would suggest your cutting off a little bit of the stem whilst under water; for de Vries, who is a very good authority, asserts that even a momentary exposure of a young cut stem to air affects the power of the stem to absorb water.2

I hope that you are regaining some tranquility, and I remain, my dear Price


No letter from Price on this subject has been found. In Variation 1: 56–64, CD discussed stripes in horses and asses, stating that he was ‘convinced that even a character so unimportant as this had a distinct meaning’, and concluding that stripes were evidence of ‘partial reversion in colour to the common progenitor of these two species, as well as of the other species of the genus’ (ibid, p. 64).
In 1873, Hugo de Vries had reported experiments in his paper ‘Ueber das Welken abgeschnittener Sprosse’ (On the wilting of cut shoots; Vries 1873). He concluded that cutting in water slowed wilting, especially in the youngest shoots (ibid., p. 297).


Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Stripes on animals curious subject for investigation. Not likely to take it up again.

Recommends cutting plant stems under water.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Price
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 147: 279
Physical description
1p inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10964,” accessed on 16 October 2021,