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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. T. Thiselton-Dyer   7 October 1877

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

Oct 7. 1877

My dear Dyer,

One line to thank you much about Myrtensia. The former plant has begun to make new leaves, to my great surprise, so that I shall be now well supplied.1 We have worked so well with the Averrhoa that unless the second species arrives in a very good state it would be superfluous to send it.2 I am heartily glad that you & Mrs Dyer are going to have a holiday.3 I will look at you as a dead man for the next month & nothing shall tempt me to trouble you. But before you enter your grave aid me if you can. I want seeds of 3 or 4 plants (not Leguminosæ or Cruciferæ)4 which produce large Cotyledons. I know not in the least what plants have large cotyledons. Why I want to know is as follows. The Cotyledons of Cassia5 go to sleep & are sensitive to a touch; but what has surprised me much is that they are in constant movement up & down. So it is with the cotyledons of the cabbage; & therefore I am very curious to ascertain how far this is general

With many thanks for your invaluable assistance | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


The Mertensia previously sent by Thiselton-Dyer had looked ‘very bad’ at the end of September (see letter to W. T. Thiselton Dyer, 27 September [1877]).
CD had asked for a plant of Averrhoa carambola (star fruit) in July, but Thiselton-Dyer had sent a plant of Averrhoa bilimbi (cucumber tree) instead (see letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 14 July [1877], and letter from W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 16 July 1877). Francis and CD had studied movement in Averrhoa bilimbi over the summer (see letter to R. I. Lynch, 23 August [1877]).
Thiselton-Dyer had married Harriet Anne Hooker on 23 June 1877. They had only one week of honeymoon before returning to Kew, so that Thiselton-Dyer could oversee the botanic gardens while Joseph Dalton Hooker was away in America. (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 206.)
Leguminosae (a synonym of Fabaceae) is the family of peas and beans; Cruciferae (a synonym of Brassicaceae) is the mustard and cabbage family.
Cassia is a genus of the legume family, Fabaceae. Cotyledons are the first embryonic leaves of plants; seed-bearing plants have either one or two such leaves.


Wants seed with large cotyledons to test for sensitivity and movement.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Turner Thiselton-Dyer
Sent from
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Darwin: Letters to Thiselton-Dyer, 1873–81: ff. 101–2)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11171,” accessed on 27 October 2021,