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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. C. Conybeare   17 December 1877

Dryhill | Tonbridge | Kent

Dec. 17. /77.

Dear Sir.

At Page 329 of your book on the forms of flowers, I note the following statement;— “With plants in a state of nature the flowers open only in the early morning; as I have been informed by Mr Wallis, who particularly attended to the time of their flowering”—.1

It is seldom that any observer, let alone a casual observer like myself, can find any thing to correct or qualify in a statement of observers so pains-taking, so expert and so accurate as Mr Wallis or yourself, especially when speaking of a plant, which has engaged so much of your attention as has the Drosera.

Mr Wallis is, however, mistaken as you will find from the following statement.

In the beginning of last July my eldest daughter (who is now acting as my amanuensis) devoted much attention to a profusion of plants of Drosera Rotundifolia, growing in a bog near Castle Connell, in Ireland.2 She was most anxious to find the plant with open blossoms but failed to do so. She transplanted roots from the bog into pots & carried them round the house, in which she was staying, daily, so as to keep them in the sun; but still failed to obtain a single fully opened blossom.

In the first week of August she was with me in Nth. Cornwall, where I found in a bog, near Mawgam, plants of the Drosera Rotundifolia and also of the Longifolia.3 I took some roots of the latter to her which were planted in bog Earth and carefully watched by her for several days, in hopes of getting a fully opened blossom, but still in vain. However, on the 14th. August I took her with a younger sister,4 & two of my nieces to the boggy stream near Mawgan and there found at 2 ock. in the afternoon the ground profusely starred over with the fully opened blossoms of Drosera Rotundifolia. We, however on that afternoon, came on no plants of the Longifolia, specimens of which were comparatively scarce, and we were obliged to hurry away before we could find any.

I do not apologise for troubling you with this communication; because it is impossible to read half a dozen pages of any book of yours without feeling that you welcome cordially every crumb of information, and invite by the spirit of every line all contributions which supplement your facts, as plainly as if you said with Horace:

Believe me, Dear Sir, | Faithfully yours, | John C. Conybeare


See Forms of flowers, pp. 328–9. William Wallis had assisted CD in his research on Drosera rotundifolia (common or round-leaved sundew) when the Darwins visited Hartfield, in Sussex, in July 1860 (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter from S. E. Wedgwood, 25 December [1860?]).
Castleconnell is a village on the river Shannon in county Limerick. Conybeare’s eldest daughter was Katherine A. M. Conybeare.
Mawgan or Mawgan-in-Meneage is a village in Cornwall. Drosera longifolia is a rejected name that could refer to either D. anglica (English or great sundew) or D. intermedia (spoonleaf sundew).
Conybeare had two younger daughters, Georgiana Emily and Clara Jane Constance.
Conybeare quotes from Horace, Epistles I: 6, 67–68. The full quotation in Latin reads: ‘si quid novisti rectius istis, candidus imperti; si nil, his utere mecum’ (if you can better these principles, tell me; if not, join me in following them).


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

Forms of flowers: The different forms of flowers on plants of the same species. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1877.


JCC and his young daughter have observed that blossoms of Drosera rotundifolia open in afternoon, which contradicts Forms of flowers.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Charles Conybeare
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 161: 222
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11282,” accessed on 23 September 2021,