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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Asa Gray   24 October 1879

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

Oct 24th/79

My dear Gray

I have procured & been reading your new Edit. of your Text-Book of Botany, (which has been greatly developed since old times)1 & I find at p. 21, 22, a curious account of some seedlings. For the bare possibility of you being able to send me a few seeds of the 2 kinds which I want most, I have written their names down on the next page.— I have procured Delphinium nudicaule from a nurseryman.2 I have attended somewhat to the manner in which seedlings break through the ground, & it is for this object that I want these seeds.

I have written a rather big book,—more is the pity—on the movements of plants, & I am now just beginning to go over the M.S. for the second time, which is a horrid bore.3

I hope that Mrs4 & you are both quite well.—

Ever yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

De Vries has been working at the tendrils of Cucurbitaceæ sent by you.—5

seeds wanted

Ipomœa leptophylla6

Megarrhiza californica7


Gray’s Botanical text-book was in its sixth edition (A. Gray 1879). Gray had recommended the fifth edition (A. Gray 1858) to CD in 1863 (Correspondence vol. 11, letter from Asa Gray, 26 May 1863 and n. 25).
Gray had discussed the unusual development of cotyledons in three species, including Delphinium nudicaule, red larkspur, in A. Gray 1879, pp. 20–2. CD had asked Joseph Dalton Hooker for seeds of each species (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 17 October [1879] and n. 4). The nurseryman has not been identified.
Movement in plants was published in 1880.
Jane Loring Gray.
CD had asked Gray to send seeds of Echinocystis lobata (wild cucumber) to Hugo de Vries so that De Vries could observe the tendrils (see letter to Hugo de Vries, 13 February 1879 and n. 5). De Vries had probably visited Down on 21 September (letter from Emma Darwin to H. E. Litchfield, [20 September 1879] (DAR 219.9: 207)).
Bush morning-glory.
A synonym of Marah fabacea, the California manroot.


Gray, Asa. 1858a. Introduction to structural and systematic botany, and vegetable physiology, being a fifth and revised edition of the botanical text-book. New York: Ivison & Phinney.

Gray, Asa. 1879. Gray’s botanical text-book. Vol. I. Structural botany or organography on the basis of morphology. To which is added the principles of taxonomy and phytography, and a glossary of botanical terms. 6th edition. New York and Chicago: Ivison, Blakeman, and Company.


Requests seeds of Ipomoea and Megarrhiza for observations on seedling growth.

Is rereading MS of Movement in plants.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Asa Gray
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University (125)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12269,” accessed on 24 September 2021,