skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Daniel Oliver   [21 November 1860]1


My dear Mr Oliver.—

Thank you for your note—2 I do not think the plant can be an Asclepias:3 as far as my memory serves the flowers were very simple & I think the proboscis was caught between stamens & pistil. The minute white or very pale pink flowers were not in trusses or umbels. I have seen the plant fairly studded with captured flies. My Father called it the Fly-catcher. It died down in winter. The leaves were narrow.— stem thin, much branched smooth & I think slightly succulent. You did send me the curious account of Asclepias, which surprises me much, considering R. Browns paper on importance of insects in its fertilisation.—4 The conferva seems a good suggestion.—

Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin

In the Fly-catcher the orifice of corolla was small.—   It is odd that such a plant shd. not be in Kew.—   It lived 30 years ago for very many years in my Father’s flower-garden.— Would you ask Sir William if he can recognise my vague account?5


The note seems to be the ‘scrap’ referred to in the preceding letter.
Oliver’s letter has not been found.
CD had asked Oliver whether he could identify a plant that had grown in Robert Waring Darwin’s garden (letter to Daniel Oliver, 16 November [1860]).
Brown 1833. There is a lightly annotated copy of the paper in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
William Jackson Hooker. The ‘Fly-catcher’ was a species of dogbane, Apocynum androsaemifolium. See letter from Daniel Oliver, 23 November 1860.


The plant CD’s father called "flycatcher" was not Asclepias.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Daniel Oliver
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 261.10: 27 (EH)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2987,” accessed on 26 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8