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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. W. Baxter   2 [December 1872]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Nov 2d

Dear Sir

You supplied me some little time ago with extract of Belladonna, & many years ago I procured in Bournemouth from a good shop some extract of Digitalis. Both these extracts act on my experimental plants, as if they contained gelatine, or albumen, or some animal matter.—2 In preparing these extracts is any sort of animal matter ever used?

I shd. be very much obliged for an answer & remain | Dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin

Extract of Hyosciamus & of Colchicum does not act in this manner.—3


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from W. W. Baxter, 4 December 1872. CD wrote ‘Nov’ in error.
CD was using belladonna and digitalis in his experiments on insectivorous plants (see Insectivorous plants, especially p. 84). The Darwin family had stayed in Bournemouth in September 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 10).
Hyoscyamus is henbane. Colchicum is the autumn crocus.


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

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.


Asks about possible animal substances in samples of Belladonna and Digitalis.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Walmisley Baxter
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8592,” accessed on 27 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20