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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Francis Darwin   [17 April 1873]

There are some vars. of vipers, but only 1 sp. in England.—1 I am nearly sure that the Bournemouth snake was not a venemous kind.—2 I fear seeds are all dead—they are not mouldy, as generally happens with dead seeds, but then the vapour may have stopped mould. Do not take much trouble about spawn. I shall try seeds with less vapour of F. acid.3

C. D.


The only species of viper native to England is Vipera berus, the common European adder.
Only two snakes other than Vipera berus are native to England, Natrix natrix (the grass snake) and Coronella austriaca (the smooth snake). Neither of these is venomous.
CD and Francis had been performing experiments to determine the effect of formic acid on the germination of seeds and had probably extended the experiment to include the effect of the acid on the spawn of aquatic animals (see letter to Francis Darwin, [before 15 April 1873] and n. 3).


Fears all the seeds are dead. Will try with less vapour of formic acid.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Francis Darwin
Sent from
AP 17 | 73
Source of text
DAR 271.3: 7
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8866,” accessed on 6 August 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21