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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. M. Canby   7 May 1873

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

May 7 1873

Dear Sir

I thank you very sincerely for the leaves, of which I have examined 14 with great interest.1 The results support my anticipation that the leaves are adapted to allow of the smaller fry escaping. Eight of the 14 leaves had caught beetles of relative considerable size. There were also a good-sized spider & a scolopendra—

Three of the leaves had caught ants. I wish the leaves had been of full size, but I think my results may be trusted.2

With cordial thanks for your kindness | yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin


CD had asked Canby to open some old leaves of Dionaea (Venus fly trap) to see the size of insects they captured. He had supposed that minute insects would escape through the apertures at the base of the spikes on the edge of the leaf. See letter to W. M. Canby, 19 February 1873, and letter from W. M. Canby, 22 April 1873. Scolopendra is a genus of centipedes; only Scolopendra viridis is native to North Carolina.
CD described the leaves and their prey in Insectivorous plants, pp. 312–13.


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


Thanks for the Dionaea leaves. They support CD’s anticipation that they are adapted to let the smaller fry escape [see Insectivorous plants, p. 312].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Marriott Canby
Sent from
Source of text
Natural History Society of Delaware
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8904,” accessed on 23 September 2021,

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