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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Burdon Sanderson   9 October 1874

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Oct 9. 74

My dear Dr Sanderson

I am going to beg your opinion & information on one point if you can give it. I am finally working up my long chapter on digestion by Drosera.1 I find that fibrin, areolar tissue, the fibrous basis of bone, & gelatin all agree in being easily dissolved by the secretion, but none of them excite the leaves much, incomparably less than meat, albumen, &c. Fibro-cartilage behaves in the same way excepting that it is never thoroughly liquified.2 Now what I want to know is whether these substances viz:— fibrin, areolar tissue, the fibrous basis of bone, gelatin, & fibro-cartilage are chemically or physiologically allied. I mean by physiologically allied, their action on animals to which they are given as food; for instance is it known whether a dog would perish as soon when fed on fibrin as on gelatin? I should be grateful for any scrap of information on this head. You will see that I speak of the “fibrous basis of bone”, is this a correct expression? In almost every page of my MS I feel how much I owe to you

Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


CD refers to chapter 4 of Insectivorous plants, ‘The digestive power of the secretion of Drosera’.
Burdon Sanderson and CD had previously corresponded about the digestion by Drosera (sundew) of fibrin and the fibrous basis of bone; see, for example, letter to J. S. Burdon Sanderson, 21 June [1874]. CD’s experiments on the digestion by Drosera of fibrin, areolar tissue, the fibrous basis of bone, gelatine, meat, albumen, and fibrocartilage are described in Insectivorous plants, pp. 100–2, 102–3, 108–9, 110–12, 98–100, 92–8, 104–5, respectively. Areolar tissue is the loose connective tissue that binds skin to the muscles beneath, and forms a link between organs, in animals (OED).


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

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.


Has been testing the digestive powers of Drosera; wants to know whether a group of substances that elicit similar responses are related.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9669,” accessed on 4 August 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22