More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 2

Author: Charles Darwin

Letter 672. To F. Muller.

(672/1. In Darwin’s book on Climbing Plants, 1875 (672/2. First given as a paper before the Linnean Society, and published in the "Linn. Soc. Journ." Volume IX.,), he wrote (page 205): "The conclusion is forced on our minds that the capacity of revolving, on which most climbing plants depend, is inherent, though undeveloped, in almost every plant in the vegetable Kingdom"—a conclusion which was verified in the "Power of Movement in Plants." The present letter is interesting in referring to Fritz Muller’s observations on the "revolving nutation," or circumnutation of Alisma macrophylla and Linum usitatissimum, the latter fact having been discovered by F. Muller’s daughter Rosa. This was probably the earliest observation on the circumnutation of a non-climbing plant, and Muller, in a paper dated 1868, and published in Volume V. of the "Jenaische Zeitschrift," page 133, calls attention to its importance in relation to the evolution of the habit of climbing. The present letter was probably written in 1865, since it refers to Muller’s paper read before the Linnean Soc. on December 7th, 1865. If so, the facts on circumnutation must have been communicated to Darwin some years before their publication in the "Jenaische Zeitschrift.")

Down, December 9th [1865].

I have received your interesting letter of October 10th, with its new facts on branch-tendrils. If the Linnean Society publishes your paper (672/3. Ibid., 1867, page 344.), as I am sure it ought to do, I will append a note with some of these new facts.

I forwarded immediately your MS. to Professor Max Schultze, but I did not read it, for German handwriting utterly puzzles me, and I am so weak, I am capable of no exertion. I took the liberty, however, of asking him to send me a copy, if separate ones are printed, and I reminded him about the Sponge paper.

You will have received before this my book on orchids, and I wish I had known that you would have preferred the English edition. Should the German edition fail to reach you, I will send an English one. That is a curious observation of your daughter about the movement of the apex of the stem of Linum, and would, I think, be worth following out. (672/4. F. Muller, "Jenaische Zeitschrift," Bd. V., page 137. Here, also, are described the movements of Alisma.) I suspect many plants move a little, following the sun; but all do not, for I have watched some pretty carefully.

I can give you no zoological news, for I live the life of the most secluded hermit.

I occasionally hear from Ernest Hackel, who seems as determined as you are to work out the subject of the change of species. You will have seen his curious paper on certain medusae reproducing themselves by seminal generation at two periods of growth.

(672/5. On April 3rd, 1868, Darwin wrote to F. Muller: "Your diagram of the movements of the flower-peduncle of the Alisma is extremely curious. I suppose the movement is of no service to the plant, but shows how easily the species might be converted into a climber. Does it bend through irritability when rubbed?"


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Chicago: Charles Darwin, "Letter 672. To F. Muller.," More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 2, ed. Darwin, Francis, Sir, 1848-1925 and Seward, A. C. (Albert Charles), 1863-1941 and trans. Babington, B. G. (Benjamin Guy), 1794-1866 in More Letters of Charles Darwin Original Sources, accessed October 4, 2022,

MLA: Darwin, Charles. "Letter 672. To F. Muller." More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 2, edited by Darwin, Francis, Sir, 1848-1925 and Seward, A. C. (Albert Charles), 1863-1941, and translated by Babington, B. G. (Benjamin Guy), 1794-1866, in More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 2, Original Sources. 4 Oct. 2022.

Harvard: Darwin, C, 'Letter 672. To F. Muller.' in More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 2, ed. and trans. . cited in , More Letters of Charles Darwin. Original Sources, retrieved 4 October 2022, from