First Edition of Charles Darwin's Insectivorous Plants
Item Number: 132980
London: John Murray, 1875.
First edition of this classic work by Darwin. Octavo, original green cloth with gilt titles to the spine, woodcut illustrations by Darwin and his sons, George and Francis Darwin. In very good condition. Bookplate and Henry Southeran’s bookseller ticket to the pastedown.
Darwin states in the opening pages to this comprehensive account: "During the summer of 1860, I was surprised by finding how large a number of insects were caught by the leaves of the common sun-dew (Drosera rotundifolia) on a heath in Sussex. I had heard that insects were thus caught, but knew nothing further on the subject." The book chronicles Darwin's experiments with various carnivorous plants, in which he carefully studied their feeding mechanisms Darwin tried several methods to stimulate the plants into activating their trap mechanisms, including feeding them meat and glass, blowing on them and prodding them with hair. He found that only the movement of an animal would cause the plants to react, and concluded that this was an evolutionary adaptation to conserve energy for prey and to ignore stimuli that were not likely to be nutritious. He also discovered that while some plants have distinct trap-like structures, others produce sticky fluids to ensnare their prey and concluded that this was an example of natural selection pressure resulting in various methods for food capture.