Insectivorous Plants

Darwin wrote of this work in his autobiography:

Insectivorous plantsDuring subsequent years, whenever I had leisure, I pursued my experiments, and my book on Insectivorous Plants was published July 1875,—that is sixteen years after my first observations. The delay in this case, as with all my other books, has been a great advantage to me; for a man after a long interval can criticise his own work, almost as well as if it were that of another person. The fact that a plant should secrete, when properly excited, a fluid containing an acid and ferment, closely analogous to the digestive fluid of an animal, was certainly a remarkable discovery.

See also Chapter X in Life and letters volume 3.

See Darwin's collection of reviews of this work in CUL-DAR139.18

John van Wyhe

Bibliographical introduction by R. B. Freeman

These meticulous studies form a minor contribution to the evolutionary series by the study of the adaptations of such plants to impoverished conditions. Darwin was helped by various physiologists and chemists in the experimental work, particularly by Professor Edward Frankland of the Royal College of Chemistry. His sons helped with the illustrations, George doing those for Drosera and Dionaea and Francis those for Aldrovanda and Utricularia. He himself was no draughtsman, but text figures 7 and 8 were cut from his drawings.

The book was published on July 2, 1875, in a standard binding without inserted advertisements. It is stated that 3,000 were printed of which 2,700 were sold to the trade at once. This cannot be strictly true because both the second and third thousands of the same year stated their thousands on the title pages. The second has an errata slip of six lines, and in the third these six have been corrected, but another six have been found and again occur on a slip. The same slip is present in the fourth thousand of 1876. It was not printed again in Darwin's lifetime, but a second edition, edited by Francis appeared dated 1888. According to Murray's list this was issued in January 1889. It contains some small corrections taken from Darwin's marked copy of the first edition, as well as textual additions and footnotes by his son which are all contained in brackets.

The American editions are from stereos of the first English. It has not been reprinted in England since 1908, but there is a Brussels facsimile of the first edition in 1969 as well as a New York one of an American printing of 1896. It was translated into French, German, Italian and Russian in Darwin's lifetime, and into Romanian since.

1875. Insectivorous plants. Text Image PDF F1217

1875. Insectivorous plants. New York: Appleton. Image PDF F1220

1888. Insectivorous plants. 2d ed. Revised by Francis Darwin. Text Image PDF F1225

1897. Insectivorous plants. New York: D. Appleton. PDF F1229


1877. Les plantes insectivores. Image PDF F1237


1876. Insectenfressende Pflanzen. Text Image PDF F1238


1878. Le piante insettivore. PDF F1242


1965. Diferite forme de flori de pe plante de aceeasi specie & plante insectivore. PDF F1243


1876. Insectivorous plants [in Russian]. PDF F1244

Click here for a full bibliographical list.


From: Freeman, R. B. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d ed. Dawson: Folkstone.

NOTE: With thanks to The Charles Darwin Trust and Dr Mary Whitear for use of the Bibliographical Handlist. Copyright. All rights reserved. For private academic use only. Not for republication or reproduction in whole or in part without the prior written consent of The Charles Darwin Trust, 31 Baalbec Road, London N5 1QN.

Corrections and additions copyright John van Wyhe, The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online - National University of Singapore.


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