RECORD: Darwin, C. R. & Emma Darwin. 1864.05.19-06.26. Common vine / Tendril. CUL-DAR157.2.58-62. Edited by John van Wyhe (Darwin Online,

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 5.2023. RN1

NOTE: See record in the Darwin Online manuscript catalogue, enter its Identifier here. Reproduced with permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library and William Huxley Darwin.

The volumes CUL-DAR157.1-2 contain notes, abstracts etc. for Darwin's long paper and later book Climbing plants (1865). It was also commercially available as a softbound offprint, F834, F834a. See R. B. Freeman's bibliographical introduction. Items CUL-DAR157.11-60 were in a folder marked "Twiners". Items CUL-DAR157.61-112 were in a folder marked "Leaf-climbers" and items CUL-DAR157.114-147 were in a folder marked "Tendrils". Reproduced with permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library and William Huxley Darwin.

"Horwood, John, 1823-c.1880 G.H. Turnbull's head gardener. 1862-63 H superintended building of CD's hothouse."

"Lettington, Henry, c.1822/3-c.1910. Gardener in 1851 census. 1854-79 Gardener at Down House. L of CD "He moons about in the garden, and I have seen him standing doing nothing before a flower for ten minutes at a time. If only he had something to do I believe he would be better". Lubbock, Darwin-Wallace celebrations of the Lin. Soc. of London, 1908, pp. 57-8. Helped CD in his experiments on the crossing of plants. More anecdotes on L at Down House in F. Darwin, Springtime and other essays, 1920, pp. 56-8. 1860s Photograph of L with William Brooks by William Darwin, Down House collection. Reproduced in Reeve, Down House, 2009, p. 23 and Browne, Power of place, facing p. 312. Mrs. Amy L was draper in the village. 1882 L was on "Personal Friends invited" list for CD's funeral. 1895 Jul. Alive." (Paul van Helvert & John van Wyhe, Darwin: A Companion, 2021)


May 19' 64. Common Vine. Tendril.

I believe Tendril always bifurcated & branched afterwards: now I see against House many all thread the flowers through— tendril — [sketch] flower buds A. B

A is sensitive to rub & curls round & soon & gets straight so is a real tendril. This almost proves that t. are as Lindley says modified flower peduncles; low down on wall there are now young single bifurcated tendrils, & there are others bearing only 2 or 3 minute heads of flowers; others as in drawing with a dense head of flower.— The main basal peduncle revolves; one t. revolved 2 ellipses, (one narrow & the other broad) in 4°. 30'. ie each in 2°. 15'; but it was very hot calm day — This movement is independent of internodes which do not, I believe move.

Other tendrils revolved in about same time: it


is nonsense saying that they go to dark, anyhow at first. A very young flower bud & tendril moved slower than above time.

Then t. moved reverse of sun & on with sun. — Mr Horwood says all branches of grapes have [illeg]; but mostly; that it will catch & help to support bunch of grapes. — it arises at base of branch —

He showed me one which had caught— generally pinched off.—

Cissus discolor shows no tendril to bunch. —

The t. which rises from base of flowers generally simple, but I have seen it divided into 2 branches.



I believe that internodes move.—

I suspect doubtfully that the branch bearing flowers moves: but chief power of movement is in basal part of peduncle, which sways well. bears the tendril & bunch of flowers.

May 21' I found a t. with one single flower near the tip this curled on touch, just like common t. in fact this is perfect gradation to ordinary bifurcated t.

Main peduncle beneath bifurcation of flower stalk not sensitive to a rub or barely so, yet chief seat of spontaneous movement. The branch quite covered with young flower buds in naked lower part above bifurcation when rubbed slightly bends slightly. A branch which looked




like a tendril from having so very few flower buds (see drawing on opposite page) became bent in its whole length after rubbing, but the bending was much slower & less & required more rubbing than the opposite tendril-branch; shewing pretty gradation from flower branch to true tendrils. Yesterday one flower branch had no spont. movement, another had but perhaps not tied up close enough to bifurcation.—

The shoot ends thus, & is hooked, & the hook nor convex part below certainly never reverses; yet it seemed to me, (perhaps (a) from light) that the shoot moved a little from side to side.— [sketch]



May 23. Fresh shoot certainly on a bright still day & coldish uniformly dull day, swayed from side to side more than cd be accounted for by growth or changes in light— In evening came back to same exact spot, as in morning, having passed to each side during day; so I am sure some movement from side to side.

The peduncle of flower buds have some power of straightening after bending from touch, but very slowly, after 18° or 23° —

(It is pretty gradation from Vine to Cissus in which flower bunches have lost all trace of tendril origin, nor sensitive to touch & do not move.)

May 24th Case thus (2d case pencil) [sketch] (regular flower bud)—tendril with 13 buds

24th Again I have watched shoot, I believe it certainly sways from side to side a little.

A flower-bud well secured also moved; the lateral tendril did not move more than flower-branch. —


26th In Cissus discolor some shoots moved a very little, but no revolution — no shoot I believe is quite still growth & changes of light cause slight movements.—

27th I observed Cissus again I may say that neither shoots from bunch of flowers have any revolutionary movement— they move a very little backwards & forward during day, like all other plants that I have looked at.—

The Tendrils are now thus.— [sketch]

The flowers, buds & these 4 leaves with central branch.— [sketch]

Secrete nectar, little pollen; Calyx bright red—

Cissus (Dichogamy Copy for)


Begin with Cissus; only homologically we know what tendril is. — & then show by perfect gradation what it is. —

May 26. Horwood says when bunch is double, i.e. when side tendril produces fruit & it is called a "cluster"—

He has seen the common peduncle of both bunch of grapes & of lateral tendril, curl round a support like a tendril.— capital

26th very cold day I could see no rotation in tendril but in vine shoot moved a little, but not a proper revolution [sketch] this was course during whole day

May 27th Lettington has been to Horwood & has seen the main peduncle of bunch of grapes catching a leaf.— says it is the rather poor branches which alone catch— Horwood has not one "cluster" in House i.e. all with tendril. —

June 3d. I marked t. outside window on convex side with red line all branches.— The convex side became lateral & then concave, on all branches except F, which perhaps has most flower-buds. The main peduncle, however, [sketch]


moved but little & became but barely concave.

The change was quickest on C. & D. —

I think t. wd wind spirally, even if not sensitive. —

I see the several branches have independent movements.

with watch

4° 45

4° 50

4° 45

4° 30

€ nearly 5 rounds during 3 or 4 days



June 4th & 5' (A shoot bowed at end faced window. — put on bow a w splinter & described course. — a most irregular ellipse-spire with longer axis in line of bow, with some of spires of much larger size when sun hot & crossing former lines.

Some considerable lateral movement — Shaking of Pea must be considered the regular movement, though bowed tip never reverses.

One sort of € in 6°. 15 — second, when sun hot, bigger & in 2°. 30'— a third not completed.)

June 7th Observed all hot day 2 flower tendrils, rather young, with little gummed on point — they both moved obliquely, but in different directions to wall of House. & in evening returned on opposite sides:


so as to make an approach to a circle: what to say I do not know. The t. to branch does not curl & uncurl much. or at all.

These 2 flower-buds were well secured—

(Also observed a good shoot, both at curved tip & at base of good-sized half-grown tendril: both points moved; the lower less. [sketch] 2 1/4 inches

The upper made a figure about as complicated as that before drawn & lower point smaller, but more complicated line. — Hence tendril is moved. — These points did not at first move in same direction

Can hardly be light— too many up & down in course of day)

June 8th I ascertained to day that 2 flower stalks & the 2 other ones observed yesterday, during the day move a little irregularly & sideways at first from the axis & in afternoon again æ


to the axis —, so as to decrease angle between stem & main footstalk but this cannot be considered a revolution — True tendril certainly do move — My early observations were injured by whole shoot moving — The flower-stalks were naturally directed to & from the House-wall—

June 14' I have just seen flower tendril of good blossom— which had naturally caught a support stick & wound round it.. & other partial case, good — I believe I saw flower peduncle — partly twined.

(Saw flower-tendril on House with 2 or 3 flower-buds, so gradation to "Cluster" even on the poor house-plant)

(In Cissus wonderful difference between flower-tip & tendril one might well wonder how one cd pass into other, & here in Vine on same plant we have every gradation possible.—)

June 21. Blossomed t. sometimes bifurcated.



Saw several flower tendrils which had well caught objects — do not grow as big as gigantic common t.— Saw clear case of peduncle of actual [illeg] flower bud, which had bent from light— and Horwood has shown that common peduncle bends. — Spontaneous movement (except to & from axis,) doubtful.—

Jun 21. Blossom t. will at base twine splendidly— as good catchers as any on plant— will catch ever so soft a thing as lamina of leaf—

Jun 26' A flower-stalk, which bore only a dozen or ten flowers has twisted right round a stick

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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

File last updated 24 July, 2023