Friday, 10 April 2009

I care more about Drosera than the origin of all the species in the world

So said Charles Darwin, as I've mentioned before. It's a hard quote to resist though, particularly when it gives me the excuse to include a picture of Drosera spatulata.

Lynda and I saw this Drosera, and the equally common Drosera peltata (or thereabouts), in Ku-ring-gai National Park heathland today. A lot of plants in flower, if a little sporadically - Philotheca salsolifolia (the citrus family - Rutaceae), Hemigenia purpurea (the mint family), a few of the Grevillea and Hibbertia species, and lots of banksias. All very pretty in the later afternoon light.

But growing next to the Drosera was something of far more import - its probably Zygogonium heydrichii, a green alga that usually has a purple tinge in the heathlands. We don't know much about this species but it's all over the Sydney sandstone area, in any semi-permanent water seap over sand. Under the microscope it's not one of the prettier species so I won't show you a picture of it magnified. For now you'll have to trust me that this is more interesting than it looks here:


Jarrett said...

"Far more import" in what context? Import to what? Cheers, J

Tim Entwisle said...

It's one of those quotes which does need a little context - it was in fact a temporary state of mind. That is, while he finished a paper on insect-eating plants, Drosera was indeed more important to him than all the other big questions in the world...

The quote is from a letter to Charles Lyell (24 November 1860). The full quote is (and the following bits are interesting too): 'But I will & must finish my Drosera M.S. which will take me a week, for at this present moment I care more about Drosera than the origin of all the species in the world. But I will not publish on Drosera till next year, for I am frightened & astounded at my results.I declare it is a certain fact, that one organ is so sensitive to touch that a weight of 1/78,000 of a grain (ie seventy-eight times less weight than that, viz 1⁄1000 of a grain, which will move the best chemical balance) suffices to cause conspicuous movement.— Is it not curious that a plant shd be far more sensitive to a touch than any nerve in the human body! Yet I am perfectly sure that this is true.— When I am on my hobby-horse, I never can resist telling my friends, how well my hobby goes, so you must forgive the rider.'

If you have an interest in Darwin's correspondence see: