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Link: • John Ellis to Carl Linnaeus, 23 September 1768 n.s.
Dated . Sent from London (Great Britain) to (). Written in English.

London Sept[ember] 23. 1768.

Dear S[i]r.

Inclos’d I send you a very exact print of an extraordinary sensitive plant taken from one in flower, which was brought this summer from America.

I had seen about 3 years ago a dried specimen at poor Collinsons with D[octo]r Solander, who said it should be call’d Dione for the singular appearance of its leaves; but Solander being gone, and all his papers and descriptions lock’d up, I thought a pity that the world should be depriv’d of so remarkable a curiosity, especially as this was the only plant that ever flower’d in England, and the blossoms but of a short duration. I therefore sent for a painter, and have had an accurate drawing made of it, and have attempted to give a botanical description of it myself.

I think the name Dionaea better than Dione, especially as I have call’d it in English after Venus, and its trivial name of Muscipula I think not improper.

Dionaea Muscipula – in English Venus’s Flytrap.

Calyx. Perianthium pentaphyllum erectum foliolis ovato-concavis, acutis, equalibus, persistentibus.

Corolla. Petala quinque, obovato-oblonga, obtusa, concava, apicibus utrinque incurvis, striata, striae septem pellucide.

Stamina. Filamenta decem, equalia, corolla breviora, antherae subrotundae. Pollen (lente visum) tricocciforme.

Pistillum. Germen superum, subrotundum, depressum, crenatum. Stylus simplex, filiformis, filamentis brevior. Stigma patens, margine fimbriatum.

Pericarpium. Capsula, gibbosa, unilocularis.

Semina. Plurima, minima, subovata, basi capsulae adnatae. Tis an herbaceous plant from the Swamps between N[orth] and S[outh] Carolina.

The roots are fibrous and perennial.

The leaves many and inclining to bend downwards & plac’d in a circular order. They are jointed and succulent; the lower joint, which is a kind of stalk is wing’d longish and almost heartshap’d; the upper joint consists of two Lobes, each Lobe is of a semioval form; the margins of both are set with stiff hairs like the Eyebrows, which embrace each other when they close, this they do when inwardly irritated.

The inside of the lobe is full of little red glands; these glands, when magnified highly, appear like a small compress’d Arbutus berry, and are of the colour of a Garnet or beautiful red.

Among these glands on both lobes near the middle are plac’d 3, sometimes 4, minute sharp red spines, as if design’d by nature to stick into the insect, that is caught, to prevent it, escape by struggling.

The stalk of the flower is about 6 Inches high, round smooth & without leaves, ending in a spike of flowers. The flowers are milk white, and stand on footstalks, each has at the bottom a little fleshy oval pointed flowerleaf.

As this is not intended for our Philosophical Transactions, I desire, if you think proper, it may be presented to the Royal Society of Upsal. It has not yet been presented to any Society, nor intended, except yours. I have plac’d on the side of the Print a specimen or 2 of the leaves a blossom unexpanded and the parts of fructification, which I hope you’ll receive to convince you of the truth of what I have written. I hope you have receiv’d the prints of my plates which I sent you above a month ago and also a specimen from D[octo]r Garden of the Syren.

I have now some Ustiligo under consideration, and only wish that we were together to explain our sentiments to one another.

I own there is something so puzzling in the animalcules from infusions that I do not know what to think. I find that grass & the Rumex acetosella plac’d with water in viols these two months & closely corked shew not the least appearance of life nor can I agree with M[iste]r Needham about his gravey of meat but I will go on while my Eyes permit me and send you the result of my observations. Let me hear from you often. Since Solander & Banks are gone the spirit of Natural history declines in England. I wish you would send us another Apostle.

I have 3 plates now Engraving to shew the appearance of several of the Gorgonias, a new Isis, & an Meyonium, the 2 last undescrib’d, and the Gorgonias as preserv’d in Spiriti just taken out of the Sea.

My heartiest and best wishes attend you
D[ear]r S[ir]
Your most affectionate Friend
& Obligd humble Servant
John Ellis.


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1. "Dionaea, Muscipula, Descripta a Johanne Ellis" (1773), p. 98-101 .