International Carnivorous Plant Society

Charles Robert Darwin

Charles Robert Darwin (1809 – 1882)

Charles Robert Darwin was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, widely known for his contributions to evolutionary biology. His proposition that all species of life have descended from a common ancestor is now generally accepted and considered a fundamental concept in science. In a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, he introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breeding. Darwin has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history and was honoured by burial in Westminster Abbey.

Darwin's early interest in nature led him to neglect his medical education at the University of Edinburgh; instead, he helped to investigate marine invertebrates. His studies at the University of Cambridge's Christ's College from 1828 to 1831 encouraged his passion for natural science. His five-year voyage on HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836 established Darwin as an eminent geologist, whose observations and theories supported Charles Lyell's concept of gradual geological change. Publication of his journal of the voyage made Darwin famous as a popular author. Darwin published his theory of evolution with compelling evidence in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species.

Darwin’s contribution to our knowledge and understanding of carnivorous plants is foundational and immense. During the summer and autumn of 1860, Darwin visited the heath lands of Sussex, England, as well as the nearby moorlands of Eastbourne. Here he observed Drosera rotundifolia and was surprised to notice the frequency by which insects were affixed to the plant’s sticky leaves. This encounter began a 16-year research program to study the morphology and feeding mechanism of predominantly Drosera, but also other genera of carnivorous plants. In 1875, he published his study in a book titled Insectivorous Plants. This work focussed predominantly on Drosera but also provides an overview of Aldrovanda, Byblis, Darlingtonia, Dionaea, Drosophyllum, Genlisea, Pinguicula, Sarracenia, Nepenthes, Roridula and Utricularia. In Insectivorous Plants, Darwin provides compelling and complete evidence of carnivory and he concluded that “there is a class of plants which digets and afterwards absorb animal matter” and thus category should be regarded as “carnivores”.


For more information on the life of Charles Robert Darwin please see Wikipedia.

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Darwin Insectivorous Plants




Charles Darwin

Charles Robert Darwin