This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In the December number of the Gardener's Monthly appears a very interesting article from Peter Henderson in regard to some recent experiments made by him on the Venus fly-trap Dionaea muscipula. The article starts out with a quotation from some journal as follows: "Mr. Francis Darwin has proved very conclusively the truth of his father, Charles Darwin's position, that the co-called carnivorous plants do make use as food of the plants they catch. A large number of plants were fed on meat, and as many on what they could get from the earth as best they could, and the difference in growth and final product were very much in favor of the meat-fed plants".
Mr. Henderson says, "Resolving to fairly test the correctness of Mr. Darwin's theory, I last season procured a large number of Dionaea muscipula." He then speaks of feeding them and states that the plants fed did no better than those not fed with meat, etc. There are one or two points in this to which I wish to call attention. The quotation from the journal on the start by Mr. Henderson, and the remarks which follow, would indicate that he was experimenting on the same species of plants experimented on by Mr. Francis Darwin. Such is not the case. In Nature, p. 222, January, 1878, is an article by Francis Darwin, read at a meeting of the Linnaean Society. Mention of this article has been all through the press of this country. The plants used were 200 of Drosera rotundifolia, Sun Dew, and not those used by Mr. Henderson. This difference in the selection of plants by the two experimentors ought to have been stated by the author or by the editor, if either of them knew the name of the plants used by Mr. Darwin. Let all of us treat our opponents with candor and fairness, if we wish to win.
Now as to Mr. Charles Darwin's theory, we have two sets of experiments on record, one by his son on one genus of plants, another by Henderson on another genus, and no doubt there are others made by other parties. I. have thought that the glandular hairs of tomatoes, petunias, and martynias might absorb nourishment from animal substances applied to them. This season I had an assistant raise some plants of the three genera named above. To one lot of each were applied on numerous occasions, beef soup. All plants thus treated were damaged more or less. The soup seemed to injure the leaves. But I do not consider that I have overthrown Mr. Darwin's theory. The soup may have been too strong, or of the wrong material, or perhaps the glands will not profit by the application of animal matter in any form.