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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   9 [December 1855]



My dear Hooker

I thought you were going to snub me, & in truth I opened the paper with no little fear; but instead of that you good & wicked man you have given me much too much praise.—1 I think I must now bury seed.—

What a capital little essay yours is, & what an odd case of deception about the Loranthus.2

Adios | C. D.

I have been reflecting that it wd. be far better to bury the Charlock seed3 in a Public Garden (together with a few other kinds) for suppose some of the seeds were to grow after 10 years, What a pity it wd. then be that the seeds shd. not be tried for a large period, & I shd be then 57 years old. In a public garden with some record kept, the case wd. get more interesting every year.— But if you think it not worth while, I will try Charlock, burying it 9 inches deep & enclosing the sides with bricks on edge.— But I think it a pity if the experiment is tried at all that it is not in a Public Place.— When we meet at Club4 you can tell me what you think—

Will you give the enclosed memorandum to Mr Seeman5 with my compliments.—


Hooker had been asked to investigate the apparent vitality of acorns excavated during the construction of the Great Northern Railway by growing them at Kew. His report was published in Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, no. 49, 8 December 1855, pp. 805–6. On p. 806, Hooker referred to CD’s account on the longevity of charlock seed, published earlier: Mr. Darwin’s Charlock seed case appears to me to be for various reasons by far the best instance [of longevity] yet adduced, for he proved that the seeds grew from below the surface of the disturbed soil, and therefore could not have been recently deposited on its surface. My objection to placing implicit confidence in this case, is the want of evidence that Charlock seed will withstand the destroying effects of moisture for any number of years.
In Hooker’s report (see n. 1, above) he had illustrated his avowed scepticism for all ‘paradoxes in science’, by giving an account of his attempt, while in India, to confirm William Griffith’s discovery of a new species of Loranthus, a parasitic genus. Hooker and Thomas Thomson had found specimens of the new species, but after they examined a cross-section of the wood they discovered that it was a well-known species of Loranthus that had invaded and completely taken over the branches of a common orange-tree.
In his piece, Hooker suggested further tests to resolve ‘whether the seed can resist the effects of damp and for how long’ by burying the seed under a series of sods at different depths and examining them at yearly intervals (Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, no. 49, 8 December 1855, p. 806). See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 18 [July 1855].
The Philosophical Club of the Royal Society. CD probably attended the meeting on 20 December following the council meeting of that date at which he was present (Royal Society council minutes).
Berthold Carl Seemann.


Burying charlock seeds.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 143
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1736,” accessed on 24 March 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5