skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Daniel Oliver   20 July 1863

Richmond, S.W.


My dear Sir

I have been reading Dr. Hildebrand’s paper & I think it scarcely suited to N.H.R.—1 It may seem odd to talk of anything as scarcely suited when readers find we admit all manner of things suitable & unsuitable,—but we botanists have been for some time grumbling abt. the admission of papers wh. might suitably be read before Societies, &c. & we must consequently aim at least at some minimum of inconsistency. I believe Dr. Hooker to whom I have shewn the paper quite agrees.2

The subject is a very curious one.— I think Schacht in his Lehrbuch (ii. 373)3 points out that some months elapse in the Hazel (Corylus) between the application of the pollen & formation of the ovules, & this may be likely to obtain in other Corylaceae some of which are slow in their reproduction work. I must refer to his book when I return to the Herbarium in the morning.4

I do not see that you need be so fearful about yr. Catasetum.5

I shd. think Naudin would be a likely man to suggest a few good Cucurbitaceae for yr. tendril-experiments.6

very sincerely yours | Danl. Oliver

Schacht says, l.c.7

“In vielen Fällen wird der obere Theil des Pollenschlauches, wenn das untere Ende sein Ziel erreicht hat, nicht mehr ernährt, er vertrocknet alsdann mit der Narbe; man findet in solchem Falle wohl in der Fruchtknotenhöhle oder im Staubwegcanal die Schläuche, aber man vermisst den Zusammenhang derselben mit dem Pollenkorn, dem sie vormals entsprungen sind, wodurch sich Rob. Brown8 täuschen liess, indem er die Pollen-schläuche der Orchideen für Zellen des leitenden Gewebes erklärte. Dies gilt namentlich für diejenigen Pflanzen, bei welchen die Bestäubung & die Befruchtung der Zeit nach weit auseinander fallen, z.B. für die Haselnuss, Hainbuche & Erle, die im ersten Fruhjahr (die Haselnuss im Februar) bestäubt werden, zu einer Zeit, wo die beiden Samenknospen noch nicht vorhanden sind und erst im Sommer (die Haselnuss gegen Ende des Juni) zur Befruchtung kommen—”

If Hildebrand be going, as he says, to write about this in Bot. Zeit.9 I really doubt the propriety of having this paper printed in England. Nothing is made clear as to specific action of pollen-tubes &c in causing swelling of ovary. Dr. Hooker tells me Mr. Smith10 used to say—he caused some such swelling by rubbing them externally with sand!— D O.

CD annotations

7.8 z.B.... kommen—” 7.12] double scored ink


CD had sent Oliver a manuscript paper on orchid pollination, by Friedrich Hildebrand, for possible publication in the Natural History Review, of which Oliver was an editor (see letter to Daniel Oliver, 18 July [1863]).
Joseph Dalton Hooker, Oliver’s colleague at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, was also an editor of the Natural History Review.
Schacht 1856–9, 2: 373. See n. 7, below.
Oliver was an assistant in the herbarium and librarian at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (R. Desmond 1994, List of the Linnean Society of London 1863).
See letter to Daniel Oliver, 18 July [1863] and n. 10. Charles Victor Naudin was a leading authority on the Cucurbitaceae (the gourd family); CD had already consulted him regarding the crossing of varieties of melon (see letter to C. V. Naudin, 7 February 1863). See also letter from J. D. Hooker, 24 January 1863 and nn. 1 and 3.
l. c.: ‘loco citato in the place cited’ (Chambers). Oliver refers to Schacht 1856–9, 2: 373. The passage translates: In many cases the upper part of the pollen tube ceases to be nourished when the lower end has reached its goal, whereupon it dries up with the stigma. In such cases one does indeed find the tubes in the ovarial cavity or in the stylar canal, but their connection with the pollen grain, from which they originated, is missing. Rob. Brown was misled by this as he declared the orchids’ pollen tubes to be cells from the conducting tissue. This is particularly the case for those plants whose pollination and fertilization is far apart in time, such as hazel, hornbeam, and alder, which are pollinated early in the spring (February in the case of hazel), that is at a time when the two ovules are not yet present, and fertilised only in the summer (hazel at the end of June).
Robert Brown.
The reference is apparently to John Smith, curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (R. Desmond 1994).


Hildebrand’s paper is unsuitable for the Natural History Review.

Letter details

Letter no.
Daniel Oliver
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 173: 22
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4247,” accessed on 24 June 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11