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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   1 December [1879]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | (Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.)

Dec. 1st

My dear Hooker

I shd. be very glad of a few cotton seeds, but it is a horrid shame to trouble you, for it is only one little point which I somehow overlooked: the cotyledons, when old & large, sink downwards at night, & I neglected to prove that it was not merely their weight, with reduced tension of the tissues at night, which caused this periodical movement.—2

Your praise of the life of Dr D. has pleased me exceedingly, for I despised my work & thought myself a perfect fool to have undertaken such a job.3

I am delighted to hear that you are thinking on geographical distribution. Your present problem seems a very complex one; but I hardly know any geograph. problem that does not deserve to be so disputed.4

I wish that you had leisure sometime to go over again the case of New Zealand with all & any new lights since you published that splendid essay.5

We are coming up on Wednesday to 2 Bryanston St for 5 days & then to 6 Queen Anne St for 3 days.6

Ever yours | C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 29 November 1879.
See letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 20 November 1879, and letter from J. D. Hooker, 29 November 1879. CD discussed the movements of the cotyledons of a number of species of Gossypium (the genus of cotton) in Movement in plants, p. 303. In a note dated 12 April 1879, CD had noted that the cotyledons of some plants, possibly including Gossypium, bent permanently to the ground; he attributed the movement to epinasty, that is, increased growth on the upper side of the leaf (DAR 209.7: 138). In Movement in plants, p. 312, CD noted that in one species of Gossypium, the young cotyledons sank very little at night but the movement became more pronounced when they grew large and heavy.
Hooker had praised CD and Ernst Krause’s book, Erasmus Darwin (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 29 November 1879).
Hooker was thinking of working with Asa Gray on the geographical distribution of plants, including the relationship of the American flora to that of Europe and Asia (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 29 November 1879 and n. 5).
There is a heavily annotated copy of Hooker’s Introductory essay to the flora of New Zealand (Hooker 1853), bound with his On the flora of Australia (Hooker 1859), in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 398–403). CD was particularly interested in the relationship of the South American and the New Zealand flora (see also Correspondence vol. 6, letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 [July 1856] and n. 3).
CD and Emma Darwin stayed at 4 Bryanston Street, London, the home of their daughter Henrietta Emma Litchfield, from 3 to 8 December 1879, and at 6 Queen Anne Street, the home of CD’s brother, Erasmus Alvey Darwin, from 8 to 11 December (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


Movement of cotton plant cotyledons.

Thanks JDH for his praise of Erasmus Darwin.

Delighted that JDH is thinking about geographical distribution, wishes he would go over the New Zealand flora again.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Darwin: Letters to Thiselton-Dyer, 1873–81: ff. 193–4)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12338,” accessed on 20 May 2022,