skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   22 June [1856]1


June 22d

My dear Hooker

A full abstract on the Laburnum case is given in Flora Neue Reihe. VI Jahrgang. 1 B. 1848. p. 26.2 & I have seen another abstract in Gærtner:3 the case is worthy of your consideration: I cannot see how there well can be a fallacy; but then I am as credulous as you are sceptical,—oh, how credulous I must be!—4

I said I would not trouble you about the plants of N. W. northern N. America,5 but on reflection, I shd. be very glad to know a little more so as to be (probably) able to say “Dr. Hooker informs me that about a dozen (or half-dozen, or score) of plants grow there, which have not been found in Siberia or in central (or Eastern?) America.6

You see I do not want you to waste time in a rigorous search.— As far as I can make out the distribution of sea-shells in Arctic regions, it seems to agree very closely with that (as far as I can see) of Plants—7

I have just received the ticket from Mrs. Hooker, please give her my thanks. I daresay I can send it again.— Mrs. Darwin is hardly at all better; indeed she has rather gone back.—8

Yours very truly | C. Darwin


Dated by the relationship to the letter to J. D. Hooker, 17–18 [June 1856].
CD refers to Christian Friedrich Hornschuch’s paper on the sporting of plants (Hornschuch 1848) in which an account is given of Siegfried Reissek’s case of red flowers appearing on an ordinary yellow-flowered laburnum (Hornschuch 1848, pp. 25–7). CD had recorded Hornschuch 1848 in his list of books to be read (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, *128: 177).
Gärtner 1849, pp. 624–9. Reissek’s case is described on p. 628. In his copy of Gärtner 1849, in the Darwin Library–CUL, CD wrote next to this passage: Case of sport in common Laburnum with flowers like C. Adami Is not this like the orchis case? Were they sterile? The sports and parent in Austrian Bramble are sterile.— (Herbert has shown are sterile in Hort. Journal) CD refers to Herbert 1847. CD’s annotated copy of the Journal of the Horticultural Society of London in which the paper appeared is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
The appearance of different and sometimes also parti-coloured flowers on the laburnum was known to occur only on plants of mixed ancestry. CD had expressed much interest in the phenomenon in 1847 (see Correspondence vol. 4, letters to J. D. Hooker, [2 June 1847] and [10 June 1847]) with reference to garden plants at that time called Cytisus adami (Laburnocytisus adamii). Nevertheless, Reissek had insisted that the parent of his coloured flowers was a pure specimen of the aboriginal species of laburnum, Cytisus laburnum. CD’s reference indicates that Hooker probably thought Reissek was mistaken about the identity of the plant. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 September [1856].
This correlation between subarctic plants and the seashells common to the shores of Europe and North America was discussed in Natural selection, p. 539.
Emma Darwin, aged 48 on 2 May, was in the fourth month of her tenth pregnancy.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Gärtner, Karl Friedrich von. 1849. Versuche und Beobachtungen über die Bastarderzeugung im Pflanzenreich. Mit Hinweisung auf die ähnlichen Erscheinungen im Thierreiche, ganz umgearbeitete und sehr vermehrte Ausgabe der von der Königlich holländischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Stuttgart: E. Schweizerbart.

Hornschuch, Christian Friedrich. 1848. Ueber Ausartung der Pflanzen. Flora, oder allgemeine botanische Zeitung n.s. 6: 17-28, 33–44, 50–64, 66–86. [Vols. 5,6]

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.


CD sends reference for "Laburnum case", with comment on his own credulity.

Wants to quote JDH on plants endemic to NW. America.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 165
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1908,” accessed on 20 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6