skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [28 April 1860]1



Dear Dn.

I have had a pretty good examination of Leschenaultia, but have not found pollen-tubes in any part of stigma or style. I have however I think satisfied myself that the external viscid surfaces (there are 2, one on each lip) have nothing whatever to do with the stigmatic surfaces,

1    They have not the structure.

2. They are outside the bundles of nutrient Vessells of style. ∴

3    They do not & cannot communicate with conducting tissue of style.

4    There is a perfectly good & normal stigmatic surface directly communicating with the conducting tissue, where it ought to be, at the base of the cup inside, on each lip, but most developed on the smaller lip. These surfaces are bona fide structurally, ie. histologically “stigmatic”—& I have no doubt, had we fine weather & impregnated flowers, we should find pollen tubes in them.

Brown remarks that some species are impregnated after Expansion, by pollen of other flowers,—I know not on what facts he goes—others he says by pollen retained in the indusium on its closing.2

I see no flaw in your style & nectary conclusions— In most (all?) irregular flowers the greatest development of perianth & stamens is towards axis of plant (or turned away by resupination of flower) & is balanced by greater development of nectary on opposite side of flower. This appears to me to throw the curvature of the style necessarily in the position you indicate.— it is as it were pushed towards the side where the development of perianth &c is greatest & this is in diagram part counteracted by the endeeavor of style as central organ to keep straight—which results in bend of stigma to nectary side. I think this is so in all plants whether they have nectaries or no— It is a case of force & direction of growth.

Ever yrs affy | Jos D Hooker

P.S. No record of Digitalis with 5th. rud. stamen.— ask Masters.3


There is in Herb. Hook. a specimen of a Primula collected at Over, Cheshire May 1824 by W. Wilson Esq.5 of which that excellent Brit. Botanist says,

“Primula elatior, with simple & umbellate flower-stalks,— I think this specimen (having the leaves of the proper shape assumed by Sir J. E. Smith) as a character for P. elatior would have convinced him of that being only a variety of P. vulgaris

In Hook Herb. there seem to be all sorts of intermediates in foliage & inflorescence.

There is a good remark by H.C.W. in Hook & Arn. Brit. Flora, that all the forms of Cowslip & Cowslip–oxlip have short tomentum—6 all of Primrose & Primrose–oxlip have long villous hairs (on scape &c). I find this holds pretty well in all the Herb. Hook specimens: but is at best rather hazy character.

CD annotations

0.1 Dear … closing. 2.3] crossed pencil
Top of first page ‘Ch. 3’7 brown crayon, underl brown crayon Enclosure: ‘April 28/1860’ pencil; ‘Ch. 4.—’8 pencil

CD note:9

Mucuna, some particulars.— *Did it ever set seeds before. [added]10 | Primrose & Cowslip on same root11 | Thesium12 | Bentham on S. or N. limit [above del ‘range’] of plants, how abrupt?13 | Bentham, whether in genus Digitalis, rudiment of 5th stamen, ever occurs.14


Dated by the relationship to the letters to Joseph Dalton Hooker, 26 April [1860] and 27 April [1860]. In 1860, 28 April was a Saturday.
Brown 1814, pp. 559–61.
Maxwell Tylden Masters was an expert on plant teratology. CD had expressed interest in Masters’s recent lecture on the subject (Masters 1860), given at the Royal Institution on 16 March (see letters to M. T. Masters, 7 April [1860] and 13 April [1860]). See CD note and n. 14, below.
There were apparently two enclosures sent with the letter, each containing answers to some of the questions posed by CD in the letters to J. D. Hooker, 26 April [1860] and 27 April [1860]. The first enclosure is in DAR 166.2: 262. It was dated by CD ‘April 28/1860’ and further marked in pencil: ‘Ch. 4.—’. The second enclosure (see CD note) was a list of queries in CD’s hand, perhaps given to Hooker during his recent visit to Down and now returned by Hooker with his answers added. See nn. 9–14, below.
William Wilson had described several mosses for Hooker 1844–7; he had also contributed to the second edition of James Edward Smith and James Sowerby’s English botany (1832–46).
Hooker refers to Hewett Cottrell Watson, as cited in William Jackson Hooker and George Arnott Walker Arnott’s British flora (1850).
CD’s annotation refers to chapter 3 of Natural selection, ‘On the possibility of all organic beings occasionally crossing’.
CD’s annotation refers to chapter 4 of Natural selection, on variation under nature.
The note is in DAR 100: 157. On it Hooker wrote his response to CD’s queries. The first page was crossed by CD in pencil. A paragraph in Hooker’s hand relating to the northern and southern limits of plants (see n. 13, below) was also crossed in pencil. CD marked the bottom of the note ‘Ch. 3’ in brown crayon. See n. 7, above.
Hooker’s answer to the first question reads: ‘see back   Mucuna never set any seed till impregnated, by us, in our great Palm Stove when fruit ripened & seeds were raised.’ Mucuna is a tropical and subtropical genus of leguminous vines.
Hooker’s answer reads: ‘—See note in letter’. Hooker refers to the first enclosure. CD had come across a report of this abnormal flower stem in Masters 1860, p. 224.
Hooker’s answer reads: ‘— translation of quotation enclosed’. In Masters 1860, p. 225, Masters stated that Siegfried Reissek (in Reissek 1843) had been led ‘in some measure, to anticipate the views of Mr. Darwin’. The translation to which Hooker refers was one prepared by Frances Harriet Hooker of a passage from Reissek 1843, pp. 653–4. It is bound in CD’s copy of Masters 1860 (Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL). See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 April [1860] and n. 3. Thesium is a tropical parasitic plant.
Hooker’s answer reads: ‘see back of this    Bentham’s observations on limits of plants did not refer to N. & S. limits, but to abrupt termination of certain Spanish plants in S. France towards Cevennes— The more I think, the more I feel satisfied that N. & S. limits of plants are not at all abrupt like of animals.’ The reference is to Bentham 1826, p. 6.
Hooker’s answer reads: ‘see letter’.


Bentham, George. 1826. Catalogue des plantes indigènés des Pyrènées et du Bas-Languedoc, avec des notes et observations sur les espèces nouvelles ou peu connues; précédé d’une notice sur un voyage botanique, fait dans les Pyrénées. Paris: Madame Huzard imprimeur-libraire.

Brown, Robert. 1814. General remarks, geographical and systematical, on the botany of Terra Australis. Appendix 3, pp. 533–613, in vol. 2 of Flinders, Matthew, A voyage to Terra Australis. 2 vols., and atlas. London.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1844–7. Flora Antarctica. 1 vol. and 1 vol. of plates. Pt 1 of The botany of the Antarctic voyage of HM discovery ships Erebus and Terror in the years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. London: Reeve Brothers.

Masters, Maxwell Tylden. 1860. On the relation between the abnormal and normal formations in plants. [Read 16 March 1860.] Notices of the Proceedings at the Meetings of the Members of the Royal Institution of Great Britain 3 (1858–62): 223–7.

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.


Has examined Leschenaultia and concludes the external viscid surfaces have nothing to do with the stigmatic surface. Agrees with CD’s style and nectary conclusions; accounts for their form and position in irregular flowers by describing floral development.

[Enclosed are some queries by CD with answers by JDH. Gives information on seed setting by Mucuna

and an opinion on the abruptness of N. and S. limits of plant ranges.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 100: 150–1, DAR 166.2: 262
Physical description
ALS 4pp †, CD note 2pp † (by JDH) encl 1p, sketch (by JDH)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2774,” accessed on 23 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8