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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   17 December [1860]1

Down Bromley Kent

Dec. 17th

My dear Hooker

Thanks about the Hooked Palm,2 & for your jolly note written by a gentleman lolling in his arm-chair.

I have just been ordering a Photograph of self for a friend; & have ordered one for you & for Heaven-sake oblige me & burn that now hanging up in your room. It makes me look atrociously wicked.—3

When will it do to send me the Apocynum androsæfolium (I enclose address):4 can you find out for me whether it seeds in open air, or had I better keep it in Greenhouse to seed. In the Spring I must get you to look for long pistils & short pistils in the rarer species of Primula & in some allied Genera.—   It holds with P. Sinensis    You remember all the fuss I made on this subject last Spring:5 well the other day at last I had time to weigh the seeds, & by Jove the Plants of Primrose & Cowslip with short pistils & large-grained pollen are rather more fertile than those with long pistils & small grained pollen. I find that they require the action of insects to set them, & I never will believe that these differences are without some meaning.

Some of my experiments lead me to suspect that the large-grained pollen suits the long pistils & the small-grained pollen suits the short pistils. But I am determined to see, if I cannot make out the mystery next Spring.6

How does your Book on Plants brew in your mind?7 Have you begun it? Farewell.—   Since receiving your note, I have read Phillips & such weak, washy stilted stuff I never read—8

Farewell | C. Darwin

Remember me most kindly to Oliver.9 He must be astonished at not having a string of questions, I fear he will get out of practice!

P.S.— | If I can keep pretty well I shall be at Club on Thursday.10 How I wish there was any chance of seeing you there.— If you do come, do let me sit by you.—


The year is given by the reference to Phillips 1860.
See preceding letter. The photograph that CD refers to as making him look ‘atrociously wicked’ is that taken by Maull and Polyblank circa 1855. See Correspondence vol. 5, facing p. 448 and letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 May [1855].
CD had been discussing the identity of this plant, which he remembered as growing in the garden of The Mount in Shrewsbury, with Daniel Oliver, a colleague of Hooker’s at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. See letter to Daniel Oliver, 16 November [1860], and letter from Daniel Oliver, 23 November 1860.
See letters to J. D. Hooker, 26 April [1860], 11 May [1860], and 12 July [1860].
CD read a paper on the two forms of flowers, or dimorphic condition, of Primula at a meeting of the Linnean Society in November 1861. See Correspondence vol. 9 and Collected papers 2: 45–63. The paper was eventually published in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 77–96.
CD had urged Hooker to compile his published materials into a new volume. See letters to J. D. Hooker, 8 February [1860], 12 March [1860], and 18 [March 1860].
See n. 4, above. Oliver was also assisting CD with his study of insectivorous plants.
There was a meeting of the Philosophical Club of the Royal Society on Thursday, 20 December 1860, at which William Benjamin Carpenter reported on George Charles Wallich’s findings from the North Atlantic telegraph survey. CD’s name does not appear in the list of members present (Philosophical Club minutes, Royal Society).


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Phillips, John. 1860. Life on the earth, its origin and succession. Cambridge and London: Macmillan and Co.


Analysing results of last spring’s Primula experiments, CD infers pollen of short-styled plants "suits" long-styled plants.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 81
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3024,” accessed on 16 April 2024,

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