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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   9 February [1862]1

Down Bromley Kent

Feb. 9th Sunday

My dear Hooker

I hear that the Box with Melastomas is at Bromley & I will send for it tomorrow.2 As I have never looked at dryed flowers, Heaven knows what I shall make of them: it is wonderfully kind in you to send them.— I particularly beg you to tell Bentham (as he may think me the most unreasonable of mortals) that I never for a moment thought of his investigating points; I asked only in case he had the subject at his fingers’ ends.3 I thought he could have told about the pistil of Heterocentron, by just looking at a sheet of dried specimens.— When Heterocentron Mexicanum flowers I shd. rather like to see a flower.—4 Also please thank Oliver for his most valuable short extract & references:5 pistil “plus minusve sigmoides”6 tells a whole story; I do not doubt they will turn out a new form of dimorphism, & I can see my way to meaning of odd positions & forms of the two sets of stamens.

I am now crossing Monochætum.7 Have you this genus in flower? The case seems worth working out; as I shd. not be at all surprised if most flowers with 5 or 4 long & short stamens turned out dimorphic.— I wish I had more time. I am sometimes half tempted to give up Species & stick to experiments; they are much better fun.— Many thanks for the curious Stellaria case.—8 If you had time you ought to look at the pollen of Bletia hyacinthina: it is quite unlike other Bletias & exactly the same as in Epipactis.9 From the few drawings which I have seen of Arethuseæ, the group looks to me like a refuge for the destitute.10

You allude to a “long frightful scrawl” on Aristocracy which you tore up, & we all most heartily abused you for it; for we should all have liked beyond anything to have seen it.11 How I shd. have chuckled with my demoniacal feelings to have heard you raise a laugh against Owen:12 I can well imagine how savage & revengeful his eye must have glared at you.

Bates & Murray are now negotiating about his Book:13 I am very glad you have been so much struck with the man: he seems to me quite out of the common way. I cannot help rather groaning over your Genera Plantarum, though I can quite believe it the most useful & difficult job a man could undertake—14

Farewell | my dear Hooker | Ever yours | C. Darwin


The year is established by the references to Bates 1863 and Bentham and Hooker 1862–83 (see nn. 13 and 14, below).
CD had sent a diagram of Heterocentron to George Bentham and asked for his explanation of some details about its structure, but Bentham had declined to assist (see letter to George Bentham, 3 February [1862], and letter to Asa Gray, 16 February [1862]).
CD had asked for flowers of this plant in his letter to J. D. Hooker, [30 and 31 December 1861] (Correspondence vol. 9), but Hooker had replied that it was ‘just out of flower’ (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [1 January 1862]).
Daniel Oliver had supplied CD with a reference to a monograph by Charles Naudin on the Melastomataceae (see letter from Daniel Oliver, [4–8 February 1862]).
Plus minusve sigmoides: ‘more or less sigmoid’.
CD began a crossing experiment with Monochaetum ensiferum on 7 February 1862, using a plant belonging to his neighbour George Henry Turnbull (DAR 205.8: 24). He continued to work on this species until May 1863. See the dated experimental and observational notes in DAR 205.8: 22–41.
In his letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 January [1862], CD had discussed the apparently atypical pollen of a specimen of Bletia sent him by Hooker. He noted the resemblance of the pollen-masses of Bletia to those of Epipactis in Orchids, p. 162 n.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 January [1862] and n. 2. In Orchids, p. 269, CD reported that he had not seen any living flowers of this orchid tribe.
In the letter from J. D. Hooker, [31 January – 8 February 1862], Hooker mentioned an incident involving himself and Richard Owen that occurred during a meeting of the Linnean Society of London.
Bentham and Hooker 1862–83. CD regretted the length of time the project would take to complete, saying he would not be able to ‘enter on & understand’ Hooker’s work (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to J. D. Hooker, 18 [December 1861]). The first part of the first volume of Genera plantarum went to press in December 1861 (see Stearn 1956, p. 129; see also letter from J. D. Hooker, [19 January 1862]).


Bates, Henry Walter. 1863. The naturalist on the River Amazons. A record of adventures, habits of animals, sketches of Brazilian and Indian life, and aspects of nature under the equator, during eleven years of travel. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

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

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.

Stearn, William T. 1956. Bentham and Hooker’s Genera plantarum: its history and dates of publication. Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History 3 (1953–60): 127–32.


Thanks JDH for box of melastomes

and a very valuable reference from Daniel Oliver.

Is crossing Monochaetum which he thinks is dimorphic.

Is "sometimes half tempted to give up species & stick to experiments".

Pollen of Bletia hyacinthina is quite unlike other Bletia species but exactly the same as Epipactis.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 143
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3440,” accessed on 16 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10