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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [18 May 1862]1

Leith Hill Place


My dear old friend.

I cordially thank you for your two letters; & for your answers to all my questions. Leschenaultia seems very odd:2 I will try with pollen left on for 48 hours; for I I am sure I could trace the tubes for some way. It seems to me very curious that anthers should shed the pollen, & then the indusium collect it, ultimately to be removed again & placed on stigma. It is a good illustration of a point which I discuss & endeavour to explain in the orchid-book, namely the diversity of structure, acquired by successive modifications, for same purpose.3 You have pleased me much by what you say in regard to Bentham & Oliver approving of my book;4 for I had got a sort of nervousness & doubted whether I had not made an egregious fool of myself, & concocted pleasant little stinging remarks for Reviews,—such as “Mr Darwin’s head seems to have been turned by a certain degree of success, & he thinks that the most trifling observations are worth publication” &c &c &c &c.—

You say that you have no Goodeniaceæ;5 I suppose this refers to having none to dissect; or did you think that I asked for them? It is any Melastomatads, going into flower & which would stand my greenhouse for a short period, which I am so anxious to experiment on, & which I feel nearly sure will give important results.—6 I fear it will be no satisfaction to you, but upon my soul, I do feel deeply guilty at the degree to which I trouble you; & you never in all your life have given me a rebuf. Now mind do not answer on purpose, but at some time tell me what the enclosed Sikkim R[h]od. is;— it has a reflexed pistil like R. Boothii & secretes nectar within the stamens all round the germen!7 R. Dalhousianum secretes nectar on lower side of flower; so that I do not fear the usual law will hold with respect to bending of pistil & position of nectar.—

We heard from William this morning; he asked me, supposing that you asked him to Kew within a fortnight, whether he might put it off for a week or so, till another Sunday was convenient to you, & I told him that I was sure you would let him do so.—8

Emma sends her love to Mrs. Hooker & desires me to say that she quite forgot to thank Mrs. H. for a very nice photograph.—

Good Bye my dear old fellow | C. Darwin

P.S. Are you rich in Leschenaultia formosa   I shd. like to try whether the visid surface outside the indusium can be fertilised; that inside can be in this species be fertilised.—9

Many thanks for Saxifrages.—10


Dated by the relationship to the letters from J. D. Hooker, [16 May 1862] and [17 May 1862] (see nn. 2, 4, and 5, below), and by reference to the Darwins’ stay at Leith Hill Place, home of Caroline Sarah Wedgwood and Josiah Wedgwood III. The Darwins stayed at Leith Hill Place from 15 to 22 May 1862 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II)). In 1862, 18 May fell on a Sunday.
See letters from J. D. Hooker, [16 May 1862] and [17 May 1862].
This point is discussed in Orchids, pp. 346–51, in a section entitled ‘Cause of the vast diversity of structure for the same general purpose’.
CD mentioned his interest in Rhododendron boothii in the letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 [May 1862]. For Hooker’s identification of CD’s specimen, see the letter from J. D. Hooker, 19 [June 1862]. There is a note describing the bent pistils of rhododendrons in DAR 49: 77–8, dated ‘May 16— 62.’
The letter from William Erasmus Darwin has not been found. Hooker had invited William to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 9 May [1862]). See also letter from J. D. Hooker, [5 May 1862], and letter to W. E. Darwin, [8 May 1862].


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.


Leschenaultia seems very odd. Will try with pollen left on for 48 hours. Illustrates diversity of structures for same purpose.

Bentham’s and Oliver’s good opinion of Orchids is reassuring.

Anxious to experiment on Melastomataceae; thinks it will give important results.

Wants Leschenaultia formosa to try whether viscid outside surface can be fertilised.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Leith Hill Place
Source of text
DAR 115: 154
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3558,” accessed on 15 July 2024,

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