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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   14 [October 1862]

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Hooker

Your letter is a mine of wealth.1 But first I must scold you: I cannot abide to hear you abuse yourself, even in joke, & call yourself a stupid dog. You in fact thus abuse me; because for long years I have looked up to you as the man whose opinion I have valued more on any scientific subject than any one else in the world. I continually marvel at what you know & at what you do. I have been looking at the Genera, & of course cannot judge at all of its real value; but I can judge of amount of condensed facts under each family & genus.—2

I am glad you know my feeling of not being able to judge about one’s own work; but I suspect that you have been overworking. I shd. think you could not give too much time to Wellwitchia (I spell it different every time I write it); at least I am sure in animal kingdom monographs cannot be too long on the osculant groups.—3

Hereafter I shall be excessively glad to read paper about Aldrovanda; & am very much obliged for reference.4 It is pretty to see how the caught flies support Drosera, where nothing else can live. I answer your Query on separate slip.5

Thanks about plant with 2 kinds of anthers. I presume (if an included flower was a Cassia) that Cassia is like Lupines but with some stamens still more rudimentary.—6 If I hear I will return the 3 Melastomateds; I do not want them & indeed have cuttings; I am very low about them, & have wasted enormous labour over them & cannot yet get a glimpse of the meaning of the parts.7

I wish I knew any Botanical collector, to whom I could apply for seeds in the native land for any Heterocentron or Monchætum: I have raised plenty of seedlings from your plants; but, I find in other cases that from a homomorphic union, one generally gets solely the parent form.—8 Do you chance to know of any Botanical collector in Mexico or Peru?

Here is a pretty job: I thought Oliver9 had sent me the flowers of Impatiens, as they are so beautifully adapted for insect fertilisation:10 I did not guess that they were Impatiens & after looking at them threw them away! But anyhow I must not now indulge myself with looking after vessels & homologies. Some future time I will indulge myself. By the way sometime I want to talk over the alternation of organs in flowers with you; for I think I must have quite misunderstood you that it was not explicable.11

I found out the Verbascum case by pure accident, having transplanted one for experiment, & finding it to my astonishment utterly sterile.12 I formerly thought with you about rarity of natural hybrids;13 but I am beginning to change, viz Oxlips (not quite proven),14 Verbascum,—Cistus (not quite proven)15 ægilops triticoides (beautifully shown by Godron)16 Weddell17 & your orchids,18 & I daresay many others recorded.—

Your letters are one of my greatest pleasures in life, but I earnestly beg you never to write, unless you feel somewhat inclined; for I know how hard you work. As I work only in morning, it is different with me & is only a pleasant relaxation. You will never know how much I owe to you for your constant kindness & encouragement.

Yours affectionately | C. Darwin


The first part of the first volume of Genera plantarum (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83) was published on 7 August 1862 (Stearn 1956, p. 130); CD’s lightly annotated copy of this work is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 51–2).
Hooker was preparing a monograph on the Angolan plant Welwitschia mirabilis (J. D. Hooker 1863a). In a letter to Hooker that is now missing, CD had compared Hooker’s work on Welwitschia to his own extensive work on barnacles (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 2: 24); his comment here may have been intended to reiterate that comparison.
CD’s note has not been found; it apparently addressed a query raised by Hooker in response to CD’s letter of 26 September [1862], in which CD gave an account of his experiments on the insectivorous plant Drosera rotundifolia. Hooker’s letter has not been found, but see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 6 October [1862].
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [12 October 1862] and n. 5. In a note dated 14 October 1862 (DAR 205.8: 4), CD recorded: ‘Hooker says Cassia (Leguminosae) has different anthers. [’I thinkdel] I saw one like Lupine *but more rudimentary [interl], & believe some of Comelyneae here.—’ CD had learned from Vaucher 1841, 2: 213, that lupines exhibit two differently coloured sets of anthers; there are observational notes on the different sets of anthers in Lupinus nanus, dated 5 August 1862, in DAR 76: 92, and further notes in DAR 48: 49 v.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [12 October 1862] and n. 18. In October 1861, CD had begun to investigate the occurrence of two different sets of stamens in the flowers of the Melastomataceae, the structure and colour of the stamens facing the petals in many species differing from that of those facing the sepals (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to J. D. Hooker, 17 November [1861] and n. 14). He suspected that the Melastomataceae might exhibit a novel form of dimorphism, and continued to work on the family throughout 1862 and 1863 without ultimately being able to account for the two sets of stamens (see Cross and self fertilisation, p. 298 n., and ML 2: 292–302). CD’s notes from these experiments are in DAR 205.8.
CD had observed this phenomenon in his crossing experiments performed in 1861 and 1862 with the dimorphic Primula sinensis (see ‘Illegitimate offspring of dimorphic and trimorphic plants’, pp. 413–4).
Hooker had sent CD the flowers at his own request, so that he might trace their vascular bundles as part of his study of the homologies of plant parts (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [12 October 1862] and n. 4, and letter to Daniel Oliver, 13 October [1862] and n. 7).
CD was keen to test the commonly held view that oxlips were the hybrid offspring of primroses and cowslips. He initially maintained that the various forms were varieties descended from a common parent (Natural selection, pp. 128–33, and Origin, pp. 49–50), but as a result of his work on dimorphism in Primula, he came to distrust the experimental evidence against the occurrence of hybridisation, stating that further experiments were ‘absolutely necessary’ (‘Dimorphic condition in Primula, pp. 93–4; see also Collected papers 2: 60–1); CD carried out such experiments between 1862 and 1867 (see the experimental notes in DAR 108 and DAR 157a), as a result of which he concluded that the common cowslip, the primrose, and the Bardfield oxlip were distinct species, but that the common oxlip was a hybrid between the cowslip and the primrose (‘Specific difference in Primula).
Between 7 October and 11 December 1862, CD wrote a draft section of Variation in which he discussed ‘Facts of variation of Plants’, appearing in the published form as chapters 9 and 10 (Variation 1: 305–72; see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II)). In Variation 1: 336, CD noted that ‘undoubted species of Verbascum, Cistus, Primula, Salix, &c., frequently cross in a state of nature.’
Godron 1859, 2: 168. CD’s annotated copy of this work is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia, 1: 331–5). In Variation 1: 313 n., CD referred to Dominique Alexandre Godron’s ‘careful experiments’ showing that ægilops triticoides was ‘a hybrid between wheat and æ. ovata’.
Weddell 1852. CD cited Hugh Algernon Weddell’s account of ‘naturally produced’ hybrids between Aceras anthropomorpha (a misspelling of A. anthropomorphum, a synonym of Orchis anthropophora) and Orchis galeata (a synonym of Orchis militaris subsp. militaris, the military orchid) in Orchids, p. 19 n.
Hooker had described his observation of naturally occurring orchid hybrids in his letter to CD of [24 July 1862].


Augé de Lassus, M. 1861. Analyse du mémoire de Gaetan monti sur l’Aldrovandia, suivie de quelques observations sur l’irritabilité des follicules de cette plante. Bulletin de la Société Botanique de France 8: 519–23.

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–.

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

‘Dimorphic condition in Primula’: On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations. By Charles Darwin. [Read 21 November 1861.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 77–96. [Collected papers 2: 45–63.]

Godron, Dominique Alexandre. 1859. De l’espèce et des races dans les êtres organisés et spécialement de l’unité de l’espèce humaine. 2 vols. Paris: J. B. Baillière.

‘Illegitimate offspring of dimorphic and trimorphic plants’: On the character and hybrid-like nature of the offspring from the illegitimate unions of dimorphic and trimorphic plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 20 February 1868.] Journal of the Linnean Society of London (Botany) 10 (1869): 393–437.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

ML: More letters of Charles Darwin: a record of his work in a series of hitherto unpublished letters. Edited by Francis Darwin and Albert Charles Seward. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1903.

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.

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.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

‘Specific difference in Primula’: On the specific difference between Primula veris, Brit. Fl. (var. officinalis of Linn.), P. vulgaris, Brit. Fl. (var. acaulis, Linn.), and P. elatior, Jacq.; and on the hybrid nature of the common oxlip. With supplementary remarks on naturally produced hybrids in the genus Verbascum. By Charles Darwin. [Read 19 March 1868.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 10 (1869): 437–54.

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.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.

Vaucher, Jean Pierre Etienne. 1841. Histoire physiologique des plantes d’Europe ou exposition des phénomènes qu’elles présentent dans les diverses périodes de leur développement. 4 vols. Paris: Marc Aurel Frères.

Weddell, Hugh Algernon. 1852. Description d’un cas remarquable d’hybridité entre des orchidées de genres différents. Annales des Sciences Naturelles (Botanique) 3d ser. 18: 5–10.


Thanks for Aldrovanda reference and Cassia.

Has wasted labour on Melastomataceae without getting a glimpse of the meaning of the parts.

Wants seeds, from their native land, of Heterocentron or Monochaetum.

Is beginning to change his view about rarity of natural hybrids.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 166
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3762,” accessed on 21 June 2024,

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