skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   15 February [1863]1

Down Bromley Kent

Feb. 15th | Sunday

My dear Hooker

We got home last evening, all wonderfully improved by our London trip.—2 I cannot tell you how thoroughily I enjoyed seeing you at Kew.—3

I enclose scrap from A. Gray: he is easing down:4 I have thought you might like to see what he says on democracy of Plants.— Please return it. But I write now, because the new Hothouse is ready & I long to stock it, just like a school-boy.—5 Could you tell me pretty soon what plants you can give me; & then I shall know what to order.6 And do advise me how I had better get such plants as you can spare. Would it do to send my tax-cart early in morning,7 on a day that was not frosty, lining the cart with mats; & arriving here before night.

I have no idea whether this degree of exposure & of course the cart wd be cold, would injure stove plants: they would be about 5 hours (with bait) on journey home.— Will you have kindness to consult Mr. Gower?8 It would give all you at Garden less trouble just to pack them in bottom of tax-cart, but I shd. be very sorry if they were injured & would much rather of course wait till Spring.—

Remember Gloxinias, 2 or 3 plants (of same species) of erect & of drooping .9

I thought I had overrated adaptation of orchids, but I believe I have underrated it; for A. Gray sends me letter of good entomologist, who has been observing & he most truly remarks that pollinia must be placed to adhere either to eye or proboscis, for rest of body covered with loose scales; & by Jove all the pollinia that I have seen were attached to these two parts.—10

I have 15 letters to write, so farewell. My dear old friend | C. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to CD’s return from London (see n. 2, below).
CD had been in London, staying with his brother Erasmus Alvey Darwin, from 4 to 14 February 1863 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix II)).
Emma Darwin recorded in her diary (DAR 242) that they visited the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on 11 February 1863.
See letter from Asa Gray, 27 January 1863. The reference is to Asa Gray’s view of British attitudes to the American Civil War (see Correspondence vol. 10).
The hothouse was constructed under the supervision of John Horwood, George Henry Turnbull’s gardener (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 December [1862], and this volume, letters to J. D. Hooker, 13 January [1863] and 30 January [1863], and letter to G. H. Turnbull, [16? February 1863]). See also Appendix VI.
CD had apparently given Hooker a list of plants he wished to obtain during his visit to Kew (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [16 February 1863]).
Tax-cart: ‘a spring-cart paying a low rate of duty’ (OED).
William Hugh Gower was a gardener at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (R. Desmond 1994).
CD probably made this request when he visited the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (see nn. 2 and 3, above). For CD’s interest in species of Gloxinia, see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to John Scott, 19 December [1862], and this volume, letter to Isaac Anderson-Henry, 20 January [1863], and letter to John Scott, 20 [June 1863].
With his letter to CD of 27 January 1863, Gray enclosed a letter from Samuel Hubbard Scudder detailing this observation, illustrated with reference to a butterfly of the genus Nisoniades that had the pollinia of Platanthera hookeri attached (see the first enclosure with the letter from Asa Gray, 27 January 1863). CD included the information in Orchids 2d ed., p. 76.


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

Desmond, Ray. 1994. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers. New edition, revised with the assistance of Christine Ellwood. London: Taylor & Francis and the Natural History Museum. Bristol, Pa.: Taylor & Francis.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Orchids 2d ed.: The various contrivances by which orchids are fertilised by insects. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition, revised. London: John Murray. 1877.


Asa Gray on democracy of plants.

Requests plants for new hothouse. Transferring plants to Down in winter.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 181
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3986,” accessed on 27 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11