skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   1 July [1863]

Down Bromley Kent

July 1st

My dear Hooker

We were all delighted at your account of Royalty & Aristocracy.1 What an advantage it is to correspond with a man who habitually moves in the highest circles of fashion!!— When you can spare let me read N. Zealand newspapers about Haast.2 Do not forget hot-house Lythrum-like flowers with 2 pollens.—3

I am sure I am not surprised that at this time of year, & with all your routine work, & most proper necessity of visiting (this is a sore point with me for our children’s sake) that you have not much time for extra science: I have for years marvelled how on earth you have done such gigantic work, & retained a stomach & brains still good for anything.—

Thanks to you & Oliver about Tendrils; I thought all might have been known.4 I have blundered in my last letter (I invariably do blunder at first), not about main fact of rotation, but about the means. It is a curiously complicated case & you must let me tell you a little about it. I find that when the shoot is securely lashed close above & below tendril, the tendril itself moves incessantly to & fro, but cannot make a circle. Secondly when tendrils are cut close off, so that neither their weight nor movement can affect the shoot itself, the shoot incessantly twists on its own axis (from 100o to 180o ) from one side to the other. This twisting movement causes the whole shoot to move (about 30o) from side to side. Now from the correspondence in rate of movement of the tendril itself & of the gyratory movement of the shoot, I believe that after the tendril has moved one way & is ready to come back, the shoot twists & throws the tendril over to the opposite side, & then it travels back, & so performs a circle. In the pretty Cissus discolor which you gave me, the movement is entirely confined to the tendril itself, & it sweeps its circle in about 5 hours, day & night.— I hope I have not bored you with these details. Perhaps some day I will write a little paper on these movements—5

I have just read & laughed again over your splendid letter. I must get Goldwin Smith’s book & read it.6

Ever yours affect | C. Darwin


In his letter to CD of 19 June 1863 Hooker promised to send CD a newspaper account of Julius von Haast’s explorations in New Zealand. Haast evidently also sent the articles to CD, who received them later in July (see letter to Julius von Haast, 18 July [1863] and n. 4.
CD refers to his experiments on climbing plants, begun in June 1863. There are notes on CD’s experiments with Echinocystis lobata (dated 16 June – 29 July 1863) in DAR 157.2: 29–51, and on his experiments with Cissus discolor (dated 30 June – 18 July [1863]) in DAR 157.2: 55–6. CD carried out numerous experiments on this subject in 1863 and 1864, and his paper entitled ‘Climbing plants’ was read before the Linnean Society on 2 February 1865 (see also the observational and experimental notes in DAR 157.1 and 157.2); his observations on E. lobata and C. discolor are given in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 74–7 and 83–4.


‘Climbing plants’: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 2 February 1865.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 9 (1867): 1–118.

Smith, Goldwin. 1863. The Empire. A series of letters published in ‘The Daily News,’ 1862, 1863. Oxford and London: John Henry & James Parker.


Describes experiments on rotation of tendrils and shoots.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 198
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4227,” accessed on 15 April 2021,

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