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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   22 July [1863]

Down Bromley Kent

July 22d

My dear Hooker

I shall be very glad of the plants you mention with Tendrils.—1 I find now with 4 genera of climbing plants, which have no tendrils, that the upper free internode, night & day, sweeps a circle in 5 to 6 hours.—2 See what amusement I owe to you, all these plants & Cissus are from Kew!—

Thank Thomson for message about Tendrils of Cucurbitaceæ:3 I was thinking of asking & shd. be particularly obliged sometime for answer.— I thought from position that these tendrils were branches; but I find A. Gray in his Book calls them branches,4 & on looking at Vegetable Marrow, they did not seem to correspond so nicely with leaves as in my Echinocystis.— I shd be very glad to know whether Thomson spoke deliberately. As far as I have seen, little as yet, leaf-tendrils are sensitive but have not spontaneous movements, like tendrils of Cucurbitaceæ & Viniferæ.—5

Thank Oliver for note: I knew it was mere chance whether Hildebrand’s paper would do for N.H.R.—6 Hildebrand has two or three times been so obliging to me that I am bound to do what I can to gratify a little harmless vanity:7 I have sent it to “Annals” & Editors must settle whether worth inserting.8 In these Orchids the pollen-tubes must act like the spermathecas in insects—9

I am sorry you are so very busy so do not write any gossip for a long time, though I shd. enjoy it; but there is one point on which I do much want information. Thwaites has sent me seed of Limnothemium Indicum, which is grandly dimorphic, & he says sow it in “pan of water”; but I have no idea, how deep water ought to be & whether there ought to be Earth at bottom. Do you think Hugh Gower would know at all?10

I shall be glad to see Asa Gray’s letter.11 He tells me in a scrap about the £2000, which, I am heartily glad to hear of.12 He tells me he has no children, which he regrets because he cannot send a son to the war! Did you ever hear the like.—

GoodBye— | Yours affect | C. Darwin

How opposite our troubles are about Society— you too much, I absolutely none.—13


CD first observed this phenomenon in June with Echinocystis lobata, a plant possessing tendrils (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 [June 1863] and n. 2). CD’s experimental and observational notes on what he called ‘Twiners’ and ‘Leaf-Climbers’ are in DAR 157.1: 1–60 and 61–112 respectively. He apparently refers to his experiments with Ceropegia gardnerii (see the notes in DAR 157.1: 10–17, dated 21 July – 9 August 1863), Stephanotis floribunda (see the notes in DAR 157.1: 37, dated 14–15 July [1863]), and Aristolochia gigas ( a synonym of A. grandiflora; see the notes in DAR 157.1: 53, dated 22 July [1863]). These species, together with Cissus discolor, appear on the list of hothouse plants believed to be a record of those specimens sent to CD from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in February 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix VI).
A. Gray 1857, pp. 38–9. There is an annotated copy of this work in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 347).
CD had made extensive observations of the spontaneous rotatory movements of the upper free internode in Echinocystis lobata (Cucurbitaceae), Cissus discolor (Vitaceae), and Ampelopsis hederacea (Vitaceae); see letter to J. D. Hooker, 14 July [1863], n. 3. (Viniferae was one of the synonyms for the vine family, Vitaceae; see Lindley 1853, p. 439). In a note dated 20 January 1863, CD observed that in Bignonia speciosa, the tendrils (which he considered to be modified leaves) were sensitive; however, he could find ‘no spontaneous movement of tendril or internode’ (DAR 157.1: 133). CD later concluded that nearly all ‘twiners, leaf- and tendril-climbers’ had ‘the same remarkable power of spontaneously revolving’ (‘Climbing plants’, p. 108).
See letter from Daniel Oliver, 20 July 1863 and n. 1. The references are to Friedrich Hildebrand and to the Natural History Review.
CD probably refers to the fact that Hildebrand had offered to complete Heinrich Georg Bronn’s German translation of Orchids (Bronn trans. 1862), not realising that Bronn had already concluded it before his death on 5 July 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from Friedrich Hildebrand, 14 July 1862).
The editors of the Annals and Magazine of Natural History were Prideaux John Selby, Charles Cardale Babington, John Edward Gray, and William Francis. Neither CD’s letter, nor the reply, has been found; however, see the letter to John Scott, 25 [July 1863], and the letter to Friedrich Hildebrand, 28 July [1863]. Hildebrand’s paper was published in the September 1863 issue of the journal (Hildebrand 1863b).
The spermatheca of insects is a receptacle for the reception and storage of spermatozoa. In his paper (Hildebrand 1863b), Hildebrand described his discovery that in many orchids the ovules were not developed until weeks or months after the pollen-tubes had penetrated the stigma; CD is suggesting that the pollen-tubes functioned as receptacles for the storage of the male gametes during that period.
See letter from G. H. K. Thwaites, 8 June 1863. William Hugh Gower was foreman of the propagating department at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.


‘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.

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

Lindley, John. 1853. The vegetable kingdom; or, the structure, classification, and uses of plants, illustrated upon the natural system. 3d edition with corrections and additional genera. London: Bradbury & Evans.

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.

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.


Differences between tendrils derived from leaves and those derived from branches.

CD on Asa Gray’s attitude on the Civil War.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 199
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4250,” accessed on 19 July 2024,

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