skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [27 January 1864]1



My dear old Friend.

I was very glad to get your last letter which crossed mine on the road.2 It told me a lot of news; for I hear from no one else. How good you are.— Nothing would please me more than to see you here, if you had time;3 but as yet it would be very rash in me, as it surely wd. bring on my vomiting, & I shd. suppose few human beings had vomited so often during the last 5 months. For several days I have been decidedly better, & what I lay much stress on (whatever Doctors say) my brain feels far stronger & I have lost many dreadful sensations.—4 The Hot-House is such an amusement to me; & my amusement I owe to you, as my delight is to look at the many odd leaves & plants from Kew.—5 Ceropegia Gardeneri is now in flower, & I think it the oddest flower I ever saw. Do you know it? with the points of the corolla stictched together in centre,—to keep out big insects I say.6

The only approach to work which I can do is to look at tendrils & climbers, this does not distress my weakened Brain— Ask Oliver7 to look over enclosed queries (& do you look) & amuse a broken-down brother naturalist by answering any which he can.— If you ever lounge through your Houses, remember me & climbing plants.—8 By the way you said that if Drosera dichotoma could be propagated, I shd. have a plant.—9 My work on climbing plants is getting pretty perfect, & really some of the facts are very curious.—

I have read by a great effort two-thirds through last N. Hist. R.;10 & by the standard of what interests me, it is the best number which has appeared. Several of the Bot. papers have interested me: that on Decaisne, I presume, is by Bentham.—11 Am I right?

When you write tell me how Mrs. Hooker:12 you have not mentioned her lately.—

Looking over your last letter; I thank you for answer about H. Spencer.—13

I can give no answer whatever about broken west-coast—14 I think there must be some deeper cause than direction of winds—

Good Heavens what makes you go to Algiers?15 Are you mad— a gentle tour would be much more wholesome.—

We are a small party at home now—only Etty & Horace, who, I much fear, is becoming a regular dyspeptic invalid.—16

Farewell my dear old friend | C. Darwin

I remember seeing lots of a big Duck weed(?)(?) in Hot-House tank at Kew:17 send me one or two in enclosed oil-silk in a letter, & I daresay they would grow with me in little pan.—



Every thing wd go very beautifully for me if botanists wd let all tendrils be modified leaves. Is evidence really strong that tendril of vine is a modified stem?19 Is there any one of the Vitiferæ with no tendrils & with opposite leaves? In Passifloræ what can the tendril be, as it arises above leaf & beneath bud?20 I know what disputes there are about tendrils of gourds—21 Is there any Clematis with true tendrils? By true I mean tendrils without leaves. During winter the persistent leaf-stalks of Traveller’s joy look like tendrils. Such plants may be called leaf climbers.22 Do you by any chance know whether there is a leaf climbing Leguminous plant?23

(There are here 4 questions.)


The date is established by CD’s reference to his letter of [25 January 1864] having crossed with Hooker’s of 24 January 1864. The first Wednesday following these two letters was 27 January.
Hooker had sent CD plants for his hothouse from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (see Correspondence vol. 11, Appendix VI, and this volume, letter to J. D. Hooker, [25 January 1864] and n. 3).
The flowers of many Ceropegia species form a trap for small flies, which, when they escape, carry off pollen (see, for example, Bentham and Hooker 1862–83, 2: 779–80). CD was observing the movement of shoots in the climbing plant Ceropegia gardnerii; he had started observing Ceropegia in 1863 (see Correspondence vol. 11, letters to J. D. Hooker, 22 July [1863] and n. 2, and 12–13 August [1863], experimental notes on Ceropegia in DAR 157.1: 10–17, and ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 4, 19, 27).
CD refers to the hothouses at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (see n. 5, above).
CD eventually borrowed a specimen of Drosera dichotoma from Dorothy Fanny Nevill (see Insectivorous plants, pp. 281–2); he experimented with this specimen and published the results in Insectivorous plants, pp. 281–4. See also letter from J. D. Hooker, 26 November [1864], and letter to D. F. Nevill, 7 September 1874 (Calendar no. 9627).
CD refers to the January 1864 issue of Natural History Review. CD’s unbound and annotated copy of this journal is in the Darwin Library–CUL; his particular interests are indicated by an index he wrote and attached to the back cover.
CD refers to Joseph Decaisne and George Bentham. Decaisne’s article ‘De la variabilité dans l’espèce du poirier; résultat d’expériences faites au Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de 1853 à 1862 inclusivement’ (Decaisne 1863) was anonymously reviewed in Natural History Review 4 (1864): 61–8.
CD refers to his daughter Henrietta Emma Darwin, who was 21 years old, and his youngest son, Horace Darwin, who was 13 years old. On Horace’s illness, see Correspondence vol. 11, letter to J. B. Innes, 1 September [1863] and n. 3.
CD had evidently seen Pistia stratiotes (water lettuce) in a hothouse at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 February 1864).
Hooker passed this query to Oliver, who replied in the letter from Daniel Oliver, [28 January – 8 February 1864].
CD was interested in determining what plant parts tendrils were derived from (see ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 110–14, and observational note dated 31 January 1864 in DAR 157.1: 121). The other botanists he alludes to include the naturalist Thomas Thomson, who had asserted that vine tendrils were modified stems (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, [21 July 1863]). CD was also aware that Asa Gray thought tendrils of the Cucurbitaceae, which include gourds, were modified branches (Gray 1857, pp. 38–9). John Stevens Henslow thought Cucurbitaceae tendrils were modified stipules (Henslow 1837, p. 72), and Thomson thought they were modified leaves (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 [July 1863]). See also Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. D. Hooker, [31 July 1863], for Hooker’s reference to Charles Victor Naudin on Cucurbitaceae tendrils, and ‘Climbing plants’, p. 73.
CD later decided that the tendrils in Vitaceae (which CD referred to as the ‘Vitiferæ’) and Passifloraceae were modified ‘flower peduncles’ (peduncles of the inflorescenses; see ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 79–87, 89–92, experimental note in DAR 157.2: 78, and letter to Daniel Oliver, 11 March [1864]). He offered several examples of the tendrils developing from flower peduncles opposite leaves (‘Climbing plants’, pp. 79–87), and wrote that the common vine presented ‘every possible grade from finely developed tendrils to a bunch of flower-buds’ (‘Climbing plants’, p. 112). CD’s experimental notes on these climbing plants and others are in DAR 157.1 and DAR 157.2.
See n. 19, above.
In ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 26–34 and 108–12, CD argued that the varying sensitivities of the petioles between species of the leaf-climber, Clematis, indicated that the genus represented a transitional stage between twining plants and tendril-bearing plants; he also later decided that some tendrils, as in the Bignoniaceae, were derived from leaves (‘Climbing plants’, pp. 49, 110–11). See ‘Climbing plants’, p. 34, for CD’s discussion of traveller’s-joy (Clematis vitalba). See also the experimental notes on C. vitalba in DAR 157.1: 78–9; the second note is dated 18 January 1864.
In ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 114–15, after discussing the transition over time of twining plants to leaf-climbers, and then to plants climbing with tendrils, CD described cases of reversion in the common bean and Lathyrus nissolia (both legumes), which he thought had ‘become modified in the course of ages’ by losing their tendrils. See also Origin 4th ed., pp. 220–1.


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

‘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–.

Decaisne, Joseph. 1863. De la variabilité dans l’espèce du poirier; résultat d’expériences faites au Muséum d’histoire naturelle de 1853 à 1862 inclusivement. Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des sciences 57: 6–17. [Reprinted in Annales des sciences naturelles (botanique) 4th ser. 20: 188–200.]

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

Origin 4th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 4th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1866.


CD continues very ill.

His only work is a little on tendrils and climbers. Asks whether all tendrils are modified leaves or whether some are modified stems.

Last number [Jan 1864?] of Natural History Review is best that has appeared.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 218
Physical description
ALS 6pp encl

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4398,” accessed on 12 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12