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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   4 December [1864]


Dec 4th

My dear Hooker.

Thanks for your two letters both most interesting to me.1 I am sorry for the row at R. Soc.y., but what a plucky man Huxley is for sticking up for his friends.2 I was greatly pleased & made very proud by Sabine’s address in the Reader,3 & I have told him so, only protesting that the Origin would some day soon be admitted.4 Now I feel sure that you wrote the part of the address about the Botany;5 no other human being would have written it with so much gusto; knowing this, you may well believe, how much pleased I have been. But some of your expressions are surely rather exaggerated. As for Sabine he will be sorrier than ever that I was proposed. If he really changed words of Council, no doubt Huxley was right to call him over the coals.6 Well all I can say is that I am hugely pleased with so splendid an eulogium. I wonder who aided Sabine in other parts; I suspect Busk.7 If Owen8 ever reads it he will gnash his teeth about the Succession of Forms on same continent & about large mammals, for both these subjects I have always thought he took from me & paraded as great & novel points.9 But enough & too much of this; but Sabine, through you to a very large part, has made me very proud of myself.—

I am particularly obliged about Climbers; I will quote Thomson on Butea10 & you on Dalbergia, Ruscus & Wisteria,11 & that will suffice.— I had plant in small pot of Wisteria, of which the long shoots tried for weeks to twine round a post 6 inches in diameter & always failed; yet these same shoots could ascend a thin stick perfectly.— I am very glad to hear about the Cucurbit. which I will just mention as described by Naudin:12 I have got two Bignonias besides the Ampelopsis which develope their discs, & they seem to me very curious from secreting a resinous cement, & from being enabled to envelope by actual growth the finest fibres.13 What is name of Cucurbit. genus & what is its native country? Are tips of tendrils enlarged? Are they much branched?14 I have just read through my gigantic paper on Climbers & am pleased with it;15 but Heaven knows whether it is really good. I was rather displeased with my Lythrum paper when I saw it in proof-sheets.16

Thanks for Hector’s letters—17 Is he not rather a rash speculator? But this, I believe, to be a fault on the right side.— If he can prove N. Zealand was first colonised from America, it will be grand.18

I am heartily glad that you have stirred up Linn. Soc. to publish quickly & regularly.—19

Farewell you best & kindest of correspondents, but do not kill yourself— Yours affect | C. Darwin

When next you write to Hector, suggest to him to observe what insects visit the few endemic Leguminosæ or the introduced kinds, especially white Clover.—20

It might be worth your while to consider whether a large proportion of plants in N. Zealand are destitute of white or coloured corolla.— 21


Letters from J. D. Hooker, 29 November 1864 and 2 December 1864.
CD refers to the objection raised by Thomas Henry Huxley to Edward Sabine’s address read at the Royal Society of London meeting on 30 November 1864 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 December 1864; see also letter from T. H. Huxley to J. D. Hooker, 3 December 1864, and Appendix IV).
In his address, Sabine praised CD’s Journal of researches for having first clearly enunciated the principle that existing animals bear a close relation to extinct species found in the same region, or the ‘law of the succession of Types’. Sabine also noted CD’s arguments, advanced in the same work, against the common assumption that ‘the presence of the remains of large animals necessarily implies that the country inhabited by them must have possessed a luxuriant vegetation’ (Sabine 1864, p. 508; see also Journal of researches, pp. 98–104, 208–12). In his History of British fossil mammals and birds, Owen advanced a view on large animals similar to CD’s. He criticised naturalists who assumed that large extinct mammals must have fed on perennial foliage, arguing that creatures like the mastodon could exist in cold or freezing climates because they fed on the woody fibre of hardy trees and shrubs (R. Owen 1846, pp. 261–9). In the same work, Owen referred to generalisations first enunciated in his Report to the British Association in 1844, which showed that ‘the same forms were restricted to the same provinces at the pliocene periods, as they are at the present day’ (ibid., p. xliv; see also R. Owen 1844, p. 240). In CD’s copy of R. Owen 1846, which is in the Darwin Library–CUL, he wrote ‘see my Journal’ next to this passage (see Marginalia 1: 650). In his letter to Charles Lyell, 27 [December 1859] (Correspondence vol. 7), CD explained that because Owen had claimed to have discovered the law of succession of types, and had ignored CD’s own earlier generalisations on the subject, he had cited only his own works in the discussion of the topic in Origin (see Origin, pp. 338–41).
Thomas Thomson’s observations on Butea parviflora (a synonym of Spatholobus parviflorus), conveyed to CD in the letter from J. D. Hooker, 29 November 1864, are cited in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 21–2.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 November [1864] and n. 16, and letters from J. D. Hooker, 29 November 1864 and 2 December 1864 and n. 10. CD cited Hooker’s observations on Ruscus androgynus, Wistaria, and Dalbergia in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 21–2.
The French botanist Charles Victor Naudin was a leading authority on the Cucurbitaceae (DSB). Hooker’s reference to Cucurbitaceae has not been found, but Hooker’s reply indicates that the plant in question was Peponopsis adhaerens, a member of the family Cucurbitaceae (see n. 14, below, and letter from J. D. Hooker, [6 December 1864]). CD cited Naudin’s description of Peponopsis adhaerens in ‘Climbing plants’, p. 104. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, [27 January 1864] and n. 19, and letter from Daniel Oliver, [before 31 March 1864] and n. 5.
CD made observations of the genus Bignonia at intervals between January 1863 and November 1864 (see his notes in DAR 157.1: 114–47). In his notes, he described the development of adhesive disks at the ends of tendrils in Bignonia capreolata, which penetrated the loose ends of thick wool (DAR 157.1: 140). CD discussed the adhesive properties of the plant with Asa Gray, who believed that he had seen it climbing trees covered with mosses and lichens (see letter to Asa Gray, 28 May [1864], and letter from Asa Gray, 11 July 1864). The other Bignonia to which CD refers is probably Bignonia littoralis (a synonym of Fridericia mollissima), which also formed adhesive disks (see ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 52–4). CD also made notes on Ampelopsis hederacea, a species of the family Vitaceae, dated July and August [1864] (DAR 157.2: 65–7). He observed that the tendrils secreted a resinous cement enabling them to adhere to brick (DAR 157.2: 66). In ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 52–4, 56–9, 84–7, and 103–4, CD discussed these species as illustrating the diverse activity of tendrils that had adapted to particular conditions of climbing.
Hooker’s reply indicates that the plant was Peponopsis adhaerens, which also developed adhesive disks (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [6 December 1864], and ‘Climbing plants’, p. 104). In ‘Climbing plants’, CD described the Cucurbitaceae as exhibiting a nearly perfect gradation from common tendrils to tendrils with adhesive disks at the tips (‘Climbing plants’, p. 104).
‘Climbing plants’ was read before the Linnean Society on 2 February 1865. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 November [1864], n. 13.
CD had a long-standing interest in the pollination of Leguminosae (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 7, letter to J. D. Hooker, 12 January [1858], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 15 January 1858). Partly on the basis of his experiments with bees and white clover (Trifolium repens), he had suggested that some members of the Leguminosae might be cross-pollinated by insects (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, [before 13 November 1858]). In Origin, pp. 94–5, he described the visits of hive-bees to red and incarnate clover as evidence of the mutual dependence and co-adaptation of widely divergent life forms. See also Peckham ed. 1959, pp. 183–5.
In Cross and self fertilisation, pp. 420–1, CD noted that a coloured corolla enabled bees to recognise flowers of the same species.


‘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–.

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

DSB: Dictionary of scientific biography. Edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie and Frederic L. Holmes. 18 vols. including index and supplements. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1970–90.

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

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.

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.

Sabine, Edward. 1864. [Anniversary address, 30 November 1864.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 13 (1863–4): 497–517.

‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria’: On the sexual relations of the three forms of Lythrum salicaria. By Charles Darwin. [Read 16 June 1864.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 8 (1865): 169–96. [Collected papers 2: 106–31.]


CD pleased with Huxley for defending him against Sabine. Also pleased with much of Sabine’s address. Is sure JDH wrote the botanical part.

Suggests James Hector observe which insects visit endemic New Zealand plants

and JDH examine distribution of white vs coloured corollas in New Zealand.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 255a–c
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4697,” accessed on 17 April 2024,

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