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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   27 January [1873]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Jan. 27th

My dear Hooker.

You have been very good about Drosophyllum: the plant arrived in very fair state & after a week got into very good working condition.—2 As is always my fate no one of the unobserved points turned out as I expected; nevertheless I have made a great advance, & understand its habits far better than I did.3

It represents a very simple & primordial form, such as might have given birth to Drosera & Dionæa.—4 I suppose I may keep the specimen for a time, as I shd. like to observe it again in the summer.

Can you give me seed of Oxalis senitiva or lend me a plant?5 Perhaps seedlings wd. not be of good size in the summer.— I do not think I shd. hurt a borrowed plant, though I might have to etherise it.

Secondly can you lend me some time the Jany. nor of the Journal of Botany, as I shd. like to read a paper on Geograph. Distrib. of Plants in relation to insects.—6

I am a bothering old sinner.—

Please tell Prof. Dyer, that I have been looking again at secreting hairs, & I suspect that what I have seen & what certainly occurs when C. of Ammonia is given them, may be a very different phenomenon from what takes place with Drosera: it is perhaps some mere chemical reaction.— I shall be grateful for his notes; for I see I must look again to these hairs, or hold my tongue entirely on the subject, which perhaps wd. be the wisest course.7

Have you read Saporta in Ann. des Sc. Nat. on fossil plants of Gypsum beds of S. France: it is, I think, interesting but too long.—8

I am reading Moggridge’s book on Ants & Trap-door Spiders, & it seems to me capital: I have formed a wild-goose theory on the seeds not germinating in the ant’s nest, & must test my theory.9

We have had Moncure Conway here for a night & were greatly interested by him; & today Miss Norton is here & is very agreeable as are all Yankees, as I begin to think.10

What on earth took you down to Cheshire?11

Ever yours affecty | C. Darwin

I was delighted at news in your last note about Pres. R. Soc. & I don’t care about your hating it!—12


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 January 1873.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 January [1873] and n. 3, and letters from J. D. Hooker, 12 January 1873 and [13 or 20 January 1873]. Drosophyllum is an insectivorous plant; CD wanted to use it in experiments.
See Insectivorous plants, pp. 284, 360.
CD later discussed Oxalis sensitiva (a synonym of Biophytum sensitivum) in Movement in plants. He used ether on insectivorous plants (see, for example, Insectivorous plants, p. 219), but did not discuss it in Movement in plants.
For CD’s observations on apparent powers of absorption in the glandular hairs of Drosera and other plants, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 January [1873]. CD had experimented with carbonate of ammonia. Hooker had offered to consult William Turner Thiselton-Dyer (letter from J. D. Hooker, 7 January 1873). CD published his observations in Insectivorous plants, pp. 344–55.
CD refers to Gaston de Saporta, Saporta 1872–4, and the Annales des Sciences Naturelles. There is a lightly annotated copy of the first part of Saporta 1872–4 in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
CD refers to John Traherne Moggridge and Moggridge 1873. There is an annotated copy of Moggridge 1873 in the Darwin Library–CUL (Marginalia 1: 589). See Correspondence vol. 20, letter from J. T. Moggridge, 6 October 1872.
Hooker had been invited to stand for election as president of the Royal Society of London.


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

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

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.

Moggridge, John Traherne. 1873. Harvesting ants and trap-door spiders: notes and observations on their habits and dwellings. London: L. Reeve & Co.

Saporta, Louis Charles Joseph Gaston de. 1872–4. Études sur la végétation du sud-est de la France à l’époque tertiaire. Supplément I: Révision de la flore des gypses d’Aix. Annales des Sciences Naturelles. Botanique 5th ser. 15 (1872): 277–351; 17 (1873): 5–44; 18 (1874): 23–146.

White, Francis Buchanan. 1873. The influence of insect-agency on the distribution of plants. Journal of Botany, British and Foreign n.s. 2: 11–13.


Drosophyllum arrived; none of his observations turned out as he expected, but nevertheless he understands its habits better than he did. The secreting hairs that he observed may be explained as a mere chemical reaction.

Comments on various articles he has read.

Asks for Thiselton-Dyer’s notes.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 94: 253–6
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8185,” accessed on 9 December 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21