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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   29 October 1873

Royal Gardens Kew

Oct 29/73

Dear Darwin

I have sent by post to day sprigs of some 20 species of acacia with plane of leaf radial to length of twig & 15 or so eucalypti of sorts.1 (For heaven’s sake do not go to a Nursery for such things as these, I can give you any quantity either twigs or pot-plants.) Also I send some sprays of Acacia Farnesiana— it is the only pinnate leaved specimen of the lot.— The pinnæ are very small


about so big—

We are still busy at Nepenthes— Dyer making excellent drawings & working like a horse at it.— We have independently found the spiral vessells going to the glands & ending in a bunch under them—2

We began on Virgin pitchers before your letter arrived, or at least had concluded to do so.3 The action is the same, 2 hours or so after the physicking with Carb. Am.4 solution the cell-contents show pellets of protoplasm; but the motion cannot be seen— & the whole investigation is fearfully difficult compared with Drosera.

The results of white of egg are not yet pronounced. The experiment is progressing.

What you say of the glands being secreting organs is suggestive— & may account for the pouches in which they lie pointing downwards— but I suppose they must be both digestive & secretive— as I understand Drosera hairs to be. The fluid of the Virgin pitcher is very slightly acid. I find the cells of the glands of old pitchers (full of insects) with very aggregated contents.

I have some Drosophyllum seeds, so please tell me what experiment you want made.5

When you come to town will you let me take you to call on Lord Russell in Richmond Park— he & Lady R. are most anxious to see you & are such nice people— Of course I have told them that it is out of the question.—6

When Nepenthes is as much done as you want I will turn to Cephalotus & Sarracenia.7

We can give you Lathyrus Nissolia seeds8

I fear that we shall not get Acacia & Mimosa to strike at this season; but why not have a big plant of former   Frank took dimensions of pot.9 Better still come to Kew when in London & select.

Ever yours affec | J D Hooker

CD annotations

2.2 We … them— 2.4] triple scored red crayon


CD had asked for Acacia farnesiana from Kew in his letter to Hooker of 26 October [1873]; it was sent on 31 October (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Outwards book). He discussed Acacia farnesiana (now Vachellia farnesiana), A. lophantha (now Paraserianthes lophantha), A. retinoides, and Eucalyptus resinifera in Movement in plants. CD thanked Hooker and William Turner Thiselton-Dyer for sending him plants in Movement in plants, pp. 8–9.
Hooker and Thiselton-Dyer were working on Nepenthes (the tropical pitcher-plant) to help CD in his research on insectivorous plants.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, 25 October 1873, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 October [1873]. Hooker was experimenting with putting pieces of albumen (egg white) in the pitchers of Nepenthes.
Carbonate of ammonia (now usually called ammonium carbonate). See also letter from J. D. Hooker, 25 October 1873.
CD had asked Francis to ask Hooker to try an experiment on Drosophyllum lusitanicum (Portuguese sundew or dewy pine; see letter to Francis Darwin, 10 October 1873 and n. 9).
Hooker refers to John Russell, the first Earl Russell, and Fanny Russell, of Pembroke Lodge, Richmond Park. CD usually refused social engagements.
In Insectivorous plants, p. 453, CD suggested that Sarracenia (a genus of North American pitcher-plants) might be one of the plants that could not digest, but that absorbed the products of the decay of the animals it captured. He did not mention Cephalotus follicularis, a small carnivorous pitcher-plant (Cephalotus is a monospecific genus).
CD had asked for seed of Lathyrus nissolia (the grass vetchling) in his letter to Hooker of 23 October [1873].
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 October [1873]. Francis Darwin had visited Kew on 26 October 1873 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 October [1873]).


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

Movement in plants: The power of movement in plants. By Charles Darwin. Assisted by Francis Darwin. London: John Murray. 1880.


Sends plant specimens.

He and Thiselton-Dyer, working on with Nepenthes, have independently found the spiral vessels going to the gland. CD’s view that the glands are secretory organs is suggestive. When Nepenthes is as much done as CD wants,

he will turn to Cephalotus and Sarracenia.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 176–7
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9116,” accessed on 24 October 2021,

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