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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   14 October 1875


Oct 14/75

Dear Darwin

Your awned carpels are those of Anemone alpina or montana, which are undistinguishable.1

Where did you say that you had noticed the sports of Paritium which I took away?.2

Your’s of 13th just arrived. It is cool of Mr. L. Tait to say that he does not know me!— true I never saw him, but I only yesterday answered a letter from him asking me to shew him our Insectivorous plants, & to give him Nepenthes pitchers. I told him that I would do both gladly. I suspect that he is an impudent fellow—& I would, were I you, on no account accept the task of reading his paper.3

I should tell him that you are engaged on other investigations, which it would disturb, & that you have not health for such work— I know no task more detestable than that of reading other men’s lucubrations in which you have a priori no confidence.—

Frank’s observations on the action of Glycerine are very suggestive—4 What would be the action of a little carefully laid on the articulation of Mimosa sensitiva or pudica?— Though for that matter I suppose it must have been tried.— When you say that G. attracts water how do you mean— it is a colloid is it not?5

You cannot bother me— you do not know what pleasure your letters & queries give me.

We are enquiring about Imantophyllum & the Melastomaceae.6

We have just completed the plan of the Laboratory & shall send out for tenders tomorrow.7

Ever yr affec | J D Hooker


No letter in which CD inquired about identifying a specimen has been found, but Hooker had visited CD on 10 October 1875 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)), so the request was probably made in person. Anemone alpina is the alpine anemone or pasque flower; Anemone montana is the mountain pasque flower; both have seed-heads with long hairy awns. Francis Darwin was engaged in a series of experiments on awned seeds (see n. 4, below).
Paritium is a genus of the plant family Malvaceae (mallows). CD’s specimens had been sent by George King (see Correspondence vol. 19, letter to George King, 27 January [1871]).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 October [1875] and nn. 2 and 3. Lawson Tait had asked CD to submit a paper by him to the Royal Society of London. Nepenthes is the genus of tropical pitcher-plants.
Francis Darwin was trying to work out the mechanism by which some seeds were able to bury themselves in the ground. He evidently observed that the twisted awns of some seeds would untwist when wet (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 October [1875] and n. 6). He could then reverse the process by immersing the seeds in glycerine, which would draw out the water, causing the awns to re-twist.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 October [1875] and n. 6. Glycerine is not a colloid, that is, a suspension of tiny, but larger than single molecule, particles in a liquid. It is soluble in water in any concentration. Mimosa sensitiva and M. pudica are two species of sensitive plant. The mechanism by which leaflets and leaves in these species folded up in response to touch had yet to be worked out, but CD made several observations on the process, later published in Movement in plants.
See letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 3 October [1875] and n. 5. CD had evidently meant to ask William Turner Thiselton-Dyer for a specimen of a plant of the family Melastomaceae (now Melastomataceae) in order to observe differences in the two types of stamens characteristic of some plants in this family. CD may have discussed obtaining a specimen of a species of Imantophyllum for crossing experiments when Hooker visited him on 10 October 1875 (see n. 1, above). Imantophyllum is a synonym of Clivia; it is in the family Amaryllidaceae. According to an entry in the Outwards book (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew), a plant of Imantophyllum cyrtanthiflorum (a synonym of Clivia × cyrtanthiflora) was sent to CD on 14 October 1875 (see letter from W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, [16–22 October 1875] and n. 2.
The Jodrell Laboratory at Kew, a research institution for plant physiology, was funded by a donation from Thomas Jodrell Phillips-Jodrell (see Correspondence vol. 22, letter from J. D. Hooker, 22 December 1874 and n. 2). The building was completed in 1876 (Thiselton-Dyer 1910).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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

Thiselton-Dyer, William Turner. 1910. The Jodrell Laboratory at Kew. Nature, 24 November 1910, pp. 103–4.


JDH shares CD’s annoyance with R. L. Tait.

Has identified awned carpels for CD.

Sports of Paritium.

Suggests extending Francis’ experiments with glycerine on twisted seeds, to Mimosa.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 104: 38–9
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10197,” accessed on 13 June 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23