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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   23 October 1875


Oct 23d/75.

Dear Darwin

Thanks for the note on Gunnera   it is suggestive. Its petals are so fugacious that I am sure I should not have detected the fact of certain flowers only being petaliferous from dried specimens— I had always regarded Gunnera as a degraded type of Halorageæ, & Mueller seems to take this view of the apetalous flowers.1

I remember having seen a hygrometer made of the “wild oat” when I was a boy.—2 There is a horrid grass in India that bores through your trousers & used actually to pin my “ducks”3 to my calves, (as the Ticks did the woollen trouzers to my thighs) but it never occurred to me that the twisted awn had anything to do with the operation   I shall hunt up specimen & send you   it was a dreadful thing

If you were to give Pfeiffer to the Linnean it would be a godsend & a piece of princely generosity—4 if not let me have it at 12 price & I will no doubt soon get that at least, for you, perhaps more—

What an excellent drawer Mueller is. I am at a loss about the flower of Carrot5

Ever yr affec | Jos. D. Hooker


See letter to J. D. Hooker, 21 October [1875] and n. 2. CD sent Hooker a sheet of the letter from Fritz Müller, 12 September 1875. The genus Gunnera was placed in the order (now family) Halorageae in Genera plantarum (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83, 1 (pt. 2): 676). It is now in the family Gunneraceae. Müller had suggested that the terminal flower with petals on the apex of the inflorescence of Gunnera manicata (giant rhubarb) showed the primitive condition of the flowers, while the petals had been lost by the most densely crowded lateral flowers (see letter from Fritz Müller, 12 September 1875).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 21 October [1875] and n. 3. Wild oat is Avena fatua.
Ducks: trousers made of duck, a strong untwilled linen or cotton fabric (OED).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 21 October [1875] and nn. 7 and 8. The book CD donated to the library of the Linnean Society was Ludwig Pfeiffer’s Nomenclator botanicus (Pfeiffer 1873–4).
Müller had included a drawing of a terminal and a lateral flower of Gunnera manicata in his letter to CD of 12 September 1875 (see n. 1, above). CD had suggested to Hooker that the anomalous central flower in an umbel of wild carrot (Daucus carota) might be analogous to the terminal flower of Gunnera (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 21 October [1875] and n. 3).


OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Pfeiffer, Ludwig . 1873–4. Nomenclator botanicus. 2 vols. Cassel: Theodor Fischer.


Comments on Hermann Müller’s article on the structure of Gunnera flowers.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 104: 42–3
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10215,” accessed on 14 May 2021,

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