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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   8 December 1876

Royal Gardens Kew

Dec 8/76

Dear Darwin

1. Bentham Oliver & I have been at the Hoya flower, & are none of us satisfied as to the 5 processes alternating with the sepals.— Most probably they represent glands that occur between the sepals of some Hoyas. I would suggest that you called them simply processes.1

2 I send Asperula flower Alkanna flower (so miscalled) it should be Arnebia.

Cinchona flower

Roucheria flower no use we have very few & all squashed. Only one sort as far as we can see.2

3. The Brazilian flower is Ægiphila obdurata Vellago.—Verbenaceæ.3

4) I enclose R. S. Council minutes, with Owen’s & Günther’s letters. I think that Gs. is abominable, & the sending it in without investigation to the Treasury is disgraceful on the part of the Trustees— no man’s character is safe when such things are done. Thom. was bound by orders of Govt to make all collections over to the Govt. & never had a notion of doing what Günther suspects.4

We are off to Yarmouth.

We did enjoy our stay at Down—5

Ever yours affec | J D. Hooker

CD annotations

1.1 1.... Hoyas. 1.3] scored red crayon and blue crayon
1.4 processes.] closing square bracket red crayon
2.1 2 … letters. 5.1] crossed pencil
4.1 Ægiphila obdurata] underl red crayon


George Bentham, Daniel Oliver, and Hooker were investigating Hoya carnosa (the wax plant). CD had evidently asked about the minute bud-like bodies sometimes found together with perfect flowers in the umbels. He called the bodies that alternated with the sepals ‘small flattened heart-shaped papillæ, like rudiments of petals’ (Forms of flowers, p. 332).
Hooker sent flowers of Asperula scoparia (prickly woodruff), Arnebia hispidissima, and Cinchona micrantha. CD discussed the flowers of these species in Forms of flowers, pp. 285, 111, and 134. Arnebia and Alkanna are both genera in the family Boraginaceae. CD did not examine any flowers from the genus Roucheria.
CD had probably sent flowers of Aegiphila obdurata to Hooker for identification. He first received dried flowers of Aegiphila (spirit weed) from Fritz Müller in 1868; Müller had initially believed the flowers were heterostyled but later discovered the species was dioecious (Correspondence vol. 16, letter from Fritz Müller, 31 October 1868). CD described Müller’s flowers as Aegiphila obdurata in Forms of flowers, p. 124. Aegiphila obdurata is a synonym of A. obducta.
On 26 October 1876, letters from Richard Owen and Albert Günther were presented to the Royal Sociey Council regarding the HMS Challenger expedition specimens (Royal Society, Council minutes 4: 340–4). Challenger had returned on 24 May 1876 after a three-and-a-half-year surveying voyage (Tizard et al. 1885). Günther’s letters, dated 6 and 21 June 1876, argued that members of the zoology department of the British Museum were competent to examine, record, and classify the zoology specimens from the Challenger expedition. He stated that because specimens from previous expeditions placed in the hands of private individuals had been lost, and the voyage had been funded by the British government, the specimens should be deposited in the British Museum for the benefit of the nation. He concluded the second letter by accusing Charles Wyville Thomson, scientific supervisor of the expedition, of recommending to the Admiralty that the specimens should be deposited with a professor in Edinburgh and other private persons, and of having ‘the object in view to retain the principal part of the ‘Challenger’ collections permanently in Edinburgh, to form the foundation of a new Natural History Museum’. He continued: ‘If such a scheme should be really contemplated, the way for its execution would be prepared not only by keeping those collections at a distance from the British Museum, but also by excluding the naturalists of the Museum from participating in the duty of examining and arranging them.’ For the full letters, see Appendix QQQQ.
Hooker had family connections in Great Yarmouth. Hooker and his wife, Hyacinth, visited Down on 2 December 1876 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


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

Forms of flowers: The different forms of flowers on plants of the same species. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1877.


He has examined Hoya flowers with Bentham and Oliver, but they are not satisfied about the five processes alternating with the sepals. [See Forms of flowers, pp. 331–2.] Sends specimens of plants.

Babington’s surprise at JDH’s advocacy of Darwinian views at Norwich [BAAS meeting].

Criticism of the behaviour of the trustees of the British Museum [in the Challenger affair].

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 111: A85, DAR 104: 73
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10705,” accessed on 1 October 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24