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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   29 May [1863]

Down Bromley Kent

May 29th

My dear Hooker.

You have been uncommonly kind about Scott.1 I forwarded your note,2 but told him not to mention it; it will certainly be useful to him on any future occasion. For the same post that brought your note, brought one from him, with apologies & saying that Balfour had allowed him only 24 hours to decide, & being so pressed he had declined.3 I sent him a preaching about Mr Macnab, & I daresay he is to blame, & all that you say about permitting men to experimentise is very true.4 He certainly has tried a stupendous number. He told me formerly he did them out of work-hours.5 He is evidently an eccentric man; an orphan of parents who were better off & who took to gardening as best chance of some science.6 If he had leisure he would make a wonderful observer; to my judgment I have come across no one like him.—

Whether I have done right or wrong I know not, but I have urged him to publish on one little point, viz the impotence of certain orchids with their own pollen,7 like Herbert’s Crinum case.8 When I get his paper in some newspaper I will send it you to read; if it seems at all worth while.9 He has made lots of curious observations on pollen-tubes coming out of anthers in certain orchids & travelling all the way to the stigma.10

Many thanks for Nageli,11 which shall soon be returned: owing to subject & the German I cannot understand all; but there are some very important statements, enough to convince me that Falconer’s remark (which started me) on phyllotaxy being as fixed as law of gravity is much exaggerated:12 there is, however, no explanation, as far as I can understand, why angles jump from one to another.— I suppose you have seen Asa Gray on A. Decandolle & on Falconer &c &c in Silliman;13 he sent me 2 copies by mistake; but I presume you have one.— What a hard worker he is, & what a clever fellow: I wish this cursed war was over; if it were only to be at peace with him.—14

What a lot of gossip you told me in your last letter;15 I am so heartily glad that you appreciate John Lubbock: I always fear that he will wear himself out.—16

If you have time & care to look at a pretty case of fertilisation in Leguminosæ, (far prettier than in that strange-looking Clianthus) look at common Broom.17 It matures its pollen very early & you will see the pistil curled like a french horn out of the keel: I have seen two accounts that all this is for self-fertilisation.18 All this is a mistake; if insects are excluded the pistil does not come out. When a bee alights to suck, the short anthers first protrude & rub & dust the under side of its thorax: then when the bee pushes harder or flies to an older flower, out flies the pistil & long anthers & strike (as as I have seen) the upper surface of thorax, where the stigma is well rubbed with its own pollen & that brought from other flowers; but here comes the pretty part, as soon as Bee flies away the pistil from its elasticity curls so much as to almost touch the shorter protruded anthers; & the stigma is now turned upwards & rubs against the under side of the thorax of the next bee dusted with pollen from many flowers. I never saw a clearer case of adaptation.— Subsequently the pistil curls uselessly still more.—19

Have you read Kinglake?20 I am reading it with much amusement.

Good-night— | Ever yours | C. Darwin.


The note has not been found; it was sent to CD with the letter from J. D. Hooker, [23–7 May 1863], and forwarded with the letter to John Scott, 25 and 28 May [1863]. The note gave Scott advice concerning the post he had been offered in Darjeeling, India (see letter from John Scott, 22 May 1863).
See letter to John Scott, 25 and 28 May [1863]. In his letter to CD of [23–7 May 1863], Hooker implied that the friction between Scott and James McNab, Scott’s immediate superior, probably resulted from McNab’s feeling that Scott’s experiments were interfering with his job. Scott was foreman in the propagating department at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.
The letter in which Scott gave this information has not been found.
Scott described these experiments in his letter to CD of [1–11] April [1863]; CD responded in his letter to Scott of 12 April [1863] with the suggestion that he publish his work. Scott read a paper on the experiments to the Botanical Society of Edinburgh on 14 May 1863; this was published in the society’s transactions (Scott 1863a).
The reference is to Herbert 1837, p. 32, where it was noted that various species of Crinum sent to Calcutta had crossed so freely that pure seed could not be obtained. CD used this case as an example of pollen from a distinct species over time obliterating the action of a plant’s own pollen (Cross and self fertilisation, p. 395 n.).
Scott had written an abstract of his paper on orchid sterility, read at the Botanical Society of Edinburgh (see n. 7, above), for the Edinburgh Evening Courant (see letter from John Scott, 26 May [1863]).
See letters from John Scott, 21 March [1863] and [1–11] April [1863].
The reference is to Hugh Falconer and his remark on phyllotaxy in Falconer 1863a, p. 80 (see letter to Daniel Oliver, 20 [February 1863], n. 2). CD was actively pursuing research on phyllotaxy during April and May 1863 (see letters to Asa Gray, 20 April [1863] and 11 May [1863], letter to J. D. Hooker, [9 May 1863], and memorandum from G. H. Darwin, [before 11 May 1863]). Asa Gray’s work endorsed CD’s conclusion that Falconer’s claims regarding phyllotaxy were exaggerated (see letter from Asa Gray, 26 May 1863 and n. 25).
A. Gray 1863d and 1863e. A. Gray 1863d was a review of A. de Candolle 1862a, and included a discussion of Falconer 1863a; A. Gray 1863e reviewed A. de Candolle 1863b. CD’s annotated copies are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. The American Journal of Science and Arts was commonly known as ‘Silliman’s journal’, after its founder Benjamin Silliman.
The reference is to the American Civil War. The war introduced considerable tension into Anglo-American relations (see Ferris 1977 and Correspondence vols. 9 and 10), and this was reflected in Gray’s correspondence with CD and Hooker. See, for example, Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. D. Hooker, [19 January 1862], and this volume, letters to Asa Gray, 2 January [1863] and 23 February [1863], and letter from Asa Gray, 11 April 1863.
See letter from J. D. Hooker, [24 May 1863]. John Lubbock was the ‘closest of CD’s younger friends’ and had been a frequent visitor to Down House from childhood (Freeman 1978, p. 192), having grown up at High Elms, near Down.
CD refers to Clianthus dampieri, which Hooker suggested would be of interest with regard to the study of pollination mechanisms (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [13 May 1863], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 and 22 May [1863]), and to Cytisus scoparius, the common broom.
These references have not been identified.
CD’s notes on the pollination of the common broom (Cytisus scoparius) are given in G. Henslow 1866 (Collected papers 2: 134) and Cross and self fertilisation, pp. 163–4. See also letter to Asa Gray, 31 May [1863].
CD refers to the first volume of Alexander William Kinglake’s history of the Crimean War (Kinglake 1863–87).


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

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

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Ferris, Norman B. 1977. The Trent affair: a diplomatic crisis. Knoxville, Tenn.: University of Tennessee Press. [Vols. 9,10,11]

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Herbert, William. 1837. Amaryllidaceæ; preceded by an attempt to arrange the monocotyledonous orders, and followed by a treatise on cross-bred vegetables, and supplement. London: James Ridgway & Sons.

Kinglake, Alexander William. 1863–87. The invasion of the Crimea: its origin, and an account of its progress down to the death of Lord Raglan. 8 vols. Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood & Sons.

Nägeli, Carl Wilhelm von. 1858–68. Beiträge zur Wissenschaftlichen Botanik. 4 pts in 1 vol. Leipzig: Wilhelm Englemann.


CD’s encouragement of John Scott, who has found a case of self-incompatibility in orchids, like William Herbert’s in Crinum.

Nägeli on phyllotaxy.

CD’s observations on broom fertilisation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 195
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4191,” accessed on 9 February 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11