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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   17 April 1875

Royal Gardens Kew

April 17/75

Dear Darwin

I write to say that Griffith has figured glands just like those of Sarracenia within the pitchers of Dischidia, which further contain water & are always full of black ants, many of which are found drowned in the pitchers— see Wallich Plant. As. Rar. v. 2 t. 142.1

From notes in the Herbarium I find that different species of Black ant inhabit different species of Dischidia.

We have one species at Kew. that I found in Bengal, but I am not sure that it ever bears pitchers.

I am treating it here in a way that will cause their development if they should be so disposed. The said pitchers occupy only certain branches of the plants— I shall get the other kind from Malacca.2

Our Marcgraavia I have got to assume the leaves that preceede flowering, so I shall hope to get it to flower, but these gigantic climbers are very awkward to manage.3

I am off on Tuesday mg.4

Ever yr affec | J D Hooker


See letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 April 1875 and n. 3. Hooker refers to Griffith 1846, tab. 17, fig. 2, and Wallich 1830–2, 2: pl. 142, fig. 2, opposite p. 37. In Wallich 1830–2, 2: 36, the following passage appears: ‘The bags contain generally a great number of small and harmless black ants, most of which find a watery grave in the turbid fluid which frequently half fills the cavity, and which seems to be entirely derived from without.’ Plant. As. Rar.: Plantæ Asiaticæ variores. Sarracenia is the genus of trumpet pitchers; they have funnel-shaped leaves that secrete a slippery and intoxicating liquid to trap insects and digest them. Hooker worked on Sarracenia in 1874; see Correspondence vol. 22, letter from J. D. Hooker, 17 August 1874. CD discussed Sarracenia in Insectivorous plants, p. 453; he did not discuss Dischidia.
Hooker collected several species of Dischidia (see Hooker 1875–97, 4: 49–52). The ‘other kind’: Dischidia rafflesiana (the ant plant, now D. major; see letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 April 1875 and n. 3).
Marcgravia umbellata (monkey paws) produces a different type of leaf on the upper branches after flowering; see Correspondence vol. 12, letter from Richard Spruce to J. D. Hooker, 29 July 1864. CD discussed the leaves of M. umbellata and M. dubia in Climbing plants, p. 105. Marcgravia dubia is a synonym of Monstera dubia.
Hooker was going on a trip to France; see letter from J. D. Hooker, 15 April 1875.


Climbing plants: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green; Williams & Norgate. 1865.

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

Griffith, William. 1846. On the structure of the ascidia and stomata of Dischidia rafflesiana Wall. [Read 20 January 1846.] Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 20 (1846–7): 387–90.

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

Wallich, Nathaniel. 1830–2. Plantæ Asiaticæ rariores; or, descriptions and figures of a select number of unpublished East Indian plants. 3 vols. London, Paris, and Strasbourg: Treuttel and Würtz.


On pitchers of Dischidia and insects found in them.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 104: 26–8
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9936,” accessed on 1 August 2021,

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