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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   7 November 1877

Royal Gardens Kew

Nov 7/77

Dear Darwin—

I was longing for news of you all, & glad to get it. Theodora—what a delightful name. a gift of the Gods— or is it Sara that William is going to marry— you mention both names as Miss Sedgwicks, to the distraction of my Ladies.1

I sent you seeds of Mimosa pudica (with 2 Cassias seeds) last week, all that remained of the Mim. seed, I hope that you got them   Today 3 Cycas seeds go of a kind not hitherto known in England. C pectinata of Sikkim & Assam.2 The seed had been some days sown, as you are informed in the paper—

We germinated two Welwitschia seeds some months ago— the two linear green cotyledonary leaves were quite ordinary— The hypocotyledonary axis was flattened.— They were fully formed, about 12 inch long, when both plants died!— No root feeders had formed on the tip of the radicle. It was most disgusting—& the only case I know of, of a plant dying by the visitation of God—pure & simple.— all other plants at Kew have been killed by mismanagement of Gardeners3

We have two old small plants that are rooting & elongating the tattered remains of the two old leaves. I have no reason to suppose that the old leaves are not the original cotyledonary ditto.4

I do hope that Mr Litchfield will remain all right—5

I hope you approve of our giving Dana the Copley & Heer a Royal Medal6

Ever affy yrs | J D Hooker.


See letter to J. D. Hooker, 6 November [1877]. CD had mentioned Theodora and Sara Sedgwick; Sara was William Erasmus Darwin’s fiancée. My ladies: Hooker’s wife, Hyacinth, and daughter Harriet Anne Thiselton-Dyer.
Hooker had a long-standing dislike of professional gardeners:

of all classes of men Gardeners are the most troublesome I ever had dealings with—what with their superficial knowlged, tempers, the conflict of science & practice in their brains, conceit & tyrannical conduct to those under them— they do require very careful treatment

(Correspondence vol. 12, letter from J. D. Hooker, 8 April 1864).
Welwitschia plants have only two foliage leaves, which Hooker thought developed from the two cotyledons (J. D. Hooker 1862, p. 2). Welwitschia is a monospecific genus in the monotypic family Welwitschiaceae; Hooker classified it within the related family Gnetaceae.
Richard Buckley Litchfield. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 6 November [1877] and n. 5.
James Dwight Dana and Oswald Heer had been awarded medals by the Royal Society of London, of which Hooker was president.


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


Sent rare cycad seeds for CD’s cotyledon study.

Welwitschia seed germinated at Kew had ordinary cotyledons. JDH thinks mature Welwitschia leaves are original cotyledons.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 104: 97–8
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11227,” accessed on 21 September 2021,