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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [24 July 1864?]1


Mr John Scott, Denholm, Hawick Roxburghshire2

Smilax latifolia,—has it aborted tendrils as long as nail of little finger3

Hanburya Mexicana: is this Cucurbitaceous? Does it spirally twine?4

Jasminum pauciflorum or parviflorum5

Vanilla, when it climbs along rafters, do the aërial roots twist round wires, stick &c—or do the roots merely adhere to surface?6

(Passiflora gracilis,7 you wish for seed & Carter sells.—)8

Cobæa scandens—order?9

Corydalis, Himalayan,—name?10

“Matador tree”—how does it climb by rootlets or outgrowth of wood— is it a Ficus11

Beer on Orchids,12 new German book, to be sent to “C. Darwin care of G. Snow, Nag’s Head Borough”.13

Harvey of Dublin—to be allowed to quote from him about plants (give names) which are not spiral twiners in their native country of S. Africa, but become so in Bot. Garden of Dublin.—14

Have you seed of Boronia. Australian plant, which Bentham says is dimorphic.15

I have Bignonia unguis, buxifolia, Venusta, speciosa, capreolata, Chamberlayni,— any other species would be useful.—16


The date is conjectured on the assumption that the memorandum was given to Hooker during his visit to Down on 24 July 1864 (see letters from J. D. Hooker, [29 July 1864] and [4–]6 August 1864). See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 [June 1864] and n. 3.
Hooker asked for John Scott’s address in order to facilitate correspondence between Scott and his prospective employers in India (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 July 1864 and nn. 4 and 5).
CD had obtained specimens from the genus Smilax from Hooker for his experiments on climbing plants (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 24 [February 1864], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 16 March 1864). CD’s remarks on the family Smilacaceae in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 68–70, were based solely on his observations of Smilax aspera. His notes on Smilax aspera are in DAR 157.2: 25.
CD had recently received a specimen of Hanburya mexicana from Hooker (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 15 June 1864). Evidently the plant was insufficiently developed for CD to observe its manner of climbing. CD’s notes on Hanburya mexicana, dated between 12 October [1864] and 10 December 1864, are in DAR 157.2: 52 and DAR 187: 2. The plant is described in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 77–9.
In a note in DAR 157.1: 43, CD wrote ‘Jasminum pauciflorum (can this be misprint for parviflorum?)’. On receiving a leaf from CD’s specimen, Hooker was able to identify the plant as Jasminum pauciflorum (see letters from J. D. Hooker, [15 August 1864] and 26 August 1864). A short note on Jasminum pauciflorum is in ‘Climbing plants’, p. 17.
Vanilla aromatica is discussed in ‘Climbing plants’, p. 107. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 26[–7] March 1864 and n. 9.
Passiflora gracilis is discussed in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 89–90. CD’s notes on the species, dated between 28 July and 4 August 1864, are in DAR 157.2: 71–2.
The reference is to James Carter and Company, seedsmen and florists, 237, 238, and 261 High Holborn, London (Post Office London directory 1864).
In his letter of [4–]6 August 1864, Hooker identified Cobaea scandens as a member of the family Polemoniaceae. Cobaea scandens is discussed in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 61–4. CD’s notes on the species are in DAR 157.2: 5–14 and 77 v.
In his letter of [4–]6 August 1864, Hooker identified the plant as Dicentra thalictrifolia. It is discussed in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 72–3, 92, 100, and 111. CD’s notes on the species are in DAR 157.2: 93–4. See also letter from J. D. Hooker, [20 February 1864].
The Matador tree had been described by Henry Walter Bates in The naturalist on the river Amazons as a form of fig that strangles and eventually kills its host tree as it climbs (see Bates 1863, 1: 53–5). Hooker evidently sent CD’s query to Richard Spruce, who had recently returned from South America. Spruce suspected that the Matador tree of Bates’s description was not a distinct species, but included Marcgravia umbellata and several species of Ficus and Clusia that climbed and had aerial roots (see letter from Richard Spruce to J. D. Hooker, 29 July 1864 and nn. 2 and 3). CD was currently experimenting with a root climber of the genus Ficus, F. repens. His notes on F. repens are in DAR 157.2: 85. CD discussed F. repens and other root climbers in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 105–7.
The reference is to Beiträge zur Morphologie und Biologie der Familie der Orchideen by Joseph Georg Beer (Beer 1863). CD first enquired about the book in his letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 [June 1863] (Correspondence vol. 11). He had received extracts of the book from Daniel Oliver (see letter to Daniel Oliver, 15 June [1864] and n. 5). CD’s notes on Beer are in DAR 70: 150 and 155.
The reference is to George Snow, who operated a carrier service between London and Down (Freeman 1977).
Hooker had recently visited William Henry Harvey in County Wicklow, Ireland (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 5 July 1864 and n. 3). Harvey had observed several plants native to South Africa that developed a twining habit when grown in the moister climate of Ireland. The plants, Ipomoea argyreioides, Ceropegia bowkeri, and Ceropegia sororia, are described in the letters from W. H. Harvey, 10 November 1864 and 11 November 1864. CD cited Harvey’s observations in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 24–5.
Boronia pinnata. See letter from George Bentham, 10 July 1864 and n. 6.
CD was currently observing species from the genus Bignonia. In ‘Climbing plants’, p. 49, CD remarked that he had selected nine species ‘by hazard … to show what diversity of structure and action there may be in species of the same genus’. CD’s observations on Bignonia, dated at intervals between January 1863 and November 1864, are in DAR 157.1: 114–47.


Bates, Henry Walter. 1863. The naturalist on the River Amazons. A record of adventures, habits of animals, sketches of Brazilian and Indian life, and aspects of nature under the equator, during eleven years of travel. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Beer, Joseph Georg. 1863. Beiträge zur Morphologie und Biologie der Familie der Orchideen. Vienna: Carl Gerold’s Sohn.

‘Climbing plants’: On the movements and habits of climbing plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 2 February 1865.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 9 (1867): 1–118.

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

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.


Notes and queries on climbing plants for JDH [? given to him by CD at their meeting of 24 July 1864].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 242b
Physical description
Amem 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4573,” accessed on 7 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12