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The Victorian Passion for Plants

Darwin’s fascination with plants fit the times. Victorians were passionate about plant hunting and gathering worldwide. Plant collectors sent newly discovered specimens back to Britain for cultivation, where lavishly illustrated botanical magazines heralded the new discoveries.

floricultural cabinet title page floricultural_cabinet_ipomea_magniflora
Title page from The Floricultural
Cabinet and Florists Magazine
, 1838
Ipomea magniflora from The Floricultural Cabinet and Florists Magazine, 1838


Wealthy Victorians all but required a greenhouse in their homes, and even people of modest means could afford a glass terrarium. Window Garden – Interior shows a window greenhouse beyond the window box.

Frontispiece of  The Floral World and Garden Guide, 1877

young Hooker Darwin often entertained visits with Joseph Dalton Hooker, director for twenty years of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where curious new plants arrived monthly from all parts of the world.
Joseph Dalton Hooker from “Life and Letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker” by Leonard Huxley, London, John Murray, 1918


Darwin filled his greenhouse with plants from Hooker and other Victorian plant enthusiasts.
Photograph courtesy Tony Coursini, Wikimedia Commons
Next – Pollination: Function of Flower Forms
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