Suggests AG append ranges to the species in the new edition of his Manual.
Is interested in comparing the flora of U. S. with that of Britain and wishes to know the proportions to the whole of the great leading families and the numbers of species within genera. Would welcome information on which species AG considers to be "close" in the U. S.
Down Farnborough Kent
My dear Sir
I thank you cordially for your remarkably kind letter of the 22
Would it not be well in the Alpine plants to append the very same additions which you
have now sent me in M.S; though here, owing to your kindness,
I do not speak selfishly, but merely pro bono Americano publico.— I presume it w
You ask me to state definitely some of the points on which I much wish for information; but I really hardly can, for they are so vague, & I rather wish to see what results will come out from comparisons, than have as yet defined objects. I presume that like other Botanists you would give for your area, the proportions (leaving out introduced plants) to the whole of the great leading families: this is one point, I had intended (& indeed have done roughly) to tabulate from your Book, but of course I could have done it only very imperfectly. I should, also, of course have ascertained the proportion to the whole Flora of the European plants (leaving out introduced) & of the separate great families, in order to speculate on means of transportal. By the way I ventured to send a few days ago a copy of the Gardeners' Chronicle, with a short report by me of some trifling experiments which I have been trying on the power of seeds to withstand sea-water. I do not know, whether it has struck you, but it has me, that it would be adviseable for Botanists to give in whole numbers, as well as in the lowest fraction, the proportional numbers of the Families.— thus I make out from your Manual that of the indigenous plants the proportion of the Umbelliferæ are 361798=149; for without one knows the whole numbers, one cannot judge how really close the numbers of the plants of the same family are in two distant countries; but very likely you may think this superfluous.— mentioning these proportional numbers, I may give as an instance of the sort of points, & how vague & futile they often are which I attempt to work out, that reflecting on R. Brown & Hooker's remark, that near identity of proportional number of the great Families, in two countries, shows probably that they were once continuously united, I thought I would calculate the proportions, of, for instance, the introduced Compositæ in Grt. Britain to all the introduced plants, & the result was 1092=19.2. In our aboriginal or indigenous flora the proportion is 1/10; & in many other cases I found an equally striking correspondence: I then took your Manual, & worked out the same question; here I found in the Compositæ an almost equally striking correspondence, viz 24206=18 in the introduced plants, and 2231798=18 in the indigenous; but when I came to the other Families, I found the proportions entirely different showing that the coincidences in the British Flora were probably accidental!—
You will, I presume, give the proportion of the species to the genera, ie show on an average how many species each genus contains; though I have done this for myself.—
If it would not be too troublesome do you not think it
But honestly I feel that it is quite ridiculous my writing to you at such length on such subject, but as you have asked me, I do it gratefully, & write to you, just as I should to Hooker, who often laughs at me unmercifully, & I am sure you have better reason to do so.—
There is one point, on which I am most anxious for information; & I
mention it with the greatest hesitation, & only in the full belief that
you will believe me that I have not the folly & presumption to hope for a second
that you will give it, without you can with very little trouble. The point can at
present interest no one but myself, which makes the case wholly different from
geographical Distribution. The only way in which, I think, you possibly could do it with
little trouble, w
How can I apologise enough for all my presumption, & the extreme length of this letter? the great-goodnature of your letter to me, has been partly the cause, so that, as is too often the case in this world, you are punished for your good deeds.
With hearty thanks | Believe me | Your's very truly & gratefully | Ch. Darwin
P.S. Thank you for answering my questions about the distance of the Alpine
summits & about intervening lower land: I have no very good map, but I cannot
make what you say tally at all, & suspect that you have written wrong figure.
you say that the White M
- f1 1695.f1Gray followed this policy in the second edition of the Manual (A. Gray 1856).
- f2 1695.f2See letter to Asa Gray, 25 April . Gray's comments on the alpine plants gave the exact geographic location for each species listed. The list, with Gray's comments, is in DAR 46.2 (ser. 2): 36.
- f3 1695.f3Partly as a response to CD's request, Gray drew up an account of the ‘Statistics of the flora of the northern United States’ (A. Gray 1856–7).
- f4 1695.f4The Yenisei River divides western Siberia from the central Siberian uplands.
- f5 1695.f5Gmelin 1747–69. CD recorded reading this work on 27 October 1854 (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 128: 10). In his notes on the work, CD wrote (DAR 205.4: 9): ‘p. xliii. One does not enter Asia till arriving at the Ienisei River; until coming there saw scarcely any animals which do not, also, occur further west. Is main division of Siberia’.
- f6 1695.f6A. Gray 1848 was confined to the botany of the northern United States, in contrast to Torrey and Gray 1838–43.
- f7 1695.f7See letter to Gardeners' Chronicle, 21 May .
- f8 1695.f8CD's calculations made from data in A. Gray 1848 are in DAR 46.2 (ser. 2): 41.
- f9 1695.f9Robert Brown in Brown 1814, pp. 588–9 and J. D. Hooker 1853–5, 1: xxi.
- f10 1695.f10CD's calculations are in DAR 46.2 (ser. 2): 42–58.
- f11 1695.f11See letters from Asa Gray, 22 May 1855 and 30 June 1855.