Thanks for information on Malden Island. Comments on its plants and their relationship to the Galapagos flora. Discusses the flora of Oceania. Gives his opinion on the extent of the uniformity in species and forms amongst South Sea Islands. Large genera are more widely diffused and have a larger proportion of species with wide ranges.
Seeks advice on expense of preparing plates [for Flora Antarctica].
West Park Kew
March 9. 1844.
My dear Darwin
I am very much obliged to you for your prompt information concerning Malden Isld.,
which has cost me much trouble, having looked in vain in all the Gazetteers &
Atlasses we possess for it— The plants from that Isld being all mixed up with
those of the Galapagos, I never doubted its being some obscure synonym of one of that
group. As it has happened, I am exceedingly glad that I thought so, or I should probably
have reserved them for a future examination to have proceeded faster with your plants,
& thus have lost time in the end— I am very satisfied with what the
results of Malden Isld. prove, the more especially as I now suddenly am called upon to
look on it in a very unexpected relationship, which tests severely what I have
writ. I find I have 6 Malden Isld plants.
In the first place none of them are called by me common other of the Galapagos, so I
cannot have confused either species or labels— Secondly two of them, the Fern
(Stenolobus) & the Amaranthaceous plant
(Achyranthes), were hitherto supposed peculiar to the S. Sea
I have long intended to pay particular attention to the Pacific Isld. flora, & to take the Galapagos as a starting point; though they are perhaps more S. American, I wish I could make the Botany proceed pari passu with the Geology, but I have so much on hand that it is at present impossible.— I am aware of Lessons remarks about the identity of the S. S. Isld floras, but my limited experience differs in the results it leads to. You ask whether the uniformity consists in species or forms. I am inclined to consider that uniformity of species is to a certain extent a sequitur to a uniformity of forms, & that it is a corollary to our Theorem.— Thus, uniformity of Flora must depend upon the genera being widely diffused, genera being forms, I think that is evident, again we have (or suppose we have) proved that it is the largest genera which are most widely diffused, & that a larger proportion of their species have wide ranges than those of small genera, whence I think it follows that in all countries of uniform floras, certain single, species should to a certain extent, be widely distributed.— There is no occasion to suppose they are distributed to such an extent as to invalidate a hypothesis that “in each group of tropical S. S. Islds the several Islets have distinct floras;—”.. I consider the S. S. Islds as a whole, or Oceania to have a most distinct & peculiar flora, not from possessing any one very large group peculiar to itself, (as America has her Cacti &c) but because she has a mixture of the peculiarities of N & S. America, Australia, India & perhaps N. Asia. Thus she has American Vacciniæ,.—E. Ind Pandaneæ, Orchideæ, & spices:—Australian Casuarinae, Goodenoviæ, & some Legumineæ & Proteaceæ—S. American Cordiaceæ & Amaranthaceæ I am not however fully qualified to state any thing on this subject; these are my notions & so is this, that the Flora is more Indian than any thing else.
The very great interest the contents of your letters cause me to take in these subjects, has made me forget the principle object I have in troubling you so soon with this— The Admiralty or Treasury rather have, you will be pleased to hear, granted £1000 to be expended entirely on the Botanical plates of a work they have been pleased to entrust to me, to describe & figure the new & more interesting plants of the voyage. They stipulate that I am to provide about 500 plates for that, which will be required to fulfil my intention of giving complete floras of V. D Land, N. Zealand Fuegia & the so called Antarctic Islands. And now I was going to ask a great favor of you, & that was if you could any way give me a hint of the amount that soft ground lithograph plates should come to, & how they had better be done. As my father keeps an artist the drawings can be done comparatively cheaply, but £2 will not cover Drawing & copper plate engraving, which our artist could not perform: he can however draw a little on stone, so that by his doing some & the lithographer others, (copies of his
- f1 739.f1Eventually described in J. D. Hooker 1846, p. 253 n.
- f2 739.f2See letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 February .
- f3 739.f3J. D. Hooker 1844–7, 1853–5, and 1860.
- f4 739.f4Walter Fitch had entered the employ of William Jackson Hooker in Glasgow in 1834.