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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   5 [July 1856]1



My dear Hooker

I have to thank you for a most interesting note,2 but I want to catch post.— I am going mad & am in despair over your confounded Antarctic isld. flora.3

Will you read over the Tristan list,4 & see if my remarks are at all accurate:5 I cannot make out why you consider the vegetation so Fuegian:6 I suppose you think that many of the species which bear distinct names are really Fuegian.— I have marked with red crosses the genera which seem to me most telling; & these strike me as indicating a general relation to southern circumpolar Flora, as much as to Fuegia. But if many of the species are identical this alters the question.— Except Chevreulia, which seems an American genus & Phylica (& partially Pelargonium) which is a Cape genus, the generic affinities seem mundane & S. circumpolar. To save all trouble which I can, I send envelope addressed & stamped.— A very few words would help me greatly.—

Ever yours | C. Darwin

I shall write soon


Dated on the basis that this is the note referred to in the second letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 July [1856], as having been written the same morning. It was followed by the longer letter in the evening.
Letter from J. D. Hooker, [26 June or 3 July1856].
CD was completing his chapter on geographical distribution, which included an extensive discussion of the migration of Arctic plants through the tropics to Antarctic regions during a former cold period (see Natural selection, pp. 534–54). At the end of his discussion, he referred to the ‘most extraordinary’ cases of distribution that arose from Hooker’s work on the flora of the Antarctic islands (J. D. Hooker 1844–7). CD attempted to explain the close similarities in their floras without invoking any former land-bridges between the islands (Natural selection, pp. 560–4).
The list has not been located, but the plants of Tristan d’Acunha are discussed in Natural selection, pp. 560–1, 563.
In Natural selection, pp. 560–1, CD gave a summary of the flora of Tristan d’Acunha. He considered it to be related to the flora of Tierra del Fuego rather than of South Africa, the island’s closest neighbour.
The character of the flora of Tristan d’Acunha is discussed in J. D. Hooker 1844–7 but CD forgot to look there (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 [July 1856]). In J. D. Hooker 1844–7, Hooker stated: ‘Though only 1000 miles distant from the Cape of Good Hope, and 3000 from the Strait of Magalhaens, the Botany of this island is far more intimately allied to that of Fuegia than Africa.’ (2: 216). Hooker went on to state that of the twenty-eight species on Tristan d’Acunha, two were allied to South African forms and seven were either natives of Tierra del Fuego or typical South American plants. This passage is marked in CD’s copy of the work in the Darwin Library–CUL.


CD cannot swallow continental extensions. Has written to Lyell giving a lengthy criticism of the concept [see 1910] and has asked Lyell to forward the letter to JDH.

Perhaps Aristolochia and Viscum are protandrous.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 166
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1918,” accessed on 23 March 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6