skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   [30 December 1861 or 6 January 1862]1



Dr. Darwin

I am very glad that you have given up Acropera ovules—2 I could not make them out to be so; but it is so awfully difficult to pronounce (in Botany) on anothers dissection that I could not say honourably they were not. I suppose however they would not be there, were they not rude representative efforts of ovule making: & in that sense may be rudimentary ovules.

I doubt if Phanerogams will show less differences in extreme forms than Phænogams even including your d——d barnacles.3 Compare a good dichlamydeous hermaphrodite flowered tree with the Cycas or these with a Pine— Why, you have nothing floral in common but ovule—& that physiologically & structurally different—even Pollen different— Turning again to organs of Vegetation compare Lemna & above— I doubt if there is more difference between a complementary male Barnacle4 & crab than between [FEMALE] Lemna & [MALE] Oak—or [FEMALE] & [MALE] of Balanophora— The cases are however never parallel, you forget the constant difference between [FEMALE] & [MALE] flowers of all dioecious plants.— Then too on other hand we have fewer organs in plants. On the w〈hole〉 I stick to my idea that Vegetati〈on〉 == at least Annulosa & downwards amongst animals.— My conviction is that nature has established no systematic parallelism between Animals & plants— by the year x + n plants may have branched out to greatly higher differentiation than exists between man & monad—or may have receded as far. There is no parallism between groups of Animals; or between groups of plants [HENCE] none between Animals & plants   sauce for Goose = sauce for Gander

If any use to you I will go over my Arctic lists— & mark colour of all the flowers, that have a really decided color— is there any use saying color of Alchemilla myriophyllum & such like? I should like on many accounts to do this for arctic lists, but want the stimulus of knowing that it will be used by any one—so I hope you may want it.5 I should be curious to see how it tallies with Lecoq.6

Ever yrs affect | J D Hooker

I cannot understand anyone being confident; or satisfied about such awful stretches of imagination as continental extensions; Atlantises & so forth— I strongly favor them, or at least look to much greater changes than you do—but dare not even propose to bridge N Zealand & Tasmania by any direct continent7

CD annotations

1.3 honourably] underl pencil; cross in margin, pencil
2.1 I doubt … will] cross in margin, pencil
2.1 forms … Phænogams 2.2] cross in margin, pencil


The possible dates are conjectured from the relationship to the letters to J. D. Hooker, 28 [December 1861] (Correspondence vol. 9) and 16 January [1862] (see nn. 2 and 5, below); both dates were Mondays. This letter is published in volume 10 of the Correspondence rather than volume 9 because the editors’ former conjectured dating, [6 January 1862], was revised subsequent to volume 9’s going to press.
Following his observations of the orchid Acropera in October and November 1861, CD had come to believe that all the specimens he had examined were male (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to Daniel Oliver, 30 November [1861]). In his letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 December [1861] (ibid.), CD mentioned that he had requested Daniel Oliver, assistant at the Kew herbarium, to examine specimens of the ‘wretched rudimentary ovules’ of Acropera. Having received a reply from Oliver, CD told Hooker in his letter of 28 [December 1861] (ibid.): ‘I believe the membranous fringes are placentæ with no ovules or merest rudiments’.
The reference to barnacles suggests that Hooker intended to write ‘Crustacea’ rather than ‘Phænogams’; ‘phaenogam’ and ‘phanerogam’ both mean ‘flowering plant’ (OED). In his letter to Hooker, 18 [December 1861] (Correspondence vol. 9), CD stated: ‘The more I read about Plants, the more I get to feel that all Phanerogams seem comparable with one class, as Lepidoptera, rather than with one Kingdom as the whole Insecta’. Following a response from Hooker in a missing letter, CD explained himself further in his letter of 28 [December 1861] (Correspondence vol. 9): I wrote carelessly about the value of Phanerogams; what I was thinking of was that the sub-groups seemed to blend so much more one into another than with most classes of animals. I suspect Crustacea would show more differences in the extreme forms than Phanerogams
During his study of barnacles, CD had discovered what he termed ‘complemental’ males – minute parasitic forms attached to hermaphrodite species of Ibla and Scalpellum (see Living Cirripedia (1851): 207–14, 231–43, and Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix II, pp. 399–400).
Hooker read two papers on the Arctic flora to the Linnean Society of London on 21 June 1860. His paper on the distribution of Arctic plants (J. D. Hooker 1861a) contains extensive species lists; the other, shorter paper describes the plants collected on a specific expedition and includes lists of more localised floras (J. D. Hooker 1861b). CD had expressed an interest in the relationship between flower colour and latitude in his letter to Hooker, 28 [December 1861] (Correspondence vol. 9).
In Lecoq 1854–8, Henri Lecoq suggested a correlation between flower colour and latitude. CD began to read Lecoq’s nine-volume work in December 1861 (see Correspondence vol. 9, letters to J. D. Hooker, [9 December 1861] and 28 [December 1861]). There is an annotated copy of Lecoq 1854–8 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 488–95).
In his introductory essay to the Flora Novæ-Zelandiæ, Hooker had suggested that the similarity between sections of the New Zealand flora and that of parts of South America, Australia, the Antarctic, and the Pacific could be explained by postulating former land connections (J. D. Hooker 1853–5, 1: xxiii). CD had long been critical of such ‘land-bridge’ explanations for current geographical distribution (see Correspondence vol. 6, letters to Charles Lyell, 16 [June 1856] and 25 June [1856]). The existence of a sunken continent, ‘Atlantis’, had been invoked by Oswald Heer to explain the distribution of plants across Europe, Africa, and the Americas (Heer 1861a). In his letter to Hooker of 28 [December 1861] (Correspondence vol. 9), CD reported his pleasure at hearing that Daniel Oliver, who rejected Heer’s theory, was to give a lecture on the distribution of northern plants at the Royal Institution of Great Britain (Oliver 1862a; see also Oliver 1862b), and he expressed the hope that ‘Atlantis’ would ‘get a good sinking’ in Oliver’s lecture.


Glad CD has given up on Acropera ovules.

Doubts phanerogams less different in extreme forms [than Crustacea].

No systematic parallelism between plants and animals.

Offers list of Arctic plants with their colours. Asks CD whether it is useful to add colour to [descriptions of] plants.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 101: 3–4
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3375,” accessed on 18 June 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10