skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   28 November 1843

West Park Kew

Novr 28. 1843.

My dear Sir

Many thanks for your kind letter of congratulations & also for your offer of assistance in examining the plants you collected, of which I shall most thankfully avail myself. It is very liberal of you to place them so at my disposal & I do hope that I shall shew myself not to be altogether unworthy of the trust..

Profr Henslow has promised me your plants, but they have not arrived yet, he having hardly got home after his late visit to Town. Amongst them I hope to find much that is curious & something new too, as it is the alpine plants of the Fuegian Islands which I want more than any thing else. In the month of October I could get few in flower, even on the low grounds of Hermite Island, the mountain plants are of course in a much more unsatisfactory state, but as I collected every scrap for the sake of illustrating the Geog. distrib. of the species whenever better specimens should turn up to identify them, they may yet prove of interest.—

The Cryptogamic plants being much more widely distributed & being in a tolerable state in all seasons, I was enabled to form a pretty good collection of them, including 60 species of Mosses alone from that little Isld.: as also a new species of your and Mr Berkeleys1 genus Cyttaria2 from the deciduous leaved Beech, (a much smaller plant with only 4 cells.—), & a tolerable collection of Lichens..

In Capt. Kings collections3 I do not find specimens which answer to the fragments of some of the most interesting plants, which I gathered on the top of Mt Forster Kater’s Peak & Cape Spinser..4 but which I fully expect to meet with in yours..5

I am exceedingly glad to think you attach so much importance to the comparison of the Arctic plants with the Antarctic as it was my aim throughout to establish an Analogy between the two hemispheres, & to draw up tables upon several plans, shewing for instance the proportion of plants in each of the predominant Nat. Ords. common to both, as also how that proportion diminishes in leaving the lower forms & ascending to the higher. The most striking analogies in the whole Vegetable kingdom exist between the floras of Anctic .6 America, Southern New Zealand, & Alpine V. D. Land;7 several genera being both common to & peculiar to, these 3 localities only.

In alpine V.D Land & New Zealand there are very few forms analogous to Northern Europæan or Asiatic, whilst in Antarctic America or Alpine America there are many. Some few boreal plants reappear in Fuegia, which have not hitherto been found in any intermediate latitude..

Some plants of the lower orders have a range of 144 degrees of latitude, one or two of them being found at the level of the sea throughout. Even on the very limit of Vegetation in the Antarctic regions, in 63 South, a new form of vegetable life appears, (confined to that latitude,) in a remarkable large species of Fucus,8 I know of no analogous instance in the North.—

There are several data which I very much want towards elucidating the Botanical Geography of Antarctc . America, & most especially one, in what latitude do pines Coniferæ cease?, from Capt Kings voyage I find that they cross the Straits of Magallhæns9 what species does so?— & how far south does it xtend?—

In my Antarctic flora I intend (following my fathers advice) to include Ld Aucklands & Campbells Islds as they contain the most southern plants of those longitudes, & as they have all the nameless peculiarities of plants of high latitudes, quite as much so as those of Fuegia (however luxuriant the vegetation may be compared with analogous Northern latitudes).. As however the Antarctic N Zealand flora differs most markedly from the Antarctic American I shall describe them seperately, & compare them afterwards. The absence of little tufted Umbelliferæ,10 the abundance of Rubiaceæ & Araliaceæ, & the comparative scarcity of Compositæ in the former group of Islands, is very remarkable.

The Vegetation of Kerguelens Land is entirely that of Southernmost America, almost all its plants being common to the two, few in proportion common to it & Ld Aucklands & none peculiar to the two latter. (perhaps one is).

The Falkland Isld. flora seems to combine the Patagonian with the Fuegian, I think of including it with the latter. I do not know what limit to take in going North on the W. coast of S. Am. the vegetation so gradually blends itself with that of a warmer region, & yet it must stop somewhere. I am anxious to take in the glacier bound Gulf of Peñas & the Peninsula tres Montes, which would be very tolerable geographical features, & if I knew any Botanical ones it would be much better— Can you tell me what the Northern limit of the Deciduous or Evergreen beech may be at the level of the sea, you mention one as common in the Chonos Archipelago, but not so abundant in proportion to other trees, as it is to the Southd 11

My father is very anxious to get some information about the Alerse tree, he has specimens of a Thuja (from Mr Bridges) called by that name;12 an upright growing tree with densely imbricated leaves, quadrifariously arranged round the branches, & a fruit of 4 woody valves, this specimen however seems identical with a plant described by Mr Don,13 as Juniperus uvivera, which was brought by a Mr Middleton from Cape Horn!— (I suppose Fuegia is meant).. This may be the plant mentioned in Capt. Kings Voyage.—14

Your Gallapago Isld plants will be extremely interesting, there are a few in my fathers herbarium collected by the late David Douglas who first discovered the Amblyrhynchus.15 I hope that the plants will be as peculiar as those of St . Helena though I doubt if the features will be so marked, the species will no doubt be peculiar but they may not form peculiar genera of more than one or two species. The ferns will perhaps form some key to the regions it may be most analogous to.. Professor Henslow has kindly promised to send your Galapago plants as well as the Antarctic.. I am not aware of any collector having been there but yourself & Douglas..

Did you collect any plants in the Isld of Ascenscion. I had one days botanizing & found 8 species of ferns & 3 or 4 plants (native), of these only 2 ferns were common to it & St . Helena.

My father desires his kind compliments to you & begs me to say, that it would give him the greatest pleasure to see Mrs Darwin & yourself at Kew where we have a few of your Fuegian friends growing—

With many thanks for your kind attention | Believe me with much | respect | Yours most truly | Jos D Hooker.

CD annotations

crossed pencil
crossed pencil
10.1 The … America,] scored pencil and pencil cross
underl pencil
crossed pencil
13.6 The ferns … analogous to..] scored pencil
13.9 Douglas..] ‘Cuming—Brit. Muse. Menzies’16 added pencil
pencil cross in margin
Verso last page: ‘=Hooked seeds= |ask | Proportion of species to genera in New Zealand | Dieffenbach’ pencil; ‘Proportion … Zealand’ del pencil ‘Hooked seeds in Islds | Proportion of species to families in New Zealand.; is it grand refuge to the destitute?’ ink


Miles Joseph Berkeley described some of CD’s Beagle fungi in Berkeley 1840.
A new genus of fungus, related to the morel, described in Berkeley 1845. C. darwinii is parasitic on the evergreen beech (see Journal of Researches, p. 124). Hooker’s new species, C. hookeri, grows on the deciduous beech (J. D. Hooker 1844–7, p. 452). It would appear that CD was encouraged, perhaps by Robert Brown, to collect this plant, before he left England. His notes on how to preserve various kinds of specimens include the comment ‘Collect 2 species of parasites growing on the Beech trees in Terra del Fuego, & wood where they grow.—’ (DAR 29.3 (last ser.): 2v.).
Philip Parker King. ‘King’s is certainly the most complete flora ever formed in those countries [Fuegia and the west coast of Patagonia]’ (J. D. Hooker 1844–7, p. 222).
Peaks on Hermite Island.
CD climbed Kater’s Peak on Christmas Day 1832 (Voyage, p. 124).
Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania.
The sea-weed Scytothalia Jacquinotii. See J. D. Hooker 1844–7, pp. 456–7.
Narrative 1: 49 reports luxuriant growth of ‘evergreens’ on the sheltered south shore of St Gabriel Channel.
Bolax glebaria, a plant characteristic of Tierra del Fuego, the Falklands, and associated islands, is not found on Lord Auckland’s group or Campbell Island.
Journal of researches, p. 349.
Thomas Bridges. W. J. Hooker wanted the information for W. J. Hooker 1844a. J. D. Hooker corrected the identification: the alerce is Fitzroya cupressoides and Thomas Bridges’ thuja was T. tetragona,‘a rare Magellanic plant’ (J. D. Hooker 1844–7, p. 350).
David Don described Juniperus uvifera, collected by Robert Morton Middleton, in the appendix to Lambert 1828–37. See W. J. Hooker 1844a, p. 149.
Narrative 1: 281–3.
David Douglas collected Galápagos plants in 1825. The Galápagos lizard, Amblyrhynchus, was first described by Gabriel Bibron (see Reptiles, pp. 22–3).
Hugh Cuming and Archibald Menzies both collected plants in the Galápagos, sending their collections to the British Museum.


Thanks for use of CD’s collection.

Comments and queries on the botany of the Southern Hemisphere.

Looks forward to seeing CD’s Galapagos plants.

Letter details

Letter no.
Hooker, J. D.
Darwin, C. R.
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 100: 1–4
Physical description
7pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 717,” accessed on 22 January 2017,