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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. G. Nathorst   [after August 1872]1

This paper is only my narrative to the Royal Academy of Stockholm of my researches in Skåne 1871 without any conclusions drawn from them.2 I have had no time neither to this nor to determine all the species I have found in Sweden. I believe that their number will be about 30 and I also have some seeds and mosses. These later I believe will also give a number of about 30 species. Most of them are living now in whole Scandinavia as well as on Spitsbergen, but some are arctic species, for example Hypnum ochraceum.3 For my researches in Denmark Germany and Switzerland as well as in England I will as soon as possible give an account in an English journal.4 I think that Professor Steenstrup soon will—if he not already has—publish our researches in Denmark.5

I cannot publish anything of my researches in Europe this summer before I have given my narrative to the Royal Academy of Stockholm, but I will here mention that I in the peatmasses of Mecklenburg found Betula nana in the lowest strata. In Bavaria I also found it in a peatmass 8 feet deep and on this peatmass it once had grown.6 I found it namely in a stratum that with exception of some single leaves of Betula alba7 contained only the leaves of this plant. And I also found the boughs of it in great multitude with the leaves at their sides. What is the most interesting is that one could follow this stratum as far as one wished. It had evidently once grown in great multitude on this peatmass without leaving place for a single Salix.8 The other leaves I found here were of Andromeda polifolia, Oxycoccus palustris and Myrtillus ugilinosa.9 It was on the lowland in Bavaria southerst from Munich.—

On the lowland of Switzerland I found the arctic (alpine) plants under circumstances not different from them in Sweden or Denmark. It was between Zurich and Lac Constance under a peatmass. The peat itself contained upperit leaves and fruit of Quercus, and underit Pinus silvestris.10 In the clay I found upperit Betula alba with some single leaves of Betula nana. Lower this was more common with a great number of Salices and Dryas, and on the greatest depth I also found Salix reticulata and S. polaris (according to the determination of Heer, but I think it worth of further examination).11 Also a single leaf of Azalea and Polygonum viviparum,12 with some dubious fragments. I ought perhaps to remark that the little hills around the peatmass in Switzerland, where once Dryas etc had grown were now planted with grasses.—

At Bovey Tracey in Devonshire I found Betula nana very common on a new locality, which also contained leaves of Betula alba, three different Salices Calluna, Potamageton, seeds.13 Most interesting was that I here also found three flowers of Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi—14


The date is established by the reference to Nathorst’s research in Mecklenburg, which was carried out in the summer of 1872 (Nathorst 1873, p. 227).
Nathorst’s paper on Arctic plant beds in the freshwater aquifers of Scania appeared in the Öfversigt af Kongl. Vetenskaps-Akademiens Förhandlingar (Nathorst 1872). It was communicated to the Swedish Royal Academy on 14 February 1872.
Hypnum ochraceum is now Hygrohyphum ochraceum.
Nathorst’s paper on post-glacial Arctic plants appeared in the Journal of Botany (Nathorst 1873). His findings were based on research carried out between 1870 and the summer of 1872.
Japetus Steenstrup did not publish on Danish Arctic plant beds, but Nathorst discussed their findings in a later article (Nathorst 1892).
Nathorst discovered leaves of Betula nana (dwarf birch) near Oertzenhof in Mecklenburg and at Kolbermoor in southern Bavaria (Nathorst 1892, p. 274).
Betula alba is the white birch.
Salix is the genus of willows.
Andromeda polifolia is bog-rosemary; Oxycoccus palustris (now Vaccinium oxycoccos) is the small cranberry; Myrtillus uliginosa (now Vaccinium uliginosum) is the bog bilberry.
Quercus is the genus of oaks; Pinus sylvestris is the Scots pine (‘silvestris’ was a misspelling). Nathorst evidently refers to the uppermost (‘upperit’) and undermost (‘underit’) layers of peat.
Dryas is a genus of dwarf herbaceous plants of the rose family. Salix reticulata is the net-leaved willow; S. polaris is the polar willow. Nathorst refers to Oswald Heer.
Polygonum viviparum is alpine bistort.
Calluna is a monospecific genus of heather. Potamogeton is the genus of pondweed.
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi is bearberry.


Discusses the research for his paper on Arctic plant beds in the freshwater aquifers of Scania (Nathorst 1872).

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Gabriel Nathorst
Charles Robert Darwin
Source of text
CUL, DAR Pamphlet Collection G779

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8213F,” accessed on 16 September 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20