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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   10 June [1855]


June 10th.—

My dear Hooker

If being thoroughily interested with your letters makes me worthy of them, I am very worthy.

I have raised some seedling Sensitive Plants, but if you can readily spare me a moderately sized plant, I shall be glad of it.—1

You encourage me so, that I will slowly go on salting seeds.— I have not, I see, explained myself to let you suppose that I objected to such cases as the former union of England & Continent; I, look at this case as proved by animals &c &c; & indeed it wd. be an astounding fact, if the land had kept so steady as that they had not been united, with Snowdon elevated 1300 ft in recent times &c &c.—

It is only against the former union with the oceanic volcanic isld. that I am vehement.—2 What a perplexing case N. Zealand does seem: is not the absence of Leguminosæ, &c &c fully as much opposed to continental connexion, as to any other theory.—3 What a curious fact you state about distribution & lowness going together.

The presence of a Frog in New. Zealand seems to me a strongish fact for continental connexion, for I assume that sea-water wd. kill spawn, but I shall try. The spawn I find will live about 10 days out of water, but I do not think it cd. possibly stick to a Bird.

What you say about no one realising creation strikes me as very true; but I think & hope that there is nearly as much difference between trying to find out whether species of a genus have had a common ancestor & concerning oneself with the first origin of life, as between making out the laws of chemical attraction & the first origin of matter.

I thought that Gray’s letter had come open to you & that you had read it:4 you will see what I asked viz for habitats of the Alpine plants, but I presume there will be nothing new to you.— Please return both How pleasantly Gray takes my request, & I think I shall have done a good turn if I make him write a paper on Geograph. Distrib, of plants of U. States.

I have written him a very long letter telling him some of the points about which I shd. feel curious.5 But on my life it is sublimely ridiculous, my making suggestions to such a man.—

I cannot help thinking that what you say about low plants being widely distributed and standing injurious conditions better than higher ones (but is not this most difficult to show?) is equally favourable to sea-transport, to continental connexions & all other means.— Pray do not suppose that I fancy that if I could show that nearly all seeds cd stand an almost indefinite period of immersion in sea-water, that I have done more than one extremely small step in solving the problem of distribution, for I can quite appreciate the importance of the fact you point out; & then the direction of currents in past & present times have to be considered!!

I shall be very curious to hear Berkeley’s results in the salting line.6

With respect to geological changes, I ought to be one of the last men to undervalue them, after my map of coral islds. 7 & after what I have seen of elevation on coast of America.—8

Farewell, I hope my letters do not bother you. Again & for the last time I say, that I shd. be extremely vexed if ever you write to me against the grain or when tired.

Ever your’s | C. Darwin

Your Rhododendrums are shooting nicely.


Probably Mimosa sensitiva. See letter from J. D. Hooker, [6–9 June 1855].
The map showing the distribution of coral reefs throughout the world is in Coral reefs, plate 3. The coloured areas indicated great zones of the sea floor that were undergoing either elevation or subsidence.
CD’s observations are described in South America.


Coral reefs: The structure and distribution of coral reefs. Being the first part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1842.

South America: Geological observations on South America. Being the third part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1846.


Detailed response to JDH’s critique of sea transport and continental connection theories. JDH’s claim that low plants are widely distributed fits both theories.

Species theory does not touch origin of life.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 136
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1696,” accessed on 1 February 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5