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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   7 May 1856


May 7th/56

My dear Darwin

Nymphæa seeds—we can get you plenty in Autumn if you will remind me.1

Ascenscion plants. I found only 3 or 4 native phænogams, & as many Ferns— I was wrong about the Rubiaceous genus & should have said Hedyotis (a very common trop. genus)— the plants are diag Euphorbia endemic

Hedyotis— do

Aristida do. (grass.

& perhaps one or two Cyperaceæramme

The Ferns are generally not St. Helena Species, but W. Indian— this is unaccountable.

Had the winds transported seeds at all there ought to be many common trop. weeds on the Mt. top—but I believe that every non endemic flowering plant of Ascenscion has been imported by man— all may be traced to the garden & houses, as far as I could detect.2

Scabiosa & Cnestis—the observations no doubt refer to species and not to individuals. I should rebut that the amount of albumen (perisperm) would be constant in the individuals of the species,—at least in some other exalbuminous orders in some few species of which I have found a little albumen (Compositæ & Halorageæ) I do not find the quantity variable3

Bentham did not cultivate the Dandelions (to which his observations refer) he watched the effects of light, shade, seasons &c on the forms (species of Dl.) growing about him at Montpellier.4


Seed of Glyceria fluitans is abundantly collected (from the wild plants) & eaten in Holland & Russia & exported also, being the true“Manna Croup”.—5 Zizania was & is eaten abundantly by N. Am Indians, but is not cult.6

Dréges Verseidinity is not a mere catalogue, but elaborate table of distributions hideously closely printed, & diabolically complicated—7 I doubt if you can get it in the Linnean, but I will lend you the Kew copy for a fortnight or month if you would care for it diag in Russia

Primrose—Caucasus only

Oxlip—Caucasus to lat of Moscow.—

Cowslip—Caucasus to lat. of St Petersbugh,

(Compare English distribution)ramme

Forbes map sent to Royal Society.8

Lyallia Kerguelensis— I have lost clue to the American affinity—probably a myth.9

In Herefordshire where both Oxlips & Cowslips grow, Bentham finds plenty of intermediates

Bentham would not have altered his Targioni review10 for ADCs book11 —but I think that ADC. would for Bentham’s review—

Will you let me know when you have spoken to Lord Overton12 about Huxley & Athenæum13 & I will back it up through Lord Os. bosom friend Strzelecki. 14

CD annotations

1.1 Nymphæa … me.] crossed pencil
2.6 Aristida do.] ‘do.’ del pencil; ‘PS.’ added pencil
5.1 Scabiosa… for it 9.4] crossed pencil
cross added pencil
‘Q’added pencil, circled pencil; ‘[Petersb] 59, 56 55 54’ —— added pencil
crossed pencil
Top of first page: ‘20’15 brown crayon


CD had apparently sent Hooker a list of questions relating to their discussions during Hooker’s visit to Down House from 22 to 28 April (Emma Darwin’s diary). The Nymphaea seeds were for CD’s seed-soaking experiments (Experimental book, p. 14 (DAR 157a)).
Hooker had visited Ascension Island and St Helena in 1843 during the voyage of H.M.S. Erebus (L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 53). He had first mentioned the dissimilarity in their floras, despite their proximity, in Correspondence vol. 3, letter from J. D. Hooker, 29 November 1844.
The amount of albumen in seeds was thought by Hooker to be related to their ability to survive immersion in sea-water. He had earlier suggested that CD test the germination of albuminous seeds after immersion in sea-water (Correspondence vol. 5, letter to J. D. Hooker, 19 April [1855]).
The observations have not been found. George Bentham had lived in Montpellier from 1816 to 1826 (DNB).
‘Manna-croup’ is the name given both to the coarse residue from grinding flour and to a similar meal made from the seeds of the manna-grass, Glyceria fluitans [hence the true manna-croup] (OED).
Zizania aquatica, so-called wild rice, was once a staple food of North American Indians.
Jean François Drège had made an extensive collection of South African plants during an eight-year visit to the Cape Colony. Hooker may be referring to Drège’s ‘Geographische Vertheilung’, pp. 38–43, in Drège 1843, which is a table listing the numbers and areas of distribution of families of South African plants. See also the letter to C. J. F. Bunbury [before 9 May 1856].
Probably Edward Forbes’s ‘Map of the distribution of marine life, illustrated chiefly by fishes, mollusca, and radiata; showing also the extent & limits of the homoiozoic belts’, published in Alexander Keith Johnston’s Physical atlas (E. Forbes 1856).
In a manuscript list headed ‘Kerguelan Lands List of Plants of’ bound into CD’s copy of the introductory essay of J. D. Hooker 1853–5 (Darwin Library–CUL), CD wrote next to this species: ‘Hooker says (May 13/56) that he has lost trace of relation of this plant to some Cordillera plant’.
Bentham 1855, a review of Targioni Tozzetti 1850.
Hooker refers to Alphonse de Candolle’s long discussion of plants naturalised in Europe, which makes reference to Antonio Targioni Tozzetti’s work on the same subject (A. de Candolle 1855, 2: 800).
Samuel Jones Loyd, Baron Overstone.
Hooker planned to propose Thomas Henry Huxley for membership of the Athenæum Club (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 9 May [1856]). Huxley was not elected, however, until 1858 (L. Huxley ed. 1900 1: 150).
Paul Edmund de Strzelecki was a member of the election committee of the Athenæum. Lord Overstone had assisted him in becoming a British subject (DNB).
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on the geographical distribution of plants.


Candolle, Alphonse de. 1855. Géographie botanique raisonnée ou exposition des faits principaux et des lois concernant la distribution géographique des plantes de l’époque actuelle. 2 vols. Paris: Victor Mason. Geneva: J. Kessmann.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Drège, Jean François. 1843. Zwei pflanzengeographische Dokumente. With an introduction by Ernst Friedrich Heinrich Meyer. Flora, oder allgemeine botanische Zeitung. Suppl. to n.s. 1: 1-200.

Forbes, Edward. 1856. Map of the distribution of marine life, illustrated chiefly by fishes, molluscs and radiata; showing also the extent & limits of the homoiozoic belts. Pp. 99–102 of vol. 4 of Johnston, Alexander Keith, ed., The physical atlas of natural phenomena. 2d ed. 4 vols. Edinburgh and London.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1853–5. Flora Novæ-Zelandiæ. 2 vols. Pt 2 of The botany of the Antarctic voyage of HM discovery ships Erebus and Terror, in the years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. London: Lovell Reeve.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.


Non-endemic Ascension Island plants brought by man, not wind-transported.

Bentham has found intermediates between oxlip and cowslip in Herefordshire.

JDH finds quantity of albumen in seeds is not variable within a species.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 100: 94–5
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1869,” accessed on 18 January 2022,

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