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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   10 July 1856


July 10/56

Dear Darwin

We have flowered Dr Bell Salters hybrid Epilobium from seeds he sent us, & it is so clearly E. roseum and nothing else, having no trace of either parent that I have no faith whatever in his experiments—1 he himself remarks in the Phytologist that it is to all appearance similar to E roseum, but differs in the slightly 4 Cleft stigma—2 now though E. roseum is put in the section with entire stigmata, it is described both by Babington3 & Hook Arnott4 as having a slightly 4-cleft stigma— This is just the way, whenever I do make an experiment it is sure to end either in smoke, or disappointment, or in a disgusting opposition to some preconceived theory of my own. (As the Entada seeds.)5

Per contra Henslow is going ahead with his Ægilops & procured a sport from it very like Revet wheat after the 3d. year!6

I have been just reading Ed. Forbes first 112 pages of his little work on the European seas, all that is which Van Voorst had printed before Forbes death:7 would you like to see it?

I have read Huxleys response to Falconer with eminent gusto—how admirably neatly & clearly he puts the whole question.8 I never understood the distinctions between Morphology & Physiology in their relation to systematic Zoology half so well before. I certainly only half understood the question before & I do not think that Huxleys original Lecture was particularly good at all.—9 he has put forth his strength here & will I think startle old Falconer. I had a note from the latter a week ago from Paris, in which he alluded to the subject as if he had eaten Huxley without salt & left no bones at all; by Jove he will find this pungent

Huxley & Mrs H staid with us from Saturday till Monday last, but I had not then read his response.

I began this letter intending to tell you why I had not earlier attended to your letters which is because my father is in Scotland: so you may set your mind at ease on the score of the Tristan d’Acunha list.10

The said Tristan d’Acunha list is I think capable of some modification in my favor, a most remarkable and wholly distinct grass inhabiting it having been lately found in the Island of St. Pauls (N. of Kerguelens land)— I see you have a note of this I shall hunt up the Tristan d’Acunha plants & let you know.

With regard to the Chili + N.Z. list I have gone over it— none are mountain plants in any sense that I know of— As a rule none of the genera have wide ranging species except Epilobium though none are remarkably restricted as to the ranges of their individual species— they are nothing particular in short.11

Upon the whole the most wonderful cases, almost demanding double centres, are the presence of the European plants in the Australian Alps & in Tasmania as Cardamine pratensis, x Lysimachia vulgaris, Aphanes arvensis, x Turritis glabra, x Veronica serpyllifolia—besides various Carices, & grasses plants that are not common in Australia & are found no where else in the Southern Hemisphere & are not very widely distribd in the Northern except the Card. 12

x These on the faith of Dr. Ferd. Mueller Govt Bot. of Victoria an able Botanist.13

It appears however true that multiple centres are worse for your theory than any thing else.

Lyell has not sent me your letter,14 I wish he would.

The Aristolochia was A. labiosa or an allied species, the brute of a Viscum is diœcious after all, it looked Hermaphrodite, & certainly the pollen is all out before the bud opens, so that observation is worthless.—15 The Aristolochia stigma seemed all ready for pollen but I will look again. Its anthers are on the stigmata hence the necessity of Insect or other action to shake out the grains

I shall try to get you cases of well marked varieties being common & the intermediates rare16 —but these cases are always explained away by the assumption of hybridism— e.g. Geum urbanum, rivale & intermedium— Wheat & Ægilops— Hewett Watson would probably give you more good cases than I could.

Ever yours | Jos D Hooker

Has it ever struck you that the fact of Parnassia, Saxifraga & anthers approaching & being applied to the Stigma in pairs or in turns is against cross hybrid impregnation, in as much as that a plants own pollen shoots its tubes on its own stigma before that of another species will applied at same time & in general overcomes the latter.— You know what I mean.

CD annotations

scored brown crayon
crossed brown crayon
scored brown crayon
9.1 an able Botanist.] underl brown crayon
crossed brown crayon
double scored brown crayon
13.4 Hewett Watson … could.] double scored brown crayon
scored brown crayon
Top of first page: ‘other facts besides Antarctic Distribution)’ pencil


For CD’s interest in Thomas Bell Salter’s claim to have discovered natural and completely fertile hybrids in the genera Epilobium and Geum, see Correspondence vol. 5, letter from T. B. Salter, 25 June 1855. Salter had promised to send seeds to CD; these had evidently been passed on to Hooker to grow at Kew.
W. J. Hooker and Arnott 1855.
John Stevens Henslow described his experiments on Aegilops squarrosa (a synonym of A. triuncialis), a wild grass found in southern Europe, at the August meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held in Cheltenham (Henslow 1856). He had intended to test the claim made by the French botanist Esprit Fabre (Fabre 1854) that Aegilops ovata was the original source of wheat (Triticum sativum). Henslow announced that although he had succeeded in changing the character of the experimental plants, he had not yet succeeded in obtaining all the specific features of wheat.
Hooker refers to the pages printed and corrected by Edward Forbes before his death in 1854 for his book on the natural history of the European seas. This text was edited and continued by Forbes’s friend Robert Alfred Cloyne Godwin-Austen and was published in 1859 (E. Forbes and Godwin-Austen 1859). The section that Hooker had read included descriptions of Forbes’s proposed Arctic, Boreal, Celtic, and Lusitanian provinces.
T. H. Huxley 1856b, a response to Falconer 1856. See letters to J. D. Hooker, 21 [May 1856] and 17–18 [June 1856].
T. H. Huxley 1855.
See letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 [July 1856], n. 3. The list was annotated by Hooker, giving brief descriptions of the localities inhabited by the twelve species. At the bottom, CD wrote: ‘These genera, Hooker says are not particularly wide rangers; but species with restricted ranges.— Nothing particular in short.—’
CD used Hooker’s information in Natural selection, pp. 553–4.
Ferdinand Jakob Heinrich von Mueller was the government botanist in Melbourne, Australia. From 1853, he issued annual reports on the vegetation of the colony.
CD had asked Hooker whether he could confirm Thomas Vernon Wollaston’s observations of the same point in the insect kingdom (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 5 July [1856]).


Babington, Charles Cardale. 1851. Manual of British botany, containing the flowering plants and ferns arranged according to the natural orders. 3d edition. London: John van Voorst.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Falconer, Hugh. 1856. On Prof. Huxley’s attempted refutation of Cuvier’s laws of correlation, in the reconstruction of extinct vertebrate forms. Annals and Magazine of Natural History n.s. 17: 476–93.

Henslow, John Stevens. 1856. On the triticoidal forms of Ægilops and on the specific identity of Centaurea nigra and C. nigrescens. Report of the 26th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held at Cheltenham, Transactions of the sections, pp. 87–8.

Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s Natural selection: being the second part of his big species book written from 1856 to 1858. Edited by R. C. Stauffer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1975.

Salter, Thomas Bell. 1852. On the fertility of certain hybrids. Phytologist 4, pt 2: 737– 42. [Vols. 5,6]


[T. Bell Salter’s?] "hybrid" Epilobium a false claim.

Admires Huxley’s response to Falconer [see 1904].

Tristan da Cunha plant list, requested by CD, supports JDH’s position [on continental extension?].

Chilean plants not exceptional.

JDH considers parallels between Australian Alps and European plants strong evidence for multiple creations.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 100: 96–9
Physical description
ALS 8pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1923,” accessed on 23 July 2024,

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