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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [21 March 1857]


in regard to species, & then all is horrid fog.— You told me that you could lend me Drege’s work or list on the distribution of the Cape Plants1 (not the paper in the Flora,2 which I know) & I shd be particularly obliged for it within a week & I will keep it not more than a fortnight. Will you send it per Post, & let me pay postage. I want to see whether there are materials to work out range of the species in large genera contrasted with those in small genera.— A. De C. has done it for families,3 but as these will include small & large genera, I think this is not the right way. Asa Gray took genera as I asked him & the result was as it shd. be, for as Agassiz says, nature never lies.4

I am amusing myself with several little experiments; I have now got a little weed garden & am marking each seedling as it appears, to see at what time of life they suffer most.—5

I congratulate you on having done so much of the Indian Flora, & am astounded how you possibly could have made out 7000 species & ticketed 15000 species.6 I would not have done such work for a guinea a specimen! Such materials will give some splendid general results.— I envy your power of work & noble zeal.—

Some time ago you told me of two reputed species of Thistle, which in the Himalaya, alone, were blended by a perfect series of intermediate forms: some time I shd. be very glad to have particulars briefly, & be allowed to quote; I shd. like to know whether both the distinct forms grew mingled with the intermediates.

My dear Hooker | Your’s affectionately | C. Darwin


Probably Drège 1837–39, 1840, or [1847], which described plants collected by Jean François Drège in South Africa. The Kew library held all three catalogues (Royal Gardens, Kew 1899).
CD recorded this experiment under the heading ‘Weed Garden’ in his Experimental book, p. 25 (DAR 157a). Selecting a small plot of land in the orchard protected from large animals, he cleared it of all perennials in January 1857. His next entry reads: ‘Early in March seeds began to spring up: marked each daily.’ He continued to monitor the plot, marking new plants, counting the ones that had perished, and suggesting possible causes of death, until 1 August. Out of 357 plants he had marked, he found 62 had survived.
Hooker continued to work on his Indian plants, despite being frustrated in his attempts to obtain financial support to continue publishing the Flora Indica, only one volume of which had appeared (J. D. Hooker and Thomson 1855). On 3 March 1857, he and Thomas Thomson had contributed a paper to the Linnean Society that was intended to provide a ‘temporary substitute’ by way of analysing several of the natural orders of Indian plants (J. D. Hooker and Thomson 1858).


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.

Drège, Jean François. 1837–39. Catalogus plantarum exsiccatarum Africæ australioris quas emturis offert J. F. D. 3 pts. Königsberg.

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.


Ranges of species in large vs small genera: Asa Gray’s compilation fits CD’s expectation.

CD studies seedling mortality in his weed garden.

JDH’s work on Indian flora.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 192a
Physical description
ALS 4pp inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2067,” accessed on 21 May 2024,

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