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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   15 January 1858

Friday Jany 15/581

My dear Darwin

The Leguminous affair is extremely curious, I am quite gone over to your side in the matter of eternal hybrids & hermaph.2 Carmichælia & Clianthus have closed flowers, & hence probably require artificial hybridization but Edwardsia has exserted genitalia. & should not be parallel case

With regard to the Wellington Clover case, it really looks too good— my impression is that Wellington was hardly a colony before 1842, & that there could not be sufficient clover cultivation there before that to warrant any conclusions, but I may be wrong—3 At any rate I should like some definite details of the state & extent of Clover-crops before 1842, say in 1839–40— I will show your letter to Sinclair, who will be here tomorrow.4

None of the New Zealand Legumes have flowers quite as small as Clover, though those of Carmichælia & of Notospartium are very small.5 Is it not dangerous to assume that Humble bees would not visit small flowers in New Zealand, because they do not in England— In England I fancy the more numerous & active hive-bee forestalls the Humble bee in the matter of small flowers—if indeed the Humble bees do not visit the latter— They surely visit Heather-flowers in Scotland?

It would indeed be curious if a relation could be traced between no bees & no small fld. Leguminosæ—but you must remember the strange absence of small Leguminosæ in Fuegia, Falklands, & the Pacific Islands generally. The question hence becomes a very involved one, & forms part of a larger one, viz is there any relation between the Geog. distrib. of bees & of Leguminosæ.

Bentham’s late researches into the British Flora have so greatly modified his views of the limits of species, that in my eyes they invalidate the results of local Floras very materially. He has completed the MS. of his British Flora, having studied every species from all parts of the world, and most of them alive in Britain, France, and other parts of Europe. Well—he has turned out as great a lumper as I am! and worse.6

Then did you see a paper of Decaisne’s on Pyrus, translated in Gard. Chron. about 3 weeks ago—in which he adopts Thomson’s and my views of species and says that if he had to monograph Plantaginaceae again he would reduce whole sections to one species and of course as many species, i.e. marked forms, would then rank as varieties. Now it was Decaisne (a most admirable Botanist) who on receiving the Flora Indica, wrote me most kindly and earnestly begging me to reconsider my mode of viewing species, and hinting that I was going to the devil.7 All this does not directly affect your results, but it shows that you should draw them from materials of all kinds—local and general, and from systematists.

⁠⟨⁠section missing⁠⟩⁠8 forms & should never have dreamed of establishing two varieties on the 20 specimens, but simply regarded the plant as variable.

Are you coming up next week— we hope the Sulivans9 are coming to take a quiet pot-luck with us on Tuesday at 6 when Sinclair will be here & Lindley—10 Can you not come if to be in Town?

Henslow will be here on the following week.11

E⁠⟨⁠ver yrs⁠⟩⁠ affly

CD annotations

1.1 The Leguminous … artificial hybridization 1.3] crossed pencil
1.3 Edwardsia] square bracket added before, pencil
3.1 None of the … very small. 3.2] double scored pencil
7.1 forms & … E⁠⟨⁠ver yrs⁠⟩⁠ affly 10.1] crossed pencil
Top of first page: ‘1843’ pencil, del brown crayon; ‘Dichogam—’ brown crayon


Hooker first wrote the date as ‘57’ then altered it to ‘58’. This letter was previously published in Correspondence vol. 7, without the two paragraphs beginning, ‘Bentham’s latest researches’ and ‘Then did you see’, which are printed in L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 453.
See Correspondence vol. 7, letter to J. D. Hooker, 12 January [1858] and n. 2. Peas and beans are in the family Fabaceae or Leguminosae.
Hooker had spent three months in New Zealand in 1841, during the time he served as assistant surgeon on James Clark Ross’s Antarctic voyage (1839–43). In Journal of researches 2d ed., p. 425, CD had remarked on seeing fields of clover being cultivated at Waimate, on the South Island in New Zealand. Wellington is on the southern tip of the North Island.
Andrew Sinclair, colonial secretary in New Zealand, 1844–56, had spent some weeks collecting plants with Hooker during Hooker’s stay in New Zealand (see n. 3, above). Sinclair returned to England in 1856.
Carmichaelia is the genus of New Zealand brooms; Notospartium is a former genus, now subsumed within the genus Carmichaelia. Most species are pollinated by solitary native bees of the genus Leioproctus, but at least one species is pollinated by birds.
George Bentham’s Handbook of the British flora was published in 1858 (Bentham 1858). In taxonomic classification, ‘lumpers’ are those who wish to reduce the number of systematic groups, while ‘splitters’ increase them. CD had identified the difference between the two approaches as evidence of the difficulty in distinguishing species (see Origin, pp. 44–59).
Joseph Decaisne’s paper on the development of the floral organs in Pyrus (the genus of pears) was published in translation in Gardeners’ Chronicle, 14 November 1857 (Decaisne 1857). The plantain family is Plantaginaceae. Hooker and Thomas Thomson had expressed their views on species in Flora Indica (J. D. Hooker and Thomson 1855, pp. 19–36).
The missing section, and the two paragraphs noted in n. 1, above, were cut out, presumably by CD. The rest of the letter was written on the verso of the remaining page.
Bartholomew James Sulivan, who had served as lieutenant in the Beagle, remained a good friend of CD’s. After the Crimean War, he was appointed to the marine department of the Board of Trade.
John Lindley was a close friend of the Hooker family.
John Stevens Henslow, Hooker’s father-in-law, had been CD’s mentor while CD was an undergraduate at Cambridge and continued to be a warm friend and correspondent from that time.


Bentham, George. 1858. Handbook of the British flora; a description of the flowering plants and ferns indigenous to, or naturalized in, the British Isles. London: Lovell Reeve.

Decaisne, Joseph. 1857. On the development of the floral organs in the pear. Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 14 November 1857, p. 773.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton and Thomson, Thomas. 1855. Flora Indica: being a systematic account of the plants of British India, together with observations on the structure and affinities of their natural orders and genera. London: W. Pamplin.

Huxley, Leonard, ed. 1918. Life and letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, OM, GCSI. Based on materials collected and arranged by Lady Hooker. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Journal of researches 2d ed.: Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN. 2d edition, corrected, with additions. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1845.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Has gone over to CD’s side on the fertilisation of clover in New Zealand by bees.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 100: 120–1; L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 453
Physical description
AL inc 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2204,” accessed on 21 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7