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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   22 December 1858


Dec 22/58.

My dear Darwin

I am & have been working hard at my Essay & make about as slow progress as you say you do.1 I am utterly staggered by some of the facts of distribution—here is wild rice & lots of other plants identical with Indian, in N.W. Australia several hundred miles from the coast, & there is a most typical American plant (not found in India) from the same locality. I have now got together about 500 tropical Indian species in Australia, many of them very peculiar besides many generic types almost all Peninsular: Indian, not Malayan or Javanese types—but plants of the sandstone ranges of Australia & India. Now though there are several wet country Australian types (not species) in Malayan Islands & Peninsula, there are none in the Indian Peninsula, nor are there any of the hundreds of Australian Sandstone & dry tropical types in the Indian Peninsula. Now I never can believe that 500 Indian plants got transported by existing causes to tropical Australia, & that the said causes did not return one tropical Australian Acacia, Eucalyptus, Stylidium, Proteacea, Goodenia, Casuarina or Restiacea &c to the Indian Penin-sula!—2

Weeds, herbs, shrubs & trees of many Indian families have gone S.E. to Australia & nothing has gone back N.B. Eucalypti, Casuarina & acacias grow magnificently all over the Peninsula where planted & ripen loads of seed.

You kindly promised me the loan of your Chapter on transmigration of forms across tropics & I should be glad of it.3 I am grievously troubled to know at what date to assume this transmigration Am I safe in assuming that the Antarctic types entered Australia at same epoch—& what was general character of Australian Flora at that epoch.4 Jukes I find speculates in his sketch on Australia being 2 groups of Islands; was your review of Waterhouse anterior to this? 5

Highlands of Abyssynia will not help you to connect the Cape & Australian temperate Floras; they want all the types common to both & worse than that, India notably wants them—Proteaceæ, Restiaceæ, Thymeleaæ, Hæmodoraceæ, Acacia, & Rutaceæ of closely allied genera (and in some cases species) are jammed up in S.W. Australia & C.B.S.—6 Add to this the Epacrideæ (which are mere § of Ericeæ), & the absence or rarity of Rosaceæ &c &c &c & you have an amount of similarity in the Floras, & dissimilarity to that of Abyssynia & India in the same features that does demand an explanation in any theoretical history of Southern vegetation.

I still hold to a large Southern Continent characterized by these & the Ant-arctic types—7 Perhaps during the Cretaceous & Oolitic periods some of these types existed in the N. Hemisphere also—hence the Araucaria cones in Oolite, Banksia wood of the sands at Chobham (what age are they?) & cretaceous fossils supposed to be Proteaceae in Belgium &c.???

Are all the coal & Sandstone fossils of Australia Palæozoic? & is there in Australia a gap in the Geolog series between these & modern tertiary beds? 8

I also still regard plants types as older things than animal types— I have a fossil Araucaria cone from the Oolite identical to all appearances with A. excelsa of Norfolk Island & the Chobham fossil Banksia wood is identical with Tasmanian: I do not suppose specifically in either case, but that such highly organized types should be so similar, indicates a great age for them as types.

We went to the Whewells at Trinity Lodge for 4 days9 & my wife enjoyed it much, she has been laid up with Influenza ever since & I am now in for it.

I am going to Ld Wrottesley’s for a few days on the 5th to meet Bell & Brodie Miller & Sharpey.10

I have today been informed that the W. & F. have spontaneously determined to increase my salary to £500 & let me have my house rent free, which are very acceptable bonus.11 they will also put the house in complete repair, but I must add to it if I want at my own cost.— Now I want to add two such rooms as yours only smaller—say 15 x 20.— What did yours cost you?12

Ever Yrs | Jos D Hooker

CD annotations

double scored pencil
crossed pencil
5.4 Banksia wood] ‘Banksia’ double underl pencil
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Top of first page: ‘20’13 brown crayon, circled brown crayon; ‘& Geology’ brown crayon, underl brown crayon


Hooker 1859.
The Indian plants in tropical Australia are listed in Hooker 1859, pp. xlii–xlix. The problem of their migration from India to Australia is discussed on pp. l and civ.
CD’s chapter on geographical distribution (chapter 11, Natural selection, pp. 534–66), a part of which Hooker had read in the autumn of 1856 (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to J. D. Hooker,[16 October 1856]). Hooker discussed CD’s theories of transoceanic migration and the migration of northern plants through the tropics to the southern hemisphere during a former cold period in Hooker 1859.
Hooker eventually decided that the waves of migration could not have been simultaneous. See Hooker 1859, pp. cii–cv.
Jukes 1850, pp. 90–5. Hooker discussed Joseph Beete Jukes’s work in Hooker 1859, pp. c–ci. Hooker refers to CD’s anonymous review of Waterhouse 1846–8, which appeared in 1847 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 27 [November 1858]).
Capo di Buona Speranza (Cape of Good Hope). The South African features of the Australian flora are discussed in Hooker 1859, pp. xcii–xciv. Hooker refers to the families Restionaceae and Thymelaeaceae.
See Hooker 1859, p. civ.
Hooker discussed the fossil flora of Australia in Hooker 1859, pp. c–ci. He noted the problematic ‘hiatus which geologists seem to consider exists between the palæozoic and tertiary strata of that country.’
William Whewell was master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He was a member of the council of the Royal Society in 1858.
John Wrottesley, the former president of the Royal Society, was succeeded by Benjamin Collins Brodie at the anniversary meeting of the society on 30 November. Thomas Bell, president of the Linnean Society, was a new member of the Royal Society’s council. William Hallowes Miller was the foreign secretary, and William Sharpey one of the two ordinary secretaries of the society. Hooker had retired from the council at the anniversary meeting of the Royal Society on 30 November 1858 (Athenæum, 4 December 1858, p. 723).
Hooker, as assistant director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, came under the government Department of Woods and Forests.
See following letter.
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on the geographical distribution of plants.


Athenæum. 1844. A few words by way of comment on Miss Martineau’s statement. No. 896 (28 December): 1198–9.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Jukes, Joseph Beete. 1850. A sketch of the physical structure of Australia, so far as it is present known. London. [Vols. 7,8]

Waterhouse, George Robert. 1846–8. A natural history of the Mammalia. 2 vols. London: H. Baillière.


Would appreciate loan of CD’s chapter on transmigration across tropics, which may help with the difficulties of Australian distribution.

Still regards plant types as older than animal types.

The Cape of Good Hope and Australian temperate floras cannot be connected by the highlands of Abyssinia.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 100: 128–30
Physical description
ALS 6pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2382,” accessed on 25 June 2022,

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