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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   24 December [1866]


Dec 24

My dear Hooker.

I am going to amuse myself by scribbling a bit to you about your last long letter.1 But first you must congratulate me in your mind when you hear that I have sent M.S. (such an awful, confounded pile, two volumes I much fear) of “Domestic Animals & Cult. Plants” to Printers.2 I am now writing concluding chapter, & shall perhaps insert, but am much perplexed on this head, a Chapt. on Man; just to say how I think my views bear on him.—3

We have all the Boys at home & are very jolly, & William has come for 3 days.4 He has brought back the Introduction to Australian Flora, after having read it over three times & liked it extremely. I mention this because it shows how interesting & valuable a book you might produce for general readers on Insular Floras.5 I feel, however, sure that you will grapple with this work now.— I see in Müllers letter that I assumed without any grounds that the Adenanthera was a native Brazilian plant:6 it is not worth enquiring in India about, though it is a perplexing case, for I can hardly admit your wriggle of the seeds being devoured by birds with weak gizzards: at least soaking for 10 hours in a little warm water got out hardly anything soluble from one of the seeds. Yet I must believe that they hang long on the tree & look so gaudy to attract birds.—7

I read aloud your simile of H. Spencer to a thinking pump, & it was unanimously voted first-rate, & not a bit the worse for being unintelligible.8

One word more about about the flora derived from supposed pleistocene Antarctic Land, requiring land intercommunication, this will depend much, as it seems to me, upon how far you finally settle whether Azores, Cape de Verdes, Tristan d’Acunha, Galapagos Juan Fernandez &c &c &c have all had land intercommunication. If you do not think this necessary might not New Zealand &c have been stocked during intervening glacial period by occasional means from Antarctic Land?9 As for lowlands of Borneo being tenanted by a moderate number of temperate forms during Glacial period, so far from appearing a “frightful assumption”, that I am arrived at that pitch of bigotry that I look at it as proved!10

I had another letter from Fritz Müller yesterday & in one day’s collecting he found six genera of dimorphic plants! One is a Plumbago.—11 Now have you seed of any species; I see none are on sale in Carter’s list.12 I want a second favour; could you lend me for short time a recent number of Revue Horticole, with an account by Carrière of curious effect of grafting an Aria, given in last Gard. Chronicle.—13

Yours affect | C. Darwin


CD refers to the manuscript for Variation, which he had recently sent to his publisher, John Murray (see letter to John Murray, 21 and 22 December [1866]).
On the proposed chapter on humans, see the letter to William Turner, 14 December [1866] and n. 3.
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Leonard and Horace Darwin returned from Clapham Grammar School, and George Howard and Francis Darwin returned from Cambridge University, on 14 December 1866. William Erasmus Darwin lived in Southampton (Freeman 1978).
Hooker’s essay on the Australian flora (J. D. Hooker 1859) was written as an introduction to his taxonomic work Flora Tasmaniæ (J. D. Hooker 1860b), but was published separately. CD’s annotated copy of J. D. Hooker 1859 is in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 394–8). CD had encouraged Hooker to publish the text of his lecture on insular floras delivered at the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in August 1866 (J. D. Hooker 1866a), and had been disappointed when Hooker decided to publish the piece in the Gardeners’ Chronicle (letter to J. D. Hooker, 2 October [1866]). See also letter from J. D. Hooker, 4 December 1866 and n. 9.
The reference is to Fritz Müller and his description of crimson seeds found in Brazil (see letter from Fritz Müller, 1 and 3 October 1866). Hooker identified the seeds as those of Adenanthera pavonina, and noted that the species was native to India (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 December [1866]).
CD had tried giving the seeds to a fowl but reported that the bird’s gizzard had ground them up, whereupon Hooker suggested the seeds might be consumed by birds with ‘weak digestions’ (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 14 December 1866 and n. 3).
The Azores are a small group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean, west of Portugal. The Cape Verde islands lie to the west of Senegal. Tristan da Cunha is a remote island in the mid South Atlantic. The Galápagos islands are in the Pacific Ocean, west of Ecuador. The Juan Fernandez islands lie to the west of Chile. In Origin, pp. 381–2, CD had suggested that an isolated Antarctic flora was dispersed from a common centre over the southern hemisphere by means of occasional transport.
See letter from Fritz Müller, [2 November 1866]; some of the information on dimorphic plants is in a now missing section of the letter.
CD wanted Plumbago seeds for his crossing experiments with dimorphic plants (see Correspondence vol. 15, letter to J. D. Hooker, 29 January [1867]). He refers to a list of seeds from the firm Carter, Dunnett & Beale; the list had been published annually since 1837 (R. Desmond 1994).
Gardeners’ Chronicle, 22 December 1866, p. 1217, reported on Elie Abel Carrière’s grafting experiments with Aria vestita (a synonym of Griffitharia vestita), which had been described in Revue Horticole, 1 December 1866, pp. 457–8 (Carrière 1866). CD reported Carrière’s findings in Variation 1: 387 n. 84.


Carrière, Elie Abel. 1866. Transformation de l’Aria vestita par la greffe. Revue Horticole 37: 457–8.

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

Desmond, Ray. 1994. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers. New edition, revised with the assistance of Christine Ellwood. London: Taylor & Francis and the Natural History Museum. Bristol, Pa.: Taylor & Francis.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1859. On the flora of Australia, its origin, affinities, and distribution; being an introductory essay to the flora of Tasmania. London: Lovell Reeve.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

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.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Has finished Variation. May insert a chapter on man.

Still puzzled by seeds of Adenanthera.

New Zealand and Borneo flora problems continued.

Fritz Müller found six genera of dimorphic plants in one day.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 309, 309b
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5321,” accessed on 23 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 14