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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker to Emma Darwin   29 March 1869

Royal Gardens Kew

March 29 /69.

My dear Mrs Darwin

I shall be delighted to come on the 17th & I hope by that time to have recovered my heart; which Miss Symonds took away with her on Saturday.1

Please tell Mr Darwin that I am arranging for the Aucuba experiments; with all precautions.2 I send a letter of Mr. I. A. Henrys, with message for C.D. & a very interesting one of Sir H. Barklys, marking in both the passages in pencil—as I know he is bored beyond endurance with correspondence.3

Frances sends her love   she is very busy, preparing for Russia with me—4

You do not mention Henrietta— we are most anxious to hear how she is.5

If Mr Darwin can write please let him tell me what he thinks of Huxley’s address.6 I think it very clever.

Ever Sincerely Yrs | Jos D Hooker

I should be extremely glad of Drosophyllum plants— We have had seeds & seedlings (raised ourselves) & live plants, which I have had tried in 3 different places & by as many persons, but all died.7


Redit, Mauritius

13th Feby 1869

My dear Dr Hooker,

I am in your debt for two letters dated 7th & 29th Decr. The former enclosed one from Mr Baker8 about ferns, which I defer answering till next Mail, by which time I hope to hear again from him about our Bourbon & Madagascan discoveries.

He rather puzzles us, by finally referring Lady Barkly's Hymenophyllum H. emersum to H. tenellum (as representative of Jacquin's old Adiantum tenellum,) for this latter was identified by your Father in the Sp. Filicum with the H. ricciæfolium which figures in Bojer's Hortus Mauritianus, and is described as like H. Polyanthos a Fern for which Mr Baker gives Mauritius credit in the Synopsis.9

Query does the Kew Herbarium contain specimens of both H. tenellum & H. polyanthos from this Island?

What complicates the matter is that Bojer gives H. tenellum (of Don) as a synonym of our widely different H. gracile.10

I will not take up your time with more ferny talk, but I must mention that our friend Mrs Higginson, the daughter of the former Governor of that name,11 and who has been the companion of many of our explorations and has added to the List of Mauritius Ferns Goniopteris pectifera, & Pellæa [annluni] &c, —goes home by this Mail, & will probably find her way in due course to Kew, very full of the subject. She takes with her Plants of the terrestrial Orchid which Dr Meller fancied might be ‘Dryopeia cordata’, but which you thought new.12 It has flowered with her, and is clearly not the Plant described in Lindley13 as it has 8 to 10 large greenish flowers on its erect stem.

I had no opportunity of examining the structure of the Flowers on the Pollen, but if it flowers with me I will do so. Mrs Higginson has a drawing of the Plant in flower, which will probably enable you to judge if it be new. I have not received any letter from Meller since he left this, but I heard that he has written to me by sailing Ship, and I heard from Dr V. Mueller14 by the Mail that he had been at Melbourne & gone on to Sydney.

Horne15 as you remark is very competent to replace him in the case of the Botanic Gardens, and he is superintending our Sugar Cane Experiments to my entire satisfaction.

With regard to his explanation of the Islets on the Coasts, rumour says that Horne was not bold enough to land at the chief of them—Isle Ronde, a very dangerous matter from the surf, even in calmer conditions, & that his companion young Duncan alone got on shore.16

The Island however has been lately visited by another Party in which was included the American Consul Colonel Pike, who like most Yankees knows something of everything, & who has written a very interesting Paper on its Geology, with a description of its Fauna & Flora, which is to be read at the next meeting of our Local Royal Society, & of which I will send you a copy.17

There can be no doubt that this little rock lying but a few Miles from Mauritius offers some of the strangest problems as to the distribution of Plants and Animals that can be met with. It has not only its peculiar Pandanus—as you say—which by the bye has been christened at Rotterdam P. Vandermeerschii—after one of our Surveyors here who has sent many Plants to Holland,— but it has its peculiar Palm the Jubæa spectabilis of Duncans catalogue a name I presume derived from Kew.18

Another a Latania glaucophylla is found on others of these Islands & I believe in Bourbon, whilst it has also Areca alba in common with Mauritius.19

As regards its Zoology— Colonel Pike proved that the tradition of its having Snakes (which are unknown here as in most volcanic Islands) is true, by bringing back one in Spirits of the genus [Heteræum] about 2 foot long and 2 inches round, & he also captured several large lizards quite unknown here.20

Having at a little distance the appearance of other great Island Cones about a Mile in diameter at the base & 1000 feet in height to the apex, it has generally been deemed from the days of Bory21 & downwards a Volcano, but Colonel Pike describes it as consisting of beds of friable Sandstone upheaved at angles of inclination more and more acute all round the axis of the Cone from the base to the summit.

He certainly has given me specimens of red Sandstone.

Is it not allowable to suppose that Round Island therefore is the remnant of a much more ancient Island or Continent which once existed where Mauritius is now situated and of which traces are to be found in the Casts of the stems of Submarine forests found by Dr Ayres in Gabriel Island & by Mr Charles in the Islands off Grand Port.22 If so how many hints in the chain of animal & vegetable existence may not have perished in the Volcanic eruptions which produced the Mascarene groups! I have just had an opportunity of reading Dr Wrights letter to the Principal of his University about the Seychelles, & must own I am a good deal disappointed.23 He was I see to publish the first part of his Flora of the groups in November, & I must order it to be sent to me.24 I presume he is competent for the task, but I hope he will be fair to those who have gone before him. I see he makes great capital out of his discovery of Nepenthes Wardii; but surely its existence was well known to your father & Mr Newton certainly took it to Kew in flower before Dr Wright set foot at Mahé.25Thanks for your hint about the Tropical African Flora. I have applied to Mr Layard for copies.26 Many thanks also for completing Lady Barkly's set of the Synopsis Filicum which she will highly value.27 I hope you will be able to make your expedition to Russia and return in renovated health to your post.28

Very truly Yours | Henry Barkly


Hooker refers to Hyacinth Symonds, whom Hooker had met earlier in the year (see letter from J. D. Hooker, [25 January 1869]). According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Hooker visited on 25 April 1869, but no visit is recorded for 17 April.
Hooker refers to Isaac Anderson-Henry and Henry Barkly. The letter from Anderson-Henry has not been found.
Frances Harriet Hooker was preparing for Hooker’s trip to Russia for the International Horticultural Exhibition at St Petersburg (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 11 March 1869 and n. 4).
Henrietta Emma Darwin had been ill for a couple of weeks (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 8 March [1869] and n. 4).
Hooker refers to Thomas Henry Huxley’s presidential address to the Geological Society of London on 19 February 1869 (T. H. Huxley 1869c).
CD had received plants of Drosophyllum lusitanicum from Portugal (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 17 March [1869] and nn. 5 and 6).
Hymenophyllum emersum, H. ricciaefolium, and Adiantum tenellum are synonyms of H. tenellum. H. polyanthos is the smooth filmy fern. Barkly also refers to Wenzel Bojer and Bojer 1837, p. 411, to William Jackson Hooker and W. J. Hooker 1846–64, 1: 107–8, and to W. J. Hooker and Baker 1868, p. 60.
See Bojer 1837, p. 411. Hymenophyllum gracile is now H. inaequale.
The names Goniopteris pectifera and Pellaea annuli were evidently not published. Goniopteris is a genus in the family Thelypteridaceae, marsh ferns; Pellaea is the genus of cliff-brake in the family Pteridaceae, maidenhair ferns. The orchid described by Charles James Meller as Dryopeia cordata is Disperis cordata (Dryopria discolor is a synonym).
Barkly refers to John Lindley and Lindley 1830–40.
Barkly refers to Round Island and to J. W. Duncan.
Nicolas Pike’s paper ‘Geology, fauna and flora of Round Island, Mauritius’ appeared in Transactions of the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences of Mauritius n.s. 4 (1870): 11–22.
Barkly refers to the screwpine species, Pandanus vandermeeschii; Jacob van der Meersch was a Dutch governor of Mauritius. Jubaea spectabilis is now J. chilensis, the Chilean wine palm. Barkly also refers to James Duncan’s Catalogue of plants in the Royal Botanic Garden, Mauritius (Duncan 1863; see Barkly 1870, pp. 94–5 for his discussion of the misuse of the name J. spectabilis for a species of Round Island palm).
Latania glaucophylla is now L. loddigesii, the blue latan palm. Areca alba is now Dictosperma album, the hurricane palm.
Barkly may intend Herpetodryas, a snake genus he mentioned in his paper, ‘Notes on the flora and fauna of Round Island’ (Barkly 1870, p. 98). The two snakes found on Round Island are Casarea dussumieri, the Round Island keel-scaled boa, and Bolyeria multocarinata, the Round Island burrowing boa; they are now in their own family, Bolyeriidae (Mauritius snakes). Round Island has some endemic gecko and skink species, the largest of which are Phelsuma guentheri, Gunther’s gecko, and Leiolopisma telfairii, Telfair’s skink.
For some observations by Philip Burnard Ayres on the geology of Gabriel Island, see Ayres 1860. Mr Charles has not been identified. Grand Port is an area in the south-east part of the island of Mauritius near the city of Mahebourg.
Barkly refers to Edward Perceval Wright, who was professor of botany at Trinity College, Dublin (ODNB).
Wright’s paper, ‘Contributions towards a knowledge of the flora of the Seychelles’ was read at the Royal Irish Academy in December 1868 (Wright 1868).
Nepenthes wardii is now N. pervillei, the name it was originally given in 1852 (see Museum Botanicum Lugduno 2 (1852): 10). Edward Newton was colonial secretary of Mauritius. Mahé is the largest island of the Seychelles.
The first volume of Flora of tropical Africa had been published in 1868 (Oliver 1868–77). Edgar Leopold Layard was the curator of the South African Museum.
Barkly refers to Anne Maria Barkly and to Synopsis filicum (W. J. Hooker and Baker 1868) which updated the earlier five volume work, Species filicum (W. J. Hooker 1846–64).
Hooker visited Russia in May 1869 to attend the International Horticultural Exhibition at St. Petersburg (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 11 March 1869 and n. 4).


Ayres, P. B. 1860. On the geology of Flat and Gabriel Islands.Transactions of the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences of Mauritius n. s. 1: 220–32.

Barkly, Henry. 1870. Notes on the flora and fauna of Round Island. In The Mauritius almanac and colonial register for 1870. Edited by John B. Kyshe. Mauritius: [n.p.].

Bojer, Wenzel. 1837. Hortus Mauritianus: ou énumération des plantes, exotiques et indigènes, qui croissent a l’Ile Maurice, disposées d’après la m éthode naturelle. Maurice: Aimé Mamarot et Compagnie.

Duncan, James. 1863. Catalogue of plants in the Royal Botanic Garden, Mauritius. [Mauritius]: n.p.

Hooker, William Jackson. 1846–64. Species filicum: being descriptions of the known ferns, particularly of such as exist in the author’s herbarium, or are with sufficient accuracy described in works to which he has had access; accompanied with numerous figures. 5 vols. London: W. Pamplin.

Lindley, John. 1830–40. The genera and species of orchidaceous plants. London: Ridgways.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

Oliver, Daniel. 1868–77. Flora of tropical Africa. 3 vols. London: L. Reeve and Co.


Pleased to come on 17th.

Is arranging the Aucuba experiment.

Sends some letters for CD’s perusal.

Asks what CD thinks of Huxley’s address [Q. J. Geol. Soc. Lond. 25 (1869): xxviii–liii].

Would be glad to have Drosophyllum plants.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 103: 12–13; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Directors’ Correspondence 188: 141–2)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6685,” accessed on 20 June 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17