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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   [12 December 1843]

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Sir

I am very much obliged to you for your interesting letter; I have long been very curious even for as short a sketch, as you have kindly sent me, of the bontanical geography of the southern hemisphere.— I shall be most curious to see your results in detail. From my entire ignorance of botany, I am sorry to say, that I cannot answer any of the questions, which you ask me.— I think I mention in my Journal that I found my old friend the southern beach (I cannot say positively which species), on the mountain-top, in southern part of Chiloe & at level of sea in Lat 45o. in Chonos Archipelago..—1 Would not the southern end of Chiloe make a good division for you.—2 I presume from the collection of Brydges and Anderson Chiloe is pretty well known.—3 & southward begins a terra incognita. I collected a few plants amongst the Chonos Isld. The Beech being found here & Peat being formed here & general appearance of landscape, connects the Chonos Islands & T. del Fuego.

I saw the Alerce on mountains of Chiloe, (on the mainland it grows to an enormous size & I always believed the Alerce & Araucaria imbricata4 to be identical) but I am ashamed to say I absolutely forget all about its appearance.— I saw some Juniper-like bush in T. del. Fuego, but can tell you no more about it— I presume that you have seen Capt. King’s collection in Mr Browns possession, provisionally for the Brit. Mus.— I fear you will be much disappointed in my few plants: an ignorant person cannot collect; & I, moreover, lost one, the first, & best set of the Alpine plants.—5 On the other hand, I hope the Galapagos plants (judging from Henslows remarks) will turn out more interesting than you expect.— Pray be careful, to observe, if I ever mark the individual Isld of the Galapagos islands, for the reasons you will see in my Journal.—6 Menzies & Cumming were there & there are some plants, (I think Mr. Bentham7 told me) at the Horticult. Soc & at the British Museum.—8 I believe I collected no plants at Ascension, thinking it well known.—

Is not the similarity of plants of Kerguelen Land & S. S. America very curious. Is there any instance in the N. Hemisphere of plants being similar at such great distances— With thanks for your letter & for your having undertaken my small collection of plants. Believe me my dear Sir | Yours very truly | C. Darwin

Do remember my prayer & write as well for Botanical ignoramus’es as for great Botanists— There is a paper by Carmichael on Tristan d’Acunha,9 which from the w⁠⟨⁠an⁠⟩⁠t of general remarks & comparisons, I found ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ to me dead letter,—I presume you will include this island in your views of the S. Hemisphere.—

P.S. I have been looking at my poor miserable attempt at Botanical-landscape-remarks, & I see that I state that the species of Beech which is least common in T. del Fuego, is common in the forest of central Chiloe. But I will enclose for you this one page of my rough journal.—10


Journal of researches, p. 342, where CD suggests that San Pedro Island, off the southern end of Chiloé, must be close to the northern limit of the ‘southern’ beech.
J. D. Hooker 1844–7, p. 213, used this division.
Probably Thomas Bridges. James Anderson was the botanical collector aboard the Adventure during Philip Parker King’s voyage.
The monkey puzzle tree is different from the alerce.
In January 1833 the Beagle was battered by a gale off Tierra del Fuego. ‘I find I have suffered an irreparable loss from yesterday’s disaster in my drying paper & plants being wetted with salt water’ ‘Beagle’ Diary, p. 128.
Journal of researches, chapter 19, especially pp. 474–5.
George Bentham, Honorary Secretary of the Horticultural Society.
Archibald Menzies, surgeon aboard the Discovery, visited the islands in 1795 and made the first known collection. Hugh Cuming collected there in 1829. CD knew of Galápagos plants at the British Museum through Robert Brown (see letter to J. S. Henslow, 28 March [1837], where CD informs Henslow of their existence). However, Hooker cites only Cuming’s plants (D. M. Porter 1980b; 1985).
Carmichael 1818. Bound with CD’s copy are lists of Tristan da Cunha plants from the 1850s by CD and Hooker. These make the geographical comparisons and remarks on endemism that CD found wanting in Carmichael (Darwin Pamphlet Collection – CUL).
In his zoological notes CD reported: ‘at S. Pedro, (SE point of Chiloe) I first noticed the Antarctic Beech of T del Fuego but at a considerable elevation & very stunted in its form.—’ (DAR 31.2: 313). He later noted: ‘These remarks about the Beech, must be taken with caution; for I see one of the species, least common in T del Fuego is common in central forest of Chiloe’ (DAR 31.2: 313 v.).


Carmichael, Dugald. 1818. Some account of the island of Tristan da Cunha and of its natural productions. Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 12: 483–513.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1844–7. Flora Antarctica. 1 vol. and 1 vol. of plates. Pt 1 of The botany of the Antarctic voyage of HM discovery ships Erebus and Terror in the years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. London: Reeve Brothers.


Thanks JDH for short sketch of botanical geography of Southern Hemisphere. Comments on his own S. American collections and observations; notes other Galapagos collections.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 2
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 722,” accessed on 25 January 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2