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CD’s notes arising from conversations with J. D. Hooker   8 December 1844


Darwin’s notes arising from conversations with Joseph Dalton Hooker

Dec. 8.— 1844. J. d. Hooker. Notes1


Maccormick2 says there are blocks of granite &c on Kerguelan land— Icebergs certainly stranded—not known to do so on Auckland Islands. or S. of New Zealand.


An astelia, Beech, (N.B the Astelia of Sandwich Isd very different) & Oriobolus (peculiar genus of grass) common to Mountains of Van Diemen’s land, New Zealand & Tierra del Fuego; H thinks other analogous facts—so that the S. Hemisphere is like north in some community. ==He mentioned another genus==


In Falklands there is a peculiar grass common to Melville Isld & same identical grass in Upper Peru.

The 14 Plants (& 4 peculiar) common to Kerguelen Land & T: del Fuego, chiefly grasses & insignificant plants3 —one Auckland Island form there.

Hooker4 thinks, that There is some affinity between St. Helena & J. Fernandez (!!)5 in two peculiar species of Campanulaciæ; & relations to external conditions in strong caulescent Plumbagos


Hooker says there is case of foreign Leguminous plant, having been reared from seed picked up on coast of Ireland.—


Cocos Isd (N. of Galapagos) has Mexican form of ferns— Galapagos allied to W. Indian Islands—, certainly American character flora, more than to continent.—

A Rhododendron on summit of Ceylon & Java— An Andromeda summit of Sandwich Isd.— Believe Europæan form on Organ Mountains in Brazil— Schonburgk6 found Rubi on 6000 ft mountains in Guyana.— What is Flora of Bourbon?7 Really all mountains, except of Australia (a)8 are allied. (My views require much correcting).9 Iceland 400 plants all Europæan; believes Greenland 600 plants are also so.— Heaths, but none have crossed Baffins Bay.—10 Have all these been received from Europe by migration. Good case of evidence for migration.

(a) On Van Diemens Land Mountains, An Anemone & Andromeda, & none of these genera on low-land. (The Andromeda very wonderful, because belong to Ericeæ, & these are represented by Epacridæ.)11 One Rubus, likens it to Arcticus—12 one lowland species. There is allied Anemone in T. del Fuego.— On New Zealand Mountains a herbaceous Veronica, (& Epilobiums?) in lowlands only shrubby ones, almost other genus.— Believe that on most mountains as Ceylon & E. India, the extra-tropical division of grasses are found. Certainly appears as if all mountains in some degree uniform.— Certainly the Gentianæ are Alpine plants, though some are found in lowlands in most countries—yet great tendency to be on mountains. (All my reasoning will apply to sub-alpine Floras.)13 One species found on mountains of Chile, N. America & Europe. important like the grass, showing a high-Road. The further south gone, on the islands S of New Zealand, the more American Flora becomes. Kerguelen Land not so distant in straght line from T. del Fuego


Thinks Australia & C. of Good Hope rather more allied than S. America & Australia:—same main divisions as with Mammifers:14 except wd include all South-part of N. America, & does not know about Madagascar.— {St. Helena versus the world would perhaps be the first division.}


Agrees with me about diffusion of species.


Accounts for difference between East & West Australia from plants being “confined” genera, hence the species have “confined ranges”—


Agrees with Lesson that going to Westward in Pacific, more nutmegs Pandini &c showing more Indian Flora, that it dies away to Eastward & does not get any American character.—15


Senecio is a large mundane genus, yet no species has a very wide range. Berkely16 says most mundane Fungus has some species with most wide range.


I see our cow, which has two abortive mammæ, then these two are unequally developed.17

Hooker’s case of Polypodium fine case of species varying in one country & not in another.18


Australian Orchideous Plant. Pterostylos, which from Spring in Labellum, when touched must exclude insect agency, though possibly, I think, an insect might get crushed between

H. has capital plan of testing number of species by seeing how many species he collected in same time, in two countries. In New Zealand, though looking so much more fertile he got only half as many as near Sydney. At Cape he thinks perhaps even more.


Juan Fernandez. quite S. American Flora—some peculiar genera; many peculiar species of Chilian genera, & some Chilian species— Analogy with St. Helena; such analogy opposed to my views


No facts, in Embryology, in Botany: cannot say, which is highest group—most complicated. There is an orchis (Listera ‘avis-nidi??) colourless leafless, &c presenting strong analogy with Orobanche

Hooker says, an Impatiens fulva or biflora, he has no doubt is American & has recently overrun Europe & England & taken place of other plants— Railway Cutting.—introduced in A.D not given in Loudon (lately)19 One species is doubtful English; but not this large I. fulva20


I compared Maer Heath, unaltered, during 20,000 years. wd perhaps not receive new plants—but plant firs & so alter conditions & see how many new things are introduced: so with a whole country.—21

Are not New Zealand leaves related to present Flora of Van Diemen’s Land?— V. my volcanic volume. Hooker thinks that they are certainly Eucalypti——22 The silicified wood there is Araucaria..— The fossil trees of Kerguelen Land, probably coeval with the odd Cabbage.—


Does not agree, (but had not thought) of Waterhouses remark on alliances being general & not especial23


Believe part, which is normally in a species abortive appears often as a rudiment— Has lately seen & described this in case of pistil of dio+ecious Umbelliferous plant:24 does not know anything on Bentham’s law of variability of abortive parts.——25


CD made these notes on the occasion of Joseph Dalton Hooker’s first visit to Down, 7–8 December 1844. They refer to questions asked during conversation and topics raised in their previous correspondence. Hooker provided CD with further comments in letter from J. D. Hooker, 12 December 1844.
McCormick 1841 and 1842. Hooker soon wrote to tell CD that this information was incorrect, see letter from J. D. Hooker, 12 December 1844.
This information was incorporated into the essay of 1844 (Foundations, p. 167). See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 February [1844].
The paragraphs transcribed as five and six were written on the verso of the first page in a way that makes the exact sequence of the text hard to determine.
St Helena lies in the middle of the South Atlantic ocean, and Juan Fernandez off the coast of Chile. For Hooker’s opinion on their close botanical relationship, see J. D. Hooker 1846, pp. 244, 246. CD queried Hooker’s interpretation in letter to J. D. Hooker, [23 November 1846].
Réunion island, Indian ocean.
The ‘(a)’ and a small drawing of a pointing hand indicates the insertion of paragraph nine. To retain the integrity of the text, it has been transcribed following paragraph eight.
In his sketch of 1842, CD had stated that the mountain faunas of eastern South America, the Altai, and southern India were dissimilar (Foundations, p. 30). The issue is discussed again in the essay of 1844, see Foundations, pp. 162–8. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 February [1844].
CD has scored the passage ‘Greenland … Baffins Bay.—’ with brown crayon.
The Ericaceae are rare in Australia. Instead, they are represented by the closely allied Epacridaceae. Hence the presence of Andromeda (Ericaceae) was a striking example of the uniqueness of montane floras.
Rubus arcticus (the arctic raspberry), a northern hemisphere plant.
The sentence ‘(All my reasoning … Floras.)’ was added in the margin. Its intended position is not made clear.
CD used the geographical distribution of mammals to illustrate regional sub-divisions of the earth in his essay of 1844 (Foundations, pp. 151–3). He linked Australia with South America.
Lesson and Garnot 1826–30, 1: 12–14, and CD’s essay of 1844 (Foundations, p. 162). See letter to J. D. Hooker, [6 March 1844], and letter from J. D. Hooker, 9 March 1844.
Miles Joseph Berkeley. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 February [1844], for CD’s first formulation of this question about geographical range.
This sentence was added by CD on the verso of the preceding page in such a way that its intended position is not made clear. The topic seems to be an addendum to his remarks on George Bentham’s law of abortive parts, see n. 25, below. CD’s interest in the unequal development or variability of ‘abortive’ organs is explained in his essay of 1844 (Foundations, pp. 231–8). He describes the normal cow as possessing four teats plus two abortive or rudimentary mammae, and instances a case in which the two rudimentary organs were well-developed and even gave milk (Foundations, p. 232).
See letter to J. D. Hooker, [10–11 November 1844], for CD’s first formulation of this question.
Hooker describes his views on introduced species in letter from J. D. Hooker, 28 October 1844. See CD’s annotations to this letter for the basis of his question to Hooker.
See Natural selection, pp. 196, 198, and Origin, pp. 71–2. This paragraph was added on the verso of the preceding page. It seems that CD intended it to supplement information given in paragraph twenty-one.
Volcanic islands, p. 140, discusses fossil leaves from Tasmania, which Robert Brown said were not the most usual form of the Eucalyptus. See also letter from J. D. Hooker, 30 December 1844.
See Correspondence vol. 2, letter from G. R. Waterhouse, [c. 2 August 1843], and Origin, pp. 429–30.
A reference to Anisotome. Hooker later wrote to CD to tell him that this information was incorrect, see letter from J. D. Hooker, 12 December 1844.
George Bentham’s ‘law of abortive parts’ is explained in CD’s Questions & experiments notebook: 21, ‘N.B. Bentham remarks, where parts of flower are reduced from normal number, they are apt to vary in number in individuals of same species’.


Loudon, John Claudius. 1839. Hortus Britannicus. A catalogue of all the plants, indigenous, cultivated in, or introduced to Britain. 2d ed. London.

McCormick, Robert. 1841. Geological remarks on Kerguelen’s Land. Abstracts of the papers printed in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 4: 299.


[Notes on conversations with J. D. Hooker.] Geographical distribution; diffusion and distribution of species. Island and mountain floras; means of migration (high-roads, icebergs).

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 100: 35–40
Physical description
Amem 10pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 798,” accessed on 24 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 3