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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   12 December 1844

West Park Kew

Dec 12 1844.

My dear Darwin

In the first place let me thank Mrs Darwin & yourself for the great kindness you shewed me during my most pleasant stay at Down, & which made me regret leaving you so soon very much indeed.1 In Miss Darwin2 I found a most pleasant companion to London; I hope that she did not suffer from the cold in the railway carriage.

I did not see Mr Brown at the Brit. Mus., but my Father went soon afterwards, & took the Agate to him: he is enchanted with it, & says it is very valuable & curious,—that it is either animal or vegetable!—but that is all; so I cannot give you much news about it: I am however to assure you of his gratitude— Curious I grant it looks, but I must confess I cannot see what analogies it has to make it so very interesting as he finds it.—

Neither Robertson nor McCormick in their accounts of the South allude to Boulders in Kerg. Land or elsewhere.3 The collections, I believe at the Geogolog. Soc., will however throw some light on the subject of Kerg. Land ones I am sure; & I shall rout them out next week if I can. From Cockburn Isld.. (a conical volcano xtinct in 64 ’ 12’ S & 57 E.) I have rocks of 6 or 8 kinds, from Scoriæ4 up to harder things, including Gneiss, & perhaps Granite, which must have been transported there: would you like a look at the Specimens?, if so I will leave them at the Geolog. Soc. & meet you there one day. I have laid out a piece of Kerg. wood to get cut & shall report to you when done. Also another very curious nodule, apparently containing fossils, from Cockburn Islds. I enclose a little V. D. L. Fossil wood for your microscope to see the glandular tissue. Stretetski5 will tell you all about it if you shd. see him—

I enclose a copy of the part of Gardners Ceylon letter,6 mentioning the Europæan plants on the Mts.— Gentiana prostrata H.B.K. is the one with the xtraordinary range, which I have thus stated “In Europe it inhabits the Carinthian Alps, between 6000 & 9000 ft. In Asia Altai Mts in Lat 52. In America the tops of Rocky Mts Lat. 52o (where they reach 15–16000 ft.) & is also found on E. side of Andes of S. Am in 35 S. It descends to the level of the sea at Cape Negro in 53. & at Cape Good Hope in Behrings Straits in 6812N.—”7 These are the authentic stations I have gathered together, there are doubtless lots more.

Anisotome is not the plant I was thinking of, in which the rudimentary female organ, though generally present, is sometimes wholly wanting. I cannot at present think what it is, but shall not forget the subject.

Brown certainly in Congo, seems to think the Banana indigenous only to East Asia,8 but a Mr Ward;9 a Mexican Consul, who dined here yesterday, assures me that it is wild there & ripens its fruit also—.— Lumley in Chancery Lane has all Flinders’ voyage,10 I shall be passing next week & ask the price. I cannot hear of Ann. Sc. Nat. to be picked up.— Sloane in Phil. Trans. mentions the seeds picked up on the coast of Ireland, which vegetated afterwards;11 at least so says Gray of Brit. Mus. but I do not find it there. In Brown’s Congo he says “I have no doubt that the nature of the integuments of the seeds of Abrus precatorius & Guillandina Bonduc would enable them to retain their vitality for a very long time in the currents of the ocean,” & adds a note—Sir J. Banks received a drawing of Guillandina Bonduc, raised from seed found on W. coast of Ireland” (this is what I was thinking of.) also Linnæus is acquainted with similar instances of germination of seeds thrown on coast of Norway,” vid. Coloniæ plant.—12 We have seeds of Entada Gigalobium (old Mimosa scandens ), thrown up on beach of Orkney & W. Ireland the seed is large flat 2 inches in diam. & comes from Carribees, it never germinated or was tried that I know of.

I send you for perusal Bot. Journal with Watson’s Azores journal.13 3 Nos. of Tasm. Phil. Journal with Colenso on Caves & bones of N. Z. & other perhaps interesting papers.14 A few numbers of Silliman15 which are highly fossiliferous & contain other matters of interest.— Also one or two other little things I promised.

I am not yet prepared to give any further analogies between Juan Fernandez & St. Helena Floras’, but shall remember the subject. Anent Mt. Floras I have nothing to say, but if I meet any account of those of the E Ind. Islds. shall remember it. all I can at present refer to are Gardner’s Ceylon letter, (mentioned above) Wights16 letters from Nylgherries alt. 5500 ft., who mentions incidentally Clematis, Circæa, Ranunculi, Geranium, Stellaria, Cerastium, Docks, Potentilla, a Rose, Galium, Rubia, Pedicularis, Osmunda Ophioglossum Vaccinium? Berberis.

Bishop Selwyn’s Journal is at Hampstead,17 I will send it you when returned.

The Quantity of Europæan Genera throughout the Andes, especially the Tropical one’s, is quite amazing. I know of no other Mts more characteristically alpine in their Flora—Gentian’s, Drabas & other Cruciferæ, Caryophylleæ are there as fully represented as in the Alps, & are characteristic of both.— I know of no materials for a comparison of similar Tropical heights with these, we know so little of the Alps of Java, even if they be high enough. A Botanist from the R. Gardens is now exploring the heights of Sta. Martha, which ought to bear on Humboldt’s statement; when his collections come I will tell you the result. 18

Schombugk19 came here today P.P.C.20 he meets Humboldt in Paris I wrote to the latter with some books my father had for him. I told him you were better wh. he will I am sure be glad to know. I asked Schombugk if he should see Dieffenbach to mention, incidentally, that your wood-cuts &c were not in England, am I right? It is no joke losing such xpensive things.—21

I send you some notes on Comparative Floras of N.Z. Terra Australis & S. Am West coast; it is very imperfect & I should be deeply obliged if would have the goodness to suggest how it could be clearer stated. I have reexamined many of the Lycopodium’s & delivered a verdict in the Antarct. Flora of wh. I will send a proof sheet to Down when printed. 22

I mention, in a letter home, that Robertson found a boulder of Syenitic granite in Kerg. Land.23 I have come across a slight notice of the Stream of Stones24 & am inclined to think I thought it more extraordinary at the time than I did a few nights ago, the lower part is very broad; I think I can hunt up some other account yet. What a curious thing if my ideas should change per se, like some species, in going from one country to another.

Ross wrote me yesterday that he had found some notes apparently mine!!!25 I have read Miss Martineau’s mesmerism & would not engage that little Servant-maid with any character Miss M. would give her.—26

I have not yet compared the fossil leaves with the recent, but have laid out the latter to do so.

Galapago Flora is progressing

Henslowe spent parts of Tuesday & Wednesday here. Do you know of his finding 4 Whales ear-bones in the Crag.27 Owen says 2 are types of N. Whales & 2 of South. Also Coprolites which are using as Guano from the abundance of Phosphate of Lime they contain.28

I hope Mrs Darwin will do me the honor of accepting a copy of Backhouse’s Cape & Mauritius book;29 it, with the others, goes down by tomorrow’s, Saturday’s, coach. You need be in no hurry about returning them, The Sillimans’ we send to V. D. Land in a few months. We always have two copies & if you care, we could regularly let you have a months reading of one of them.

With kind regards to Mrs Darwin Believe me Ever | Your’s Jos D Hooker.

Tahiti & Owhyhee30 comparisons are commenced.

The only Bourbon Flora is Bory’s quatre-Isles de’Afrique31 I will look at it.

CD annotations

crossed pencil
‘NB’added and circled pencil
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5.1 Anisotome … subject. 5.3] scored pencil; ‘My note wrong——’32 added pencil
‘Schomburgk’added pencil
crossed pencil
9.1 Bishop … returned.] crossed pencil
10.3 in their Flora] ‘in’ added pencil; ‘Flora’ crossed pencil and ‘Flora’ added in pencil above
scored pencil
crossed pencil
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For CD’s notes on topics discussed during Hooker’s visit to Down see Correspondence vol. 3, Appendix III. Hooker refers to several of these topics in this letter.
Susan Elizabeth Darwin, CD’s sister.
Rough rocks formed at the cooling surface of molten lava.
George Gardner was superintendent of the botanic gardens, Ceylon, in 1844. A copy of part of Gardner’s letter made by Hooker is in DAR 74: 141, accompanied by CD’s notes on Gardner 1846. The copied excerpt describes European species on the mountains of Ceylon.
Robert Brown disputed Alexander von Humboldt’s claim that there were species of banana in America (Brown 1818, pp. 469–71).
William Robert Ward, chargé d’affaires in Mexico in 1843.
Flinders 1814. The third appendix, on the botany of Australia, is by Robert Brown, naturalist to the voyage.
Sloane 1696, p. 299 (misprinted in the volume as p. 399). Hans Sloane reported that one of these beans had been cast up on the coast of Kerry in Ireland, but did not mention their being grown in either Ireland or the Orkneys.
Hooker made William Colenso’s acquaintance in 1841 while in New Zealand. The fossil bird Dinornis is discussed in Colenso 1843.
Silliman’s Journal: the American Journal of Science and Arts founded and edited by Benjamin Silliman.
Robert Wight, superintendent of the botanic garden at Madras.
Selwyn 1844, which had probably been lent to Hooker’s aunt and uncle, Elizabeth and Francis Palgrave, who lived in Hampstead.
Probably the claim, made in Humboldt 1814–29, 3: 494, that there are distinct species of the alpine genus Bejaria in the mountains near Caraccas, Bogota, and Santa Fé in Chile, which supported his general argument that the species present on alpine peaks are different from those of the surrounding plains.
Pour prendre congé.
Materials for the German edition of Journal of researches (1844), which Ernst Dieffenbach translated.
John Robertson was surgeon on board H.M.S. Terror during James Clark Ross’s Antarctic voyage; Hooker was assistant-surgeon in the companion ship Erebus.
In Journal of researches, p. 254, CD describes ‘myriads of great angular fragments of … quartz rock’ covering the bottom of the Falkland Islands’ valleys as a ‘stream of stones’. McCormick 1842, p. 27, mentions ‘vast quantities of debris which have accumulated at the base of the hills’.
James Clark Ross was provided with various materials by Hooker for his account of the Antarctic voyage, J. C. Ross 1847.
Martineau 1845, p. 9. When her regular mesmerist could not attend the author, a maid successfully mesmerised her.
The Crag is an East Anglian formation of shelly sand, traditionally placed in the Pliocene. The whale fossils are described in Henslow 1845a and R. Owen 1845. Henslow later retracted: the whale bones were from the much older deposits of Eocene London clay (Henslow 1847). Henslow had informed CD of his discovery (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter from J. S. Henslow, 17 October 1843).
Henslow 1845b.
Backhouse 1844 describes visits to colonial mission stations.
See Correspondence vol. 3, Appendix III, CD’s notes of 8 December 1844, in which rudimentary and abortive organs of an unidentified umbelliferous plant are discussed.


Backhouse, James. 1844. A narrative of a visit to the Mauritius and South Africa. London.

Bory de Saint-Vincent, Jean Baptiste Georges Marie. 1804. Voyage dans les quatres principales ae9les des mers d’Afrique. 3 vols. Paris.

Brown, Robert. 1818. Observations, systematical and geographical, on Professor Christian Smith’s collection of plants from the vicinity of the river Congo. Appendix 5 of Narrative of an expedition to explore the river Zaire, usually called the Congo, in South Africa, in 1816, under the direction of Capt. J. K. Tuckey, R.N., by James Kingston Tuckey. London. [Facsimile reprint. London: Frank Cass and Co. 1967.]

Colenso, William. 1843. An account of some enormous fossil bones, of an unknown species of the class Aves, lately discovered in New Zealand. Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science 2: 81–107.

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

Flinders, Matthew. 1814. A voyage to Terra Australis. 2 vols. and atlas. London.

Henslow, John Stevens. 1847. On detritus derived from the London Clay and deposited in the Red Crag. Report of the 17th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held at Oxford Transactions of the sections, p. 64.

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.

Humboldt, Alexander von. 1814–29. Personal narrative of travels to the equinoctial regions of the New Continent, during the years 1799–1804. By Alexander de Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland. Translated into English by Helen Maria Williams. 7 vols. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown; J. Murray; H. Colburn.

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

Linnaeus, Carolus (Carl von Linné). 1768. De coloniis plantarum. Defended by Johannes Flyggare. Uppsala. Also in Amoenitates academicae. 8 vols. Leyden, Amsterdam, and Erlangen. 1749–85.

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.

McCormick, Robert. 1842. Geological remarks on Kerguelen’s Land. Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science 1: 27–34.

Martineau, Harriet. 1845. Letters on mesmerism. London.

Owen, Richard. 1845. Appendix to Professor Henslow’s paper, consisting of a description of the fossil tympanic bones referable to four distinct species of Balæna. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 1: 37–40.

Robertson, John. 1841. Catalogue of geological specimens procured from Kerguelen’s Land during the months of May, June, and July, 1840. Abstracts of the papers printed in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 4: 305. [Title only printed.]

Ross, James Clark. 1847. A voyage of discovery and research in the southern and Antarctic regions, during the years 1839–43. 2 vols. London: John Murray.

Selwyn, George Augustus. 1844. New Zealand. Part I, Letters from the Bishop … with extracts from his visitation journal, from July 1842, to January 1843. Edited by C. B. Dalton. London.

Sloane, Hans. 1696. An account of four sorts of strange beans, frequently cast on shoar on the Orkney Isles, with some conjectures about the way of their being brought thither from Jamaica, where three sorts of them grow. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 19: 298 (misprinted as 398)–300.

Watson, Hewett Cottrell. 1843–7. Notes of a botanical tour in the western Azores. London Journal of Botany 2 (1843): 1–9, 125–31, 394–408; 3 (1844): 582–617; 6 (1847): 380–97.


Thanks for pleasant stay at Down.

Remarks on boulders found on southern islands.

Describes the alpine character of the Andes flora and relays information on other mountain floras.

Quotes instances of seeds that retained their vitality after being carried by ocean currents.

Sends notes on the comparative floras of New Zealand, Australia, and west coast of South America.

Encloses a copy of part of a letter from George Gardner in Ceylon concerning the European character of the mountain flora.

Letter details

Letter no.
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 100: 29–31
Physical description
ALS 5pp †, encl 2pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 799,” accessed on 4 June 2023,

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