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- More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume I - 90/99 -


first, though according to C.C. Sprengel this is a rarer case. I wrote to Muller for chance of his being able and willing to observe this.

Your fact of greater number of European plants (N.B.--But do you mean greater percentage?) in Australia than in S. America is astounding and very unpleasant to me; for from N.W. America (where nearly the same flora exists as in Canada?) to T. del Fuego, there is far more continuous high land than from Europe to Tasmania. There must have, I should think, existed some curious barrier on American High-Road: dryness of Peru, excessive damp of Panama, or some other confounded cause, which either prevented immigration or has since destroyed them. You say I may ask questions, and so I have on enclosed paper; but it will of course be a very different thing whether you will think them worth labour of answering.

May I keep the lists now returned? otherwise I will have them copied.

You said that you would give me a few cases of Australian forms and identical species going north by Malay Archipelago mountains to Philippines and Japan; but if these are given in your "Introduction" this will suffice for me. (340/3. See Hooker's "Introductory Essay," page l.)

Your lists seem to me wonderfully interesting.

According to my theoretical notions, I am not satisfied with what you say about local plants in S.W. corner of Australia (340/4. Sir Joseph replied in an undated letter: "Thanks for your hint. I shall be very cautious how I mention any connection between the varied flora and poor soil of S.W. Australia...It is not by the way only that the species are so numerous, but that these and the genera are so confoundedly well marked. You have, in short, an incredible number of VERY LOCAL, WELL MARKED genera and species crowded into that corner of Australia." See "Introductory Essay to the Flora of Tasmania," 1859, page li.), and the seeds not readily germinating: do be cautious on this; consider lapse of time. It does not suit my stomach at all. It is like Wollaston's confined land-snails in Porto Santo, and confined to same spots since a Tertiary period, being due to their slow crawling powers; and yet we know that other shell-snails have stocked a whole country within a very few years with the same breeding powers, and same crawling powers, when the conditions have been favourable to the life of the introduced species. Hypothetically I should rather look at the case as owing to-- but as my notions are not very simple or clear, and only hypothetical, they are not worth inflicting on you.

I had vowed not to mention my everlasting Abstract (340/5. The "Origin of Species" was abbreviated from the MS. of an unpublished book.) to you again, for I am sure I have bothered you far more than enough about it; but as you allude to its previous publication I may say that I have chapters on Instinct and Hybridism to abstract, which may take a fortnight each; and my materials for Palaeontology, Geographical Distribution and Affinities being less worked up, I daresay each of these will take me three weeks, so that I shall not have done at soonest till April, and then my Abstract will in bulk make a small volume. I never give more than one or two instances, and I pass over briefly all difficulties, and yet I cannot make my Abstract shorter, to be satisfactory, than I am now doing, and yet it will expand to small volume.

LETTER 341. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down [November?] 27th [1858].

What you say about the Cape flora's direct relation to Australia is a great trouble to me. Does not Abyssinia highland, (341/1. In a letter to Darwin, December 21st (?), 1858, Sir J.D. Hooker wrote: "Highlands of Abyssinia will not help you to connect the Cape and Australian temperate floras: they want all the types common to both, and, worse than that, India notably wants them. Proteaceae, Thymeleae, Haemodoraceae, Acacia, Rutaceae, of closely allied genera (and in some cases species), are jammed up in S.W. Australia, and C.B.S. [Cape of Good Hope]: add to this the Epacrideae (which are mere (paragraph symbol) of Ericaceae) and the absence or rarity of Rasaceae, etc., etc., and you have an amount [of] similarity in the floras and dissimilarity to that of Abyssinia and India in the same features that does demand an explanation in any theoretical history of Southern vegetation."), and the mountains on W. coast in some degree connect the extra-tropical floras of Cape and Australia? To my mind the enormous importance of the Glacial period rises daily stronger and stronger. I am very glad to hear about S.E. and S.W. Australia: I suspected after my letter was gone that the case must be as it is. You know of course that nearly the same rule holds with birds and mammals. Several years ago I reviewed in the "Annals of Natural History," (341/2. "Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist." Volume XIX., 1847, pages 53-56, an unsigned review of "A Natural History of the Mammalia," by G.R. Waterhouse, Volume I. The passage referred to is at page 55: "The fact of South Australia possessing only few peculiar species, it having been apparently colonised from the eastern and western coasts, is very interesting; for we believe that Mr. Robert Brown has shown that nearly the same remark is applicable to the plants; and Mr. Gould finds that most of the birds from these opposite shores, though closely allied, are distinct. Considering these facts, together with the presence in South Australia of upraised modern Tertiary deposits and of extinct volcanoes, it seems probable that the eastern and western shores once formed two islands, separated from each other by a shallow sea, with their inhabitants generically, though not specifically, related, exactly as are those of New Guinea and Northern Australia, and that within a geologically recent period a series of upheavals converted the intermediate sea into those desert plains which are now known to stretch from the southern coast far northward, and which then became colonised from the regions to the east and west." On this point see Hooker's "Introductory Essay to the Flora of Tasmania," page ci, where Jukes' views are discussed. For an interesting account of the bearings of the submergence of parts of Australia, see Thiselton-Dyer, "R. Geogr. Soc. Jour." XXII., No. 6.) Waterhouse's "Mammalia," and speculated that these two corners, now separated by gulf and low land, must have existed as two large islands; but it is odd that productions have not become more mingled; but it accords with, I think, a very general rule in the spreading of organic beings. I agree with what you say about Lyell; he learns more by word of mouth than by reading.

Henslow has just gone, and has left me in a fit of enthusiastic admiration of his character. He is a really noble and good man.

LETTER 342. TO G. BENTHAM. Down, December 1st [1858?].

I thank you for so kindly taking the trouble of writing to me, on naturalised plants. I did not know of, or had forgotten, the clover case. How I wish I knew what plants the clover took the place of; but that would require more accurate knowledge of any one piece of ground than I suppose any one has. In the case of trees being so long-lived, I should think it would be extremely difficult to distinguish between true and new spreading of a species, and a rotation of crop. With respect to your idea of plants travelling west, I was much struck by a remark of yours in the penultimate "Linnean Journal" on the spreading of plants from America near Behring Straits. Do you not consider so many more seeds and plants being taken from Europe to America, than in a reverse direction, would go some way to account for comparative fewness of naturalised American plants here? Though I think one might wildly speculate on European weeds having become well fitted for cultivated land, during thousands of years of culture, whereas cultivated land would be a new home for native American weeds, and they would not consequently be able to beat their European rivals when put in contest with them on cultivated land. Here is a bit of wild theory! (342/1. See Asa Gray, "Scientific Papers," 1889, Volume II., page 235, on "The Pertinacity and Predominance of Weeds," where the view here given is adopted. In a letter to Asa Gray (November 6th, 1862), published in the "Life and Letters," II., page 390, Darwin wrote: "Does it not hurt your Yankee pride that we thrash you so confoundedly? I am sure Mrs. Gray will stick up for your own weeds. Ask her whether they are not more honest downright good sort of weeds.")

But I did not sit down intending to scribble thus; but to beg a favour of you. I gave Hooker a list of species of Silene, on which Gartner has experimentised in crossing: now I want EXTREMELY to be permitted to say that such and such are believed by Mr. Bentham to be true species, and such and such to be only varieties. Unfortunately and stupidly, Gartner does not append author's name to the species.

Thank you heartily for what you say about my book; but you will be greatly disappointed; it will be grievously too hypothetical. It will very likely be of no other service than collocating some facts; though I myself think I see my way approximately on the origin of species. But, alas, how frequent, how almost universal it is in an author to persuade himself of the truth of his own dogmas. My only hope is that I certainly see very many difficulties of gigantic stature.

If you can remember any cases of one introduced species beating out or prevailing over another, I should be most thankful to hear it. I believe the common corn-poppy has been seen indigenous in Sicily. I should like to know whether you suppose that seedlings of this wild plant would stand a contest with our own poppy; I should almost expect that our poppies were in some degree acclimatised and accustomed to our cornfields. If this could be shown to be so in this and other cases, I think we could understand why many not-trained American plants would not succeed in our agrarian habitats.

LETTER 343. TO J.D. HOOKER.

(343/1. Mr. Darwin used the knowledge of the spread of introduced plants in North America and Australia to throw light on the cosmic migration of plants. Sir J.D. Hooker apparently objected that it was not fair to argue from agrarian to other plants; he also took a view differing slightly from that of Darwin as to climatal and other natural conditions favouring introduced plants in Australia.)

Down, January 28th, 1859.

Thanks about glaciers. It is a pleasure and profit to me to write to you, and as in your last you have touched on naturalised plants of Australia, I suppose you would not dislike to hear what I can say in answer. At least I know you would not wish me to defer to your authority, as long as not convinced.

I quite agree to what you say about our agrarian plants being accustomed to cultivated land, and so no fair test. Buckman has, I think, published this notion with respect to North America. With respect to roadside plants, I cannot feel so sure that these ought to be excluded, as animals make roads in many wild countries. (343/2. In the account of naturalised plants in Australia in Sir J.D. Hooker's "Introductory Essay to the Flora of Tasmania," 1859, page cvi, many of the plants are marked "Britain--waste places," "Europe--cornfields," etc. In the same list the species which have also invaded North America--a large number--are given. On the margin of Darwin's copy is scribbled in pencil: "Very good, showing how many of the same species are naturalised in Australia and United States, with very different climates; opposed to your conclusion." Sir Joseph supposed that one chief cause of the intrusion of English plants in Australia, and not vice versa, was the great importation of European seed to Australia and the scanty return of Australian seed.)

I have now looked and found passage in F. Muller's (343/3. Ferdinand Muller.) letter to me, in which he says: "In the WILDERNESSES of Australia some European perennials are "advancing in sure progress," "not to be arrested," etc. He gives as instances (so I suppose there are other cases)


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