H.M.S. Erebus. Berkeley Sound.
Falkland Isl[an]ds April 27th 1842.
My dear Sir [George Bentham]
So very long a time has elapsed since the receipt of your most kind letter in Hobart Town, that I feel quite ashamed of myself, especially when I think what attention you paid to me during my stay in London; you will however forgive my culpable negligence, & such as it is receive this token of repentance & I hope of amendment. My first collections did not I know give any satisfaction at all, & so the less I say about them the better, but there were one or two curious Leguminosae from the hills of the Cape de Verds [Cabo Verde]. Indeed whenever I see Leguminosae I think of you & your collections, though now since leaving Australia I have only seen these species in New Zealand. Though, through Gunn's collections you may know the Van Diemen's Land [Tasmania] ones, you may possibly be interested in reading what little I can imperfectly communicate about their Geographical distribution, & the habitats of the more remarkable ones in that Island.
The badge of Tasmania is the Wattle (silver) the Acacia mollissima ? a most beautiful tree forming a feature in almost every landscape, & a very distinct species, it grows often on a very poor soil, forming
[] a low small wood of a pale silvery green, blossoming in the spring when the profusion & abundance of the flowers sheds a delicious fragrance like that of the Spiraea ulmaria, it ascends Mt Wellington for 3500 f[ee]t assuming an entirely different habit in the dense forests, where it is drawn up into a very long slender beautifully taper[sic] & straight trunk for 80 or 90 feet, spreading out a few branches into a low horizontally flat heart; in these trees the leaves are if anything less silvery than in its ordinary form but the difference is scarcely perceptible; the wood is not generally esteemed though our single[?] boats davits are made of it & have proved most excellent. The Acacia decurrens is quite as common on the low grounds but far less beautiful, it is called the black wattle, from the dingy look of the tree, & the color[sic] of the bark, which is often covered over with a black fungus, its blossoms are very pale, it is a better companion of the settler than the silver wattle for the latter often runs over the pastures in the form of a low bush, sending long runners under the turf which are eradicated with the greatest difficulty. The A. verticillata is also very common on the low grounds & very troublesome from pricking the hands & face & tearing the clothes. The only subalpine species I
[] know of is a small straggling one gathered at the falls of the Derwent where it was very scarce. Of the other species I can add little to the information in the "Companion". Next to the Eucalypti I think they hold the second place in abundance, both of species of timber[?], & for the space of ground they cover. Except that none are Alpine they inhabit all other parts of the Island, wet & especially dry; this is however the case with the whole family, for there are no representatives of the Astragali & Oxytropics of Northern Europe on the mountains of Van Diemen's Land. Amongst the scrub which covers the sandy plains Leguminosae are still more abundant, & make the otherwise desert country look green & gay with blossoms of all colors[sic], amongst them the Daviesias form a large proportion, together, with the small acacia stricta, myrtifolia &c Bossiceas[?], Platylobia & the beautiful Indigofera australis, whilst the charming little Kinnedya [Kennedia] prostrata creeps along the ground. These again are interspersed with various Compositae & Epacrideae which like the Cape Heaths bear flowers of all colors[sic] but blue.
In New Zealand the Edwardsia [Sophora] is the most common leguminous plants, generally fringing the banks of the rivers above the limits of the Mangrove swamps. It is a small tree flowering in the spring before the leaves are fully developed, when its golden pendant racemes of large flowers are very conspicuous amongst
[] the darker foliage of the Coranocarpi [Corynocarpi?] & Myrtaceae; in November it is full of leaf & then resembles an Acacia & has a soft appearance, though not copiously leafy. Of the other Banksian species I know nothing. The Carmichaelia is a slender twiggy shrub often inhabiting salt water marshes, on the banks that abut on them, though pretty, its flowers are too small to attract attention. In a collection of New Zealand plants which I inspected in Sydney I saw another & very distinct species, brought from the interior by a Mr Bidwel[l], & which will doubtless be found by Colenso, or rather has been during his late tour to the Southward. But the pride of these Islands is the noble Clianthus puniceus which is very scarce, truly wild, though the natives have sown its seeds in several places especially near the taboed[sic] countries, Colenso took me to one of its habitats on a small Island about 12 miles from the settlement at the Bay, where it grew in profusion on a dry slope of a clay hill; it consisted of little bushes, 3 feet high, rather leafy, but the leaves much eaten by a caterpillar, & covered with a profusion of vivid red blossoms, I have preserved many excellent specimens both of it, & the Edwardsia -- Of the Guillendina [Guilandina] Bonduc I know nothing. Leguminosae certainly form no part of an Antarctic Flora, for they are neither found in the Auckland group, Campbells Isl[an]d,
[] Kerguelen's Land, or the Falklands, although together they must contain upwards of 300 species of flowering plants.
Of the vegetation of Kerguelen's Land my father has doubtless told you what little information I sent to him, it is in forms peculiarly South American, though several of its plants are common both to the Auckland group yet more are to the Falkland Isl[an]ds. A few are peculiar amongst them, a genus near Bolax, the Cabbage, a few grasses, & an Amaranthaceous plant, the other genera are Ranunculus, Leptinella, a new genus near Bulliarda, others in Portul[ac]aceae,Haloragaceae, Scrophulariaceae, Car[y]ophyllea ? & an Acaena & Galium. The lower orders are in a large proportion of Ferns, a Stegania, & 2 Lycopodia, many mosses, more Lichens & Seaweeds, one Fungus. The only strictly Antarctic plant is the Macrocystis pyrifera which floats alive in the water & increases there like the San jago weed, hundreds of miles from any land, 64 South is the highest Latitude in which I have seen it, & I doubt not but that it will prove to be the most Antarctic plant known, for it is utterly impossible that any plant even a Lichen could inhabit such land as we have seen.
The Botany of the Auckland group is very interesting, being perhaps more South American
[] than New Zealand, combining indeed those two countries with the Antarctic Flora, & perhaps Van Diemen's Land. The increased proportion of Monocotyledones[sic] to Dicot[yledons] from the preponderance of Gramineae is very striking, & will I suspect form a good rule by which to judge of the rigour of the several climates, when they will as far as materials can prove come in the order of, first the Aucklands, Falklands, Campbells Isl[an]d, Prince Edwards & Crozets group ?? Kerguelen's Land, the South Georgias, South Shetlands, & finally Lat 64 S. in the Longitude where the Macrocystis was seen. The Botany of this place interests me much, for I have found a good many plants undescribed in D[e]. C[andolle]. after the publication of Durville[']s & Gaudichand[']s lists. The monocotyledones[sic] are next to the musci my favorites[sic], & of them I have about 40 species, including 17 Graminea & Carices, several other Cyperaceae & the curious Guinardia australis, which seem to me the type of a most distinct natural order. The extraordinary number of Ferns in Isl[an]ds of an equable temperature is also remarkable here, though not in number of species, but a Lycopodium & little Stegania cover the ground in many places in profusion. Compositae are in a large proportion, as are Umbellifera of which I have a new Hydrocotyli
[] which is extremely rare; & another most singular plant with simple long cylindrical, fleshy and tubular leaves.
Though my collections will not be large I sincerely hope that amongst them there may be some worthy of a place in your herbarium, which I hope may never again be in such peril as it lately was, I quite feel for your trouble & perhaps loss on that occasion. My Father will tell you all about the Expedition of which I am sick of writing. I often think of you in your Autumn excursions with Mrs Bentham, & whom I beg of you to present my kindest compliments. It will indeed be a great pleasure to me to see you once again in England, & could I but believe that you could find as much pleasure in reading this scrawl as I have had in writing it I would ere long trouble you again. In the mean time
Believe me y[ou]r truly obliged & affect[ionate] friend | Jos. D Hooker
To G. Bentham Esq
[] *2 To G. Bentham Esqre
rec[eive]d July 8th
1. This letter is a contemporary 19th century copy, not written in the hand of the original author Joseph Dalton Hooker, and not signed by him. The copy was probably made by Hooker's Mother or one of his sisters to be circulated amongst family and friends.
2. The wording from here to the end of the letter appears to be written in another hand, and is written vertically down the right hand side of the page.
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