Many thanks about the lupin. Your letter has interested me extremely, and reminds me of old times. I suppose, by your writing, you would like to hear my notions. I cannot admit the Atlantis connecting Madeira and Canary Islands without the strongest evidence, and all on that side (365/1. Sir J.D. Hooker lectured on "Insular Floras" at the Nottingham meeting of the British Association on August 27th, 1866. His lecture is given in the "Gardeners' Chronicle," 1867, page 6. No doubt he was at this time preparing his remarks on continental extension, which take the form of a judicial statement, giving the arguments and difficulties on both sides. He sums up against continental extension, which, he says, accounts for everything and explains nothing; "whilst the hypothesis of trans-oceanic migration, though it leaves a multitude of facts unexplained, offers a rational solution of many of the most puzzling phenomena." In his lecture, Sir Joseph wrote that in ascending the mountains in Madeira there is but little replacement of lowland species by those of a higher northern latitude. "Plants become fewer and fewer as we ascend, and their places are not taken by boreal ones, or by but very few."): the depth is so great; there is nothing geologically in the islands favouring the belief; there are no endemic mammals or batrachians. Did not Bunbury show that some Orders of plants were singularly deficient? But I rely chiefly on the large amount of specific distinction in the insects and land-shells of P. Santo and Madeira: surely Canary and Madeira could not have been connected, if Madeira and P. Santo had long been distinct. If you admit Atlantis, I think you are bound to admit or explain the difficulties.
With respect to cold temperate plants in Madeira, I, of course, know not enough to form an opinion; but, admitting Atlantis, I can see their rarity is a great difficulty; otherwise, seeing that the latitude is only a little north of the Persian Gulf, and seeing the long sea-transport for seeds, the rarity of northern plants does not seem to me difficult. The immigration may have been from a southerly direction, and it seems that some few African as well as coldish plants are common to the mountains to the south.
Believing in occasional transport, I cannot feel so much surprise at there being a good deal in common to Madeira and Canary, these being the nearest points of land to each other. It is quite new and very interesting to me what you say about the endemic plants being in so large a proportion rare species. From the greater size of the workshop (i.e., greater competition and greater number of individuals, etc.) I should expect that continental forms, as they are occasionally introduced, would always tend to beat the insular forms; and, as in every area, there will always be many forms more or less rare tending towards extinction, I should certainly have expected that in islands a large proportion of the rarer forms would have been insular in their origin. The longer the time any form has existed in an island into which continental forms are occasionally introduced, by so much the chances will be in favour of its being peculiar or abnormal in nature, and at the same time scanty in numbers. The duration of its existence will also have formerly given it the best chance, when it was not so rare, of being widely distributed to adjoining archipelagoes. Here is a wriggle: the older a form is, the better the chance will be of its having become developed into a tree! An island from being surrounded by the sea will prevent free immigration and competition, hence a greater number of ancient forms will survive on an island than on the nearest continent whence the island was stocked; and I have always looked at Clethra (365/2. Clethra is an American shrubby genus of Ericaceae, found nowhere nearer to Madeira than North America. Of this plant and of Persea, Sir Charles Lyell ("Principles," 1872, Volume II., page 422) says: "Regarded as relics of a Miocene flora, they are just such forms as we should naturally expect to have come from the adjoining Miocene continent." See also "Origin of Species," Edition VI., page 83, where a similar view is quoted from Heer.) and the other extra-European forms as remnants of the Tertiary flora which formerly inhabited Europe. This preservation of ancient forms in islands appears to me like the preservation of ganoid fishes in our present freshwaters. You speak of no northern plants on mountains south of the Pyrenees: does my memory quite deceive me that Boissier published a long list from the mountains in Southern Spain? I have not seen Wollaston's, "Catalogue," (365/4. Probably the "Catalogue of the Coleopterous Insects of the Canaries in the British Museum," 1864.) but must buy it, if it gives the facts about rare plants which you mention.
And now I have given more than enough of my notions, which I well know will be in flat contradiction with all yours.
Wollaston, in his "Insecta Maderensia" (365/5. "Insecta Maderensia," London, 1854.), 4to, page 12, and in his "Variation of Species," pages 82- 7, gives the case of apterous insects, but I remember I worked out some additional details.
I think he gives in these same works the proportion of European insects.
(366/1. Sir Joseph had asked (July 31st, 1866): "Is there an evidence that the south of England and of Ireland were not submerged during the Glacial epoch, when the W. and N. of England were islands in a glacial sea? And supposing they were above water, could the present Atlantic and N.W. of France floras we now find there have been there during the Glacial epoch?-- Yet this is what Forbes demands, page 346. At page 347 he sees this objection, and wriggles out of his difficulty by putting the date of the Channel 'towards the close of the Glacial epoch.' What does Austen make the date of the Channel?--ante or post Glacial?" The changes in level and other questions are dealt with in a paper by R.A.C. Austen (afterwards Godwin-Austen), "On the Superficial Accumulations of the Coasts of the English Channel and the Changes they indicate." "Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc." VII., 1851, page 118. Obit. notice by Prof. Bonney in the "Proc. Geol. Soc." XLI., page 37, 1885.)
I will take your letter seriatim. There is good evidence that S.E. England was dry land during the Glacial period. I forget what Austen says, but Mammals prove, I think, that England has been united to the Continent since the Glacial period. I don't see your difficulty about what I say on the breaking of an isthmus: if Panama was broken through would not the fauna of the Pacific flow into the W. Indies, or vice versa, and destroy a multitude of creatures? Of course I'm no judge, but I thought De Candolle had made out his case about small areas of trees. You will find at page 112, 3rd edition "Origin," a too concise allusion to the Madeira flora being a remnant of the Tertiary European flora. I shall feel deeply interested by reading your botanical difficulties against occasional immigration. The facts you give about certain plants, such as the heaths, are certainly very curious. (366/2. In Hooker's lecture he gives St. Dabeoc's Heath and Calluna vulgaris as the most striking of the few boreal plants in the Azores. Darwin seems to have been impressed by the boreal character of the Azores, thus taking the opposite view to that of Sir Joseph. See Letter 370, note.) I thought the Azores flora was more boreal, but what can you mean by saying that the Azores are nearer to Britain and Newfoundland than to Madeira?--on the globe they are nearly twice as far off. (366/3. See Letter 368.) With respect to sea currents, I formerly made enquiries at Madeira, but cannot now give you the results; but I remember that the facts were different from what is generally stated: I think that a ship wrecked on the Canary Islands was thrown up on the coast of Madeira.