Thursday, October 19, 2006


In celebration of the writings of Charles Darwin being collected on the web, searchable and FREE, I bring you Darwin: ISW...

  • From his Dec. 1835 visit to New Zealand:
    With regard to animals, it is a most remarkable fact, that so large an island, extending over more than 700 miles in latitude, and in many parts ninety broad, with varied stations, a fine climate, and land of all heights, from 14,000 feet downwards, with the exception of a small rat, should not possess one indigenous animal. It is moreover said, that the introduction of the common Norway kind, has annihilated from the northern extremity of the island, the New Zealand species, in the short space of two years. In many places I noticed several sorts of weeds, which, like the rats, I was forced to own as countrymen. A leek, however, which has overrun whole districts, and will be very troublesome, was imported lately by the favour of a French vessel. The common dock is widely disseminated, and will, I am afraid, for ever remain a proof of the rascality of an Englishman, who sold the seeds for those of the tobacco-plant.
  • From vol. 779, #46 of the Gardeners' Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 1845:
    Productiveness of Foreign Seed.—Will the writer of the highly remarkable article on weeds in your last Number have the kindness to state why he supposes that "there is too much reason to believe that foreign seed of an indigenous species is often more prolific than that grown at home?" Is it meant that the plant produced from the foreign seed actually produces more seed, or merely that the introduced stock is more vigorous than the native stock? I have no doubt that so acute an observer has some good reason for his belief. The point seems to me of considerable interest in regard to the great battle for life which is perpetually going on all around us. The great American botanist, Dr. Asa Gray, believes that in the United States there are several plants now naturalised in abundance from imported seed, which are likewise indigenous; and my impression is (but writing from home I cannot refer to his letter to me) that the imported stock prevails over the aboriginal. So again, Dr. Hooker in his admirable Flora of New Zealand has told us that the common Sonchus has spread extensively from imported seed, whilst the same species is likewise an aboriginal; the natives in this instance being able from trifling differences to distinguish the two stocks. Might I further ask whether it is now some years since the seed of Sinapis nigra was accidentally introduced on the farm described; and if so, whether the common Charlock still remains in lessened numbers owing to the presence of the invader, and without, as far as known, fresh seed of the invading S. nigra having been introduced?— whether, in short, it was a fair fight between the two species, ending in the victory of the Black Mustard? Would it be trespassing too much on the kindness of the writer of the article to ask whether he knows of any other analogous cases of a weed introduced from other land beating out, to a greater or lesser extent, a weed previously common in any particular field or farm? C. Darwin, Down, Bromley, Kent.
  • From St. Helena, 1836:
    It is said, that in 1709 there were quantities of dead wood in Sandy Bay: this place is now so utterly desert, that nothing but so well-attested an account could make me believe that trees had ever existed there. The fact, that the goats and hogs destroyed all the young trees as they sprung up, and that in the course of time the old ones, which were safe from their attacks, perished from age, seems clearly made out. Goats were introduced in the year 1502; eighty-six years afterwards, in the time of Cavendish, it is known they were exceedingly numerous. More than a century afterwards, in 1731, when the evil was completed and found irretrievable, an order was issued that all stray animals should be destroyed.

Number of times Darwin actually uses the word "invasive": none. But he got it, he definitely got it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting selection of quotes--captures the tragic nature of human beings very nicely--We've known for a very long time, but we just can't stop ourselves!