Darwin Collections

Another Darwin specimen discovered in the global collection from The Voyage of the Beagle

(18 April 2019) Specimens of a knotgrass (Polygonum maritimum) collected by Charles Darwin have been found by Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria Database Officer Luke Vaughan while databasing the Polygonaceae family for the Foreign Collection Project at the National Herbarium of Victoria (MEL).

Three specimens from the herbarium of botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker (Director of Kew Gardens from 1865–1885) were found on the original sheet, two of which name 'Darwin' as collector and 'Cape Tres Montes' as collection locality, while the other indicates 'Capt. King' as collector and 'Port Famine' as the locality.

Though the labels provide little additional information, these specimens appear to have been collected by Charles Darwin and Captain Phillip Parker King on the Voyage of HMS Adventure and HMS Beagle (also known as the Voyage of the Beagle) to South America, Australia, and the Pacific.


The label designating Darwin's collection from Cape Tres Montes, Chile.

The label designating Captain King's collection from Port Famine, a historic settlement site on the Strait of Magellan.

King was the commander of the HMS Adventure, companion ship to HMS Beagle, and Darwin and King collected plant specimens throughout their journey. Cape Tres Montes and Port Famine are also mentioned in Darwin’s diaries in published geological notes, as well as in the published geographic observations of Captain Robert FitzRoy and Captain King.

Following Hooker's own return from Sir James Clark Ross’s Antarctic Expedition in 1843, Darwin sent his South American plant collections to his close friend Hooker for classification. Hooker cites these specimens in volume one of his Flora Antarctica.

The National Herbarium of Victoria previously discovered—in August 2018—a rare specimen hand-collected by Charles Darwin. The specimen, representing type material of a red alga, Amphiroa exilis, was collected in 1832 from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Its discovery added the National Herbarium of Victoria to a prestigious list of only a few herbaria that possess specimens collected by Darwin during this famous voyage.

As Herbarium staff continue to database the 1.5 million specimens held in the State Botanical Collection—the largest botanical collection in Australia—it is probable that they will unearth additional discoveries of both scientific and public interest.

References

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 714”, accessed on 17 April 2019.

Darwin, C. R. (1836). Geological notes made during a survey of the east and west coasts of S. America, in the years 1832, 1833, 1834 and 1835, with an account of a transverse section of the Cordilleras of the Andes between Valparaiso and Mendoza. [Read 18 November 1835] Proceedings of the Geological Society 2: 210–212.

Darwin, C. R. Geological diary: Port St Andrew - Cape Harbor. (12.1834) CUL-DAR35.259-266 Transcribed by Kees Rookmaaker, edited by John van Wyhe (Darwin Online).

FitzRoy, R. (1836). Sketch of the Surveying Voyages of his Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle, 1825–1836. Commanded by Captains P. P. King, P. Stokes, and R. Fitz-Roy, Royal Navy. Journal of the Geological Society of London 6: 311–343

Hooker J.D. (1844). The Botany of the Antarctic voyage of H.M. discovery ships Erebus and Terror in the Years 1839–1843: under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross, Vol. 1, London: Reeve Brothers.

King, P. P. (1832). Some observations upon the geography of the southern extremity of South America, Tierra del Fuego, and the Strait of Magalhaens; made during the late survey of those coasts in his Majesty's ships Adventure and Beagle, between the years 1826 and 1830. Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 1: 155–175

King, P. P. (1839). Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826 and 1836, describing their examination of the southern shores of South America, and the Beagle's circumnavigation of the globe. Proceedings of the first expedition, 1826–30, under the command of Captain P. Parker King, R.N., F.R.S. London: Henry Colburn.