Wallace Letters Online

Share this:

Record number: WCP3798

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
William Jackson Hooker
20 August 1848

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Pará, Brazil to William Jackson Hooker, [Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew] on 20 August 1848.

Record created:
03 February 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline
Verified by:
22/05/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline (All except summary checked);


No summary available at this time.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

View item:

LETTER (WCP3798.3715)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Finding number:
DC American Letters Volume 70, f.540-541
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate
Record scrutiny:
22/05/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Physical description

Transcription information





August 20th 1848

D[ea]r Sir

No English Government vessels touching here we send you by the "Windsor" from hence to Liverpool a box of dried specimens, principally palms, & we trust they will arrive in good order & prove acceptable. Comparatively few of the forest trees are in flower now or we sh[oul]d have sent some specimens of woods. The wet season, (answering to our winter & spring), seems to be the time when most of the trees are in flower.

Sh[oul]d you wish for living plants of any of the plants specimens now sent we shall be most happy to get them for you. There is a very curious palm here which you most probably know. It is called here the "Paxisuba1"[sic]-- Its peculiarity consists in having its roots thrown out from the stem; apparently every year fresh ones are thrown out higher up & the old ones die off, so that a large tree is frequently seen standing on three legs so high that you may stand with 50 feet of stem perpendicular over your head as shown in the sketch below. [a sketch of a Paxiuba palms roots is inserted here]. Young plants of every height abound in the forest & all have the same [[2]] peculiarity of growth. The stem of this palm too, unlike most others, increases in size with its age & is so smooth as to show no marks of the successive sets of leaves. Sh[oul]d you wish it we could send you an entire base of one of these palms for the Museum as well as living specimens.

I have been able to find very few orchids here though I have looked much for them; Aeaceae2 & Tillandsias3 which are excessively abundant appear to take their place.

Trees with buttresses to their trunks are very abundant & of very different species-- some are Leguminosae4-- others apparently Bombacaceae5 & no doubt some of other orders.

Ipomoeas6, Solanums7 & Cassias8 are very plentiful in species about the city in the open grounds-- Melastomas9 & Apocyneae10[sic] in the woods-- large leguminous forest trees are very abundant-- There are white pink & yellow Ingas11 & many species of mimosas12.

There is a curious genus of forest trees the flowers of which consist of one involute petal rearing the membrous[sic] stamens, the unopened flowers of these trees are attractive to many[?] buds.

[[3]] Ferns are tolerably abundant in the forest-- There are many minute species--There may probably be one hundred species altogether found near Para!

We have hitherto found quite enough to do attending almost entirely to Insects only-- We are now commencing also at Birds so that it will be quite impossible to find time to make any thing of a general collection of Plants.

Next week we are going to set out on an excursion up the River Tocantins & its western branch the Araguaya13. We go with a gentleman here who has been engaged in the Canada lumber trade and intends bringing down a cargo (raft) of the Cedar of the country if he finds it plentiful.

I fear I shall find no time to collect plants but sh[oul]d I meet with any thing very curious I will endeavour to preserve it.

The "Masseranduba"14 or milk tree is one of the most interesting here--The milky juice of the tree is an excellent substitute for cream in tea or coffee, in both of which we have tried it--The timber wh[ich] is of very large size is very heavy & durable-- The fruit is delicious, resembling that of the Sapota & Sapotilla--The milk is a very adhesive & lasting glue unaffected by moisture. The flower is not to be obtained till the rainy season--If you wish specimens of the flower wood milk & let us know by the return of the Windsor which will be in about a month from the time you receive this, we shall be most happy to send them. [[4]] A letter for us must be sent to Messr Singlehurst & Co. Liverpool.

We hope you will find the contents of the box worth £10 and the freight &c.

We find the climate here delightful--The thermometer ranges from 76o to 88o but the heat is scarcely ever oppressive-- The nights and mornings are invariably deliciously cool & agreeable--We have not yet more than two days together without rain, wh[ich] is always in the afternoon or evening.

We are now in the beginning of the dry season or summer as they call it here

There are 23 species of Tahu[]s here which have distinct native names and probably many others not so distinguished.

I remain | Yours Faithfully | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

To Sir W.J. Hooker15

P.S. I send the few dried plants (a few hundred specimens) principally ferns-- you can perhaps dispose of them or allow what you consider them to be worth A.R.W


1. Paixuba palm; a Brazilian pinnate-leaved palm (Iriartea exorrhiza)

2. Family of monocotyledonous flowering plants

3. Genus of around 540 species in the Bromeliad family

4. Also known as Fabaceae and more commonly known as the legume, pea or bean family

5. Family of tropical trees with large dry or fleshy fruit

6. Ipomoea is the largest genus in the flowering plant family Convolulaceae, numbering over 500 species

7. Large genus of annual and perennial plants

8. Cassia (also known as Cassias) is a genus of Fabaceae in the subfamily Caesalpinioideae

9. Genus in the family Melastomataceae

10. Apocynaceae is a family of flowering plants that include trees, herbs, shrubs and lianas.

11. Genus of small tropical nitrogen fixing trees and shrubs.

12. Mimosa is a genus of 400 species of herbs and shrubs.

13. River in central Brazil which joins with the Tocantins river.

14. Manilkara bidentata is a species of Manilkara native to South America, Central America and the Caribbean.

15. Sir William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865), botanist and the first director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Please note that work on this transcript is not yet complete. Users are advised to study electronic image(s) of this document, if available.