Hooker, Sir Joseph Dalton
Cherra Poonji [Cherrapunji], Khassya [Khasi] Mountains, India
JDH/1/10 f.288-291
Hooker, Sir William Jackson
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
© Descendants of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker
Indian Letters 1847-1851
The Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Original MS
14 page letter over 4 folios

JDH describes journey from Dacca [Dakha] to Cherrapoonji [Cherrapunji], compares landscape & weather en route to that of the Ganges & Mahanuddy. Lists species collected: (Ceratopteris) Parkeria, Aeginetia (pedunculata), Euphrasia. JDH left the Soormah at Chattuk & visited Mr Harry Inglis. Describes mountains of Khassya. Collected in swamps & river banks in Pundiah. Received supplies from Falconer: brown paper, boxes, stopper bottles, spirits of wine. Travelled from Punduah to Terrya Ghat by elephant & boat to begin ascent to Churra. Compares scenery to Himalaya, Brazil & Sikkim hills. Lists plants: Areca Palm, Rubiaceae, Apocyn., Euphorbiaceae, Pandanua, Phyllanthus, Eurya, Antidesma, Bamboo, Vaccinium, Rubiaceae, Cleyera, Viburnum, Crotalaria, Camellia, Uvaria, Photinia, Olea, Vernonia, Callicarpa, Premnia, Helicia, Saurauja, Fig, Acacia stipularis, Symplocos, Sethia, Eriocaulon, Polygona, grasses, Cyperaceae, Hypercium, Habenaria, Murdannia, Burmannia, Cyanotus, Haloragis. Describes landscape including Tipperah, Khassya, Sylhet, & compares flooded land to Purneah in Darjeeling. Describes rainfall, native tombs, & compares land to England & Scotland. Explains housing arrangements, collectors & carriers employed, & expenses. Discusses problems of transporting tropical specimens, lists those collected: palms viz Calamus, Wallichia, Chamaerops, Areca, Caryota urens, Hodgsonia, Roxburghs. Comments on opening herbarium to public. Refers to Courtenay & giving Bellenden Ker Rhododendrons. Asks about seeds sent to WJH. Hopes Bentham & Wallich will write about Wight’s work on Icones in Calcutta [Kolkata] , Neilgherries [Nilgiris?] & Madras. Mentions Lobb’s dried specimens & behaviour. Mentions next journey via Surureen to Myrong. Requests Tassin’s map of Eastern Bengal from Wylds, Arrowsmith, or Mr Melville. JDH's Illustrations are all botanical he has had no time for geological drawings. Mentions Captain Cave’s watercolours. Requests volume of De Candolle.


ready, of which we required 110 to convey all our things up, the 11 miles of 4000 ft ascent to the station. We filled nearly a ream with the plants collected on our walk from Punduah before breakfast & forthwith commenced the road up. We of course walked though Inglis had sent us 2 mules for the first 3000 ft, & 2 horses for the last were ready on the road.
The scenery was splendid far more beautiful than any part of the Himal[aya] & much more Brazilian in character with groves of Areca Palm fine rocks & a better mixture of brushwood & large trees than the complete forest of the Sikkim Himal[aya] presents. The vegetation was quite different, every thing new to us, Rubiaceae, Apocyn., Asclep & Euphorbiaceae especially abounding. Neither Cedrela, Shorea, Gardenia nor

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Churra Poonji [Cherrapunji]
Khassya [Khasi] Mts
June 21./ [18]50
My dear father
We arrived here on the 12th after a very tedious passage from Dacca [Dakha], (whence I wrote to you by the June mail). The river wound through the grassy jheels in the most tedious manner, we had scarce an hour of fair wind, & such a plague of musquitoes[sic] as drove us to bed at sunset every night. The weather we called cool after the Ganges & Mahanuddy, seldom rising above 98˚ & there was generally a wind which, foul as it was we welcomed. Since leaving Dacca, to the foot of the hills we got about 300 plants nothing new or very interesting but (Ceratopteris) Parkeria, the stomata on whose leaves are very beautiful & curious, the young plants float free. Also a fine Aeginetia (pedunculata) whose parasitism is not like our Euphrasia's sundry Scirpi & Cyperi prevailed, with grasses, but

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the season was greatly too early for these. We left the Soormah at Chattuk[?] a place you will find on the map, & spent the day with Mr Inglis, brother of our host here-- from this the Khassya are seen rising in table topped ranges to the N. very precipitous with roaring cataracts pouring over their scarped flanks, they in no way resemble the Himal[aya]. As seen from the plains; -- these as I say, rising in mural[?] form, & the valleys receding in amphitheatres of cliffs, & the tops being long & tabular, -- the Himal[aya] again rise in ridges, their valleys have sloping (however steep) sides & the tops are more rugged.
Mr Harry Inglis, a gentleman well known to Wallich, invited me here 2 years ago when I met him at Gov[ernmen]t house Calcutta [Kolkata], & he sent swift boats & serv[an]ts to his brother at

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Chattuc[?] to conduct us up. We left C[hattuc]. at night in 2 little long boats, holding one of us each & awoke next morning at the Botanically famous Punduah which is close to the foot of the mts. We spent the day there at a tumble--down Bungalow, got many new plants in the swamps & brushy river banks.
Here I met all my things from Calcutta which Falconer has despatched, 5 reams of brown paper, & the box full you sent me, also 12 glorious stopper bottles & spirits of wine, all too little for our wants, & we have written for more paper, our stock of about 15 reams not being enough for so splendid a country.
Elephants were ready for us at Punduah which with boats took our things on to Terrya Ghat, where the ascent to Churra commences, there we found coolies likewise all

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ready, of which we required 110 to convey all our things up, the 11 miles of 4000 ft ascent to the station. We filled nearly a ream with the plants collected on our walk from Punduah before breakfast & forthwith commenced the road up. We of course walked though Inglis had sent us 2 mules for the first 3000 ft, & 2 horses for the last were ready on the road.
The scenery was splendid far more beautiful than any part of the Himal[aya] & much more Brazilian in character with groves of Areca Palm fine rocks & a better mixture of brushwood & large trees than the complete forest of the Sikkim Himal[aya] presents. The vegetation was quite different, every thing new to us, Rubiaceae, Apocyn., Asclep & Euphorbiaceae especially abounding. Neither Cedrela, Shorea, Gardenia nor

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Bombax, Erythrina, Sterculia, nor Sissoo form the features here, as at the Sikkim foothills. Still there are plenty of Cucurb[itaceae]. & Amphilidea and Urticae in both the species constantly differ. Also Calamus[,] Areca & Wallichia, the latter different sp. -- of the two former some are new, some old.
Mahadeb, the half way home, is at the front of the mts, & thence onward all is brushwood with groves of trees Pandanus, tree ferns, & a multitude of shrubby plants chiefly bordering the streams, for the hill sides are grassy & stony. Phyllanthus, Eurya, Antidesma, Bamboo, Vaccinium, Rubi[aceae], Cleyera, Viburnum, Crotalaria ?, Camellia, Uvaria, Photinia, Olea, Vernonia, Callicarpa, Premnia, Helicia, 3 Saurauja, Fig, Acacia stipularis[sic], Symplocos, Sethia, are the prevailing shrubs forming a copse above which the Pandanus rises in vast quantities & occasionally the tree ferns -- 2 Eriocaulon, Polygona, grasses & Cyperaceae, Hypericum, Habenaria, Murdannia, Burmannia, Cyanotus[sic], Haloragis,

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are the common herbs of this place & season.
From the top of the table land, the views of the broken valleys on either hand are magnificent, beyond what I had any conception of, they enter from the broad level plains of India, & are girt with stupendous cliffs all round, over which beautiful cataracts of all dimensions occur at every short interval. These pour over the top of the table land through a fringe of brushwood, leap over down the scarped Mt walls onto a fine forest slope, whence they are seen meandering down to great streams at the bottom, which wind through forest, 4000 ft below the eye to the Soormah on the plains. The view of the latter is interminable to the South & South West, South, the low

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hills of Tipperah rise on the extreme horizon, & S[outh]. East, the bold surs of the Khassya, advance on to the vast swamps of Sylhet. The plains now appear & are, more than half under water, the course of the winding rivers hardly distinguishable from the great extent of the flooded country &the absence of trees marking their course direction. This again is a very different view from that of the hot hazy plains of Purneah, as seen from the Dorjiling [Darjeeling] outer range.
Churra Poonji, the station, is placed on a wood moorland like flat, out of which conical mounds rise abundantly in some places 80 -- 100 ft high, & in others, the horizontally stratified sandstone presents broad bare pavements. East is a magnificent amphitheatre like valley of green green floored, with its cliffs of black rock 1000 ft high & waterfalls. West, a low craggy range of limestone Mts on the table land

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where the coal is worked. North are low sweeps of hills like the Campsies, & south the land dips suddenly over precipices to the plains 4300 ft below. Scattered Pandani & the wonderful stone henge--like tombs of the natives are the arresting objects of the view, the former quite out of the places we associate their presence with; the later singularly in harmony with the moorland scene, whether as recalling the druidic remains, or the erratic boulders of our own bleak open counties in England & Scotland they are wild uncouth objects.
Of the weather "most horrible" is the term I believe for all the time between May & October, we are considered to be singularly fortunate in getting out & to a distance for 7 days out of 10 -- for the first three it rained a deluge & then

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the said clearance commenced which is unprecedented in the memory of the oldest inhabitant. Thick fog & torrents is the prevailing character, the rain fall equalling often 48 hours, the whole annual English fall, the statements are incredible & I have set up my rain gauges to see for myself -- it is windy too, which is bad for me, as the rain gets on my spectacles & stops work;. the damp is of course ruinous. We are comfortably placed in a bungalow 10 steps from Inglis house, the latter large & as I[nglis]. is very rich we fare sumptuously -- too much so by far. We have hired a bungalow for our plants at £4 a month & there keep 6 collectors & 3 good coal fires burning, it is very hard work for Hoffman & these 6 men to get the plants changed & papers dried daily. We always put them in & ticket them bottling orchideae, all fruits

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& such like. We have also 4 collectors constantly out, & keep two carriers who accompany ourselves with large baskets in our daily excursions. This entails a much greater expense than I was prepared for, but I had no idea of the richness & variety of the flora, nor can you ever have of the bulk & weight of tropical plants, which as I always say, puts the ordinary vasculum hors de combat in an hour. As also your notions of drying paper. 80 lbs is not a great collection for one day & 1--1 1/2 ream of paper to put them in (at the very least Tom adds)[.] Compared to the 4500 feet of Sikkim Himal: to which these Mts botanically answer, the latter is literally a poor Botanizing country but again we have[?] here no region like the 5--10,000 of Sikkim.

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Our collections amount up to those put in this morning to 1176 species collected since leaving Dacca, of which 800 were collected since Punduah -- this excludes, all the plants collected in these hills which we collected in the plains & a great mass of un--numbered things out of flower &c. I am safe in saying that 1000 species might be collected within 5 miles of Churra in a week.
We have already found 12 palms viz Calamus 6, Wallichia 1, (there are 2 I am told) -- Chamaerops, -- Areca 3. -- Caryota urens -- We expect 20 in all of Bamboos we have 8, but only one in flower -- All but perhaps 2 are diff[eren]t. from the Sikkim ones.
Hodgsonia is in fruit & quite a different plant from the Sikkim one, so it is well you have stopped its premature debut, as the confusion of plants & plates of Roxburghs & mine [text obscured where letters has been bound into a volume] terrible

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business -- I have a fine fruit in spirit for you, it is not ribbed & differently shaped.
I have received your long & most interesting letter of April 18 with all the news about Aiton's house which likes me well. I do not understand what my mother says about the condition that the Herb[arium]. is wanted to be thrown open to the public -- that sounds most unfair, of course I am not prepared to advise, but I firmly believe it would be losing my only hold on HM Com]missione]rs -- it would be virtually making the Herb[arium]. over to the Crown, they would have all the good of it in perpetuity. I could never touch it except with their sanction, or still less make it any claim on my own establishment, or sell it if driven thereto by any unexpected or unforeseen event as blindness or

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permanent ill health. I have written to Courtenay about you giving B. K. [Bellenden Ker] the Rhod[odendron]s. I have never hinted at your complaints of him. He C[ourtenay]. wrote me the other day from Simlah [Shimla], neither my Lord nor Lady are well, & they hate the hills as much as ever.
You have never acknowledged 5 parcels of seeds I sent home on one occasion to Se[cretar]y. Ind[ia]. House in January (your name & tradein corner) -- & several other packets sent same way on other occasions) I therein sent a small packet for Ward to be given him if you thought proper. -- I have sent Rhod[odendron]. Dalhousiae so often distinctly labelled, (once when also to Lindley) that I think you cannot have got nearly all my pacquets[sic] of seeds.
Wight is a capital correspondent & has sent me another beautiful number of his Icones. I do wish that Bentham or Wallich would write a good notice of that work for the Journal, we have not the remotest conception of the merit of getting up such a work in India of half the value or half the execution. In Calcutta it would be difficult, in Madras [Chennai] almost impossible & how he ever carries it on in the Neilgherries will be a lasting marvel to me. -- pecuniarily he barely covers the outlay. I do sincerely believe that such perseverance, energy & enthusiasm has not been matched in India. All this you perhaps cannot realize, but it is true.
Lobb was here & will doubtless send you good dried specimens of many things I am too late for, for though too early for the flora in general we are too late for the spring Orchideae. He is a most steady respectable man, but dreadfully conceited & he quite avoided us in Sikkim, which T[homson]. remarked quite independently -- for T[homson]. sought his company during my absence in Calcutta. he pooh poohed Sikkim & has a very poor opinion of Lindley & Wallich ! ! ! he really is dreadfully conceited -- travellers find strange bed--fellows you know. In his deportment he is very modest & extremely well behaved. I can get you much

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better worked articles for museum here than I could in Sikkim & will do so. We start in a few days for the interior by Surureen see Griffiths wretched notes to Myrong. Try & get Tassin's lithograph map of Eastern Bengal, 2 large folio published in Calcutta & no doubt to be had at Wylds or Arrowsmith if not ask where from Mr Melville or your other Ind[ian]. acquaintances -- you had better get it on a roller -- it is excellent -- names large & clear. *1
We are so distracted with work that I have done nothing to drawing geology or any thing else but plants from morning till night, except one or 2 outline sketches of scenery. A Captain Cave here sketches beautifully in water colors. Tom is hearty & works like a horse, he is indefatigable & perpetual motion & so amiable & pleasant. I have just had a very kind letter from W. Forbes.
Do send me D.C. [De Candolle] after volume X which we should be studying on our voyage home -- Ever your most aff[ectionate] son Jos D Hooker [signature]


1. The address of the recipient appears here as the letter would originally have been folded in such a way that it formed its own 'envelope'. The address reads "By Southampton | To Sir W. J. Hooker | Royal Gardens | Kew | near London"

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