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Letter 3252

Darwin, C. R. to Gardeners' Chronicle

[before 14 Sept 1861]

    Summary Add

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    Requests orchid specimens from Arethuseae division for his investigation of the many contrivances by which orchids are fertilised by insect agency.

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    Asks whether Charles Morren has published on the fertilisation of orchids by insect agency.

Transcription

I have been endeavouring during several years to make out the many contrivances by which British Orchids are fertilised through insect agency. I am very anxious to examine a few exotic forms. Several gentlemen have kindly sent me specimens; but I have not seen one of Lindley's grand division of Arethuseæ, which includes the Limodorideæ, Vanillideæ, &c. If any one would have the kindness to send me a few flowers and buds of any member of the group, packed in a small tin canister, by post, addressed as below, he would confer a very great favour on me. Would you have the kindness to inform me, if in your power, whether the late Professor Morren has published anything (and where) on the fertilisation of Orchids by insect agency?

Charles Darwin, Down, Bromley, Kent.

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 3252.f1
    The letter was published in the Gardeners' Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, 14 September 1861, p. 831. See also Collected papers 2: 41.
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    f2 3252.f2
    The reference is to the section on orchids in Lindley 1853. John Lindley's `fifth Tribe' of orchids, Arethuseae, is only briefly mentioned in Orchids, pp. 269--70. CD was not able to examine `any living flowers'; reasoning from statements about allied forms, he suggested that `mechanical aid' was necessary for their fertilisation.
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    f3 3252.f3
    An editorial note followed CD's letter, probably written by the editor John Lindley: [We are unable to answer this question, and must refer it to others. After searching through Morren's multitudes of pamphlets, we find nothing on Orchids except an academical dissertation on Orchis latifolia, and some remarks on the causes of the movements in the lips of Megaclinium.] The reference is to Belgian botanist Charles Fran¸la;cois Antoine Morren. In Orchids, p. 270 n., CD cited Morren 1839 on the necessity of artificial fertilisation of Vanilla in the East Indies owing to the absence there of the insect that is the agent of fertilisation in its country of origin, Mexico. See also letters to J. O. Westwood, 15 August [1861] and 4 September [1861].
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