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Letter 3318F

Darwin, C. R. to Guépin, J. B. P.

14 Nov 1861

    Summary Add

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    Has read about JPG's article on the fertilisation of orchids in Annales de la Societé Linnéenne d'Angers [1853], but has been unable to secure a copy. Seeks information about the role of bees in distributing pollen masses and about the varieties of orchids in Angers.

Transcription

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E. England

Nov. 14 1861

Monsieur

J'éspère que vous excuserez la liberté que je prends à vous addresser cette lettre. J'ai lu un avis sur un papier dans les Annales de la Societé Linn: d'Angers, sur la fertilisation des Orchides, dont vous ètes l'auteur. J'ai en vain essayé d'en obtenir un exemplaire à Londres, ce que je désire beaucoup, comme je suis occupé dans ce moment à préparer pour la publication un ouvrage sur ce sujet.

Auriez vous la bonté de m'informer si vous avez pu indiquer l'éspèce des Orchides desquels les Abeilles avaient deplacé le pollen? Y avait il un, deux, ou plus de ``pollen masses'' collé sur une abeille? J'ai vu ces masses de pollen en grand nombre sur la trompe des Lepidoptères mais non pas sur les abeilles.

Si par hazard vous possediez plusieurs specimens d'abeille avec le pollen attaché et que vous pourriez m'en épargner un, vous me rendriez un grand service. Si je pouvais éxaminer une de ces abeilles (que vous pourriez m'envoyer dans une lettre, enfermée dans une plume) je crois pouvoir déterminer de quelle éspèce d'orchide sont les ``pollen masses''. Surtout si vous pouviez m'informer quelles sont les éspèces d'orchides les plus fréquentes dans le voisinage d'Angers.

Je suis avec beaucoup de respect et vous priant d'excuser cette liberté votre très humble serviteur | Charles Darwin

Translation

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E. England

Nov. 14 1861

Sir

I hope you will forgive the liberty I am taking in writing to you. I read a notice of a paper in the Annales de la Societe Linn: d' Angers, regarding the fertilisation of Orchids, of which you are the author. I have unsuccessfully tried to obtain a copy in London, something I am very keen to do, as I am at present preparing a book for publication on this subject.

Would you be so kind as to let me know whether you have been able to show from which species of Orchids these Bees had been gathering nectar? Were there one, two, or more `pollen masses' stuck to a bee? I have seen these pollen masses in great numbers on the proboscis of lepidoptera but not on bees.

If by chance you had in your possession several specimens of bees with the pollen attached and you were able to spare one of them, you would be doing me a great service. If I could study one of these bees (which you could send me in a letter, wrapped in a feather), I think I would be able to identify the species of orchid from which the `pollen masses' come. Especially if you were able to enlighten me as to which are the most common species of orchids in the Angers area.

I am with much respect and begging you to forgive this liberty your very humble servant | Charles Darwin

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 3318f.f1
    For a translation of this letter, see Appendix I.
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    f2 3318f.f2
    Daniel Oliver had sent CD a list of references in French and German relating to orchids. Guépin 1853 was described on this list as dealing with `fecundation of Catasetum' (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter from Daniel Oliver, [before 8 November 1861], and this volume, Supplement, letter to Daniel Oliver, 3 November [1861]).
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    f3 3318f.f3
    CD refers to Orchids.
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    f4 3318f.f4
    Frederick Bond is cited in Orchids, pp. 35--6, as having sent CD a large number of moths and butterflies with orchid pollinia attached to their proboscises. Virtually all the pollinia came from a single species, Orchis pyramidalis. See also Correspondence vol. 8, letter to J. D. Hooker, 17 June [1860] and n. 5.
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    f5 3318f.f5
    Guépin compiled a flora of the area of Maine and Loire (Guépin 1830--54). Guépin had died in 1858, so the letter was never answered.
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