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Letter 3712

Gray, Asa to Darwin, C. R.

5 Sept 1862

    Summary Add

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    Suggests CD try to get Lythrum hyssopifolia from France.

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    Dimorphic flowers.

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    Differences between newly opened and older orchids.

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    Flowers of Spiranthes and Goodyera.

Transcription

Cambridge. [Massachusetts]

Sept. 5. 1862

My Dear Darwin

Thanks for yours of Aug. 9. Lythrum Hyssopifolia is not in my reach. Get it from France, where it is common. I may, perhaps, get you L. lineare & alatum thro. correspondents. Nesæa verticillata I will send you seeds of. Probably a very hopeful plant for your purpose

Mitchella—you will hardly be able to raise from seed. But I mean to send you this autumn patches of it—hoping to get better sorts,—and live roots of Cypripedium. Let them rest in the cold till Xmas, & then they will flower in your room very well.

So you have paid for the Orchid-Books sent by Trübner! Well, I had given away a part, and shall so arrange for the rest. I hope to get observations & fresh orchids in return.

Rothrock suddenly enlisted from Pennsylvania, & is before the enemy!

I am so glad to hear of your boy's recovery.

Of observations, I have little to say this time. Impatiens sends off pollen tubes out of the anthers of the precociously fertilized blossoms. I could not get specularia. But Torrey says he could not find the pollen-tubes coming out.

No Lythrum within my reach here.

In Ammannia, I have distinguished 2 species by length of style, dimorphic—no doubt, though the 2 species are good.

Goodyera repens & I believe pubescens also. The column of the flower turns back a little & exposes the stigma in the older flowers.— not the labellum drum.

Spiranthes cernua. The difference between the older flowers & those first opened is striking. The latter presents the disc—the former the stigma. But here too, I am very confident the change not in the position of the labellum—but in that of the column!

You have opened a rich mine indeed among dimorphic & trimorphic? flowers.

Ever— in haste— Yours | most cordially | A. Gray

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 3712.f1
    Letter to Asa Gray, 9 August [1862].
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    f2 3712.f2
    CD was working on trimorphism in Lythrum salicaria, and had asked Gray if he could obtain specimens of the rare L. hyssopifolia (see letter to Asa Gray, 9 August [1862]).
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    f3 3712.f3
    In his letter to Gray of 9 August [1862], CD commented that he expected Nesaea verticillata, a member of the Lythraceae, to be trimorphic.
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    f4 3712.f4
    CD asked for seed of Mitchella in his letter to Gray of 9 August [1862].
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    f5 3712.f5
    CD had been impressed with Asa Gray's observations on American species of Cypripedium (see letter to Asa Gray, 1 July [1862]).
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    f6 3712.f6
    See letter to Asa Gray, 9 August [1862] and n. 4. Gray had asked CD to arrange for six copies of Orchids to be sent to him by the London bookseller and publisher Nicholas Trübner (see letter to Nicholas Trübner, 23 June [1862]).
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    f7 3712.f7
    Joseph Trimble Rothrock was Gray's assistant and student at the Lawrence Scientific School, Harvard University; Gray had sent Rothrock's observations on Houstonia caerula in his letter to CD of 4 August 1862. Rothrock enlisted in the 131st Pennsylvania Infantry on 1 July 1862 (DAB).
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    f8 3712.f8
    Gray refers to Leonard Darwin, who was recovering from scarlet fever.
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    f9 3712.f9
    Gray refers to his former mentor and botanical collaborator, John Torrey (see letter from Asa Gray, 18--19 August 1862 and n. 5).
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    f10 3712.f10
    See letter from Asa Gray, 18--19 August 1862 and n. 10.
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    f11 3712.f11
    Gray included his observations on this point in A. Gray 1862b, p. 427, noting: `we suspect that it is the column, rather than the labellum, which changes its position, but we have not been able to demonstrate it'. CD cited Gray's findings in `Fertilization of orchids', p. 151 (Collected papers 2: 148).
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