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Letter 6183

Farrer, T. H. to Darwin, C. R.

18 May 1868

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    Is confirmed about the bending of the fly orchid pollinia. [See "Fertilisation of orchids", Collected papers 2: 141.]


3, Gloucester Terrace, | Regent's Park.

18 May/68

My dear Mr Darwin

I am confirmed about the bending of the Fly Orchis pollinia. I have one before me, which has taken 6 minutes in moving from




so that the thick part of the Pollinium which was well above the needle is now opposite its point & axis: and the caudicle, which at the base was perpendicular to the needle, has fairly bent round & below its point. The other angle of the caudicle has not altered.

It looks as if an insect ought to have it, not on in the middle of a long proboscis, where it cannot get its full bend—but on the front of its head. And will not this agree with the construction of the flower—which has no long spur or nectary for a proboscis?

Very truly yours | T H Farrer

In a wood at Cobham in Kent I found last week a very large number—scores—if not hundreds—of Orchis Fusca: but almost all the flowers were eaten off down to or nearly down to the end of the spike, as if by rabbits—so that I could get but one or two decent specimens. May not this account for their rarity. The plants were not only very numerous but very vigorous

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 6183.f1
    See letter from T. H. Farrer, 17 May 1868.
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    f2 6183.f2
    Orchis fusca is a synonym of Orchis purpurea.
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