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Letter 6230

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

5 June 1868

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    "I have seen the action on Ophrys exactly as you describe and am thoroughly ashamed of my inaccuracy."


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

June 5 1868

My dear Mr Farrer

I must write a line to cry peccavi. I have seen the action in Ophrys exactly as you describe & am thoroughly ashamed of my inaccuracy. I find that the pollinia do not move if kept in a very damp atmosphere under a glass; so that it is just possible, tho' very improbable, that I may have observed them during a very damp day.

I am not much surprized that I overlooked the movement in habenaria as it takes so long.

I am glad you have seen Listera; it requires to be seen to believe in the co-ordination in the position of the parts, the irritability, & the chemical nature of the viscid fluid.

This reminds me that I carefully described to Huxley the shooting out of the Pollinia in Catasetum, & received for an answer ``Do you really think that I can believe all that.''

My dear Mr Farrer | yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. | I cd. find no fly in the nectary of the orchis just received; but there was a minute insect in one flower stuck fast to the viscid stigma.—

C. D.

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 6230.f1
    See letters from T. H. Farrer, 17 May 1868 and 18 May 1868, and letter to T. H. Farrer, 19 May [1868]. CD refers to Ophrys muscifera (O. muscifera is a synonym of O. insectifera).
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    f2 6230.f2
    See letter from T. H. Farrer, 4 June 1868. CD refers to Habenaria viridis (H. viridis is a synonym of Coeloglossum viride var. viride).
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    f3 6230.f3
    See letter from T. H. Farrer, 4 June 1868. CD refers to Listera ovata; see Orchids, pp. 139--47.
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    f4 6230.f4
    Thomas Henry Huxley may have made this remark in a letter to CD that has not been found, or during his visit to Down House on 13 October 1861 (Emma Darwin's diary (DAR 242)); for CD's response to Huxley's scepticism, see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to T. H. Huxley, 22 October [1861]. For CD's discussion of the mechanism for ejecting the pollinia of Catasetum, see Orchids, pp. 212--48.
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    f5 6230.f5
    There is no mention of an accompanying specimen in the letter from Farrer of 4 June 1868.
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