skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. G. More   26 September 1862

Cliff Cottage | Bournemouth

Sept. 26, 1862

My dear Sir

I thank you cordially for the specimens received this morning; and for all the trouble which you have so kindly taken.1 Putting on one side the 3 imperfect capsules, 6 are left, of which the labellum had been removed.2 In comparison with the 5 naturally fertilised capsules, two of the mutilated produced as much seed and seemed to have been fully fertilised; the four others produced very much less seed. So that the result in a limited degree supports my belief in use of labellum; but I can now see that a dozen other capsules from mutilated flowers ought to be compared with a dozen naturally fertilised. But this would not be worth your time and trouble.

I should, however, be very much obliged if you would answer me two questions (writing to Down where I return on Monday),3 viz., whether you chose average capsules of the naturally fertilised; for if you picked out the finest, in this case I should doubt the result; and secondly whether you removed only the further or distal or articulated part of the Labellum, as you speak in your letter of removing the labellum.

Pray believe me | My dear Sir | Yours very truly obliged | Ch. Darwin

I sincerely hope that your health is reestablished.


More’s letter has not been found. The reference is to specimens of the orchid Epipactis palustris (see n. 2, below).
In the summer of 1861, More had carried out an experiment for CD on the orchid Epipactis palustris, in order to test CD’s ideas about the importance of the labellum in the process of insect pollination in that species. More removed the distal half of the labellum from two flowers before they opened, and compared the seed-capsules produced with those from undamaged flowers (see Orchids, pp. 101 n.–102 n., and Correspondence vol. 9, letters to A. G. More, 7 July 1861, 19 July 1861, 23 September 1861, and 1 October 1861); the capsules from the damaged flowers were smaller, and, in 1862, CD asked More to confirm these results under more rigorous conditions (see letter to A. G. More, 18 May 1862). CD published More’s later results in ‘Fertilization of orchids’, pp. 149–50 (Collected papers 2: 146).
Although CD left Bournemouth on Monday 29 September 1862, he stayed in London that evening, returning to Down House on Tuesday 30 September (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II)).


Describes experiment on role of labellum in fertilisation of orchids. Asks for information.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alexander Goodman More
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 146: 406
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3739,” accessed on 22 July 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10