To P. H. Gosse 5 June 1
Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.
My dear Sir
If you could prove the truth of your hypothesis, it would be extremely curious & quite new.2 It certainly seems very suspicious your having found the pollinium attached to the horns of the labellum so often. I am prepared to believe anything of these wonderful productions. But if I were in your place, I would wait till I could observe another spike & then you would, I have no doubt, definitely prove the case. Why I shd act so, is because I have so often noticed the pollinia removed in an unexpected manner: Dr. Hooker published in Phil. Transact. that Listera ejected its pollinia to a distance, which is entire mistake.3 The conjecture (& it was founded on nothing but despair) occurred to me that the vibrating Labellum in Acropera might remove the pollinia; but Dr. Hooker tried on living plant & failed to make it act.—4
Nevertheless your case may prove quite true; the dried labellum seems very thin as if it had been flexible.— It is really a very curious case.— I have some Stanhopeas in my Stove (I know not what species) but I fear they will not flower this summer; should they do so, I will observe them & communicate the result to you.—5
If you thought fit to communicate your facts now to any periodical, it might induce others to observe;6 but many persons are such bad observers that I doubt whether you would profit by it.—
I would suggest to you to get to know (if you do not already do so) the appearance of the viscid matter from the stigma, which abounds with isolated elongated cells, called by Brown utriculi:7 these I find never present in viscid matter of Rostellum; & when these parts are close, it is important to distinguish them.— You could have thus probably told whether the fluid which exuded from your decaying flowers was a true stigmatic secretion.
I heartily hope your pretty little discovery will prove good & true.—
My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin
PHG’s hypothesis [regarding the self-fertilising mechanism of Stanhopea] may prove quite true, but CD suggests that PHG should observe another spike to make sure. CD will observe his Stanhopea if it flowers.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4205,” accessed on 28 July 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4205