From Asa Gray 7 July 1863
July 7, 1863
My last from you is May 31.1
I had arranged to reprint most of Bates on Mimetic analogy in Sill. Jour. but my long review of A. DC. crowded it out.2 I then thought of a brief abstract, but have had no time to prepare it.3 I wrote remarks & arranged long extracts of your Linum paper, and insisted on it for July no. of Sill. Jour.— But it too was laid over.4—not for any thing I had, for I have little in July no.
I like and agree to your remark that in Bates’s Geographical varieties, etc. etc. we get about as near to seeing a species made as we are ever likely to get:5—and so believing I think your gradual way more likely than Heer’s jumps.6
A propos to Heer, you ask me if it is not impossible to imagine so many & nice coadaptations as we see in Orchids being formed all by a chance blow.
I reply yes, perfectly impossible to imagine (and much the same by any number of chance blows).
So I turn the question back upon you, is not the fact that the co-adaptations are so nice” next to a demonstration against their having been formed by chance blows at all, one or many!
Here lives, I suppose the difference between us. When you bring me up to this point, I feel the cold chill.7
I have been doing nothing but attend to my daily work, & had got so fagged that I really thought I was about to have softening of the brain, or some other break down. But a week of respite—caused by the death of an aged relative of my wife’s8—a dear old soul—taking us away from here perforce, has nearly set me up very nearly. And now after a week since comes my vacation, and we are off into the quiet country for 3 weeks.—
A little legacy of about £2000 to my wife comes in opportunely to relieve us of anxiety for the future. We have no children—(which I regret only that I have no son to send to the war),9 and this with a little income—rather precarious, of about £200 a year would support us in our very simple way, if I were to throw up my place here. But I cannot do that yet.10
Hooker11 writes that you have been ill. I am very sorry to hear it.
Look at Impatiens flowers. See if the most fertile “precociously fertilized” ones ever get crossed!12
I have asked in three directions for seeds of the Specularia perfoliata.13 Enclosed are depauperate specimens.
It is pretty to see Honey bees cross-fertilize Locust (Robinia) much as you say of Broom.14 One of my students has been noticing the way bees act on Kalmia15
Now for my best thing for to-day.
An Orchid which I missed last year Platanthera flava, I knew would be curious, for I remembered a strong protuberance on base of labellum, on the median line. I have not time left to describe it now—having been sadly interrupted— But it is pretty.—equal to anything you have yet seen in British Orchids The process turns proboscis of insect either to right or left—where it will slip in to an imperfect ring (as seen from above) or deep groove (as seen from before)—in which lies the disk,—not flat but coiled up—ready to catch proboscis— It is like the eye of needle to re〈ce〉ive the thread.—16
Perhaps I will send you, or print—a sketch of the thing.
I am waiting for Gymnadenia tridentata to come on.17
But the post-hour has come, Good Bye | Ever | A Gray
Has extracted CD’s Linum paper [Am. J. Sci. 2d ser. 36 (1863): 279–84].
Elaborate co-adaptations of orchids and insects demonstrate against "chance blows", whether few, as Oswald Heer would have, or many and slight as CD proposes.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4234,” accessed on 24 February 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4234