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Darwin Correspondence Project

DCP-LETT-5074

To Henrietta Emma Darwin   [14–21 April 1866]1

My dear Etty.

I doubt whether the Ophrys which you sent had been self-fertilised;1 it is more probable that the pollen-mass had by some accident been knocked on to the stigma.— In the Bee both pollen-masses fall quite symmetrically & spontaneously on the stigma.—2 I am so sorry about all the illness of your companions.3

Try & find out from Battersby whether he has himself observed changes in same plant from O. aranifera into O. scolopax & O. apifera.—4 Tell him I shd. be most grateful for information, but I suspect, that what he says is borrow shd. be most grateful for information, but I suspect, that what he says is borrowed from Moggridge.—5 If your Ophrys is not O. lutea, you will have to eat humble-pye to Mogg.—6

Mamma is better to day; but we have had a poor House— Everything now looks brighter; & I for one am nearly on the sound list7

My dearest Etty— yours affect | C. Darwin

Mamma tells me to add that your Mentone Letter has arrived & is satisfactory. It begins to appear a terribly long time since you left us.8

My dear Etty | Yours affect. C. D

Footnotes

1
It is likely that Henrietta sent a specimen either of Ophrys lutea or of O. fusca (see n. 7, below); no letter from Henrietta mentioning the specimen has been found. Henrietta apparently believed that she had found another example of self-fertilisation in Ophrys; however, CD had noted that the condition was rare among orchids generally, and that O. apifera was the only species of Ophrys to be self-fertile (see Orchids, pp. 358–9).
2
In his letter to J. T. Moggridge, 13 October [1865] (Correspondence vol. 13), CD wrote, ‘no single point in natural history interests and perplexes me so much as the self-fertilisation of the Bee orchis’. CD described the pollination mechanism of the bee ophrys (Ophrys apifera) in Orchids, pp. 63–72, noting that, despite its adaptations facilitating self-pollination, it retained features associated with insect pollination.
3
Henrietta was in France with Elinor Mary Bonham-Carter and Elinor’s aunt, Julia Smith (letter from H. E. Darwin to G. H. Darwin, [March 1866] (DAR 245: 276)). Henrietta’s letters indicate that both of her travelling companions were unwell for much of April (Emma Darwin to H. E. Darwin, [6 April 1866] (DAR 219.9: 40), and H. E. Darwin to George Darwin, 2 May 1866 (DAR 245: 270)).
4
Charles Henry Battersby was an Irish physician who practised medicine part of the year in Cannes, France, and collected plants in that region (R. Desmond 1994); in Orchids 2d ed., p. 106 n., he is acknowledged for supplying CD with specimens.
5
In Contributions to the flora of Mentone (Moggridge 1865–8, pls. XIX, XLIII–XLV), John Traherne Moggridge had classified Ophrys apifera, O. aranifera, O. arachnites, and O. scolopax as varieties of a single species, O. insectifera. See letter from J. T. Moggridge, 15 February [1866] and nn. 5 and 7.
6
Moggridge described Ophrys lutea in Contributions to the flora of Mentone (Moggridge 1865–8, pl. XLVI), expressing some uncertainty about its classification as a distinct species, and noting its close relationship with O. fusca. Henrietta met Moggridge in Cannes around 10 May. See also letter from H. E. Darwin, [c. 10 May 1866].
7
Emma Darwin and CD both had influenza during the second and third weeks of April; Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) records that CD had a cold from 6 April, and influenza from 8 April, recovering by 14 April; while Emma had influenza from 9 April. In his letter to Asa Gray, 16 April [1866], CD wrote that Emma was still unwell.
8
The letter has not been found. Henrietta visited Mentone twice during her stay in France (letter from Emma Darwin to H. E. Darwin, [6 April 1866] (DAR 219.9: 40), and letter from H. E. Darwin to G. H. Darwin, 2 May 1866 (DAR 245: 270)). According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Henrietta went abroad on 15 March.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-5074
From
Darwin, C. R.
To
Darwin, H. E.
Sent from
unstated
Source of text
DAR 185: 59
Physical description
4pp

Summary

Discusses some observations on, and the fertilisation of, Ophrys.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5074,” accessed on 14 February 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-5074

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