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Darwin Correspondence Project


To T. H. Farrer   19 May [1868]1

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

May 19

My dear Mr Farrer

Many thanks for your notes. I do not doubt that you are right & I wrong. How I came to make such a blunder I do not know, for I examined the flowers repeatedly. I suppose I reasoned from the shape of the caudicle, & it is a fatal fault to reason whilst observing, though so necessary before hand, & so useful afterwards.2

I will try to find a specimen & convict myself. I wish you or some one cd find out what insects visit the fly ophrys, & for what purpose.3

I am delighted to hear that you are interested about the structure of orchids; I was formerly quite fascinated with these plants; especially with O. pyramidalis & the common Listera.4

Many thanks for the facts about dogs.5

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


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letters from T. H. Farrer, 17 May 1868 and 18 May 1868.
See letters from T. H. Farrer, 17 May 1868 and 18 May 1868. Farrer had written to CD of experiments of his own that threw into doubt CD’s assertion in Orchids, pp. 55–6, that the caudicle of Ophrys muscifera (the fly ophrys) did not bend.
In Orchids 2d ed., p. 47, CD commented that he had never seen insects approach the flowers of Ophrys muscifera.
For CD’s observations on Orchis pyramidalis and Listera, see especially Correspondence vols. 8 and 9.
See letter from T. H. Farrer, 17 May 1868.


Thanks THF for correcting the error in Orchids.

Asks him to find out what insects visit the fly orchid and for what purpose.

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Farrer, T. H.
Sent from
Source of text
Linnean Society of London (LS Ms 299/2)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6185,” accessed on 26 October 2016,