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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Federico Delpino1   1 November 1869

Firenze

1. 9bre 1869

Celeberrimo uomo!

Rendo grazie alla S.V. pella indulgente e cortese lettera ultimamente speditami, nonchè pel grazioso dono dell’interessante memoria del Dott. Crüger. La quale è scritta con tanta chiarezza e tanto discernimento, che ha scosso non poco i miei dubbii intorno alla realtà della fecondazione dei Coryanthes per intervento dell’ Euglossae, e collo stranissimo processo a bagno freddo ivi descritto.2 Non ostante mi resta ad approfondire maggiormente la razionalità delle forme florali dei Coryanthes e Gongora. Non dissimulo però fin d’ora che mi dà a pensare la circostanza che il liquido, il quale si raccoglie per stillicidio nel labello, è segregato da due cospicue glandole nettarifere. La natura è molto economa, e non mi contenta che un liquido, il quale avesse semplicemente la funzione indicata dal Dr. Crüger, debba venir segregato da un apparato secretorio e glandoloso.3

Mi è giunto singolarmente gradito il cenno datomi che la Strelitzia, giusta le ricerche della S.V., venga al Capo di Buona speranza fecondata da nettarinie.4 Ciò viene a conferma delle mie congetture. Il Prof. Hildebrand suppose che la fecondazione di questa pianta venga effetuata dagli insetti: ma ciò a me parce meno verisimile, perocchè gl’insetti, anche di grossa taglia, non avrebbero la forza sufficiente per far divaricare i lobi della scatola che racchiude le antere.5 Farò tesoro di questo suo cenno, e, se la S.V. non dissente, me ne prevarrò ad opportuna occasione.

Il suggerimento, che la S.V. mi diede, di studiare la fecondazione nel grano,6 mi giunse tanto più gradito, in quanto che nella state passata ho fatto appunto alcuni studi in proposito. Mi pare di aver messo fuori dubbio, 1o che ogni flosculo del grano sta aperto per circa un quarto d’ora, in tempo che la fecondazione stimmatica non è ancora avvenuta; 2o. che in consequenza la dicogamia è possibilissima nel grano; 3o. che per altro ogni fiore del grano è suscettibile di essere fecondato col proprio polline. Presso la segala ho trovato che la fecondazione dicogamica è di gran lunga la più facile. Presso l’Hordeum vulgare ho trovato che un terzo dei fiori non si aprono menomamente (e quindi non possono essere fecondati dicogamicamente) mentre gli altri due terzi si aprono e possono essere fecondati dicogamicamente.7 Presso l’Hordeum diytichum 8 (con strana eccezione) la fecondazione omogamica (e non dicogamica) è veramente necessaria, perocchè succede quando ancora le spighe non uscirono fuori dalla guaina fogliare. Ma ecco che, con mirabile alternativa, questa specie d’orzo possiede due specie di fiori: gli uni (pochissimi) che si aprono e sono predestinati per la dicogamia; gli altri (moltissimi) che non si aprono, e sono predestinati per la omogamia. Cosicchè presso questa pianta si ripeta il bene conosciuto fenomeno dei fiori di Viola, di Vicia amphicarpa ecc. ecc.9 Così, anche presso l’Hordeum distichum rimane intatta la gran legge “no hermaphrodite fertilises itself for a perpetuity of generations.”10 Ora sto scrivendo una piccola memoria in proposito, e appena sarà stampata, mi farò un dovere di rassegnarla alla S.V.11

Della “Scientific opinion” non mi è pervenuto che il primo fascicolo, cioè il No. 48. Ho venuto a sapere per caso che nel No. 51 la S.V. deve avere inserito una risposta al mio scritto.12 Io la prego con sommissione a volermene favorire un esemplare: e, se Ella permette, io farò per deferenza la traduzione della sua risposta, e la farò inserire sulla Revista Contemporanea, che oggi muta nome in Revista Europea.13

Ho avuto pure il libro svedese di Axell.14 È un opera che mi pare di molto merito e scritta con rara coscienza. Godo assai che Axell faccia un altissima stima degli scritti del più grande naturalista del secolo, di cui ho l’onore di riconfermarmi

Ossequentissimo discepolo | Federico Delpino

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Correspondence vol. 17, Appendix I.
See letter to Federico Delpino, 14 October 1869. Hermann Crüger’s paper described how the pollen-mass of Coryanthes was secured onto the back of the bee (Euglossa) as it tried to force its way out through a passage after falling into a ‘bucket’ of nectar; when the bee next fell into the bucket of the same or another flower, the pollen was deposited on the stigma as it tried to leave (Crüger 1864, p. 130). See Origin 4th ed., pp. 229–30, ‘Fertilization of orchids’, p. 157 (Collected papers 2: 153–4), Orchids 2d ed., pp. 173–6, and Correspondence vol. 12.
See also the letter from Federico Delpino, 9 October 1869. Visits of bees to flowers of the orchid genus Gongora were also described in Crüger 1864.
For CD’s remark on the Nectarinae (now the family Nectariniidae, sunbirds) fertilising Strelitzia, see the letter to Federico Delpino, 14 October 1869.
Friedrich Hildebrand recorded his opinion on Strelitzia pollination in Hildebrand 1869, pp. 508–9.
CD had suggested that Delpino study the fertilisation of ‘Gramineæ’, the grass family; see the letter to Federico Delpino, 14 October 1869.
On dichogamy, see the letter to W. C. Tait, 17 July [1869]. Hordeum vulgare is common barley.
Hordeum distichum is an alternative spelling of H. distichon, now considered to be a variety of H. vulgare vulgare. It was known as two-rowed barley.
Delpino refers to violets and to the vetch Vicia amphicarpa (now Vicia sativa amphicarpa); see also letters from T. H. Farrer, 8 August 1869 and 12 August 1869.
Delpino refers to CD’s conclusion in Orchids, p. 359: ‘Nature thus tells us, in the most emphatic manner, that she abhors perpetual self-fertilisation.’
Delpino probably refers to his paper on dichogamy in cereals (Delpino 1871); an inscribed copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Issue 48 (29 September 1869) of Scientific Opinion included the first part of Delpino 1869, the translation of Delpino’s review of pangenesis. In his letter to Delpino of 14 October 1869, CD had offered to send the remaining parts. CD replied to Delpino’s criticism in the letter to Scientific Opinion, [before 20 October 1869]; this was published in issue 51 (20 October 1869).
Delpino’s translation of CD’s letter to Scientific Opinion, [before 20 October 1869], appeared in the first volume of Rivista Europea (1869): 118–24.
The references are to Johan Severin Axell and Axell 1869.

Bibliography

Axell, Severin. 1869. Om anordningarna för de fanerogama växternas befruktning. Stockholm: Iwar Hæggströms Boktryckeri.

Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Crüger, Hermann. 1864. A few notes on the fecundation of orchids and their morphology. [Read 3 March 1864.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 8 (1865): 127–35.

‘Fertilization of orchids’: Notes on the fertilization of orchids. By Charles Darwin. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 4th ser. 4 (1869): 141–59. [Collected papers 2: 138–56.]

Hildebrand, Friedrich Hermann Gustav. 1869. Weitere Beobachtungen über die Bestäubungsverhältnisse an Blüthen. Botanische Zeitung 27: 473–81, 489–95, 505–12.

Orchids 2d ed.: The various contrivances by which orchids are fertilised by insects. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition, revised. London: John Murray. 1877.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.

Origin 4th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 4th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1866.

Translation

From Federico Delpino1   1 November 1869

Florence

1. November 1869

Most famous man!

I thank you both for your tolerant and gracious letter recently sent to me and for the kind present of Dr Crüger's interesting memoir, which is written with such clarity and acuity that it greatly undermined my doubt about the reality of the fertilisation of Coryanthes through the mediation of Euglossae and the very strange process of cold bath there described.2 This notwithstanding, I still have to deepen my understanding of the rationality of the floral forms of Coryanthes and Gongora. I would admit straightaway that it puzzles me that the liquid collected in the labellum by distillation, is produced by two peculiar nectar-producing glands. Nature is very economical, and I am not happy that a liquid having simply the function indicated by Dr. Crüger, should be produced by a secretory and glandular apparatus.3

I am especially pleased that you mentioned that, according to your discoveries at the Cape of Good Hope, Strelitzia is fertilised by nectarinae.4 This confirms my views. Prof. Hildebrand thought that the fertilisation of this flower was effected by insects; but that did not seem very likely to me, for insects, even of large size, would not have sufficient strength to open wide the lobes of the box containing the anthers.5 I set great store by this point of yours, and, if you agree, I will use it on a suitable occasion.

I am especially pleased with your suggestion that I should study the fertilisation of wheat,6 especially considering that I worked on that last Summer. I think I dispelled any doubt, 1st that every floret of wheat stays open for about a quarter of an hour, a period of time in which stigmatic fecundation has not yet taken place; 2nd that consequently dichogamy in wheat is very possible; 3rd that, however, the flower of wheat can be fertilised by its own pollen. I found that in rye dichogamic fertilisation is by far the easiest. I found out that in Hordeum vulgare one third of the flowers do not open at all (and therefore they cannot be fertilised dichogamically), whereas two thirds of them open and can be fertilised dichogamically.7 In Hordeum distichum8 (a strange exception) homogamic (and not dichogamic) fertilisation is really necessary, for it takes place when the ears are not yet out of their foliaceous sheaths. But then, as a wonderful alternative, this species of barley has two kinds of flowers: some (very few) that open and are predestined to dichogamy; and others (very many) that do not open, and are predestined to homogamy. So that in this plant we see the repetition of the well known phenomenon that takes place in the flowers of Viola, Vicia amphicarpa etc. etc.9 Thus, even in Hordeum distichum the great law remains intact “no hermaphrodite fertilises itself for a perpetuity of generations.”10 At present I am writing a short paper about this, and I will send it to you as soon as it is printed.11

I received only the first issue of “Scientific Opinion”, that is No. 48. I came to know by chance that you inserted a reply to my work in No 51.12 I humbly beg you to be kind enough to send me a copy, and if I have your permission, I will translate in deference to you your reply to appear in the Revista contemporanea, which today changes its name to Revista Europea.13

I received Axell’s Swedish book.14 It seems to me very good and written with unusual care. I am really pleased that Axell praises very greatly indeed the works of the greatest naturalist of our century, of whom I have the honour of confirming myself

a very respectful disciple | Federico Delpino

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original Italian, see pp. 458–9.
See letter to Federico Delpino, 14 October 1869. Hermann Crüger’s paper described how the pollen-mass of Coryanthes was secured onto the back of the bee (Euglossa) as it tried to force its way out through a passage after falling into a ‘bucket’ of nectar; when the bee next fell into the bucket of the same or another flower, the pollen was deposited on the stigma as it tried to leave (Crüger 1864, p. 130). See Origin 4th ed., pp. 229–30, ‘Fertilization of orchids’, p. 157 (Collected papers 2: 153–4), Orchids 2d ed., pp. 173–6, and Correspondence vol. 12.
See also the letter from Federico Delpino, 9 October 1869. Visits of bees to flowers of the orchid genus Gongora were also described in Crüger 1864.
For CD’s remark on the Nectarinae (now the family Nectariniidae, sunbirds) fertilising Strelitzia, see the letter to Federico Delpino, 14 October 1869.
Friedrich Hildebrand recorded his opinion on Strelitzia pollination in Hildebrand 1869, pp. 508–9.
CD had suggested that Delpino study the fertilisation of ‘Gramineæ’, the grass family; see the letter to Federico Delpino, 14 October 1869.
On dichogamy, see the letter to W. C. Tait, 17 July [1869]. Hordeum vulgare is common barley.
Hordeum distichum is an alternative spelling of H. distichon, now considered to be a variety of H. vulgare vulgare. It was known as two-rowed barley.
Delpino refers to violets and to the vetch Vicia amphicarpa (now Vicia sativa amphicarpa); see also letters from T. H. Farrer, 8 August 1869 and 12 August 1869.
Delpino refers to CD’s conclusion in Orchids, p. 359: ‘Nature thus tells us, in the most emphatic manner, that she abhors perpetual self-fertilisation.’
Delpino probably refers to his paper on dichogamy in cereals (Delpino 1871); an inscribed copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Issue 48 (29 September 1869) of Scientific Opinion included the first part of Delpino 1869, the translation of Delpino’s review of pangenesis. In his letter to Delpino of 14 October 1869, CD had offered to send the remaining parts. CD replied to Delpino’s criticism in the letter to Scientific Opinion, [before 20 October 1869]; this was published in issue 51 (20 October 1869).
Delpino’s translation of CD’s letter to Scientific Opinion, [before 20 October 1869], appeared in the first volume of Rivista Europea (1869): 118–24.
The references are to Johan Severin Axell and Axell 1869.

Bibliography

Axell, Severin. 1869. Om anordningarna för de fanerogama växternas befruktning. Stockholm: Iwar Hæggströms Boktryckeri.

Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 26 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Crüger, Hermann. 1864. A few notes on the fecundation of orchids and their morphology. [Read 3 March 1864.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 8 (1865): 127–35.

‘Fertilization of orchids’: Notes on the fertilization of orchids. By Charles Darwin. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 4th ser. 4 (1869): 141–59. [Collected papers 2: 138–56.]

Hildebrand, Friedrich Hermann Gustav. 1869. Weitere Beobachtungen über die Bestäubungsverhältnisse an Blüthen. Botanische Zeitung 27: 473–81, 489–95, 505–12.

Orchids 2d ed.: The various contrivances by which orchids are fertilised by insects. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition, revised. London: John Murray. 1877.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.

Origin 4th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 4th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1866.

Summary

Comments on Hermann Crüger’s paper, sent by CD, on fertilisation of orchids [J. Linn. Soc. Lond. (Bot.) 8 (1865): 127–35].

Observations on dichogamy in grasses (wheat, rye, barley).

Has not yet read CD’s reply to his article on Pangenesis [Collected papers 2: 158–60].

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-6965
From
Federico Delpino
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Florence
Source of text
DAR 162: 145
Physical description
4pp (Italian) †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6965,” accessed on 10 December 2019, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-6965.xml

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17

letter