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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Francis Darwin   [29 May 1876]1


Dear Father

The Salvia came on Sat night & was planted on Sunday, it looks rather groggy & is shaded by laurel boughs.2 I will fill up the French mans thing— I found 7 fly orchids pretty close together on Orchis Bank, the lower flowers are coming out. No Cepalanthera or Musk out yet—3 Aggregation rather tiresome4   It seems to get suddenly into big motionless spheres which dont change shape— I cant do any more teazle yet5   I have seen the dissolution of aggrgn well—6

Yrs affec | FD

Old Thozet sent me a lot of Ophideres7

CD annotations

1.4 It … shape— 1.5] scored pencil; ‘Try more water)’ pencil


The date is established by the relationship between this letter, the letter from Francis Darwin, 27 May 1876, and the letter to Francis Darwin, 30 [May 1876]; see n. 2, below.
When Francis wrote to CD on Saturday 27 May 1876, the Salvia that CD was expecting had not yet arrived (see letter from Francis Darwin, 27 May 1876 and n. 1).
In May 1876, CD began preparing a second edition of Orchids (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)); he had evidently asked Francis to look for orchids (see letter from Francis Darwin, 27 May 1876). CD referred to the fly orchid as Ophrys muscifera (a synonym of O. insectifera subsp. insectifera). ‘Cepalanthera’ is a mistake for ‘Cephalanthera’ (a genus of orchids); the musk orchid is Herminium monorchis. See Orchids 2d ed., pp. 55–6, 59–62, 80–6.
Francis was investigating the process of aggregation in the tentacles of Drosera rotundifolia (the common or round-leaved sundew) in order to determine whether the aggregated matter was protoplasm or not (see letter from Moritz Schiff, 8 May 1876 and nn. 6 and 9). In his paper on the subject, Francis noted that in the early stages of the process of aggregation the aggregated masses were extremely motile but in a strongly aggregated condition the masses become motionless (F. Darwin 1876b, p. 314; see also F. Darwin 1877b, p. 266).
Francis was investigating the protoplasmic filaments protruding from the glandular hairs lining the cups of the common or fuller’s teasel (Dipsacus sylvestris, now D. fullonum), and had sent his observations to CD (see letter from Francis Darwin, [28 May 1876]). His research was published in F. Darwin 1877b.
In F. Darwin 1876b, p. 311, Francis emphasised that the process of dissolution travels from cell to cell up the tentacle.
Anthelme Thozet sent specimens of the Pacific fruit-piercing moth Ophideres fullonica (a synonym of Eudocima phalonia); Francis had published a paper on the proboscis of Ophideres fullonica in October 1875 (F. Darwin 1875).


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.


The Salvia has arrived.

Has found several fly orchids coming in flower, but no Cephalanthera or Musk.

Cannot do any teazel work.

Anthelme Thozet has sent him a lot of Ophideres.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 274.1: 58

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10515I,” accessed on 15 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24