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Darwin Correspondence Project

To George Bentham   16 February 1880

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

Febr 16th 1880

My dear Mr Bentham

I have had real pleasure in signing Dyer’s certificate.—1 It was very kind in you to write to me about the Orchideæ, for it has pleased me to an extreme degree that I could have been of the least use to you about the nature of the parts.2 They are wonderful creations these orchids, & I sometimes think with a glow of pleasure, when I remember making out some little point in their method of fertilisation.—

With respect to terms no doubt you will be able to improve them greatly, for I knew nothing about the terms as used in other groups of plants.— Could you not invent some quite new term from gland, implying viscidity? or append some word to gland,— I used for Cirripeds “cement-gland”.—3

Your present work must be frightfully difficult: I looked at a few dried flowers & could make neither heads nor tails of them; & I well remember wondering what you would do with them when you come to the group in the Genera Plantarum.—4

I heartily wish you safe through your work, & I remain in a very conceited frame of mind, My dear Mr Bentham, Yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin


CD had signed the certificate proposing William Turner Thiselton-Dyer for election as a fellow of the Royal Society of London (see letter from George Bentham, 15 February 1880 and n. 1).
Bentham was preparing the section on orchids for Genera plantarum (Bentham and Hooker 1862–83, 3: 460–636). He had praised Orchids, and in particular, CD’s clarification of some terms related to orchid morphology (see letter from George Bentham, 15 February 1880 and nn. 2, 4, and 5).
See letter from George Bentham, 15 February 1880 and n. 5. In Living Cirripedia (1851), pp. 33–4, CD described following the ducts that carried the substance by which barnacles affix themselves to a substrate back to two small organs, which he called cement-glands.
Taxonomists often relied on dried herbarium specimens alone to describe plants. CD found working from dried flowers very difficult and once told Asa Gray, ‘It is dreadful work making out anything about dried flowers; I never look at one without feeling profound pity for all botanists, but I suppose you are used to it like eels to be skinned alive’ (Correspondence vol. 25, letter to Asa Gray, 8 March 1877).


Bentham, George and Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1862–83. Genera plantarum. Ad exemplaria imprimis in herbariis Kewensibus servata definita. 3 vols. in 7. London: A. Black [and others].

Living Cirripedia (1851): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Lepadidæ; or, pedunculated cirripedes. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1851.

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.


CD pleased to be of use to GB. He remembers his own work on orchids with pleasure. Thinks GB will be able to improve CD’s terminology for orchids.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Bentham
Sent from
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Bentham Correspondence, Vol. 3, Daintree–Dyer, 1830-1884, GEB/1/3: f. 722)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12485,” accessed on 7 June 2023,