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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Henry Tibbats Stainton   11 June [1860]

Down Bromley Kent

June 11th

Dear Sir

I take the liberty to send the enclosed.—1 I fear it is quite out of the question your being able to insert the whole in the Intelligencer;2 but perhaps you would oblige me by putting in the paragraph in which I ask for information on what kinds of moths the pollen-masses of Orchids have been found adhering.— 3 My best & almost sole chance will be through the columns of the Intelligencer.

Dear Sir | Yours faithfully | C. Darwin

P.S. I have just received your extremely kind & to me most interesting note.—4 As you have Gardeners Ch. I will not send the Duplicate copy, which I got to send you, but think I will send it to Mr Parfitt & enquire whether he is certain that he recognises pollen-masses of Bee Orchis.5 The green pollen masses I shd think were those of true Orchis.— 6 Again I thank you sincerely. It is extremely curious the same moth having been found with pollen-masses in two parts of England.

I cd. recognise pollen-masses of Butterfly Orchis, & I daresay with a little care of most of our orchids.—


See the postscript to the letter.
CD’s letter to the Gardeners’ Chronicle, [4–5 June 1860], was reprinted in the Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer, 23 June 1860, pp. 93–4; and 30 June 1860, pp. 102–3. Stainton was the editor of the publication.
See letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle, [4–5 June 1860].
Stainton’s letter has not been found.
Edward Parfitt was a noted entomologist and botanist. He was currently the curator of the Archaeological and Natural History Society of Somerset.
In a short notice in the Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer, 3 October 1857, pp. 3–4, Parfitt described the adherence of pollinia from the bee orchis, Ophrys apifera, to the proboscis of a moth. Parfitt apparently did reply to CD’s query: a note in Orchids, p. 36, states that he sent CD specimens of the moth Anthrocera trifolii having pollen masses attached to them. CD also stated that Parfitt was mistaken in believing that they had come from the bee orchis, as CD suggests in the letter. See also following letter.


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.


On what kind of moth have pollen-masses of orchids been found cohering? Will ask Mr Parfitt if he is certain he recognised pollen-masses of bee orchid. CD thinks green masses were those of true Orchis.

[In P.S., having received a letter on subject from HTS responding to same query published in Gard. Chron. 9 June 1860:] It is extremely curious that the same moth has been found with pollen-masses in two parts of England.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Henry Tibbats Stainton
Sent from
Source of text
Natural History Museum, Library and Archives (General Special Collections MSS DAR 17)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2829,” accessed on 4 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8