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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Frederick Smith   19 June [1861]1

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

June 19th

My dear Sir

The pollen-masses attached to the Bombus hortorum positively belong to no British orchid & I believe I may say as positively that they belong to an exotic orchid of the group of Epidendreæ.—2 It would be worth knowing whether this Bee was caught very far from a hot-house.— I fear you have not one of the sand-wasps with pollen-masses attached alluded to; else I shd. so much like to see it. It would be very easy to ascertain whether the leaf on the S. American Wasp was pollen.— I suppose there is no chance of any of the insects in your own collection having pollen-masses attached.—

Will you kindly remember & ask Mr Walker.3

With many thanks for your interesting note, | pray believe me | Yours very sincerely | CDarwin


Dated by the reference to CD’s study of orchids, which was published in May 1862. The year is confirmed by Smith’s endorsement ‘Wednesday’: in 1861, 19 June fell on a Wednesday.
A passage in Orchids, p. 164, mentions the case discussed in the letter: Sir W. C. Trevelyan sent to Mr. Smith of the British Museum (who forwarded to me) a Bombus hortorum—caught in his hot-house, where a Cattleya was in flower—with its whole back, between the wings, smeared with dry viscid matter, and with the four pollinia attached to it by their caudicles, and ready to be caught by the stigma of another flower if the bee had entered one. CD refers to Walter Calverley Trevelyan.
Smith and the entomologist Francis Walker were both members of the Entomological Society of London (Transactions of the Entomological Society of London n.s. 5 (1858–61): xx).


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.


Discusses pollen-masses found on various insects.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Frederick Smith
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.255)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3189,” accessed on 28 January 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9