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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Lindley   1 November [1861]1

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

Nov. 1st

My dear Lindley

Will you allow me once again to trespass on your kindness? I send in little Box by this post with a flower of a Dendrobium sent me from Kew as D. macrophyllum;2 but it was previously sent me by an orchid grower as D. chrysanthum & is the one I asked you about. Can you tell me which it is?—

Since I wrote I have been working hard in tracing spiral ducts; & I find in all cases that the sides of the Labellum receive all their ducts from the two antero-lateral bundles of the ovarium, which bundles supply the 2 lower sepals & 2 stigmas (the rostellum being supplied from the posterior bundle which supplies the fertile anther & upper sepal)

You & Brown believe the Labellum is compound when it presents ridges &c;3 but Hooker tells me he thinks I am right in inferring from the above facts that the Labellum is always an organ compounded of lower petal & 2 anthers, of outer whorl, with doubtful traces of one anther, of inner whorl.

Now this is a long preface to asking you whether the Orchid (name forgotten) which has Labellum quite similar to the two upper petals be very rare; & if not & you can spare a single dried flower; for I am very curious to try & trace its ducts or spiral vessels. I believe you somewhere speak of Orchid with medial spike or projection on Labellum; this would give me a good chance of tracing the one bundle of ducts which out of the 15 I have failed to discover clearly & trace.—

Forgive me, if you can, for being so troublesome & believe me

Your’s sincerely obliged | Charles Darwin


The year is provided by reference to CD’s work on orchids.
See the first of the two letters to J. D. Hooker, 1 November [1861].
Lindley described his views on the structure of orchids and his growing disagreement with Robert Brown’s descriptions (Brown 1831) in Lindley 1853, pp. 174–5, 183–3b. See also letters to J. D. Hooker, 27 October [1861] and 1 November [1861].


Lindley, John. 1853. The vegetable kingdom; or, the structure, classification, and uses of plants, illustrated upon the natural system. 3d edition with corrections and additional genera. London: Bradbury & Evans.


CD is sending an orchid flower; asks JL to identify it.

Also asks if JL can spare a dried flower of another orchid (name forgotten) [which CD describes] so that he can try to trace its ducts or spiral vessels.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Lindley
Sent from
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Lindley letters, A–K: 195)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3306,” accessed on 25 February 2021,

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