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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   8 November [1861]

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

Nov. 8th

I received this morning Masdevallia, which is very curious, but I cannot understand it,1 & Cypripedium, whose ducts I will attack tomorrow. (N.B I find strong Nitric Acid most useful)2    Your labours are over; & most truly do I thank you. No, your labours are not quite over, if you can just try irritability of Bolbophyllum rhizophora (spelling?).—3

I have read papers on Catasetum, which do not shake me, but make me extremely anxious for the other plant.—4

I have made out the missing bundle of ducts proceeding from the anterior ovarian bundle: I might have looked for ever to Labellum; & I was so prepossessed by Brown’s & Lindley’s view that it was a chance I ever found it.5 The enclosed gives structure of every orchid yet looked at. The missing bundle is attached to front of column, running up to beneath stigmatic cavity— So from what you say I hope I may look at homologies of Orchids as pretty safe.— I shall be curious when I get Bot. Zeitung to see what Link says on vessels of column.—6 Farewell, with hearty thanks for all your never ending assistance.

Your affect | C. Darwin

I have sent my paper on dimorphism in Primula to Linn. Soc. I shall go up, & read it, whenever it comes on (on 21st Nov.); I hope you may be able to attend, for I do not suppose many will care a penny for the subject.—7


(To be torn up.—)

[DIAG HERE) Upper Sepal Upper Petal upper Petal Lower sepal Lower sepal Lower petal combined with 2 anthers forming Labellum.8 The missing Bundle.


See letters to J. D. Hooker, 6 [November 1861] and 7 November [1861].
To trace the course of the spiral vessels in orchids, CD clarified the vessels by soaking longitudinal slices of orchid flowers in a solution of spirits of wine and nitric acid (see letters to J. D. Hooker, 1 November [1861] and 14 November [1861]). For a list of the species he dissected, see Orchids, p. 295 n.
See second letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 November [1861].
See letters to J. D. Hooker, 27 October [1861], and to John Lindley, 1 November [1861].
CD read a paper to the Linnean Society of London on 21 November 1861 entitled ‘On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations’ (see Collected papers 2: 45–63).
The diagram has been reduced to 70% of its original size.


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

Link, Heinrich Friedrich. 1849. Bemerkungen u@〈ber den Bau der Orchideen, besonders der Vandeen. Botanische Zeitung 7: 745–50.

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.


Orchid anatomy: homologies of column vascularisation.

Primula paper sent to Linnean Society.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 126, 129b
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3311,” accessed on 17 June 2021,

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