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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   25 November [1861]1

Down Bromley Kent

Nov. 25th

My dear Hooker.

I fear that there is no chance of an Acropera of either species or its ovarium still remaining on your plants. You will remember about the mouth of the stigmatic cavity being so small; & your own remark about the stigma not being viscid, which I noticed, but like an incredible ass did not look closely at.2 It occurred to me that the species of Acropera may be the males of some other orchids (like Catasetum & Myanthus) & I have just looked at an ovarium in spirits & I can see no trace of ovules! Unfortunately I cut the ovarium rather short when I put 3 flowers in spirits; & this makes me want a perfect ovarium, & a flower for fresh stigmatic tissue. I shd like to get over this opprobrium to my work on fertilisation; of course I must look to ovaria of other unfertilised orchids & see how plain ovules are: my memory makes me think that they are plain.—3 I have looked to Link on ducts in Orchids, & he trusted only to transverse sections & I am sure very falsely contradicts R. Brown.—4 What you said about Brown having observed the ducts running wrong in Habenaria is very likely (though he ought to have said so) but then he does apparently trust to position of ducts as far as he traced them by transverse sections. I hope in a day or two to attack Bonatea.—5

I was much pleased & interested by your remarks on the Primula case: but I cannot remember whether you gave any additional cases of dimorphism; if you did, please tell me again. A rather tall man with upturned eyebrows, told me that Weddell says that Cinchona presents the two forms.—6

I went to B. Mus. & saw a few of Bate’s “mimetic” butterflies & they are truly wonderful: He ought to have a coloured plate;7 I told him I would give £10 towards it, but I fear a coloured plate would cost much more.— What a pity that this man shd. have to work for his daily bread & have only 1 or 2 hours for science; but I do not see what can be done.8 He speaks with admiration of Wallace’s talents, energy & knowledge.—9

Here is a good joke; I saw an extract from Lecoq. Geograph. Bot. & ordered it & hoped that it was a good sized pamphlet & my God nine thick volumes have arrived!—10

My dear old Hooker | Your affect | C. Darwin

P.S. Do you (or Oliver) know whether in males of such plants, as the male of Lychnis dioica, whether there are rudimentary ovules in the ovarium?11

I shall be so glad to see the living Bolbophyllum rhizophora   is this spelt right? it is not in Steudel12


Dated by the reference to CD’s paper on Primula (see n. 6, below).
See Orchids, pp. 206–10.
Link 1849 and Brown 1831.
See letters to J. D. Hooker, 10 November [1861] and 14 November [1861].
Hooker apparently attended the meeting of the Linnean Society of London on 21 November 1861 at which CD read his paper ‘On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations’, Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 77–96 (see also Collected papers 2: 45–63). Hugh Algernon Weddell was a specialist on the flora of South America and had made a detailed study of Cinchona (see, for example, Weddell 1849).
Henry Walter Bates had deposited specimens from his collection of South American butterflies at the British Museum. His paper on insect mimetic analogies (Bates 1861b) was read before the Linnean Society of London on 21 November, the same night that CD read his paper on Primula (see n. 6, above). A note in DAR 205.10 (Letters) indicates that Bates showed CD his collection on 22 November 1861 (see letter from H. W. Bates, [1 December] 1861, CD note).
Bates worked in the family worsted hosier business in Leicester (Woodcock 1969).
Bates and Alfred Russel Wallace had undertaken a joint expedition to the Amazon, 1848–50.
Lecoq 1854–8. The work, which contains annotations by CD, is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
CD refers to Daniel Oliver, Hooker’s colleague at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
The reference is to Steudel 1840–1, a copy of which is in the Darwin Library–CUL. The final two sentences of the letter were written in the margin beside ‘rhizophora’.


Bates, Henry Walter. 1861. Contributions to an insect fauna of the Amazon valley. Lepidoptera: Heliconidæ. [Read 21 November 1861.] Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 23 (1860–2): 495–566.

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

Lecoq, Henri. 1854–8. Études sur la géographie botanique de l’Europe et en particulier sur la végétation du plateau central de la France. 9 vols. Paris: J. B. Baillière.

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.

Weddell, Hugh Algernon. 1849. Histoire naturelle des quinquinas ou monographie du genre Cinchonasuivie d’une description du genre Cascarillaet de quelques autres plantes de la même tribu. Paris: V. Masson.

Woodcock, George. 1969. Henry Walter Bates, naturalist of the Amazons. London: Faber & Faber.


Acropera species may be males of other orchids.

Homologies of ducts in orchids.

Went to British Museum to see Bates’s mimetic butterflies.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 134
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3329,” accessed on 12 September 2023,

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