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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Daniel Oliver   7 December [1861]1

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

Dec 7th

My dear Sir

I am extremely much obliged for your two letters.— The quasi-ovules in Acropera certainly were not in least dried & always differed widely from those in the orchids, young & old, (not fertilised) of all the main divisions; so I must trust to my own judgment, & make the statement exclusively on my own authority.—2

Your former letter explained everything most clearly; I thought it worth while just to ask you the meaning of the spines.— I supposed that Brown was a much higher authority than Lindley & Link; & the subject does not concern me; I asked out of mere curiosity.3 I have been interested by making out from state of ovules (according to my judgment) & of pollen, that Catasetum tridentatum is male Monacanthus viridis—female Myanthus barbatus—Hermaphrodite & you know they have been produced on same plants.—4 I forgot to say in my last note, that the existence of perfect ovules in males of Lychnis dioica, well agrees with some observations which I made several years ago (but not carefully enough made for publication)5 (I see that my facts are too doubtful to give even in letter)

Pray believe that I am truly grateful to you, so busy as you are, giving up so much time to me, & I remain | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin


The year is given by the relationship to the letters to Daniel Oliver, 30 November [1861], and to J. D. Hooker, 1 December [1861].
The letters from Oliver have not been found. CD had asked him to examine the ovules of the orchid Acropera (see letters to Daniel Oliver, 30 November [1861], and to J. D. Hooker, 1 December [1861]).
The description of a spike that apparently bore the flowers of the three different orchid genera mentioned in the letter was first published in Schomburgk 1837. Commenting on this and other such instances, John Lindley stated: ‘Such cases shake to the foundation all our ideas of the stability of genera and species, and prepare the mind for more startling discoveries than could have been otherwise anticipated.’ (Lindley 1853, p. 178). Catasetum tridentatum and Monachanthus viridis (‘Monacanthus’ is a misspelling) are synonyms of Catasetum macrocarpum, the jumping orchid; Myanthus barbatus is a synonym of Catasetum barbatum, the bearded catasetum.
Although CD deleted this sentence (see Manuscript alterations and comments), it has been retained in order to make sense of the following sentence, which pertains to it. CD experimented on Lychnis dioica in 1856, using seeds that were given to him by John Stevens Henslow (see Correspondence vol. 6, letters to J. S. Henslow, 16 June [1856], and to J. D. Hooker, 12 April [1857]). Notes on his experiments are in DAR 157a.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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.

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

Schomburgk, Robert Hermann. 1837. On the identity of three supposed genera of orchideous epiphytes. [Read 15 November 1836.] Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 17 (1837): 551–2. [Vols. 9,10]


Trusts DO’s opinion on Acropera ovules.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Daniel Oliver
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 261.10: 3 (EH 88205987)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3340,” accessed on 1 March 2024,

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