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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. C. Oxenden   30 May [1862]1


May 30

Dear Sir

I will send early Lizard Blooms any day you will write & appoint—2 —for instance, on Monday next, to a certainty—but I forewarn you that these early flowers will not be so handsome or so vivid as the later Lizards, from the double effects of the last severe frost, and from the destruction of the lower leaves by Snails— —However, I will with pleasure send you some July Blooms also, which are finer

—Unless you send other & better instructions by return, I purpose placing the blooms in clean damp Moss, & then in a small deal Box

(By Kentish Lines of Rail, all goods suffer injury which are not “Merrimacs” or “Monitors”—)3

Malaxis paludosa

—I am pretty sure there is a coloured plate of this Bog-Orchis in “Sowerby”—4

—I have not got him—& he is now out of Print— Doubtless you know many Persons who possess this Work— If so, please send me the Volume which contains “Malaxis

—I merely want to know him by sight, and also to know the Month in which he is in flower, and I am almost sure to come upon him—

—My present impression is that he is low in Stature (like Ophrys Monophrys) & the Flower of the same tint, namely a Yellowish Green

You talk of thousands of “Arachnites” being seen in a good year—5

I know only 4 spots in Kent where it is found— —And in the three out of the four—he is only found sparsely

With best regards | G. Chichester Oxenden

C. Darwin Esq—

CD annotations

6.1 —I … upon him— 6.2] marked with cross, brown crayon


The year is established by the relationship to the letter from G. C. Oxenden, 26 May 1862 (see n. 2, below).
Oxenden had offered to send CD specimens of Orchis hircina (a synonym of Himantoglossum hircinum, the lizard orchid) in his letters to CD of 15 May 1862 and 26 May 1862. See also letter from G. C. Oxenden, 4 June [1862] and n. 2.
The reference is to the American warships Merrimack and Monitor. The Merrimack, a frigate salvaged by the Confederate navy, was coated with iron plating and renamed the Virginia. In response, at the close of 1861, the Union navy commissioned the construction of the iron-clad warship, the Monitor. In March 1862, the two ships engaged in a famous encounter at the mouth of the James River, Virginia, an event that ended in deadlock (McPherson 1988, pp. 373–7).
Smith and Sowerby 1790–1814, vol. 1, tab. 72. In his letter of 26 May 1862, Oxenden had asked CD for a coloured drawing or dried specimen of Malaxis paludosa (a synonym of Hammarbya paludosa, the bog orchid).
CD’s letter has not been found, but it was presumably a response to the letter from G. C. Oxenden, [before 30 May 1862], in which Oxenden described his difficulty in finding specimens of Ophrys arachnites (a synonym of Ophrys fuciflora, the late spider-orchid).


McPherson, James M. 1988. Battle cry of freedom: the Civil War era. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Awaits instructions for sending lizard orchid.

Asks for a coloured plate of Malaxis paludosa so that he can find specimens for CD.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Chichester Oxenden
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Broome Canterbury
Source of text
DAR 173.2: 50
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3577,” accessed on 25 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10