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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. C. Oxenden   4 June [1862]1


June 4—

Dear Sir

This Evening, by Rail, I send you two or three very bad Lizard Blooms—2 A few days ago the leaves of the forward Lizards got horribly bitten by snails & slugs, almost killed by them— The scent of Lizard seems to attract them— Did I, or did I not, ever send to you the dried stem of my immense Lizard of 1860—? It is a real wonder—3

These wretched blooms, sent this day, are from the very same plant—

—In a few more days I will send you half a dozen more—& (I hope) some “Arachnites” also4

I enclose, with the Lizard, a very pretty, rather sparse specimen, of of “Conopsea albida—”5

Later in the Summer, I will send good spikes of

Epipactis latifolia

—— purpurata

—— palustris6

Do you care to have “Epipactis grandiflora”—which is so very common? Do not trouble yourself about the “Bog-Orchis”— My recollection of him has returned completely—& I feel pretty sure of finding him—7

—Here, in our benighted state, we do not call that brown Orchid, which I sent you the other day, the “Birds nest Orchis”— That which we do call “Nidus Avis” is nearly ⁠⟨⁠of⁠⟩⁠ the same colour, but a much larger, stronger, ⁠⟨⁠mo⁠⟩⁠re warlike Plant, parasitic upon decayed ⁠⟨⁠Ha⁠⟩⁠zel Roots—8

—At this very time of writing, I could shew to any one 200 O. apifera, in full bloom—

With most kind regards | G. C. Oxenden


The year is established by the relationship to the letters from G. C. Oxenden, [before 30 May 1862] and 30 May [1862].
In his letters to CD of 26 May 1862 and 30 May [1862], Oxenden had offered to send CD specimens of the lizard orchis, Orchis hircina; see also letter from G. C. Oxenden, 31 May [1862]. CD’s notes on these specimens, dated 6 and 10 June 1862, are in DAR 70: 27–9. CD acknowledged Oxenden’s assistance in providing specimens of this plant in Orchids 2d ed., p. 25 n.
CD did not discuss O. hircina in the first edition of Orchids. No correspondence between Oxenden and CD on this specimen has been found.
See letters from G. C. Oxenden, [before 30 May 1862] and 30 May [1862].
Oxenden refers to the species that CD called Gymnadenia albida in Orchids, pp. 83–4.
Oxenden had asked CD to provide him with a coloured drawing or a specimen of Malaxis paludosa, the bog orchis (see letters from G. C. Oxenden, 26 May 1862 and 30 May [1862]; see also letter to W. E. Darwin, [31 May 1862]).
Oxenden had sent CD a specimen of Monotropa hypopitys, the yellow bird’s nest, a saprophytic dicotyledon that resembles an orchid (see letter from G. C. Oxenden, 31 May [1862]). The orchid Neottia nidus-avis is commonly called the bird’s nest orchid; there are observational notes on this species, dated 17 and 21 May 1862, in DAR 70: 73–4. CD later reported these observations in ‘Fertilization of orchids’, p. 152 (Collected papers 2: 148–9).


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

‘Fertilization of orchids’: Notes on the fertilization of orchids. By Charles Darwin. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 4th ser. 4 (1869): 141–59. [Collected papers 2: 138–56.]

Orchids 2d ed.: The various contrivances by which orchids are fertilised by insects. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition, revised. London: John Murray. 1877.

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.


Sends orchids.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Chichester Oxenden
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Broome Canterbury
Source of text
DAR 173.2: 53
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3589,” accessed on 27 May 2022,

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