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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. C. Oxenden   21 June 1862


June 21. 1862

Dear Sir

I hope your Son is Convalescent— —If you were to place him in a warm bath, containing seven parts water, and one part of “Condy’s Ozonised Fluid”, & if he remained therein for 34 of an hour, it is likely that infinite benefit would accrue, by absorption1

Notwithstanding your prohibition, I this day send you some fine specimens of “Arachnites” caught yesterday—2

—Also (enclosed in an Envelope) a curious Pink Plant, with small blue flowers, concerning which I am anxious for your verdict, as to what it is

I myself entertain no doubt—& that his Initials are

P. C.

I yesterday hunted a splendid range, for many miles—which I had never tried before

—We found, at the lowest Computation, 500 Bees in Flower—& enough of “Arachnites” to drive any Plant-hunter stark staring distracted mad— —Certainly not less than 160, in full flower—

—In nineteen cases out of Twenty, “Arachnites” & “Apifera” stand aloof from each other—

—The former Especially is apt to Congregate in little clusters of from 3 to 16 Plants—wide away from any Bees—which they clearly do not seem to like— both anatomically, & as to dress & markings, the two Plants stand widely apart—3

—I took up 2 plants only, out of the multitude—& the single spiders which I have sent you were taken, here & there, wherever a stem was richly covered with blooms— Altogether it was fine a days sport as I ever saw—

Sincerely | G. C. Oxenden


Leonard Darwin was ill with scarlet fever (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 13 [June 1862]). ‘Condy’s fluid’ was a solution of alkaline permanganates, developed by Henry Bollmann Condy, and used ‘for the purification of air and water, and sanitary objects in general’ (Condy 1862, p. 69).
Oxenden had sent CD specimens of Ophrys arachnites (a synonym of Ophrys fuciflora, the late spider-orchid) at the end of May, and at the start of June expressed a hope that he would be able to send more in ‘a few more days’ (see letters from G. C. Oxenden, [before 30 May 1862] and 4 June [1862]). CD’s replies to these letters have not been found, but in his letter of [before 21 June 1862], Oxenden expressed his regret at CD’s claim to be ‘quitting Orchideous life’, and offered to send further specimens of O. arachnites ‘as a last proof of fidelity’.
CD doubted the claim of some botanists that Ophrys arachnites was a variety of the bee-orchis, O. apifera, but was exploring the possibility that ‘the Bee might be the self-fertilising form of O. arachnites which requires insect’s aid’ (see letter to A. G. More, 7 June 1862 and nn. 2 and 3). CD had asked Alexander Goodman More whether he had seen any of the ‘intermediate forms’ that were said to connect the two, and had evidently made a similar enquiry of Oxenden. See also letter from G. C. Oxenden, 8 July 1862.


Condy, Henry Bollmann. 1862. Air and water: their impurities and purification. London.


Yesterday found hundreds of [Ophrys] apifera and [Ophrys] arachnites in bloom in the same area. The two species grow in clumps and do not mix with each other.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Chichester Oxenden
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Broome Canterbury
Source of text
DAR 173.2: 54
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3618,” accessed on 28 May 2024,

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