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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Asa Gray   15 July [1862]1

[Cambridge, Mass.]

July 15. Evening.

Dear Darwin.

On my way into Boston to mail the present envoi,2 I received yours of July 1..3 I open my envelope to acknowledge it.—

First, I am very sorry to hear that your health has suffered.4

2. Platanthera orbiculata has discs still wider apart than P. Hookeri, but no division into “2 bridal chambers”5

I am curious to know what you will say of my notes on P. hyperborea.6 I hope to be able to repeat the observations—in the field. Your son’s obs. on minute insects fertilising is to be noted.7 My pupil, Rothrock, catches Thrips, and only Thrips—in Houstonia.8

About “a third form in some genus—both stamens & pistil short”—9 I think you have a Mertensia in mind which you have referred to in your dimorphic paper;10 but it was noticed only on one or 2 specimens,—of a rare plant—and I do not think much of it. You want facts which can be verified and re-examined. I doubt you have made quite enough of it already,—unless it jibes in with some other better-observed facts.

A. G.

See end of my over sheet.11


Mitchella repens, L

Two sorts of flowers,

I have had no time to look at them, fresh or dry.13

If young enough the differences would doubtless be as evident (between the pollen & stigmas of the two) as in Houstonia, of which I have sent, or will send, details.14

I have failed to get Rhexia,15

CD annotations

1.1 On my … suffered. 2.1] crossed ink
4.1 I am … A. G. 6.1] crossed ink
Verso: ‘Stamps | Review—Separate notice16 | Mitchella | Pogonia | Houstonia— your pupil experiment | Lythrum | Trübner’17 ink *S1 !alignleft!CD note:18 *S2 The [‘pistil’ del] stigma will project in one form & the anther hidden— Anther projects in other & stigma hidden— Pollen in both, nearly same size; perhaps little larger in short-styled. Pollen 117000 + 127000 in short-style long diameter— ink


The year is established by the relationship to the letter to Asa Gray, 1 July [1862].
The letter from Gray to which this is a postscript (see letter from Asa Gray, 21 July 1862) has not been found; it was apparently returned with the letter to Asa Gray, 28 July [1862]. Some indication of its content is conveyed by CD’s annotations, and by his reply (letter to Asa Gray, 28 July [1862]).
In the letter to Asa Gray, 1 July [1862], CD complained that he had felt ‘baddish for 2 or 3 weeks’.
In the letter to Asa Gray, 1 July [1862], CD acknowledged receipt of Gray’s notes on P. Hookeri, stating that the species was ‘really beautiful & quite a new case’, and that it was ‘almost laughable the viscid discs getting so far apart that the front of the flower has to be divided into two bridal chambers!’
Gray’s notes on P. hyperborea, which were sent with the letter from Asa Gray, 2–3 July 1862, have not been found; however, see CD’s response in the letter to Asa Gray, 23[–4] July [1862] and n. 23.
Gray refers to George Howard Darwin’s observations of insects pollinating Orchis maculata (a synonym of Dactylorhiza maculata, the heath spotted orchid) and Herminium monorchis (see letter to Asa Gray, 1 July [1862] and nn. 8–9).
In the letter from Asa Gray, 2–3 July 1862, Gray had promised to send Joseph Trimble Rothrock’s observations on the dimorphic plant, Houstonia, when completed. See also letter from Asa Gray, 4 August 1862.
This portion of Gray’s package has not been found; it was possibly a sheet protecting Gray’s several enclosures. See also n. 12, below.
This enclosure has been identified by reference to CD’s annotation on the letter respecting Mitchella (see n. 13, below), and to his comments on the subject in the letter to Asa Gray, 28 July [1862]. The paper on which the enclosure is written is different from that of the rest of the letter, and may be part of the ‘over sheet’ referred to by Gray.
Gray had suggested that the dimorphic plant Mitchella repens would be a good case for CD to experiment upon (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter from Asa Gray, 11 October 1861). In the letter from Asa Gray, 2–3 July 1862, Gray expressed a hope that he would be able to collect specimens of the plant during his stay in Beverly, Massachusetts, beginning on 10 July 1862; he apparently enclosed such specimens with this letter (see CD’s annotations, and the letters to Asa Gray, 28 July [1862] and 9 August [1862]).
Gray sent CD observations on the pollen and stigmas of Houstonia in the letter from Asa Gray, [2 June 1862]. See also letters from Asa Gray, 2–3 July 1862 and 4 August 1862.
Gray had evidently enclosed a copy of his review of Orchids (A. Gray 1862a; see letter from Asa Gray, 2–3 July 1862, and letter to Asa Gray, 28 July [1862] and n. 3). Although the review is listed in the List of reviews (DAR 261 (DH/MS* 8: 6–18)) that served as CD’s index to his collection of reviews of his own books, it is absent from the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
The annotation refers to Nicholas Trübner, Gray’s London agent (see also letter to Asa Gray, 28 July [1862] and n. 18).
The note is on the verso of the enclosure.


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

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

‘Dimorphic condition in Primula’: On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations. By Charles Darwin. [Read 21 November 1861.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 77–96. [Collected papers 2: 45–63.]

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.


Observations on Platanthera.

Possibility of trimorphism in Mertensia.

Letter details

Letter no.
Asa Gray
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 110 (ser. 2): 116, DAR 165: 113
Physical description
ALS 2pp † encl 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3659,” accessed on 27 May 2024,

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