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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Roland Trimen   25 November [1863]1

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

Nov. 25

My dear Sir

I have been laid on the shelf for nearly three months, & am ordered to do nothing for 6 months by my doctors.2 To write this is against rules.— Many thanks for specimens of orchids & for your kind letter.3 I dare not look at Oxalis flowers. I regret much that you cannot get seed, especially of your trimorphic flowers. Most species of Oxalis shed their seed by a spurt & the capsules are sensitive to a touch.4

Could you employ anyone to dig up the bulbs of the 2 or 3 forms & allow me to pay, i.e. if they are bulb-bearers.

The last job I began & broke down was a letter to G. Chronicle on your Peach case.—5 I must write no more.— I live in hopes some day to be able to work a very little more, but it will be long before I can.—

Sincere thanks for your very kind letter.

Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin

I forwarded letter to Bates.6 Pray use me as often as you like.—


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Roland Trimen, 10, 13, and 18 October 1863.
In his letter of 10, 13, and 18 October 1863, Trimen noted that he had separately sent several orchid flowers in bottles of spirit.
In his letter of 10, 13, and 18 October 1863, Trimen enclosed dried specimens of dimorphic Oxalis; he was puzzled as to why he could find no seed for either the dimorphic or the trimorphic plants.
In the letter from Roland Trimen, 16, 17, and 19 July 1863, Trimen reported a case of moths penetrating the skins of peaches in order to obtain their juices. Trimen felt that this helped strengthen CD’s hypothesis in Orchids, pp. 45–52, that moths visit the flowers of some orchid species to puncture the lining of false nectaries for the fluid; these flowers contain nectar between the inner and outer membranes of the nectary, rather than in the nectary itself. See the letter to the [Gardeners’ Chronicle], [after 27 August 1863] for CD’s draft summary of the case, which he intended to publish in order to elicit information on similar cases. The letter was never published, but Trimen’s information was included in ‘Fertilization of orchids’, pp. 142–3 (Collected papers 2: 140).
Trimen had enclosed a letter to Henry Walter Bates with his letter to CD of 10, 13, and 18 October 1863.


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: 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.


CD’s doctor [J. M. Gully] has ordered him to do nothing for six months.

Thanks RT for orchid specimen.

Dares not look at Oxalis flowers.

Regrets RT cannot get seed, especially from his trimorphic flowers.

Asks for bulbs of two or three forms.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Roland Trimen
Sent from
Source of text
Royal Entomological Society (Trimen papers, box 21: 58)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4347,” accessed on 22 June 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11