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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Paul Rohrbach   23 February [1867]1

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

Feb 23—

Dear Sir

I am much obliged to you for your kindness in sending me your Memoir on Epipogium, which has interested me much, as the structure & manner of fertilization of the genus are quite new to me. You seem to have worked out the details of the plant with great care. I have long suspected that the classification of Orchids wd require considerable modification, & this seems to be confirmed by some of your remarks.2

With my renewed thanks & best wishes for your continued success in yr researches in Natural History I remain Dear Sir yours faithfully & obliged | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the probable publication of Rohrbach 1866 after the paper was awarded a prize on 4 June 1866 (see n. 2, below).
There is a lightly annotated copy of Rohrbach’s memoir on Epigogium (Rohrbach 1866) in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. An archival note attached to the letter indicates that Rohrbach’s paper was a submission to a competition; he was awarded the prize on 4 June 1866. CD referred to Rohrbach’s ‘admirable memoir’ in ‘Fertilization of orchids’, p. 155 (Collected papers 2: 152). In Orchids 2d ed., p. 103, CD cited Rohrbach’s observation that the structure and manner of fertilization of E. gmelini were similar to those of Epipactis, and concluded that the genera were allied, contrary to John Lindley’s classification.


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.

Rohrbach, Paul. 1866. Über den Blüthenbau und die Befruchtung von Epipogium Gmelini. Göttingen: Universitäts-Buchdruckerei von E. A. Huth.


Thanks PR for his memoir on Epipogium ["Über den Blüthenbau von Epipogium" (1866)]. The structure and manner of fertilisation are new to CD;

he has long suspected that the classification of orchids requires considerable modification.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5414,” accessed on 30 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15