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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Farrer   18 May 1868

3, Gloucester Terrace, | Regent’s Park.

18 May/68

My dear Mr Darwin

I am confirmed about the bending of the Fly Orchis pollinia.1 I have one before me, which has taken 6 minutes in moving from




so that the thick part of the Pollinium which was well above the needle is now opposite its point & axis: and the caudicle, which at the base was perpendicular to the needle, has fairly bent round & below its point. The other angle of the caudicle has not altered.

It looks as if an insect ought to have it, not on in the middle of a long proboscis, where it cannot get its full bend—but on the front of its head. And will not this agree with the construction of the flower—which has no long spur or nectary for a proboscis?

Very truly yours | T H Farrer

In a wood at Cobham in Kent I found last week a very large number—scores—if not hundreds—of Orchis Fusca:2 but almost all the flowers were eaten off down to or nearly down to the end of the spike, as if by rabbits—so that I could get but one or two decent specimens. May not this account for their rarity. The plants were not only very numerous but very vigorous

CD annotations

1.2 has … minutes] scored blue crayon
Top of letter: ‘Keep’ pencil, circled pencil


Orchis fusca is a synonym of Orchis purpurea subsp. purpurea


Is confirmed about the bending of the fly orchid pollinia. [See "Fertilisation of orchids", Collected papers 2: 141.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Farrer, 1st baronet and 1st Baron Farrer
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Gloucester Terrace, 3
Source of text
DAR 164: 41
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6183,” accessed on 26 November 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16