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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. T. Moggridge   16 September [1869]1

2 Montague Villas | Richmond | (Surrey.)

Sept. 16

Dear Mr. Darwin

Thank you very sincerely for the pamphlet containing supplementary Notes on the Fert: of Orchids, which arrived here yesterday—2

I am much pleased that my observations are found worth a place, & that they recieve such kind mention—3

The history of the fertilization of the tiny Herminium monorchis is very wonderful, & admirably observed.4

Dr. H. Müller’s papers on Platanthera & Epipactis appear to be of first rate importance, & I look forward with great interest to reading them in full.5

I have lately read with delight the paper on Epigæa by Dr. Meehan— It would appear that, in respect of variability, this Ericaceous plant is almost comparable to Arbutus—.6

Some of his generalisations appear to me to want qualification; as, for instance, when, speaking of plants generally, he says that—“there is as much variation in the wild plant, as in those under the best gardener’s skill”—7

I do not remember to have seen evidence to shew that any constant proportion exists between the amount of variability in the wild & the cultivated states—

I must now thank you for your kind & much-valued letter of June 7, recieved in reply to my own containing an imperfect abstract of some observations on Arbutus, Ophrys, etc.—8

I hope on my return to Mentone to follow out your hints, especially that with reference to the lopped trees.—

I have already noted in each case, the altitude & exposure to which each tree is subject, & find, as one might expect, a sure relation between small leaves & a burning exposure & large leaves & a shady one. Whether the leaves & fruits or flowers are correlated, remains to be seen.

I have gained some evidence this spring, to shew that there are in England two varieties of Ophrys apifera, which tend to form colonies in which one is found to the exclusion of the other.—9

Thus I have recieved 17 specimens from Walton-on-the Naze, & 7 from Colston Basset (Notts.), all of which present the long-petaled form (A); while out of 20 from Dover, 16 were short-petaled (as. B.), & the remainder were either diseased or monstrous, & produced in the same flower long & short petals—


I have heard from time to time from Dr. Hooker, that you are recovering from the effects of that most unfortunate accident with your horse.10

What a pity it is that now-a-days there are no Fates to propitiate with sacrifices, or such accidents would, I am sure, be made impossible—

I know that you will be glad to hear that I am now much stronger, & look forward to starting for Mentone on October 15— —

It would give me sincere pleasure if I could be of use to you in any way there—

We leave Richmond for London on Oct. 8th., where we shall stay a week—

Believe me | yrs. most sincerely | J. Traherne Moggridge.


The year is established by the reference to ‘Fertilization of orchids’ (see n. 2, below).
‘Fertilization of orchids’ was published in the September 1869 issue of Annals and Magazine of Natural History.
CD cited Moggridge 1864 in ‘Fertilization of orchids’, pp. 143, 145 (Collected papers 2: 140–1, 142).
See ‘Fertilization of orchids’, pp. 145–6 (Collected papers 2: 142–3). Herminium monorchis is the musk orchid.
CD had mentioned Hermann Müller’s paper on Westphalian orchids (H. Müller 1868) with its discussions of Platanthera and Epipactis in his letter to J. T. Moggridge, 7 June 1869. He cited the paper in ‘Fertilization of orchids’, pp. 147, 150 (Collected papers 2: 144, 147).
The reference is to Thomas Meehan and Meehan 1868a. See letter to J. T. Moggridge, 7 June 1869 and n. 5.
Meehan 1868a, p. 153.
See letter to J. T. Moggridge, 7 June 1869 and n. 2. Moggridge’s letter has not been found.
CD and Moggridge had corresponded at length on the bee orchis (Ophrys apifera); see Correspondence vol. 14. Walton-on-the-Naze is in Essex. Colston Basset is in Nottinghamshire.
Moggridge refers to Joseph Dalton Hooker. For more on CD’s accident, see the letter to A. R. Wallace, 14 April 1869 and n. 12.


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. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

‘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.]

Moggridge, John Traherne. 1864. Observations on some orchids of the south of France. [Read 3 November 1864.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 8 (1865): 256–8.

Müller, Hermann. 1868. Beobachtungen an westfälischen Orchideen. Verhandlungen des naturhistorischen Vereines der preussischen Rheinlande und Westphalens (Botanik) 25: 1–62.


Thanks for CD’s ["Fertilization of orchids", Collected papers 2: 138–56].

Although Thomas Meehan’s paper ["Variations in Epigaea repens", Proc. Philadelphia Acad. Nat. Sci. (1868): 153–6] shows great variability in this genus, JTM sees a need to qualify the generalisation that there is as much variation in the wild as under domestication. He knows no evidence for a constant proportion between variability in the wild and under cultivation.

Observations on correlation between leaf size and exposure to sun and shade.

Has evidence for two varieties of Ophrys apifera in England, which live in mutually exclusive colonies.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Traherne Moggridge
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 171: 212
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6894,” accessed on 18 January 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17