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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. P. M. Weale   30 July 1870

Down. | Beckenham | Kent. S.E.

July 30 1870

My dear Sir

I received 3 days ago your interesting letter of May 25th, the M.S. with the excellent drawings, & the specimens.1 I have despatched all the latter to the Linn. Soc.; but the session is over, & there will be no meeting till Nov.2

The points which have struck me most in your papers are, firstly, the parallelism of Disa & Ophrys;3 secondly, the structure & the three nectaries of Disperis;4 & thirdly, the contraction of the caudicles in certain cases.5 I have also been glad to read what you say about mares & asses; but I believe scarcely any thing is more new than your observation about the acrid secretion from the Soldier-termes.6

Whether the Linn. Soc. will publish your papers I cannot of course say; but I heard not long ago that they were overwhelmed with matter, & I doubt about their funds for engraving.7

If you will permit me, I wd suggest that your papers wd be improved by much condensation, & by omitting all observations which do not lead to definite results.8 There are not many persons who are interested about the fertilization of flowers.

I forgot, in specifying what seems to me most curious in yr notes, the case of the bee’s nest.9

I am very sorry to hear so bad an account of your colony, the success of which has always interested me.10

With my best wishes for your success in science & in all other way believe me | my dear Sir yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin


See letter from J. P. M. Weale, [25 May 1870]. The letter is now incomplete.
Weale had compared the ease of self-fertilisation in Disa macrantha (a synonym of D. cornuta) to that of Ophrys muscifera (a synonym of Ophrys insectifera subsp. insectifera) (see Weale 1870d, p. 47).
In his account of the flower structure of the orchid genus Disperis, Weale described the two lateral sepals as each having a short nectary (see Weale 1870b, p. 42). These saclike structures are no longer considered to be nectaries, rather they serve as covers for the rostellar arms during development (see Dressler 1993, p. 150).
Weale described the caudicle of Disperis as bending backward about a minute after the removal of the pollinium (see Weale 1870b, p. 44).
Weale’s comments on mares and asses were in a now missing section of his letter to CD of [25 May 1870]; only the first part of his comments on Termes are still extant.
Weale sent fifty-six sheets of watercolour drawings, none of which appeared in the four published articles (Weale 1870a–d); they are in the archive of the Linnean Society, together with a packet of eleven dried plant specimens (Linnean Society of London, Weale Misc, drawer 39).
For CD’s report on the papers, see Correspondence vol. 19, letter to Frederick Currey, 11 March 1871.
Weale’s remarks on the bee’s nest were in a now missing paper enclosed with his letter to CD of [25 May 1870] (see letter from J. P. M. Weale, [25 May 1870] and n.3).
Weale’s account of the region of Kaffraria, where he lived, was in a now missing section of his letter to CD of [25 May 1870].


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

Dressler, Robert L. 1993. Phylogeny and classification of the orchid family. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Has forwarded JPMW’s papers to the Linnean Society [four articles by J. P. M. Weale, J. Linn. Soc. Lond. (Bot.) 13 (1870–2): 42–58].

Comments on JPMW’s findings concerning flowers and their fertilisation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Philip Mansel Weale
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.380)
Physical description
LS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7290,” accessed on 31 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18