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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. T. Moggridge   22 June [1871]

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

June 22nd.

My dear Mr. Moggridge

I am much obliged for your letter which is very interesting, & the facts detailed are quite new to me. I much hope that you will continue your observations on ants. If you do not know “P Huber Recherches sur les Mœurs des Fourmis Paris 1810”, I would strongly advise you to get a copy as it is a most interesting & not very large book—1

I published an extract from a letter from a Texas gentleman (name forgotten) in Linn: Journ:, which Mr. Kippist probably can find for you; & I think this would be worth looking at, as it relates to ants storing & planting seeds.2 At the time I could hardly credit the letter though appearing trustworthy, as I had never seen in England an ant carrying a seed.

I am very glad to hear that you intend putting together your notes on the variability of certain plants, as I am sure they will be valuable.3

I have long felt much surprize at the fly ophrys being so inconspicuous, so inodorous & so little attractive to insects.4 It therefore occurred to me as possible, though very improbable that this state of things had been acquired from the plant in its present condition not enduring to have all its flowers fertilized.

I like to try experiments with only the ghost of a chance of success; so that I had intended (but failed from the plant being very rare this season) to have fertilized every flower necessarily of about 20 plants & mark them. And to have marked 20 or more plants which were to be left to the imperfect agency of insects. I should then have compared at the close of the season the general state of vigour & the apearance of the capsules of the two sets. Should opportunity offer, would you feel inclined to try this hopeless experiment?5

I am glad to hear that you are rather stronger than you have been since 1869; but I fear this is not saying much.6 As for myself I have been a good deal below par of late & must have some entire rest; my ailings however are as nothing compared with yours.

With many thanks for your long & interesting letter believe me | yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin


An extract from a letter from Gideon Lincecum, 29 December 1860 (Correspondence vol. 8), was read at a meeting of the Linnean Society on 18 April 1861 and published in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Zoology) 6 (1862): 29–31. CD also refers to Richard Kippist, the librarian of the Linnean Society.
CD refers to Ophrys muscifera (now O. insectifera subsp. insectifera). For CD’s observations on this species, see Orchids, pp. 55–60.
CD was evidently never able to carry out this experiment and no further correspondence from Moggridge mentions it.


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

Huber, Pierre. 1810. Recherches sur les mœurs des fourmis indigènes. Paris and Geneva: J. J. Paschoud.

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.

Zoology: The zoology of the voyage of HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. Edited and superintended by Charles Darwin. 5 pts. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1838–43.


Thanks JTM for information on ants.

Mentions letter "from a Texas gentleman" Gideon Lincecum describing ants that plant seeds [see 3082].

Notes that fly orchid is unattractive to insects. Asks JTM to attempt fertilisation experiment with this plant.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Traherne Moggridge
Sent from
JU 23 71
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.399)
Physical description
LS(A) 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7830,” accessed on 4 October 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19