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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. T. Moggridge   12 July 1873

2 Montague Villas | Richmond | (Surrey)

12 July 1873

My dear Sir

I take the liberty of sending you a copy of a paper on Ophrys insectifera, translated into German by Prof. H. G. Reichenbach, in which I have attempted to shew the principal forms which link together Aranifera & Apifera, & to classify these forms.1

This paper was originally written six years ago & rewritten in 1868; but, owing to “unavoidable delays”, it has only just reached me in print. Of course I should have liked to have revised & added to this notice; for, during the five years that have elapsed since the rewriting, I have accumulated a great quantity of notes bearing on the variation of Ophrys insectifera, & especially on the annual reproduction of individual forms or deviation from these forms.—

However, it would be most ungracious on my part to utter anything like a complaint; on the contrary, I am very sensible of the liberal conduct which this German Academy have shewn towards me in publishing, free of all expense, an expensively illustrated paper written by a foreigner & a stranger.2

I have lately received a present of a living trap-door spider in her nest, brought over by an American gentleman!—

She appears to be in perfectly good case, & often vigorously resists any attempt on my part to open the door of her nest, clinging on to it & dragging it down in precisely the same way that Nemesia caementaria does at Mentone.3

How interesting & how suggestive these facts of correspondence in habit are—

Here we have a spider from the further side of America, which constructs a nest of the ‘cork’ type; & which resists intrusion in precisely the same way as do the cork-nest-spiders of Europe!4

I should greatly like to collect a number of facts such as these, & to learn more of the geographical distribution of habit in animals—5

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


CD’s copy of Moggridge 1869 is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Moggridge had argued that Ophrys aranifera and O. arachnites, together with O. scolopax and O. apifera, were varieties of a single species, O. insectifera (see also Moggridge 1871, pls. XIX, XLIII–XLV). CD cited Moggridge 1869 in the preface to Orchids 2d ed., p. ix, and on pp. 58–9, he suggested that the orchids in question seemed to form distinct species but that this might be dependent on geographical factors, since in North Italy, unlike in England, they did not appear to have become different species.
Moggridge 1869 was published by the Leopoldino-Carolinische deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher (usually known as Leopoldina).
Trapdoor spiders are discussed in Moggridge 1873. Nemesia caementaria is common in southern Europe. Mentone (now Menton) is a town in south-eastern France on the French Riviera near the the border with Italy; Moggridge spent most winters there owing to his chronic ill health (R. Desmond 1994).
Moggridge describes Ctenzia californica (now Bothriocyrtum californicum) found near Visalia, California.
Moggridge wrote on the geographical distribution of trapdoor spiders in Moggridge 1874, pp. 247–50.


Desmond, Ray. 1994. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers. New edition, revised with the assistance of Christine Ellwood. London: Taylor & Francis and the Natural History Museum. Bristol, Pa.: Taylor & Francis.

Moggridge, John Traherne. 1869. Ueber Ophrys insectifera L. (part.) Dresden: E. Blochmann & Sohn. [Verhandlungen der Kaiserlichen Leopoldino-Carolinischen deutschen Akademie der Naturforscher 35 (1870): (3d paper) 1–16.]

Moggridge, John Traherne. 1871. Contributions to the flora of Mentone, and to a winter flora of the Riviera including the coast from Marseilles to Genoa. 4 pts. London: Lovell Reeve and Co.

Moggridge, John Traherne. 1873. Harvesting ants and trap-door spiders: notes and observations on their habits and dwellings. London: L. Reeve & Co.

Moggridge, John Traherne. 1874. Supplement to Harvesting ants and trap-door spiders: with specific descriptions of the spiders by the Rev. O. Pickard-Cambridge. London: L. Reeve & Co.

Orchids 2d ed.: The various contrivances by which orchids are fertilised by insects. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition, revised. London: John Murray. 1877.


Sends his paper on Ophrys insectifera, translated into German by H. G. Reichenbach [Abh. Kais. Leopold.-Carol. Dtsch. Akad. Naturforsch. 33 (1870) no. 3], which shows the intermediates between O. aranifera and O. apifera. He has since gathered information on variation in Ophrys.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Traherne Moggridge
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 171: 218
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8977,” accessed on 21 October 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21