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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   30 January [1862]1


Jan 30th

My dear Hooker

I received the Bletia this morning, rather dry from paper-Box.— I suppose that you are sure it is a Bletia for its pollen is very different from that of any of the Epidendreæ which I have seen, & agrees with description of that of the Arethuseæ. If it be a Bletia, by Jove, Lindley’s grand divisions are not a little fanciful.2 I shall be astounded if the distinction from state of pollen alone can make good main divisions.

I have not written since your note of Saturday, in which you offer to collect cases of Dimorphism:3 I shd. not wish you to take trouble on purpose; but if you would make a note of any cases on which you stumble, I shd. be very glad. The cases of Balsamineæ, Violaceæ &c, I believe to be widely different from that of Primula.—

You allude to Caryophyllaceæ; I shd. in this one instance like soon to hear to what you allude.—4

I have been very sorry to hear about Busk.—5

Bateman has just sent me a lot of orchids with the Angræcum sesquipedale: do you know its marvellous nectary 1112 inches long, with nectar only at the extremity. What a proboscis the moth that sucks it, must have! It is a very pretty case.6

Farewell | C. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to George Busk’s accident (see n. 5, below).
John Lindley divided the Orchidaceae into seven tribes distinguished principally by the nature of the anthers and pollen-masses (Lindley 1853, p. 179). CD had expressed dissatisfaction with Lindley’s classification system in his letter to J. D. Hooker, 18 [December 1861] (Correspondence vol. 9); he made similar comments in Orchids, p. 159. CD referred to the pollen-masses of Bletia in Orchids, p. 162 n.
George Busk broke his arm on the evening of 20 January 1862 (see letters from J. D. Hooker, [25 January 1862], and from J. E. Gray, 29 January 1862).
CD had already told Hooker about the box of orchids sent by James Bateman (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 [and 26] January [1862]). See also letter from Robert Bateman, [28 January 1862].


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

Lindley, John. 1853. The vegetable kingdom; or, the structure, classification, and uses of plants, illustrated upon the natural system. 3d edition with corrections and additional genera. London: Bradbury & Evans.

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.


Is JDH sure it is a Bletia, just received? Its pollen very different from any Epidendreæ he has seen. If it is Bletia, Lindley’s grand divisions are fanciful.

Accepts JDH’s offer to collect cases of dimorphism.

James Bateman has sent a lot of orchids with Angraecum sesquipedale. What a proboscis the moth that sucks its 11½ inch nectary must have!

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 115: 142
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3421,” accessed on 27 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10