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- More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume II - 60/133 -


dioecious structure, but seeing the difference in the fertility of the two forms, I felt bound unwillingly to admit that they might be a step towards dioeciousness; I allude to this subject in my Linum paper. (638/3. "Linn. Soc. Journal," 1863.) Thanks for your answers to my other queries. I forgot to say that I was at Kew the other day, and I find that they can give me capsules of several Vandeae.

LETTER 639. TO J. SCOTT. Down, March 24th [1863].

Your letter, as every one you have written, has greatly interested me. If you can show that certain individual Passifloras, under certain known or unknown conditions of life, have stigmas capable of fertilisation by pollen from another species, or from another individual of its own species, yet not by its own individual pollen (its own individual pollen being proved to be good by its action on some other species), you will add a case of great interest to me; and which in my opinion would be quite worth your publication. (639/1. Cases nearly similar to those observed by Scott were recorded by Gartner and Kolreuter, but in these instances only certain individuals were self-impotent. In "Animals and Plants," Edition II., Volume II., page 114, where the phenomenon is fully discussed, Scott's observations ("Trans. Bot. Soc. Edin." 1863) are given as the earliest, except for one case recorded by Lecoq ("Fecondation," 1862). Interesting work was afterwards done by Hildebrand and Fritz Muller, as illustrated in many of the letters addressed to the latter.) I always imagined that such recorded cases must be due to unnatural conditions of life; and think I said so in the "Origin." (639/2. See "Origin of Species," Edition I., page 251, for Herbert's observations on self-impotence in Hippeastrum. In spite of the uniformness of the results obtained in many successive years, Darwin inferred that the plants must have been in an "unnatural state.") I am not sure that I understand your result, [nor] whether it means what I have above obscurely expressed. If you can prove the above, do publish; but if you will not publish I earnestly beg you to let me have the facts in detail; but you ought to publish, for I may not use the facts for years. I have been much interested by what you say on the rostellum exciting pollen to protrude tubes; but are you sure that the rostellum does excite them? Would not tubes protrude if placed on parts of column or base of petals, etc., near to the stigma? Please look at the "Cottage Gardener" (or "Journal of Horticulture") (639/3. "Journal of Horticulture" and "Cottage Gardener," March 31st, 1863. A short note describing Cruger's discovery of self-fertilisation in Cattleya, Epidendrum, etc., and referring to the work of "an excellent observer, Mr. J. Scott." Darwin adds that he is convinced that he has underrated the power of tropical orchids occasionally to produce seeds without the aid of insects.) to be published to-morrow week for letter of mine, in which I venture to quote you, and in which you will see a curious fact about unopened orchid flowers setting seed in West Indies. Dr. Cruger attributes protrusion of tubes to ants carrying stigmatic secretion to pollen (639/4. In Cruger's paper ("Linn. Soc. Journ." VIII., 1865; read March 3rd 1864) he speaks of the pollen-masses in situ being acted on by the stigmatic secretion, but no mention is made of the agency of ants. He describes the pollen-tubes descending "from the [pollen] masses still in situ down into the ovarian canal."); but this is mere hypothesis. Remember, pollen-tubes protrude within anther in Neottia nidus-avis. I did think it possible or probable that perfect fertilisation might have been effected through rostellum. What a curious case your Gongora must be: could you spare me one of the largest capsules? I want to estimate the number of seed, and try my hand if I can make them grow. This, however, is a foolish attempt, for Dr. Hooker, who was here a day or two ago, says they cannot at Calcutta, and yet imported species have seeded and have naturally spread on to the adjoining trees! Dr. Cruger thinks I am wrong about Catasetum: but I cannot understand his letter. He admits there are three forms in two species; and he speaks as if the sexes were separate in some and that others were hermaphrodites (639/5. Cruger ("Linn. Soc. Journal," VIII., page 127) says that the apparently hermaphrodite form is always sterile in Trinidad. Darwin modified his account in the second edition of the orchid book.); but I cannot understand what he means. He has seen lots of great humble-bees buzzing about the flowers with the pollinia sticking to their backs! Happy man!! I have the promise, but not yet surety, of some curious results with my homomorphic seedling cowslips: these have not followed the rule of Chinese Primula; homomorphic seedlings from short-styled parent have presented both forms, which disgusts me.

You will see that I am better; but still I greatly fear that I must have a compulsory holiday. With sincere thanks and hearty admiration at your powers of observation...

My poor P. scotica looks very sick which you so kindly sent me. (639/6. Sent by Scott, January 6th, 1863.)

LETTER 640. TO J. SCOTT. April 12th [1863].

I really hardly know how to thank you enough for your very interesting letter. I shall certainly use all the facts which you have given me (in a condensed form) on the sterility of orchids in the work which I am now slowly preparing for publication. But why do you not publish these facts in a separate little paper? (640/1. See Letter 642, note, for reference to Scott's paper.) They seem to me well worth it, and you really ought to get your name known. I could equally well use them in my book. I earnestly hope that you will experiment on Passiflora, and let me give your results. Dr. A. Gray's observations were made loosely; he said in a letter he would attend this summer further to the case, which clearly surprised him much. I will say nothing about the rostellum, stigmatic utriculi, fertility of Acropera and Catasetum, for I am completely bewildered: it will rest with you to settle these points by your excellent observations and experiments. I must own I never could help doubting Dr. Hooker's case of the poppy. You may like to hear what I have seen this morning: I found (640/2. See Letter 658.) a primrose plant with flowers having three pistils, which when pulled asunder, without any tearing, allowed pollen to be placed on ovules. This I did with three flowers--pollen-tubes did not protrude after several days. But this day, the sixteenth (N.B.--primulas seem naturally slowly fertilised), I found many tubes protruded, and, what is very odd, they certainly seemed to have penetrated the coats of the ovules, but in no one instance the foramen of the ovule!! I mention this because it directly bears on your explanation of Dr. Cruger's case. (640/3. Cruger's case here referred to is doubtless the cleistogamic fertilisation of Epidendrum, etc. Scott discusses the question of self-fertilisation at great length in a letter to Darwin dated April, and obviously written in 1863. In Epidendrum he observed a viscid matter extending from the stigmatic chamber to the anther: pollen-tubes had protruded from the anther not only where it was in contact with the viscid matter, but also from the central part, and these spread "over the anterior surface of the rostellum downward into the stigma." Cruger believed the viscid matter reaching the anther was a necessary condition for the germination of the pollen-grains. Scott points out that the viscid matter is produced in large quantity only after the pollen-grains have penetrated the stigma, and that it is, in fact, a consequence, not a preliminary to fertilisation. He finally explains Cruger's case thus: "The greater humidity and equability of temperature consequent on such conditions [i.e. on the flowers being closed] is, I believe, the probable cause of these abnormally conditioned flowers so frequently fertilising themselves." Scott also calls attention to the danger of being deceived by fungal hyphae in observations on germination of pollen.) I believe that your explanation is right; I should never have thought of it; yet this was stupid of me, for I remember thinking that the almost closed imperfect flowers of Viola and Oxalis were related to the protrusion of the pollen-tubes. My case of the Aceras with the aborted labellum squeezed against stigma supports your view. (640/4. See "Fertilisation of Orchids," Edition II., page 258: the pollen germinated within the anther of a monstrous flower.) Dr. Cruger's notion about the ants was a simple conjecture. About cryptogamic filaments, remember Dr. C. says that the unopened flowers habitually set fruit. I think that you will change your views on the imperfect flowers of Viola and Oxalis...

LETTER 641. (?)

LETTER 642. TO J. SCOTT. May 2nd [1863].

I have left home for a fortnight to see if I can, with little hope, improve my health. The parcel of orchid pods, which you have so kindly sent me, has followed me. I am sure you will forgive the liberty which I take in returning you the postage stamps. I never heard of such a scheme as that you were compelled to practise to fertilise the Gongora! (642/1. See "Fertilisation of Orchids," Edition, II., page 169. "Mr. Scott tried repeatedly, but in vain, to force the pollen-masses into the stigma of Gongora atro-purpurea and truncata; but he readily fertilised them by cutting off the clinandrum and placing pollen-masses on the now exposed stigma.") It is a most curious problem what plan Nature follows in this genus and Acropera. (642/2. In the "Fertilisation of Orchids," Edition II., page 169, Darwin speculates as to the possible fertilisation of Acropera by an insect with pollen-masses adhering to the extremity of its abdomen. It would appear that this guess (which does not occur in the first edition) was made before he heard of Cruger's observation on the allied genus Gongora, which is visited by a bee with a long tongue, which projects, when not in use, beyond and above the tip of the abdomen. Cruger believes that this tongue is the pollinating agent. Cruger's account is in the "Journal of the Linn. Soc." VIII., 1865, page 130.) Some day I will try and estimate how many seeds there are in Gongora. I suppose and hope you have kept notes on all your observations on orchids, for, with my broken health and many other subjects, I do not know whether I shall ever have time to publish again; though I have a large collection of notes and facts ready. I think you show your wisdom in not wishing to publish too soon; a young author who publishes every trifle gets, sometimes unjustly, to be disregarded. I do not pretend to be much of a judge; but I can conscientiously say that I have never written one word to you on the merit of your letters that I do not fully believe in. Please remember that I should very much wish for a copy of your paper on sterility of individual orchids (642/3. "On the Individual Sterility and Cross-Impregnation of Certain Species of Oncidium." [Read June 2nd, 1864.] "Linn. Soc. Journal," VIII., 1865. This paper gives a full account of the self-sterility of Oncidium in cases where the pollen was efficient in fertilising other individuals of the same species and of distinct species. Some of the facts were given in Scott's paper, "Experiments on the Fertilisation of Orchids in the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh," published in the "Proc. Bot. Soc. Edinb." 1863. It is probably to the latter paper that Darwin refers.) and on Drosera. (642/4. "Trans. Bot. Soc. Edinburgh," Volume VII.) Thanks for [note] about Campanula perfoliata. I have asked Asa Gray for seeds, to whom I have mentioned your observations on rostellum, and asked him to look closer to the case of Gymnadenia. (642/5. See "Fertilisation of Orchids," Edition II., page 68.) Let me hear about the sporting Imatophyllum if it flowers. Perhaps I have blundered about Primula; but certainly not about mere protrusion of pollen-tubes. I have been idly watching bees of several genera and diptera fertilising O. morio at this place, and it is a very pretty sight. I have confirmed in several ways the entire truth of my statement that there is no vestige of nectar in the spur; but the insects perforate the inner coat. This seems to me a curious little fact, which none of my reviewers have noticed.

LETTER 643. TO J.D. HOOKER. Down, May 23rd [1863].

You can confer a real service on a good man, John Scott, the writer of the enclosed letter, by reading it and giving me your opinion. I assure [you]


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