RECORD: Anon. 1862. [Review of Orchids]. John Bull (31 May): 12.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe. 7.2021. RN1

[page] 12

Dr. Darwin's little book on the Fertilisation of Orchids (Murray), is not the least interesting specimen of the discoveries and speculations of that ingenious philosopher. There are few of us who cannot remember from the days of our childhood the delight which we had in those still yet beautiful and curious flowers, the "long purples," the cuckoo flowers, or fly orchis, and the strange and startling bee-orchis. The study of this class of flowers is one of the most interesting in the range of the science of botany. Dr. Darwin confirms the discovery previously made by Sprengel, that insects are necessary to remove the pollen-masses of most kinds of orchids to effect their fertilisation. By his patient experiments he has discovered the curious contrivances by which, in the case of the bee-orchis alone, self-fertilisation is effected, while equally elaborate contrivances are apparent which are assuredly adapted to give an occasional cross with another individual. The book is furnished with plates, which are a valuable assistance in making the details intelligible to an unscientific reader; when, however, the first details are mastered, the reader will find the rest easily intelligible, and he will understand the beautiful and wonderful contrivances which nature has provided for the fertilisation of these flowers.

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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

File last updated 25 September, 2022