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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Federico Delpino1   20 May 1870

Reale Museo | di | Fisica e Storia Naturale | di Firenze

20. Maggio 1870—

Onorevole Signore!

Soltanto oggi ho ricevuto la sua pregiata lettera del quindici andante, e mi affretto a rispondere.2

Mi rincresce che presentemente nel nostro orto botanico non si trovi alcun seme di Canna Warszewiczii;3 ma oggi stesso scriverò una lettera ai miei amici Direttori dei giardini botanici di Siena, Modena e Napoli, i quali potranno somministrarmene; giacchè vedo che i semi di detta pianta figurano nell’Elenco o Catalogo dei semi pubblicato da quegli stabilimenti per l’anno 1870.

Adunque spero fra qualche giorno poter inviare alla S. V. Ill’mo un pacco dei desiderati semi, di provenienza diversa.

Io ringrazio la S. V. della comunicazione fattami sulla leguminosa raccolta a Ravenna dal suo signor figlio. Essa è il Lotus siliquosus di Linneo.4

Io non ebbi fin qui occasione di studiare lo apparecchio dicogamico di detta pianta. Studiai bensi e descrissi gli apparecchi del Lotus corniculatus, del Lotus hirsutus e del Lotus ornithopodioides. (Sugli apparecchi della fecondaz. ecc p. 25, e Ulteriori osservazioni ecc p. 45 e 46). Ora esaminando l’esemplare inviatomi dalla S.V. Ill’ma, ho potuto rilevare che lo apparecchio del Lotus siliquosus è affatto simile a quello del Lotus corniculatus, e dei restanti.5

Tale apparecchio dicogamico, che ho denominato “apparecchio papilionaceo a pompa” è assai meraviglioso. Esso è paragonabile a quello strumento con cui si fanno le paste da vermicellajo. Gl’insetti fecondatori, che sono esclusivamente apiarie (apis, eucera, anthophora e Bombus), per suggere il miele deprimono la carena, e questa depressione fa sì che la sommità dei filamenti che sono clavati e rigonfii alla cima, agisce come uno stantuffo e spinge fuori il polline in forma di vermicelli che si attaccano allo sterno e allo addome degl’insetti.6

Questo apparecchio è stato anche descritto da Severino Axell, a pag. 29—del suo scritto “Om anordningarna ecc” “Sätter sig nu en insekt pa kölen, sa sänkes denna nagot, den styfva pistillen och filamenterna verka som en tryckpump pa pollenmassen, hvilken utjagas i form af ett litet moln genom halet i kölen spets”.7 La operazione degl’insetti è qui descritta assai bene, ma vi è una inesattezza, in quanto che dice che il polline esce fuori dalla punta della carena in forma di nuvoletta (moln), mentre più precisamente esce in forma di vermicelli.

Gradisca, Uomo preclaro e sommo, il sincero e rispettoso attestato della mia più alta considerazione—

Suo ossequentissimo discepolo | Federico Delpino

Footnotes

For a translation of this letter, see Correspondence vol. 18, Appendix I.
CD’s letter has not been found.
Canna warszewiczii is now C. indica. Delpino had described the structure of the flowers of Canna in 1867 (Delpino 1867b, p. 23).
It is not known which of CD’s sons made the collection, but William Erasmus Darwin was in Italy in April 1870, and according to Henrietta Emma Darwin, visited Florence (letter from H. E. Darwin to Emma Darwin, 14 April [1870]; DAR 219.9: 87). Lotus siliquosus is now L. maritimus. Delpino refers to Carl von Linné (Carolus Linnaeus).
Delpino refers to two works on dichogamy which he had sent to CD, Delpino 1867b, p. 25 and Delpino 1868–75, part 1, pp. 45–6. Lotus corniculatus is bird’s-foot trefoil; L. hirsutus is hairy canary clover.
See Delpino 1868–75, part 1, pp. 45, 47, 52. Apis, Eucera, Anthophora, and Bombus are all genera in the family Apidae, which includes bumble bees, euglossine bees, honey bees, and stingless bees.
Delpino quotes from Johan Severin Axell’s monograph Om anordningarna för de fanerogama växternas befruktning (On the mechanisms for the fertilisation of phanerogamic plants; Axell 1869, p. 29). The passage reads, ‘If now an insect settles on the carina, this is somewhat lowered, the stiff pistil and the filaments work as a pressure pump on the pollen-mass, which is ejected in shape of a small cloud through the hole in the cusp of the carina.’

Translation

From Federico Delpino1   20 May 1870

Royal Museum | of | Physics and Natural History of Florence

20. May 1870—

Honourable Sir!

I received your esteemed letter of the 15th of the month only today and I hasten to reply.2

I am sorry but at the moment we have no seeds of Canna Warszewiczii in our botanical gardens;3 but today I will write a letter to my friends the directors of the botanical gardens at Siena, Modena and Naples, who might be able to supply me; since I see that the seeds of the same plant figure in the inventory or catalogue of seeds published by those establishments for the year of 1870.

Thus I hope to be able to send Your most Illustrious Honour a packet of the desired seeds, from a different source, within a few days.

I thank Your Honour for the communication concerning the leguminous collection your son made at Ravenna. The plant is a Lotus siliquosus of Linneus.4

I have to date not had occasion to study the dichogamic apparatus of this plant. However, I have studied and described that of Lotus corniculatus, of Lotus hirsutus, and of Lotus ornithopodioides. (Sugli apparecchi della fecondaz. etc. p. 25, and Ulteriori osservazione etc. p. 45 and 46). Now, by examining the sample sent to me by Your most Illustrious Honour, I was able to learn that the apparatus of Lotus siliquosus is in fact similar to that of Lotus corniculatus, and of the others.5

This dichogamic apparatus, which I have called “papilionaceous pump apparatus” is rather marvellous. It is similar to the instrument with which one makes pasta at the vermicelli-makers. To suck up the honey, the fertilizing insects, which are exclusively of the family of bees (apis, eucera, anthophora, and Bombus), press down the carina, and this action causes the top of the filaments, which are clubshaped and swollen at the end, to act as a piston and to squirt out the pollen in worm-like shapes which attach themselves to the breast and abdomen of the insects.6

This apparatus has also been described by Severin Axell, on p. 29—of his book ‘Om anordiningarna etc’ “Sätter sig nu en insekt pârcurbr; kölen, sârcurbr; sänkes denna nârcurbr;got, den styfva pistillen och filamenterna verka som en tryckpump pârcurbr; pollenmassen, hvilken utjagas i form af ett litet moln genom hârcurbr;let i kölen spets”.7 The operation of the insect is described well enough, but there is an inexactness in so far as he says that the pollen exit from the end of the carina in the form of a cloudlet (moln), while rather more precisely it exits in the shape of wormlets.

Noble and excellent Man, please accept the sincere and respectful testimony of my consideration—

Your most humble disciple | Federico Delpino

Footnotes

For a transcription of this letter in its original Italian, see pp. 126–7.
CD’s letter has not been found.
Canna warszewiczii is now C. indica. Delpino had described the structure of the flowers of Canna in 1867 (Delpino 1867b, p. 23).
It is not known which of CD’s sons made the collection, but William Erasmus Darwin was in Italy in April 1870, and according to Henrietta Emma Darwin, visited Florence (letter from H. E. Darwin to Emma Darwin, 14 April [1870]; DAR 219.9: 87). Lotus siliquosus is now L. maritimus. Delpino refers to Carl von Linné (Carolus Linnaeus).
Delpino refers to two works on dichogamy which he had sent to CD, Delpino 1867b, p. 25 and Delpino 1868–75, part 1, pp. 45–6. Lotus corniculatus is bird’s-foot trefoil; L. hirsutus is hairy canary clover.
See Delpino 1868–75, part 1, pp. 45, 47, 52. Apis, Eucera, Anthophora, and Bombus are all genera in the family Apidae, which includes bumble bees, euglossine bees, honey bees, and stingless bees.
Delpino quotes from Johan Severin Axell’s monograph Om anordningarna för de fanerogama växternas befruktning (On the mechanisms for the fertilisation of phanerogamic plants; Axell 1869, p. 29). The passage reads, ‘If now an insect settles on the carina, this is somewhat lowered, the stiff pistil and the filaments work as a pressure pump on the pollen-mass, which is ejected in shape of a small cloud through the hole in the cusp of the carina.’

Summary

Responds to CD’s request for Canna seeds.

Studying dichogamy in Lotus. Describes mechanism that pumps pollen on to a visiting bee. Corrects Axell on Lotus.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-7196
From
Federico Delpino
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Reale Museo di Firenze
Source of text
DAR 162: 147
Physical description
3pp (Italian)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7196,” accessed on 23 October 2018, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-7196

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18

letter