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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Rogers   22 January 1862

16. Eversfield Place | St. Leonards. | Hastings

Jany. 22 1862

Dear Sir

I have never succeeded in growing Cycnoches.— & I do not recollect ever to have had Mormodes,1 but as this last is one of the aberrant forms of Catasetum, I suspect it follows its habits— You are doubtless aware that Myanthus & Catasetum are identical though totally unlike.—2 Twenty years & more ago, I flowered a most beautiful specimen of Myanthus barbatus.—two full spikes of flower, exactly like the plant represented in an early volume of Paxtons Mage.3

It was an imported plant from Demarara: & I was greatly delighted with it & prized it highly.— Judge of my dismay when the plant flowered the next year, & was a simple & pure Catasetum.—4 There could be no mistake for I had no other plant like it. & besides I watched my own plants then almost day by day.— The transmogrification of that genus is enough to shake my belief in all floral identity.— I regret that I made no drawings of either form—& I cannot recollect any thing definite about the structure of the anther.—

I am spending the winter here & have no access either to my books or my plants—

Soon after I last wrote to you,5 a Catasetum—which had escaped notice up in the roof of my Orchid house flowered, but with only 2 flowers & these had shed their pollen masses before I saw them—so that it was useless to send it to you.—

I wish we were nearer neighbours6 as I should have much pleasure in showing you any thing which I have, though my plants through neglect now of some years standing are not what they once were—

Believe me, Dear Sir | Faithfully yours | John Rogers

PS. | Tropical orchids are very capricious in their growth & often require some slightly peculiar treatment which it is very difficult to find out— One or two species will sometimes flourish, where all others languish, & a slight alteration in the construction of a house will sometimes cause failure where success had previously been uniform—


CD was particularly interested in the Catasetidae, which he called ‘the most remarkable of all Orchids’ (Orchids, p. 211), because their pollinia are violently ejected, thus becoming attached to the insect disturbing the flower. While he had observed this phenomenon in Catasetum, CD had been unable to obtain mature and undamaged flowers of Cycnoches and Mormodes, despite many requests to acquaintances (see Correspondence vol. 9 and this volume, second letter from D. F. Nevill, [before 22 January 1862] and n. 4).
CD had already encountered the remarkable case of trimorphism in Catasetum tridentatum (see Correspondence vol. 9, letter to Daniel Oliver, 7 December [1861]), and he subsequently discussed it in his paper ‘Three sexual forms of Catasetum tridentatum. There he explained that the female and hermaphrodite forms of this species were so different from the male form and from each other as to have been classified in different genera (as Monachanthus viridis and Myanthus barbatus, respectively).
Paxton’s Magazine of Botany 2: 124.
CD cited Rogers’s anecdote about Myanthus in ‘Three sexual forms of Catasetum tridentatum, p. 151 n. (Collected papers 2: 69 n. 3), and in Orchids, p. 236 n. (In Orchids, CD misspelt his correspondent’s name as ‘Rodgers’.)
No further correspondence between CD and Rogers has been found.
Rogers lived at Sevenoaks Weald in Kent, about eight miles from Down.


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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.

‘Three sexual forms of Catasetum tridentatum’: On the three remarkable sexual forms of Catasetum tridentatum, an orchid in the possession of the Linnean Society. By Charles Darwin. [Read 3 April 1862.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 151–7. [Collected papers 2: 63–70.]


Reports that the orchids Myanthus and Catasetum are identical.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Rogers
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 176.1: 194
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3407,” accessed on 22 September 2021,

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