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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. H. Balfour   15 June [1862?]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

June 15th

My dear Sir

I presume that I owe to your great kindness a fine specimen of Corallorhiza received this morning sound & safe.2 I have been very glad to see it, but the wicked insects had done their work so effectually that every flower was fertilised.

I have planted the specimen in a pot & I have hopes that it may flower another year.—3 Pray accept my sincere thanks for your kindness.—

As I am writing I will beg another favour, for the chance of your being able to grant it, through the Botanic Garden, viz seed of Corydalis claviculata.4 I have searched everywhere for it. Of course you will not write; but if fortune favours me, pray send me some.—5

My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. Since the above was written your note has arrived—6 again many thanks—


The year is conjectured from the reference to Corallorhiza and to the seed of Corydalis claviculata (see nn. 2 and 5, below).
CD had written to Balfour requesting a specimen of the rare orchid genus Corallorhiza in 1861 (see this volume, Supplement, letter from H. C. Watson to George Gordon, 27 June 1861, and Correspondence vol. 9, letter to George Gordon, 4 July [1861]). The letter to Balfour has not been found.
No notes by CD on Corallorhiza have been found. The specimen would have arrived too late for CD to include observations on it in Orchids; the genus is not discussed in ‘Fertilization of orchids’ or Orchids 2d ed.
Balfour was professor of botany at Edinburgh University and regius keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh (DNB).
CD received seeds of a Corydalis, probably C. claviculata, from Balfour in October 1864; by that time, however, CD had already obtained specimens and seeds from elsewhere, and had raised one specimen from seed (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter to J. H. Balfour, 21 October [1864] and n. 3). CD’s notes on C. claviculata, written in September 1863, are in DAR 157.2: 26–8; the species is described in ‘Climbing plants’, pp. 45, 70–2.
The letter from Balfour has not been found.


Thanks JHB for specimen of Corallorrhiza;

would like some seeds of Corydalis claviculata.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5122,” accessed on 3 August 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13 (Supplement)