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Deceived by orchids: sex, science, fiction and Darwin


Between 1916 and 1927, botanists in several countries independently resolved three problems that had mystified earlier naturalists – including Charles Darwin: how did the many species of orchid that did not produce nectar persuade insects to pollinate them? Why did some orchid flowers seem to mimic insects? And why should a native British orchid suffer ‘attacks’ from a bee? Half a century after Darwin's death, these three mysteries were shown to be aspects of a phenomenon now known as pseudocopulation, whereby male insects are deceived into attempting to mate with the orchid's flowers, which mimic female insects; the males then carry the flower's pollen with them when they move on to try the next deceptive orchid. Early twentieth-century botanists were able to see what their predecessors had not because orchids (along with other plants) had undergone an imaginative re-creation: Darwin's science was appropriated by popular interpreters of science, including the novelist Grant Allen; then H.G. Wells imagined orchids as killers (inspiring a number of imitators), to produce a genre of orchid stories that reflected significant cultural shifts, not least in the presentation of female sexuality. It was only after these changes that scientists were able to see plants as equipped with agency, actively able to pursue their own, cunning reproductive strategies – and to outwit animals in the process. This paper traces the movement of a set of ideas that were created in a context that was recognizably scientific; they then became popular non-fiction, then popular fiction, and then inspired a new science, which in turn inspired a new generation of fiction writers. Long after clear barriers between elite and popular science had supposedly been established in the early twentieth century, they remained porous because a variety of imaginative writers kept destabilizing them. The fluidity of the boundaries between makers, interpreters and publics of scientific knowledge was a highly productive one; it helped biology become a vital part of public culture in the twentieth century and beyond.

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1 Herbert George Wells, The Short Stories, London: Ernest Benn Ltd, 1927, pp. 231–240; first published in the Pall Mall Budget, 2 August 1894.

2 Only one orchid species, Aracamunia liesneri (Carnevali & Ramírez), is strongly suspected of carnivory, but it was only discovered in the late twentieth century. See Steyermark Julian A. and Holst Bruce K., ‘Flora of the Venezuelan Guayana–VII contributions to the Flora of the Cerro Aracamuni, Venezuela’, Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden (1989) 76(4), pp. 962964.

3 Londa Schiebinger, ‘Gender and natural history’, in Nicholas Jardine, James A. Secord and Emma Spary (eds.), Cultures of Natural History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 163–177; Ann B. Shteir, Cultivating Women, Cultivating Science: Flora's Daughters and Botany in England, 1760 to 1860, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996; Barbara T. Gates, Kindred Nature: Victorian and Edwardian Women Embrace the Living World, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998; Samantha George, Botany, Sexuality and Women's Writing, 1760–1830: From Modest Shoot to Forward Plant, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2012.

4 C.R. Darwin to Alphonse de Candolle, 17 June [1862]. Darwin Correspondence Database, at

5 Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin (ed. Nora Barlow), London: Collins, 1958, p. 135.

6 Christian Konrad Sprengel, Das entdeckte Geheimnis der Natur im Bau und in der Befruchtung der Blumen (The Secret of Nature in the Form and Fertilization of Flowers Discovered), 1793. Charles Darwin, Autobiographies (ed. Michael Neve and Sharon Messenger), Penguin Classics, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 2003; first published 1887/1903, p. 77; Bellon Richard, ‘Charles Darwin solves the “riddle of the flower”; or, why don't historians of biology know about the birds and the bees?’, History of Science (2009) 47, pp. 373406, 376.

7 Charles Darwin, On the Various Contrivances by Which British and Foreign Orchids Are Fertilised by Insects, and on the Good Effects of Intercrossing, London: John Murray, 1862, p. 45.

8 Darwin, op. cit. (7), pp. 68–9; Nicholas J. Vereecken and Ana Francisco, ‘Ophrys pollination: from Darwin to the present day’, in Retha Edens-Meier and Peter Bernhardt (eds.), Darwin's Orchids: Then and Now, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2014, pp. 48–50.

9 Darwin, op. cit. (7), p. 68.

10 Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, London: Jonathan Cape, 2002, pp. 276–282; Smith Jonathan, ‘Une fleur du mal? Swinburne's ‘the sundew’ and Darwin's insectivorous plants’, Victorian Poetry (2003) 41, pp. 131150, 150.

11 M.J.S. Hodge, ‘Darwin as a lifelong generation theorist’, in David Kohn (ed.), The Darwinian Heritage, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985, pp. 207–243, 223; Jim Endersby, ‘Darwin on generation, pangenesis and sexual selection’, in M.J.S. Hodge and G. Radick (eds.), Cambridge Companion to Darwin, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 69–91.

12 This central goal of Darwin's botany has been noted by most of those who have studied it, e.g. Hunter Dupree, introduction, in Asa Gray (ed.), Darwiniana: Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963, pp. ix–xxxiii, xix; Mea Allan, Darwin and His Flowers: The Key to Natural Selection, London: Faber and Faber, 1977; David Kohn, ‘Darwin's botanical research’, in Solene Morris, Louise Wilson and David Kohn (eds.), Charles Darwin at Down House, Swindon: English Heritage, 2003, pp. 50–59; Peter Ayres, The Aliveness of Plants: The Darwins at the Dawn of Plant Science, London: Pickering and Chatto, 2008; Jonathan Smith, Charles Darwin and Victorian Visual Culture, Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. 140–141; Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis, ‘Darwin's botany in the Origin of Species’, in Michael Ruse and Robert J. Richards (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to the Origin of Species, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. 216–236; Duncan M. Porter and Peter W. Graham, Darwin's Sciences: How Charles Darwin Voyaged from Rocks to Worms in His Search for Facts to Explain How the Earth, Its Geological Features, and Its Inhabitants Evolved, Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2015, pp. 93–151.

13 Darwin was the first to fully understand insectivorous plants, proving that they did indeed digest the dead insects that had often been observed adhering to or inside these plants. Tina Gianquitto, ‘Criminal botany: progress, degeneration, and Darwin's Insectivorous Plants’, in Tina Gianquitto and Lydia Fisher (eds.), America's Darwin: Darwinian Theory and U.S. Literary Culture, Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2014, pp. 235–264; Porter and Graham, op. cit. (12), p. 136.

14 Charles Darwin, On the Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants, London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green, 1865.

15 Charles Darwin, The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants, London: John Murray, 1875, p. 138, emphasis added.

16 Charles Darwin, The Power of Movement in Plants, London: John Murray, 1880, p. 573. For a fuller discussion of some of these topics see Endersby, op. cit. (11); Jim Endersby, A Guinea Pig's History of Biology: The Plants and Animals Who Taught Us the Facts of Life, London: William Heinemann, 2007; and Endersby, Orchid: A Cultural History (The University of Chicago Press, forthcoming).

17 C.R. Darwin to W.E. Darwin [25 July 1863], at

18 C.R. Darwin to Asa Gray, 4 August [1863], at

19 In addition to the orchid book see Darwin Charles R., ‘On the three remarkable sexual forms of Catasetum Tridentatum, an orchid in the possession of the Linnean Society’, Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London (Botany) (1862) 6, pp. 151157; Darwin, The Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species, London: John Murray, 1877; Darwin, The Effects of Cross and Self Fertilisation in the Vegetable Kingdom, London: John Murray, 1876.

20 Quoted in Lawrence J. King, ‘Christian Konrad Sprengel’, in C.C. Gillispie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1975) 12, p. 588.

21 Darwin, op. cit. (7), 2. See also Michael T. Ghiselin, The Triumph of the Darwinian Method, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969, pp. 134–137, 53–54; Bellon Richard, ‘Inspiration in the harness of daily labor: Darwin, botany, and the triumph of evolution, 1859–1868’, Isis (2011) 102, pp. 393420; James G. Lennox, ‘Darwin and teleology’, in Michael Ruse (ed.), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Darwin and Evolutionary Thought, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 152–157.

22 Asa Gray to Darwin, 2 July 1862, Darwin Correspondence Database, at

23 Darwin to Asa Gray, 23[–4] July [1862], Darwin Correspondence Database, at For the continuing contemporary debate over whether (or in what sense) Darwin can be seen as endorsing either teleology or theology, or both, see Ghiselin, op. cit. (21); Lennox James G., ‘Darwin was a teleologist’, Biology and Philosophy (1993) 8(4), pp. 409421; Campbell John Angus, ‘Of orchids, insects, and natural theology: timing, tactics, and cultural critique in Darwin's post-“Origin” strategy’, Argumentation (1994) 8, pp. 6380; Michael Ruse, Darwin and Design: Does Evolution Have a Purpose?, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004; Beatty John, ‘Chance variation: Darwin on orchids’, Philosophy of Science (2006) 73(5), pp. 629641; and Hoquet Thierry, ‘Darwin teleologist? Design in the orchids’, Comptes rendus biologies (2010) 33, pp. 119128.

24 Darwin, op. cit. (7), p. 2.

25 Darwin, op. cit. (7), p. 285.

26 The article originally appeared unsigned (Cornhill Magazine, 3 October 1884, pp. 397–409), but was republished in the USA under Allen's name; page references are to the US reprint: Allen Grant, ‘Queer flowers’, Popular Science Monthly (1884) 26(10), pp. 177187, 177, 80, 82.

27 Jonathan Smith, ‘Grant Allen, physiological aesthetics, and the dissemination of Darwin's botany’, in Sally Shuttleworth and Geoffrey N. Cantor (eds.), Science Serialized: Representations of the Sciences in Nineteenth-Century Periodicals, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004; Smith, op. cit. (10); William Greenslade and Terence Rodgers (eds.), Grant Allen: Literature and Cultural Politics at the Fin de Siècle, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005; Bernard Lightman, Victorian Popularizers of Science: Designing Nature for New Audiences, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007, pp. 266–269; and Smith, op. cit. (12). See also Grant Allen, Charles Darwin, New York: D. Appleton, 1885.

28 Allen, op. cit. (26), pp. 182–185.

29 Grant Allen, Colin Clout's Calendar: The Record of a Summer, April–October, London: Chatto & Windus, 1883, pp. 97–98.

30 Allen, op. cit. (29), p. 97.

31 Darwin, op. cit. (7), p. 2.

32 G. Allen to C. Darwin, 19 February [1881], quoted in Lightman, op. cit. (27), p. 280.

33 C. Darwin to G. Allen, 17 February 1881, quoted in Edward Clodd, Grant Allen: A Memoir, with a Bibliography, London: G. Richards, 1900, p. 111.

34 Gianquitto, op. cit. (13).

35 ‘Vegetable life’ [Review], Morning Post, 17 July 1884, p. 3.

36 John Ellor Taylor, The Sagacity and Morality of Plants: A Sketch of the Life and Conduct of the Vegetable Kingdom, new edn, London: George Routledge and Sons, Ltd, 1884, p. v.

37 Taylor, op. cit. (36), pp. 6–7.

38 ‘Plant life’ [Review], Pall Mall Gazette, 14 July 1884, p. 4.

39 Taylor, op. cit. (36), p. 88.

40 Taylor, op. cit. (36), p. 9.

41 Taylor, op. cit. (36), pp. 88–89.

42 Taylor, op. cit. (36), p. 10.

43 Taylor, op. cit. (36), p. 63.

44 Taylor, op. cit. (36), p. 55.

45 Taylor, op. cit. (36), pp. 1–2, quoting Darwin, op. cit. (16), p. 573.

46 Taylor, op. cit. (36), p. 2.

47 Strictly speaking, these tales belong to more than one genre: some have occult or ‘weird’ elements that might place them within the gothic tradition, while others are more clearly proto-science fiction. However, for present purposes, they belong together because of their common subject matter. See Roger Luckhurst, Science Fiction: Cultural History of Literature, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005; and Brian Baker, Science Fiction, Readers' Guides to Essential Criticism, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

48 Chad Arment (ed.), Botanica Delira: More Stories of Strange, Undiscovered, and Murderous Vegetation, Landisville, PA: Coachwhip Publications, 2010; Arment (ed.), Flora Curiosa: Cryptobotany, Mysterious Fungi, Sentient Trees, and Deadly Plants in Classic Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2nd (revised) edn, Greenville, OH: Coachwhip Publications, 2013; Arment (ed.), Arboris Mysterius: Stories of the Uncanny and Undescribed from the Botanical Kingdom, Greenville, OH: Coachwhip Publications, 2014.

49 Interview with Wells, Weekly Sun Literary Supplement, 1895, quoted in Steven McLean, The Early Fiction of H.G. Wells: Fantasies of Science, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, p. 2.

50 Norman MacKenzie and J. Mackenzie, The Time Traveller: The Life of H.G. Wells, London: Weidenfeld, 1973, pp. 50–57.

51 Herbert George Wells, Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusions of a Very Ordinary Brain (since 1866), Philadelphia and New York: J.B. Lippincott, 1967; first published 1934, p. 461. For Wells's wider debt to Darwin and its implications see Hughes David Y., ‘A queer notion of Grant Allen's’, Science Fiction Studies (1998) 25(2), pp. 271284; David Cowie, ‘The evolutionist at large: Grant Allen, scientific naturalism and Victorian culture’, PhD thesis, University of Kent, 2000; Patrick Parrinder, ‘The old man and his ghost: Grant Allen, H.G. Wells and popular anthropology’, in Greenslade and Rodgers, op. cit. (27), pp. 171–184; Hale Piers J., ‘Of mice and men: evolution and the socialist utopia. William Morris, H.G. Wells, and George Bernard Shaw’, Journal of the History of Biology (2010) 43(1), pp. 1766; and McNabb John, ‘The beast within: H.G. Wells, the Island of Doctor Moreau, and human evolution in the mid-1890s’, Geological Journal (2015) 50, pp. 383397.

52 Adam Roberts, Science Fiction, The New Critical Idiom, London: Routledge, 2006, pp. 1–36. See also note 47 above.

53 Baylen Joseph O., ‘W.T. Stead and the early career of H.G. Wells, 1895–1911’, Huntington Library Quarterly (1974) 38(1), pp. 5379.

54 The earliest French translation of Wells's story, by Achille Laurent, appeared in Le Mercure de France in 1899. Annie Escuret, ‘Henry-D. Davray and the Mercure de France’, in Patrick Parrinder and John S. Partington (eds.), The Reception of H.G. Wells in Europe, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013, pp. 28–47, 34. The National Library of Australia's digital newspaper database, Trove, contains numerous reprints and reviews of ‘Strange orchid’, e.g. The Queenslander (Brisbane), 6 October 1894, p. 642, at, Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW), 20 November 1894, p. 6 at Western Mail (Perth, WA), 21 June 1895, p. 38, at

55 Anon., ‘New novels [review]’, The Australasian, 7 March 1896, p. 42.

56 It is unlikely that Darwinian-inspired popular writings were the only source for the increasingly lively and aggressive plants that appeared in early twentieth-century science fiction. Time-lapse film of plants also brought them to life in a very vivid way at around the same time. See Gaycken Oliver, ‘The secret life of plants: visualizing vegetative movement, 1880–1903’, Early Popular Visual Culture (2012) 10(1), pp. 5169; Gaycken, Devices of Curiosity: Early Cinema and Popular Science, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.  It would be interesting to explore whether these novel films also inspired some of the fictions discussed here. My thanks to Jesse Olszynko-Gryn for the suggestion.

57 White Fred M., ‘The purple terror’, Strand (1896) 18(105), pp. 242251. According to his birth certificate, White was christened ‘Fred’, although numerous sources give his first name as Frederick. Very little is known about him, but a few biographical details can be found at

58 White, op. cit. (57), p. 249.

59 Arment, Flora Curiosa, op. cit. (48), pp. 188–204. The first publication was The Argosy (September 1911) 67(2). For Munsey and his publishing empire see George Britt, Forty Years – Forty Millions: The Career of Frank A. Munsey, New York: Farrar & Rinehart, inc., 1935.

60 Edna M. Underwood, ‘An orchid of Asia: a tale of the South Seas’ (1920), in Arment, Arboris Mysterius, op. cit. (48), pp. 93–99.

61 Wyatt Blassingame, ‘Passion flower’, in The Unholy Goddess and Other Stories: The Weird Tales of Wyatt Blassingame, vol. 3, Vancleave, MS: Dancing Tuatara Press, 2011; first published 1936.

62 Judith R. Walkowitz, City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London, London: Virago, 1992.

63 Rebecca Stott, Fabrication of the Late Victorian Femme Fatale: The Kiss of Death, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992, pp. 15, 44–45. There is, of course, a great deal more to say on the orchid's associations with perverse and decadent sexualities at this period; see my Orchid: A Cultural History, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, forthcoming, for more details.

64 Lucy Bland, ‘The married woman, the “New Woman” and the feminist: sexual politics in the 1890s’, in Jane Rendall (ed.), Equal or Different: Women's Politics, 1800–1914, Oxford: Blackwell, 1987, pp. 141–162.

65 Grant Allen, The Woman Who Did, London: John Lane, 1895.

66 My thanks to Christopher D. Preston for pointing this out.

67 It might be objected that Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus, had made his plants both lively and – drawing on the Linnaean tradition of classification – highly sexual in the section of his poem The Botanic Garden (1791) called ‘The loves of the plants’. However, I would argue that those plants he gendered as female are invariably coy, blushing or modest; conspicuously lacking in the predatory and intelligent sexuality that characterizes the killer orchids. However, when eighteenth-century women were seen to be taking too close an interest in the sexuality of plants, they were likely to be severely criticized. See Shteir, op. cit. (3); and George, op. cit. (3).

68 Charles Darwin, De la fécondation des orchidées par les insectes et des bons résultats du croisement, Paris: C. Reinwald, 1870, translated by Louis Rérolle. See Hoquet, op. cit. (23), p. 126.

69 Britton E.G., ‘The Swiss League for the Protection of Nature’, Torreya (1919) 19(5), pp. 101102.

70 Almost nothing is known of Pouyanne, other than that he wrote several books on French colonial law. He was born in Tlemcen in Algeria on 14 November 1867 and called up for military service in 1887. He appears to have been a member of the Société d'histoire naturelle d'Afrique du Nord Algérianisation d'une société savante coloniale, and of the Linnean society of Lyon, but I have not found any other biographical details, and would be very grateful to hear from anyone who discovers any more about him.

71 Pouyanne apparently made his first observations in 1891. Godfery Masters John, ‘The fertilisation of Ophrys Speculum, O. Lutea, and O. Fusca’, Journal of Botany, British and Foreign (1925) 63(2), pp. 3340, 36. See also Oakes Ames, Pollination of Orchids through Pseudocopulation, Botanical Museum Leaflets, V(1), Cambridge, MA: Botanical Museum of Harvard University, 1937, p. 3.

72 Pouyanne Maurice-Alexandre and Correvon Henry, ‘Un curieux cas de mimétisme chez les Ophrydées’, Journal de la Société nationale d'horticulture de France (1916) 17, pp. 2931, 41–47, 42. Translated for the author by Rebecca Shtasel and Yves Le Juen, University of Sussex.

73 Ames, op. cit. (71), pp. 6–7.

74 Pouyanne and Correvon, op. cit. (72), p. 42.

75 Pouyanne and Correvon, op. cit. (72), p. 42.

76 Pouyanne published a much shorter account in Algeria the following year (Pouyanne Maurice-Alexandre, ‘La fécondation des Ophrys par les insectes’, Bulletin de la Société d'histoire naturelle de l'Afrique du nord (1917) 8(1), pp. 67), in which he described the phenomenon without referring to copulation or using any sexual terminology. Perhaps space was at a premium, or the colonial society was more prudish than the metropolitan one?

77 Rolfe Robert Allen, ‘Fertilisation of Ophrys’, Orchid Review (1920) 27(335–336), pp. 116168, 166. This first publication has (to the best of my knowledge) never been noted before, probably because Rolfe managed to misspell the Franco-Algerian botanist's name as ‘Pouzanne’ throughout.

78 Rolfe, op. cit. (77), p. 168.

79 Godfery and Pouyanne were evidently correspondents, since he wrote ‘[Pouyanne] tells me in a letter that if one takes a bunch of O. speculum in the hand to a colony of pupae, the males at once alight on the flowers, and are so engrossed that they pay no attention to the observer’, Godfery Masters John, ‘The fertilisation of Ophrys Apifera’, Journal of Botany, British and Foreign (1921) 59, pp. 285287, 286. For Godfery see Ray Desmond, Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturalists: Including Plant Collectors, Flower Painters and Garden Designers, London: Taylor & Francis and Natural History Museum, 1994.

80 Godfery, op. cit. (71), pp. 34–35.

81 Coleman Edith, ‘Some autumn orchids’, Victorian Naturalist (1922) 39(8), pp. 103108. For Coleman see Allan McEvey, ‘Coleman, Edith (1874–1951)’, in Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, at, accessed 16 May 2016; and Clode Danielle, ‘Popular and professional communicators: Edith Coleman and Norman Wakefield’, Victorian Naturalist (2005) 122(6), pp. 274281.

82 Coleman Edith, ‘Pollination of the orchid Cryptostylis Leptochila’, Victorian Naturalist (1927) 44(1), pp. 2022, 20.

83 Pat Willmer, Pollination and Floral Ecology, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011, p. 539.

84 Coleman, op. cit. (82), pp. 21–2.

85 Coleman Edith, ‘Pollination of the Orchid Cryptostylis LeptochilaVictorian Naturalist (1928) 44(532), pp. 333340, 333.

86 Coleman, op. cit. (85), p. 337.

87 Coleman, op. cit. (85), p. 334.

88 Coleman, op. cit. (85), p. 337.

89 Coleman, op. cit. (85), p. 340.

90 Taylor toured Australia in 1885 and his work was still being discussed in Australian newspapers in 1902. His Sagacity and Morality was cited in a paper called ‘Do animals and plants think?’ by Rev. Professor Gosman, Colac Herald (Vic.), 7 November 1902, p. 6, at The same talk was reported in the West Gippsland Gazette (Warragul, Vic.), p. 4, at

91 There were dozens of Australian reviews of most of Allen's main books, dating back to their first publication. The newly republished Story of the Plants was briefly reviewed in several papers, including the Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 16 January 1927, p. 18, at, and in a review of ‘Miscellaneous works’ in The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic.), 8 January 1927, p. 52, at, which reminded its readers of the ‘uproar and controversy’ which had greeted The Woman Who Did.

92 Personal communication with Danielle Clode, Flinders University (via email, 4 September 2015), who has interviewed Coleman's grandsons in the course of her biographical research.

93 Christopher Alexander MacKenzie Churchill, ‘Neo-traditionalist fantasies: colonialism, modernism and fascism in Greater France 1870–1962’, PhD thesis, Queen's University, 2010, p. 308.

94 Escuret, op. cit. (54), pp. 28–30, 4.

95 Godfery's monograph on native British orchids was listed as forthcoming twice in Nature and then reviewed in 132(3334) (23 September 1933), p. 464. For an overview of Wells's contributions and reviews see John S. Partington, H.G. Wells in Nature, 1893–1946: A Reception Reader, Frankfurt am Main; Oxford: Peter Lang, 2008. Modern orchid enthusiasts who mention the Wells story include Arditti Joseph, ‘Orchids in science fiction, mystery and adventure stories’, American Orchid Society Bulletin (1979) 48(11), pp. 11221126; Arditti , ‘Orchids in science fiction, mystery and adventure stories, Pt. 2: no blandishments for Miss Orchid’, American Orchid Society Bulletin (1980) 49(9), pp. 10051009; Peter Bernhardt, Wily Violets and Undergound Orchids: Revelations of a Botanist, New York: Vintage Books, 1990; and Retha Edens-Meier and Peter Bernhardt (eds.), Darwin's Orchids: Then and Now, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2014, p. 19. None of the handful of obituaries that I have found mention his literary tastes, and I have not located any other biographical materials. Again, I would be most grateful to hear from surviving descendants or anyone else who can tell me more about him.

96 R. Stebbins, ‘France’, in Thomas F. Glick (ed.), The Comparative Reception of Darwinism, 2nd edn, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988; first published 1974, pp. 117–167.

97 Bellon, op. cit. (6).

98 The first reports of the discovery all credit Pouyanne, Godfery and Coleman with making it independently – and given the speed of communication and need for translation involved, I would argue that within a decade may be called ‘simultaneous’. See Poulton E.B., introduction to Coleman Edith, Poulton Edward Bagnall and Lea Arthur Mills, ‘Pollination of an Australian orchid by a male ichneumonid Lissopimpla Semipunctata’, Transactions of the Royal Entomological Society of London (1928) 76, pp. 333340; Poulton Edward Bagnall, ‘Address of the president of Section D – Zoology, British Association for the Advancement of Science, London, September, 1931’, Science (1931) 74(1919), pp. 345360; and Ames, op. cit. (71).

99 Robert M. Young, Darwin's Metaphor: Nature's Place in Victorian Culture, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985; Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin, London: Michael Joseph, 1991; Peter Raby, Alfred Russel Wallace: A Life, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001; Jim Endersby, ‘Editor's introduction’, in Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: Or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (ed. Jim Endersby), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. xi–lxv. The simultaneous discovery has sometimes led to an exaggeration of the similarity between the two men's ideas; there were many important differences. For a brief overview see Michael Ruse, ‘Myth 12: that Wallace's and Darwin's explanations of evolution were virtually the same’, in Ronald L. Numbers and Kostas Kampourakis (eds.), Newton's Apple and Other Myths about Science, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015, pp. 96–102.

100 Examples include J.G. Ballard, ‘Prima Belladona’, in Ballard, The Four Dimensional Nightmare, London: Science Fiction Book Club, 1963; first published 1956, pp. 79–92; John Boyd, The Pollinators of Eden, London: Pan Science Fiction, 1972; first published 1969; and Pete Adams and Charles Nightingale, ‘Planting time’, in Brian W. Aldiss (ed.), Galactic Empires, vol. 1, New York: St Martin's Press, 1976, pp. 293–305.

101 Boyd, op. cit. (100), pp. 190–199.

102 Another example would be Clifford Simak's ‘Green thumb’, Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1954, pp. 58–78. For a fuller discussion of this theme see Schneekloth Lynda H., ‘Plants: the ultimate alien’, Extrapolations (2001) 42(3), pp. 246254; Miller T.S., ‘Lives of the monster plants: the revenge of the vegetable in the age of animal studies’, Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts (2010) 23(3), pp. 460479.

103 For an accessible overview of this field see Stefano Mancuso, Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence, Washington, DC: Island Press, 2015.

104 As I have acknowledged elsewhere, I am indebted to Jan Golinski for the idea of science functioning as ‘public culture’; see Jan Golinski, Science as Public Culture: Chemistry and Enlightenment in Britain, 1760–1820, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Golinski's formulation helps erase the unhelpful distinction between ‘science’ and ‘society’ that once bedevilled history of science, much as New Historicist literary theory has helped overcome a parallel – and equally unhelpful – distinction between ‘literary’ and ‘historical’ writings. For a brief introduction to the New Historicist approach to literature and history see the chapter ‘History’ in Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle, An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory, London: Prentice Hall Europe, 1999, pp. 117–128.

105 For examples see James A. Secord, Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000; Lightman Bernard, ‘The story of nature: Victorian popularizers and scientific narrative’, Victorian Review (2000) 25(2), pp. 187211; Lightman, op. cit. (27); Ralph O'Connor, The Earth on Show: Fossils and the Poetics of Popular Science, 1802–1856, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007; and Aileen Fyfe and Bernard V. Lightman, Science in the Marketplace: Nineteenth-Century Sites and Experiences, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007).

106 Taylor, op. cit. (36), p. 61.

107 I discussed this aspect of twentieth-century plant sciences in Endersby Jim, ‘Mutant utopias: evening primroses and imagined futures in early twentieth-century America’, Isis (2013) 104(3), pp. 471503.

Acknowledgements: Chad Arment, Danielle Clode, Phil Cribb, Martin Evans, Cathy Gere, Yves Le Juen, Jesse Olszynko-Gryn, Christopher D. Preston, Jonathan Smith, Rebecca Shtasel and Pamela Thurschwell.

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