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A Grand Amusement

Part of the Darwin exhibition.

orchis_mascula_lg.jpg
From Darwin's On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects (1862)
©AMNH Library

With typical understatement, Darwin once described his plant experiments as "a grand amusement." But the work was the furthest thing from a hobby; it was an ambitious, innovative research program that Darwin conducted at Down House for decades. Darwin looked at plants in a fresh way, fascinated by the intricate details of their structure and behavior. Above all, Darwin's plant research demonstrated the power of evolution by natural selection.