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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 21st October 2016 > Sealing Beauty

Sealing Beauty

A piece of botanical history finds its audience

@IsabelLloyd

IN 1833, a little more than a quarter-century before publishing On the Origin of Species, with the Beagle at anchor off the treeless shores of Port Desire, southern Argentina, Charles Darwin sat down and drew a flower. Just one flower, a not very good specimen of Gavilea patagonica, the foot-high orchid of temperate grassland that’s a favorite fodder of the guanaco, the local cousin of the llama. First, he blocked out the labellum, at the flower’s procreational business end, with a heavy, thoughtful pencil line; next, with a lighter touch, he sketched the six streaky floral segments that surrounded it. It couldn’t have taken him more than a few minutes. Then he attached the pressed flower to his sketch, signed his name and stored it ready to send back to England.

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