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As we celebrate Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday next month, the world is likely to see a good deal of controversy regarding the man’s legacy. Those who go in for science will find themselves choked up over the Descent of Man, while the born-again set will howl about the heresy. Thanks to the latter-day naturalists at the Smithsonian, we will also celebrate orchids, the family of numinous plants that provided the first empirical backing for the old boy’s inductive assertions about things like natural selection. If you’re one of the several billion people who never got around to reading The Various Contrivances by which British and Foreign Orchids are Fertilised by Insects and the Good Effects of Intercrossing, this exhibit will give you a good primer—including oddities like the only known orchid fossil. But why look at fossils when you can sniff the real thing? Mainly, “Orchids Through Darwin’s Eyes” is very, very pretty. And certainly better date material than Underworld: Rise of the Lycans.
“ORCHIDS THROUGH DARWIN’S EYES” IS ON DISPLAY FROM 10:30 A.M.-5 P.M. DAILY, TO APRIL 26, AT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, 1000 CONSTITUTION AVE. FREE. (202) 633-1000.