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ON THE MOST STRIKING AND CURIOUS PHENOMENA
Is the other subject I proposed as a source of amusement to your readers; and in fact, the order, arrangement and laws of the vegetable, are not lefs admirable than those of the animal, kingdom. Here the wonder and astonishment of man is equally raised, on seeing something like instinct, governing the movement of plants, which have their regular hours of sleeping and waking, like animated beings, with a certain degree of sensibility, and even predilection for particular objects, positions &c. How are we astonished likewise at the wonderful provision made for the dispersion of seeds, when we see that to
alone in the course of a few years to such a degree of superiority above others, that spirited farmers in his neighbourhood seeing the benefits that would accrue to them from pofsefsing a superior breed thus improved, as early as possible, hired the use of some of his rams for one season only, at great prices. I have been credibly informed that for one particular ram has been drawn at the rate of ONE THOUSAND POUNDS STERLING, in one season. Foreigners will, from hence, with astonishment perceive the energy which the hope of gain inspires in a free nation, where personal property is entirely secured by the mild protection of the law impartially administered. This ought to be considered as a lecture in political economy of infinite importance. "He that hath ears to hear let him hear," that his understanding may be enlightened!
138 genera something like wings are given, to facilitate their being carried by the winds to distant parts. The seeds of 29 more are darted to a great distance from elastic seed vefsels. 50 genera which require dung for their cultivation, are furnished with little hooks by which they adhere to the coats of animals, and are carried to their place of abode, where they find the required soil. 193 genera are planted by beasts and birds, often passing through them with little detriment to their vegetat ing powers, particularly the berry and stone fruit kinds; even man himself, plants some of the last, in a rich soil, independent of his labours in the field or garden.
It is in this manner that fresh dung will fill the cleaneft ground with plants, which possibly had just been rooted out with much labour, and it is likewise thus, that oats will be sown in a field of rye by a flight of larks, to confirm in appearance the short lived ridiculous hypothesis of the transmutation of grain, which has had its supporters like every other reverie of the human brain.
Other seeds, like those of a species of century, are covered with erect bristles, and thereby have a sort of creeping motion, insomuch that no art can confine them in the hand, sleeve, or bosom.
The seeds of the equisetum or fern, present a most curious phenomenon when viewed through a microscope on a piece of paper, as they are seen to leap over minute obstacles, so as to be taken for cheese mites, by those unacquainted with the curious fact. Nothing but the walls of a barn can pre
vent the escape of the bearded or hygrometer oat, which twists itself out of the glume, and makes off, to the great ease of the Dalcarean peasant, its great cultivator, who is spared the trouble of threshing it; but he must take care to fhut the barn door, or his oats may stray to that of his neighbour.
We see the very minute seeds of 14 genera of mfsoes, fungi, byfsus, and mucor, which float in the air like atoms, carried by the winds to all kind of situations, even the tops of walls, houses &c. to take pofsefsion however only of such spots as are unoccupied, and which probably would even have remained barren, had not the e lowly grovellers, which Linnæus calls the labourers of the vegetable. kingdom, prepared the ground for plants of a superior rank, protecting and watering them at the same time, during their tender infancy; nay even the vegetable nobles, the proud trees of the forest, owe similar obligations in their tender years, to these same protecting and fostering plants, which inattentive man often treats with contempt, and regards as a nuisance, with the no lefs useful insects and reptiles.
Nature employs still other means for the necefsary dispersion of seeds; as rivers transport them from one province to another, whilst the sea wafts them from their native, to foreign fhores. Of the cxistance of both these modes of conveyance, the indefatigable Linnæus, was convinced by his own accurate observations. He found for example many Alpine plants in Lapland, carried and planted by rivers thirty-six miles distant from their natural place of
growth, and some foreign plants, as the German century, and the veronica maritima, brought and planted by the sea on the fhores of Sweden. Linnæus brings likewise some facts in proof of his general doctrine of the dispersion of seeds by the winds; vix that the Canadian erigiron or flea bane, was dispersed from the botanic garden of Paris over all Europe, the antirrhinum minus, or lefser toad flax of Bauhin, from that of Upsal over the whole province, as were the datura or thorn apple, the cotula or may weed, and the American gnaphalium or cudweed.
But nature has made as curious, wise, and effectual arrangements, for the preservation, as for the dispersion of seeds. A few of these we fhall likewise just hint at as a subject of admiration and won
Eighty-six genera of plants, whose situation, on the bare sea-fhore, exposes their seeds to become the prey of fishes and birds, the almighty has hid from them in seed vefsels so exactly resembling bells, that they escape notice and destruction, being confounded with the millions of real hells scattered upon the fhore. As an example of this curious fact, the seed vefsels of the medicago or medick, the salicornia or marsh sampire, and the salsola or glofs wort, resemble the cockle so exactly, that they pafs unnoticed with that fhell.
Other means of preservation comes from the faculty given to some plants of hiding their seeds in the ground, such as the subterraneous trefoil and lathyrus, with the arachis or ground nut &c. whilst the - seeds of others are preserved a most astonishing
time in the earth, without losing their vegetating powers; examples of this fact we see in the thistle, and the lobellia or cardinal flower, which have been known to remain in the ground twenty years without injury, and the hypecoon forty, whilst the seeds of the melon, of cafsia, and of sensative, plant, retain their vegetating powers for forty or fifty years.
In fhort it would be endlefs to point out the wonderful ways that providence takes to preserve from extinction every species of plant, as even the very animals are made subservient to this great end; as those who teed on fruits and seeds, hide them in the ground, where they often take root by the negligence, forgetfulness, or death of the owners. Thus the squirrel, the mouse, the jay, &c. plant nuts; and many insects plant corn, and other
I shall now finish my second letter with a fhort note on the sleep of plants.
The vigil and repose of plants, one of the most curious subjects in natural history, merits some slight notice here, qualities pofsefsed in a most eminent degree, by what have been called the solar plants; more particularly by that subdivision of them named Equinoxial, which observe more regular hours, and are lefs affected by the state of the atmosphere, than either the tropical, or meteorical, the other two subdivisions.
The great Linnæus, found the hours of opening and shutting of the equinoxial plants so exact, that he composed a sort of garden clock from them, suf