Skip to main content

Full text of "The romance of plant life, interesting descriptions of the strange and curious in the plant world"

See other formats







A Living Bridge 

Such a bridge is described by Sir J. D. Hooker in bis Himalayan Journals. 







M.A. CANTAB., B.SC. EDIN., F.R.G.S., F.L.S., ETC. 











Plants which move — Sensitive Plant — A tourist from Neptune — The 
World's and the British harvest — Working- of green leaves — 
Power of sunshine — Work done by an acre of plants — Coltsfoot, 
dandelion, pansies, in sunshine and in cold — Woodsorrel and 
crocus — Foxglove — Leaves and light — Adventures of a carbon 
atom— The sap— Cabbages and oaks requiring water— Traveller's 
tree — The water in trees — An oasis in Greece — The associate life 
of its trees and flowers . . . ... 13 



Savages knew Botany — First lady doctors and botanical excursions 
— True drugs and horrible ornaments — Hydrophobia cure — 
Cloves — Mustard — Ivy — Roses and Teeth — How to keep hair on 
— How to know if a patient will recover — Curious properties of a 
mushroom — The Scythian lamb — Quinine : history and use — 
Safflower — Romance of ipecacuanha — Wars of the spice trade — 
Cinnamon, logwood, and indigo — Romance of pepper — Baby- 
lonian and Egyptian botanists — Chinese discoveries — Theo- 
phrastus — Medieval times — The first illustrated book — Numbers 
of plants known — Discoveries of painters and poets . . 27 


A tree's perilous LIFE 

Hemlock spruce and pine forests — Story of a pine seedling — Its 
struggles and dangers — The gardener's boot — Turpentine of 
pines — The giant sawfly — Bark beetles — Their effect on music — 
Storm and strength of trees — Tall trees and long seaweeds — 
Eucalyptus, big trees — Age of trees — Venerable sequoias, oaks, 
chestnuts, and olives — Baobab and Dragontree — Rabbits as 
woodcutters — Fire as protection — Sacred fires — Dug-out and 
birch-bark canoes — Lake dwellings — Grazing animals and forest 
destruction — First kind of cultivation — Old forests in England 
and Scotland — Game-preserving . . . .40 





The forests of the Coal Ag-e — Monkey-puzzle and ginkgo — Wood, 
its uses, colour, and smell — Lasting- properties of wood — Jarrah 
and deodar — Teak — Uses of birch — Norwegian barques — De- 
struction of wood in America — Paper from wood pulp — Forest 
fires — Arid lands once fertile — Britain to be ag-ain covered by 
forests — -Vanished country homes — Ashes at farmhouses — Yews 
in churchyards — History of Man versus Woods in Britain . . 55 



Man's ideas of the use of flowers — Sprengel's great discovery — 
Insects, not man, consulted — Pollen carried to set seed — Flowers 
and insects of the Whinstone Age — Coal Age flowers — Monkey- 
puzzle times — Chalk flowers — Wind-blown pollen — Extravagant 
expenditure of pollen in them — Flower of the pine — Exploding 
flowers — Brilliant alpines — Intense life in flowers — Colour con- 
trasts — Lost bees — Evening flowers — Humming birds and sun- 
birds — Kangaroo — Floral clocks — Ages of flowers — How to get 
flowers all the year round — Ingenious contrivances — Yucca and 
fig — Horrible-smelling flowers — Artistic tastes of birds, insects, 
and man . . ... . . . 68 



Mother-earth — Quarries and Chalk-pits — Wandering atoms — The 
soil or dirt — Populations of Worms, Birds, Germs — Fairy Rings 
— Roots miles long — How roots find their way — How they do 
the right thing and seek only what is good for them — Root 
versus stones — Roots which haul bulbs about — Bishopsweed — 
Wild Garlic — Dandelion, Plantain — Solomon's Seal — Roots throw- 
ing down walls — Strength of a seedling root . . . 82 



The life of a cherry tree — Cherries in March — Flowering of gorse — 
Chickweed's descendants — Forest fires in Africa — Spring pass- 
ing from Italy to the frozen North — Life in the Arctic — Dwarfs — 
Snow-melting soldanellas — Highland Arctic -Alpine plants — 
Their history — Arctic Britain — Edelweiss — An Alpine garden . 97 





Famous countries which were covered by it — Trees which are colon- 
izing- the desert — Acacia scrub in East Africa, game and lions — 
Battle between acacia and camels, etc. — Australian half-deserts 
— Explorers' fate — Queen Hatasu and the first geographical 
expedition recorded — Frankincense, myrrh, gums, and odorous 
resins — Manna — Ladanum — Burning bush — Olives, oranges, and 
perfume farms — Story of roses — Bulgarian attar of roses — How 
pomade is made — Cutting down of forests and Mohammed . 107 



English tea-drinking- — Story of our tea — Assam coolies — Manufac- 
ture in India and China — Celestial moisture — Danger of tea — 
The hermit and his intelligent goat — Government coffee and 
cafes — Chicory — Chocolate — Aztecs — Kola and its curious effects 
— Tobacco — Sir Walter Raleigh — Great emperors and tobacco — 
Could we grow tobacco ? — Story of a Sumatra cigar — Danger of 
young people smoking tobacco . . . . . 120 



What are deserts like? — Camel-riding — Afterglow — Darwin in 
South America — Big Bad Lands — Plants which train themselves 
to endure thirst — Cactus and euphorbia — Curious shapes — Grey 
hairs — Ice-plant — Esparto grass — Retama — Colocynth — Sudden 
flowering of the Karoo — Short-lived flowers — Colorado Desert — 
Date palms on the Nile — Irrigation in Egypt— The creaking 
Sakkieh— Alexandria hills — The Nile and Euphrates . . 131 



What was Ancient Britain? — Marshes and bittern— Oak forest — 
Pines — Savage country — Cornfield — Fire — Ice — Forest — Worms 
—Paleolithic family — The first farmers— Alfred the Great's first 
Government agricultural leaflet — Dr. Johnson — Prince Charlie's 
time — Misery of our forefathers — Oatmeal, milk, and cabbages — 
Patrick Miller — Tennyson's Northern Farmer — Flourishing 
days of 1830 to 1870 — Derelict farmhouses and abandoned crofts 
— Where have the people gone ? — Will they come back ? . . 143 






Lake Aral and Lake Tschad — Mangrove swamps of West Africa — 
New mudbanks colonized — Fish, oysters, birds, and mosquitoes 
— Grasping- roots and seedlings — Extent of mangroves — Tou ra- 
dons of the Rhone— Sea-meadows of Britain — Floating pollen — 
Reeds and sedges of estuarine meadows — Storms — Plants on 
ships' hulls — Kelps and tangles in storms — Are seaweeds use- 
less?— Fish . . . . ... 156 



An old wall — Beautiful colours — Insects — Nature's chief aim — Hard 
times of lichens— Age of lichens — Crusts — Mosses — Lava flows 
of great eruptions — Colonizing plants — Krakatoa — Vesuvius — 
Greenland volcanoes — Sumatra — Shale-heaps — Foreigners on rail- 
way lines — Plants keep to their own grounds — Precipices and 
rocks — Plants which change the scenery — Canons in America . 166 



Animals and grass — Travellers in the elephant grass — Enemies in 
Britain — Cactus versus rats and wild asses — Angora kids v. 
acacia — The Wait-a-bit thorn — Palm roots and snails — Wild yam 
V. pig — Larch v. goat — Portuguese and English gorse — Haw- 
thorn V. rabbits — Briers, brambles, and barberry — The bramble 
loop and sick children or ailing cows — Briers of the wilderness — 
Theophrastus and Phrygian goats — Carline near the Pyramids — 
Calthrops — Tragacanth — Hollies and their ingenious contri- 
vances — How thorns and spines are formed — Tastes of animals . 177 



Stinging nettles at home and abroad — The use of the nettle — Sham 
nettles — Sensitive plants — Mechanism — Plants alive, under chloro- 
form and ether — Telegraph plant — Woodsorrel — Have plants 
nerves ? — Electricity in the Polar regions— Plants under electric 
shocks — Currents of electricity in plants — The singing of trees 
to the electro-magnetic ear — Experiments — Electrocution of 
vegetables . . . . ... 191 





The first plant — Seaweeds in hot baths — Breaking of the meres — 
Gory Dew — Plants driven back to the water — Marsh plants — 
Fleur-de-Lis — Reeds and rushes — Floating islands — Water-lilies 
— Victoria regia — Plants i8o feet deep — Life in a pond, as seen 
by an inhabitant — Fish-farming — The useful Diatom — Willows 
and Alders — Polluted streams — The Horn wort — The Florida 
Hyacinth — Reeds and grass-reeds — The richest lands in the 
world — Papyrus of Egypt — Birds and hippopotami — Fever and 
ague . . . . ... 200 



Where is peace? — Troubles of the grass — Roadsides — Glaciers in 
Switzerland — Strength and gracefulness of grasses — Rainstorms 
— Dangers of Drought and of swamping — Artificial fields — 
Farmer's abstruse calculations — Grass mixtures — Tennis lawns 
— The invasion of forest — Natural grass — Prairie of the United 
States, Red Indian, Cowboy — Pampas and Gaucho — Thistles 
and tall stories — South Africa and Boers — Hunting of the 
Tartars — An unfortunate Chinese princess — Australian shep- 
herds ....... 213 



Poisoned arrows — Fish poisons — Manchineel — Curare — A wonder- 
ful story — Antiaris — Ordeals — The Obi poison — Oracles produced 
by poisons — Plants which make horses crazy and others that 
remove their hair — Australian sheep and the Caustic Creeper — 
Swelled head — Madness by the Darling Pea — Wild and tame 
animals, how they know poisons — How do they tell one another? 
— The Yew tree, when is it, and when is it not poisonous ? . 226 



Bright colours of fruits — Unripe fruits and their effects — An intem- 
perate Fungus — Oranges — Prickly pear and the monkey — Strong 
seeds — Bill-of-fare of certain birds — A wood-pigeon and beans — 
Ants and seeds — Bats, rats, bears, and baboons — The rise in 
weight of a Big Gooseberry — Mr. Gideon and the Wealthy Apple 
— Crossing fruits — Breadfruit and banana — Dates — Figs — Olives 
— Pineapples by the acre — Apples and pears — Home and Cana- 
dian orchards . . ... 240 





Ships and stowaway seeds — Tidal drift — Sheep, broom, migrating- 
birds — Crows and acorns — Ice — Squirrels — Long flight of birds 
— Seeds in mud — Martynia and lions — The wanderings of 
Xanthium — Cocoanut and South Sea Islands — Sedg-es and floods 
— Lichens of Arctic and Antarctic — Manna of Bible — The Tumble 
weeds of America — Catapult and sling- fruits — Cow parsnips — 
Parachutes, shuttlecocks, and kites — Cotton — The use of hairs 
and wings — Monkey's Dinner-bell — Sheep-killing grasses . . 254 



Bloated and unhealthy plants — Oats of the Borderers, Norsemen, 
and Danes — Wheat as a wild plant — Barley — Rye — Where was 
the very first harvest? — Vine in the Caucasus — Indians sowing 
corn — Early weeds — Where did weeds live before cultivation ? — 
Armies of weeds — Their cunning and ingenuity — Gardeners' feats 
— The Ideal Bean — Diseased pineapples — Raising beetroot and 
carrot — Story of the travels of Sugar-cane — Indian Cupid — Beet- 
root and Napoleon . . , ... 269 



Meaning of Plant Life — Captive and domesticated germs — Solomon's 
observations denied by Buffbn but confirmed by recent writers — 
Ants as keepers and germinators of corn — Ant fields — Ants 
growing mushrooms — Leaf-cutting ants — Plants which are 
guarded by insects — The African bush — Ants boarded by Acacias 
and by Imbauba trees — Ants kept in China and Italy — Cock- 
chafer V. ant — Scale insects — A fungus which catches worms . 281 



The Phylloxera — French sport — Life history of the Phylloxera — 
Cockchafer grubs — Wireworm — The misunderstood crows — 
Dangerous sucklings of greenflies — "Sweat of heaven" and"Saliva 
of the stars" — A parasite of a parasite of a parasite — Buds — The 
apple-blossom weevil — Apple-sucker — The codlin moth and the 
ripening apple — The pear midge — A careless naturalist and his 
present of rare eggs — Leaf-miners — Birds without a stain upon 
their characters — Birds and man — Moats — Dust and mites — The 
homes of the mites — Buds, insect eggs, and parent birds flourish- 
ing together . . . . ... 290 






Effects of opium — The poppy-plant and its latex — Work of the opium- 
g-atherer — Where the opium poppy is grown — Haschisch of the 
Count of Monte Cristo — HeckHng-, scotching, and retting — 
Hempseed and bhang — Users of haschisch — Use of india-rubber 
— Why plants produce rubber — With the Indians in Nicaragua — 
The Congo Free State — Scarcity of rubber — Columbus and Tor- 
quemada — Macintosh— Gutta-percha . ... 301 



Robin-run-the-Hedge — Bramble bushes — Climbing roses — Spiny, 
wiry stems of smilax — The weak young stem of a liane — The 
way in which stems revolve — The hop and its little harpoons — A 
climbing palm — Rapidity of turners — The effect of American life 
on them — Living bridges — Rope bridges in India — The common 
stitchwort — Tendrils — Their behaviour when stroked or tickled — 
Their sensibility — Their grasping power — The quickness with 
which they curve and their sense of weight — Charles Darwin — 
Reasonableness of plants — Corkscrew spirals — The pads of the 
Virginian Creeper — The ivy — Does it do harm? — Embracing 
roots — Tree ivy . . . . • > • 3^3 



The kinds of cannibals — Bacteria — Spring flowers — Pale, ghostly 
Wood-flowers — Their alliance with fungi— Gooseberries growing 
on trees — Orchid-hunting — The life of an orchid — The mistletoe 
— Balder the Beautiful — Druids — Mistletoe as a remedy — Its 
parasitic roots — The trees it prefers — The Cactus Loranthus — 
Yellow Rattle and Eyebright, or Milk-thief, and their root- 
suckers — Broomrape and toothwort — Their colour and tastes — 
The scales of the toothwort which catch animalcula — Sir Stam- 
ford Raffles— A flower a yard across — The Dodder— Its twining 
stem and sucker-roots — Parasites rare, degenerate and danger- 
ously situated . . . . ... 327 



Brittle Star v. algs — Fungus v. meal-worm — Stag-headed cater- 
pillars — Liverwort v. small insects — Natural flower-pots — Water- 
cups of Bromeliads — Sarracenia and inquiring insects — An 
unfortunate centipede — Pitcher plants : their crafty contrivances 
— Blowflies defy them and spiders rob them — Bladderwort's 



traps which catch small fry — Hairs and their uses — Plants used 
as fly-papers — Butterwort v. midges — Its use as rennet — Sun- 
dew and its sensitive tentacles — Pinning- down an insect — Suffo- 
cating and chloroforming the sundew — Venus' fly-trap which 
acts like a rat-trap — Have plants a nervous system? . . 340 



Peat-mosses and their birds — Moorlands — Cotton-grass — Scotch 
whisky — Growth of peat-moss — A vegetable pump — Low-lying 
and moorland mosses — Eruptions and floods of peat — Colonizing 
by heather and Scotch fir — Peat-mogses as museums — Remains 
of children and troopers — Irish elk — Story of the plants in Den- 
mark — Rhododendrons and peat — Uses of peat — Reclaiming the 
mosses near Glasgow . . . ... 353 



Giving names the first amusement — Curious and odd names — A 
spiteful naturalist — The melancholy Bartzia — Common names — 
British orchids — Dancing girls and columbines — Susans — Biblical 
names — Almond, apple, locust — Spikenard — Tares — Effects of 
darnel — Daffodil — Acanthus leaf — Ghost-disturbing branches — 
Elder or bour tree — Its powers and medicinal advantage — Dane- 
wort — Mandrake — How to pull it up — The insane root — Its 
properties — Plants which make bones pink — The betel nut — 
Henna — Egyptian and Persian uses — Castor oil — Leeks, onions, 
and garlic — Ancient use of them . ... 363 

Index . . ... 375 




I. A Sentinel Palm in the Andreas Canon, California 24 

II. The Garden of Eden 

III. A Giant Douglas Fir 

IV. A Dragon Tree in the Canary Islands 
V. Shooting the Hozu Rapids in Japan . 

VI. A Forest Fire 

VII. Thrashing Corn in Chile 

VIII. Wistaria in Kamaido Park, Japan 

IX. Gathering Olives in the South of France 

X. The Egyptian Queen Hataru's Expedition 

XI. Weighing the Day's Work 

XII. A Tobacco Plantation in Cuba 

XIII. Giant Cactus near Aconcagua Valley, Chile 

XIV. AND XV. Then and Now 
XVI. A Ricefield in China 

XVII. Cultivated Bamboo in a Chinese Plantation 

XVIII. Calthrops .... 

XIX. A Leaf Raft .... 

XX. Felling of Giant Trees in California 

XXI. A Bushman digging up Elephant's Foot 

XXII. Pineapples as a Field Crop . 

XXIII. Banana Carriers in Jamaica . 

XXIV. A Cocoa-nut Grove in Ceylon 

XXV. Cotton-fields in Georgia, U.S.A. 












XXVII. Sugar Cane in Queensland 

XXVIII. Gathering Rubber in Tehuantepec 

XXIX. A Living Bridge 

XXX. In a Kentish Hop Garden 

XXXI. Cinnamon Peeling in Ceylon 

XXXII. Fungus in Caterpillar 

XXXIII. An Arctic Alpine Plant 

XXXI V^. Lake Dwellings in Early Britain 


. 279 

. 3^3 

. 316 

• 33J^ 

. 340 

. 354 

. 359 





Plants which move — Sensitive Plant — A tourist from Neptune — The 
World's and the British harvest — Working of green leaves— Power of 
sunshine — Work done by an acre of plants — Coltsfoot, dandehon, 
pansies, in sunshine and in cold — Woodsorrel and crocus — Foxglove 
— Leaves and light — Adventures of a carbon atom — The sap — 
Cabbages and oaks requiring water — Traveller's tree — The water in 
trees— An oasis in Greece — The associate hfe of its trees and flowers. 

WHEN we remember either the general appearance 
or the way in which a cabbage or a turnip appears 
to exist, it does not seem possible to call them 
active. It is difficult to imagine anything less lively than 
an ordinary vegetable. They seem to us the very model of 
dullness, stupidity, and slowness; they cannot move even 
from one field to the next ; they are " fast rooted in the 
soil"; "they languidly adjust their vapid vegetable loves" 
like Tennyson's Oak. 

In fact one usually speaks of vegetating when anybody is 
living a particularly dull, unexciting kind of life in one 
particular place. 

And it even seems as if the books, which are supposed to 



give us the best information about the study of plants, and 
which are not very attractive little books, quite agree with 
the ordinary views of the subject. 

For one finds in them that plants differ from animals in 
being " incapable of motion." This, of course, just means 
that an animal, or rather most animals, can walk, swim, or 
fly about, whilst plants have roots and do not move from one 
spot to another. But it is not true to say that plants cannot 
move, for most plants grow, which means that they move, 
and in some few cases, we find that plants behave very much 
in the same way as animals do when they are touched or 
excited in any way. 

We shall have to speak about tendrils, roots, and insect- 
catching plants later on. But it is perhaps the Sensitive 
Plant which shows most distinctly that it can shrink back or 
shrink together when it is bruised or roughly handled. 

It will be described in its place, but just to show that 
this plant can move of its own accord, it is only necessary 
to hold a lighted or burning match about an inch or so below 
the end of a long leaf. If one does this then all the little 
leaflets begin to fold up, and finally the main stalk droops ; 
soon afterwards other leaves higher up the stalk begin to be 
affected in the same way, and fall limply down one after the 
other. It is supposed that this movement frightens a grazing 
animal, who will imagine there is something uncanny about 
the plant and leave it alone. There are many respects in 
which this reaction of the Sensitive Plant resembles that 
found in animals. It does not take place if the plant is 
chloroformed or treated with ether; the leaves also get 
" fatigued " if too often handled, and refuse to rise up again. 

There are, however, only a very few plants in which an 
immediate, visible answer to a stimulus can be detected. But 



all plants are at work ; they have periods of rest which 
correspond to our sleep, but during their ordinary working 
hours they never slacken off, but continue vigorously active. 

The life of man is so short that it is difficult to realize all 
that is being done by the world of plants. It is necessary to get 
beyond our human ideas of time. That is most conveniently 
done by considering how our plant world would strike an 
inhabitant of the planet Neptune. Our theoretical Neptunian 
would be accustomed to a year of 60,127 days (164 of our 
years) ; we will suppose that three of our years are a Nep- 
tunian week, and that ten of our days are about three-quarters 
of a Neptunian hour, whilst two earth-hours would be a 
minute to him. 

If such a being were to observe our earth, he would be 
astonished at the rapidity of our vegetable world. The buds 
would seem to him to swell visibly ; in the course of an hour 
or two, the bare boughs of the trees would clothe themselves 
with the luxuriant greenery of midsummer. Hops would 
fly round and round their poles, climbing at the rate of a 
foot a minute. Bare places, such as the gravel heaps near 
a sandpit, or the bare railroad tracks at a siding, would be 
perhaps in one week entirely covered by rich grass and wild 
flowers. In six Neptunian months a forest of graceful 
larches would spring up to a height of seventy or eighty feet. 

So that, if one thinks Neptunially, the activity of plants 
can be easily realized. 

The truth is that we are so familiar with common annual 
events, such as the regular harvest every year, that we never 
seem to realize what it means. There are some 1,400,000,000 
human beings on the earth to-day, and they entirely depend 
on the work done every year by cultivated and wild plants. 

Even in one of the least agricultural of all civilized 



countries, such as Great Britain, the cultivation of plants is 
still the largest national industry. In 1897 we grew enough 
corn to give a ration of lib. per diem to every inhabitant 
for 68 days, and we manage to get a large amount from 
every acre (28 to 33 bushels per acre). In most other 
countries the relative importance of land and of agriculture 
generally is very much greater than it is in Britain. 

Moreover, it seems at first sight as if all this harvest had 
been made out of nothing at all. Plants do take in a small 
amount of mineral matter from the earth, but these minerals 
form but a very little part of the bulk of a tree or any 
vegetable substance. 

A piece of wood can be burnt up in a fire and very little 
indeed of it is left. A few ashes will indeed remain, which 
are the minerals taken in from the earth, but all the rest has 
vanished into the atmosphere. The water which was con- 
tained in the wood has become steam and is evaporated ; the 
woody matter consisted chiefly of compounds of a chemical 
substance, carbon, which also becomes an invisible gas 
(carbonic acid gas) in a fire and goes back into the atmo- 

When the piece of wood was formed in a growing tree, it 
is easy to see where the water came from : it was taken in by 
the roots. Just as flowers drink up the water in a vase, and 
wither if they do not receive enough, so all plants suck up 
water by their roots. The carbonic acid gas is taken into 
plants through their leaves and is worked up into sugar, 
starch, wood, and other matters inside the plant. 

But there is another very interesting point about the way 
in which wood is burnt in a fire ; heat and light are obtained 
from a wood fire. Where did that heat and light come 
from ? 



If you walk in summer, under a tree in full leaf, it is 
much cooler than it is in the sunshine outside. This shows 
what happens : the sunshine has been taken up or absorbed 
by the leaves of the tree. It does not pass through the 
foliage, but the heat and light are stopped by the leaves. 

The light and heat which were used up by the leaves in 
making wood, sugar, and starch come back again when that 
wood or starch is burnt. 

So that the burning up of a bit of wood is just the 
opposite to the formation of that wood in sunshine in a 
living tree. The important point is that it is the sunshine 
which is used by plants to make all these refractory bodies, 
such as water, carbonic acid gas, and others, unite together 
to form sugar, starch, and wood. 

As the earth revolves upon its axis, sunlight falls succes- 
sively on every acre of land. Almost everywhere it is inter- 
cepted by green foliage. Each leaf of every plant receives and 
absorbs as much as it can, and, for so long as the light lasts, 
its living particles are hard at work : water or sap is hurry- 
ing up the stem and streaming out of the leaves as water 
vapour. Carbonic acid gas also is hurrying into the leaves ; 
inside these latter first sugar and then starch is being manu- 
factured, so that the green cells become filled with starch 
or sugar. 

So soon as the light fails, the work begins to slacken. When 
darkness sets in, the starch changes to sugar and passes down 
the leaf-stalk into the stem, where it is used up in growth, in 
the formation of new wood or in supplying the developing 
flowers or young buds. 

Next morning when the sunlight touches the plant all its 
little living cells set to work again, and another day''s task is 
begun. It is very difficult to understand what is going on 
B 17 


inside the leaf. If you were to imagine a square yard of 
leaves all taking in sunshine and making starch as they do 
in fine weather ; then if you weighed all these leaves, and 
then weighed them again one hour after they had been in 
the sunshine, of course that square yard of leaf surface 
should be heavier, because a certain amount of starch has 
been formed in it. The amount actually made in one hour 
has been estimated by Dr. Horace Brown as 5^^ lb. So 
that 100 square yards of leaves working in sunshine for 
five hours might make one pound of starch. But one can 
estimate the activity of plants in another way. Look at the 
amount of work done by the Grass, etc., on an acre of pasture 
land in one year. This might entirely support a cow and 
calf during the summer ; all the work done by these 
animals, as well as all the work which can be done on the 
beef which they put on, is due to the activity of the grasses 
on that acre. Moreover it is not only these large animals 
that are supported, but every mouse, every bird, every 
insect, and every worm which lives on that piece of ground, 
derives all its energy from the activity of the plants 

All work which we do with our brains or muscles involves 
the consumption of food which has been formed by plants 
under the warm rays of the sun. 

So that man's thoughts and labour, as well as that of every 
living creature, is in the first instance rendered possible 
by sunshine. 

But the sunlight, besides this all-important function, 
affects plants in other ways. 

One of the most interesting of the early spring flowers is 
the Coltsfoot. On bare blackish and unsightly heaps of 
shale one may see quantities of its golden blossoms. Now if 



one looks at them on a fine sunny day, every single blossom 
will be widely opened and each will turn towards the 

In wet cold weather every blossom will hang its head and 
be tightly closed up. Exactly the same may be observed 
with the Dandelion, which is, indeed, still more sensitive 
than the Coltsfoot. In cold wet weather it is so tightly 
closed that it is barely possible to make out the yellow 
colour of the flower, but on warm sunny days it opens wide : 
every one of its florets drinks in as much as possible of the 
genial sunshine. Both opening and closing are produced 
by the warmth and light of the sun's rays. 

It is also the same with Pansies. On a fine day they 
spread out widely, but in cold wet weather the heads hang 
over and the whole flower shrinks together. 

Perhaps the most interesting of them all are the little 
Woodsorrel and the Crocus. 

Both are exceedingly sensitive to sunlight, or rather to the 
cold. A mere cloud passing over the sun on a fine spring 
morning will close up the flowers of the Crocus. In cold 
weather, if you bring one of its flowers indoors and put it 
near a bright light it will open widely, sometimes in a few 

What produces these changes ? It is very difficult to say, 
but every change helps towards the general good of the 
plant. In warm sunny weather insects are flying about, and 
they can enter the flower if it is open. These insects help 
in setting the seed (as we shall see in another chapter). In 
cold wet weather the flowers are best closed, as the rain might 
injure the florets and because also no insects are abroad. 

Both the Foxglove and the Blue Vetch ( Vicia Cracca) are 
specially ingenious in their way of obtaining light. For the 



stalk of every separate blossom bends so that its head turns 
to the best lighted or sunniest side. Thus, if you have 
Foxgloves planted against a wall, every flower will turn 
away from it ; if you plant them in a circular bed, every 
one turns to the outside, so that every flower can get the 

Every one who has kept plants in a window knows that 
the stems turn towards the light. This has the eff*ect of 
placing the leaves where they can get as much sunshine as 
possible. The leaves themselves are also affected by sun- 
light. They seem to stretch out in such a way that they 
absorb as much of it as they can. 

That, of course, is what they ought to do, for they want 
to obtain as much as possible of the sunlight to carry on the 
work of forming sugar and starch inside the leaf. 

Not only each leaf by itself endeavours to place itself in 
the best light-position, but all the leaves on the same spray 
of, for instance. Elm, Lime, or Horsechestnut, arrange them- 
selves so that they interfere with one another as little as 
possible.^ Very little light is lost by escaping between the 
leaves, and very few of the leaves are overshaded by their 
neighbours on the same branch. 

Thus all co-operate in sunlight-catching. But, when a 
number of different plants are competing together to catch 
the light on one square yard of ground, their leaves try 
to overreach and get beyond their neighbours. 

On such a square yard of ground, it is just the competi- 
tion amongst the plants, that makes it certain that every 
gleam of light is used by one or other of them. 

Every one of all those plants of itself alters the slope of 

1 Kerner, Natural History of Plants; also Scott EUiot, Nature 
Studies — Plant Life. 



its leaves and turns its stems so as to get as much light as 

This light, as we have seen, is taken in by the plant. It 
is used to make the gas, carbonic acid,^ unite with water : 
when these are made to join together, they form sugar; if 
the sugar is burnt the heat and light appear again. 

By changing the amount and arrangement of the mole- 
cules in sugar, starch or vegetable fats, and many other sub- 
stances can be formed. But it is the sunlight that makes 
all this possible. 

Thus the sun not merely supplies the motive power for all 
animal and vegetable activity but, by its influence, flowers, 
leaves, and stems move and turn in such ways that they are 
in the most convenient position to intercept its light. 

The sunlight, though all-important in the life of most 
plants, kills many kinds of bacteria and bacilli which love the 
darkness. The well-known radium rays are also destructive 
to bacteria, and hinder the growth of certain fungi (Bec- 
querel's rays have a similar effect). The X-rays are not so 
well understood, but one can close the leaflets of the Sensitive 
Plant by means of them. 

Carbonic acid gas forms but a small proportion of the 
atmosphere which surrounds a growing plant. Yet there 
is no lack of it, for when the leaf is at work forming 
sugar the particles of gas are rushing into the leaf, and 
other particles come from elsewhere to take their place. 
Every fire and every Iw'eath given off" by an animal 

^ The gas Carbonic acid consists of one part of Carbon and two of 
Oxygen. It is invisible, just as are the gaseous states of many liquids 
and solids. Water-vapour is not visible, though water (liquid) and ice 
can of course be seen. Starch, sugar, cellwall substance, etc. , all con- 
tain Carbon, Oxygen, and Hydrogen. Vegetable fat is not well under- 
stood, but starch helps to form it. 


yields up carbonic acid, so that it is constantly in circu- 

This is more easily seen by tracing the probable history 
of an atom of carbon. We will suppose that it enters 
a grass leaf as carbonic acid gas and becomes starch : 
next evening it will become sugar and may pass from cell to 
cell up the stem to where the fruit or grain is ripening. It 
will be stored up as starch in the grain. This grass will 
become hay and in due course be eaten by a bullock. The 
starch is changed and may be stored up in the fat of the 
animal's body. When this is eaten at somebody's dinner, 
the fat will most probably be consumed or broken up ; this 
breaking up may be compared to a fire, for heat is given off, 
and the heat in this case will keep up the body-temperature 
of the person. The carbon atom will again become carbonic 
acid gas, for it will take part of the oxygen breathed in, and 
be returned to the atmosphere as carbonic acid gas when the 
person is breathing. 

Another atom of carbon might enter the leaves of a tree : 
it will be sent down as sugar into the trunk and perhaps 
stored up as vegetable fat for the winter. Next spring the 
vegetable fat becomes starch and then sugar : as sugar it will 
go to assist in forming woody material. It may remain as 
wood for a very long time, possibly 150 to 200 years : then 
the tree falls and its wood begins to decay. 

The bark begins to break and split because beetles and 
woodlice and centipedes are burrowing between the bark and 
the wood. Soon a very minute spore of a fungus will some- 
how be carried inside the bark, very likely sticking to the 
legs of a beetle. This will germinate and begin to give out 
dissolving ferments which, with the aid of bacteria, attack 
the wood. Our carbon atom is probably absorbed into the 


fungus. Very soon the mushroom-like heads of this fungus 
begin to swell and elongate; they burst through the bark 
and form a clump of reddish-yellow Paddock-stools. A fly 
comes to the fungus and lays an egg in it. This egg 
becomes a fat, unpleasant little maggot which eats the fun- 
gus, and amongst others devours our carbon atom, which 
again becomes fat in its body. Then a tomtit or other 
small bird comes along and eats the maggot. That bird 
stays out too late one evening and is eaten by an owl. The 
owl, satisfied with a good meal, allows itself to be surprised 
and shot by a keeper. When its body is nailed to a door 
and decays away, the carbon atom again takes up oxygen 
and becomes carbonic acid gas, which escapes into the atmo- 
sphere, and is ready for a fresh series of adventures. 

We must now consider the water which with carbonic acid 
gas makes up sugar, etc. All plants contain a large per- 
centage of water. This may be as much as 95 to 98 per 
cent in water plants, and 50 to 70 per cent in ordinary 
tissues ; it is contained in every sort of vegetable substance. 

But there is also a stream of water or sap which is almost 
always entering the roots, rising up the stem, and passing 
into the lieaves. On these leaves there are hundreds of 
minute openings called stomata, by which the water escapes 
as water- vapour into the atmosphere. A single oak leaf may 
have 2,000,000 of these stomata. 

It is this current of sap which keeps the leaf fresh and 
vigorous ; it is also by this current that every living cell is 
supplied with water and kept in a strong, healthy condition. 

The amount of water used in this way is very great ; in 
four months an acre of cabbages will transpire or give out 
through its leaves 3,500,000 pints of water and an 
acre of hops from 5 J to 7 millions. A single oak tree, 



supposed to have 700,000 leaves, must apparently have given 
off into the atmosphere during five months 230,000 lb. of 

Sometimes the water is so abundant in the plant that it 
collects as drops on the tips of the leaves and falls off as 
fluid water. A very young greenhouse plant (Caladium 
nymphaefolium) was found by Molisch to give off 190 water- 
drops a minute, and in one night it exuded one-seventeenth 
of a pint. 

The water is found stored up in the stems or leaves of 
plants, especially those of hot or dry climates. The Mada- 
gascar Traveller's Tree, Ravenala, has a considerable amount 
of water in a hollow at the base of its leaf, and it is possible 
to drink this water. The usual story is to the effect that 
a panting traveller finds this palm in the middle of the 
desert, and saves his life by quenching his thirst with its 
crystal-clear water. Unfortunately the tree never grows far 
from marshy ground or springs, and the water, which I tasted 
for curiosity, had an unpleasant vegetable taste, with 
reminiscences of bygone insect life. 

These are, of course, exceptional cases ; as a rule the tiny 
root-hairs search and explore the soil ; the sap or ascending 
current passes up the stem and pours out into the atmo- 
sphere. There the vapour is hurried off by winds, and 
eventually condenses and, falling as snow or rain on the earth, 
again sinks down into the soil. 

It is very difficult to understand how the sap or water rises 
in the trunks of tall trees ; we know that along the path of 
the sap inside, the root-hairs and other cells in the root, the 
various cells in the stem, and finally those of the leaf, are all 
kept supplied and distended or swollen out with water. All 
these living cells seem to have the power of absorbing or 


;'X,'^f :^ 

stereo Copyright, Vncie, 

A Sentinel PaLiM in the Andreas Canon, California 

This and such palms are often placed at the mouths of canons to indicate water, and 
lay, indeed, thus save the lives of passing travellers. 


sucking in water,^ and eventually they are so full and dis- 
tended within, that the internal pressure becomes almost 
incredible. Wieler found in the young wood of a Scotch fir 
that the pressure was sixteen atmospheres, or 240 lb. to the 
square inch. Dixon, when experimenting with leaf-cells, 
found ten, twenty, or even thirty atmospheres (150 to 
4501b. to the square inch). No locomotive engine has 
cylinders strong enough to resist such internal pressures as 
these. It is an extraordinary fact, and one almost incredible, 
that the cells can stand such pressures. 

Yet these minute living cells not only exist but work at 
this high tension, and, in some cases, they live to about 
fifty years. 

In this favoured country of Great Britain, it is unusual to 
find any serious lack of water. But in Italy or Greece, every 
drop of it is valuable and carefully husbanded. 

Sometimes in such arid dry countries, a small spring of 
water will form around itself a refreshing oasis of greenery 
surrounded everywhere by dreary thorn-scrub or monotonous 
sand. All the plants in such a spot have their own special 
work to do : the graceful trees which shade the spring, the 
green mosses on the stones, the fresh grass and bright flowers 
or waving reeds, are all associated in a common work. They 
protect and shelter each other ; their dead leaves are used to 
form soil ; their roots explore and break up the ground. It 
is true that they are competing with one another for water 
and for light, but they are all forming a mutual protection, 
and producing an annual harvest. 

In a climate like our own we cannot, like the Greek, 
suppose a Nymph in the shape of a lovely young woman 

^ The ascent is assisted by the osmotic absorption of water at the root 
and by evaporation at the leaves. 



watching over the spring, for she would infallibly suffer 
from rheumatism and ague. 

But every living cell in every plant in such an oasis 
depends upon the water of the spring. All the plants there 
form an association which can be quite well compared to a 
city or some other association of human beings. They do 
compete, for they struggle to do the most work for the good 
of the community, and they incidentally obtain their liveli- 
hood in the process. 

Most plant societies or associations such as those which 
cover Great Britain are not so obviously dependent on one 
particular spring, but the plants composing them are asso- 
ciated in a very similar way. 




Savages knew Botany— First lady doctors and botanical excursions — 
True drugs and horrible ornaments — Hydrophobia cure — Cloves — 
Mustard— Ivy— Roses and Teeth— How to keep hair on— How to 
know if a patient will recover — Curious properties of a mushroom — 
The Scythian lamb— Quinine : history and use — SafHower — Romance 
of ipecacuanha — Wars of the spice trade — Cinnamon, logwood, and 
indigo — Romance of pepper — Babylonian and Egyptian botanists — 
Chinese discoveries — Theophrastus — Medieval times — The first illus- 
trated book — Numbers of plants known — Discoveries of painters 
and poets. 

IF we look back to the time when all men and women were 
mere savages, living like the Esquimaux or the Australians 
of to-day, then it is certain that every person was much 
interested in plants. Nothing was so interesting as daily 
food, because no one was ever certain of even one good meal 
in the day. 

So that in those early times there was a very sound, 
well-grounded knowledge of roots, bulbs, and fruits. They 
knew all that were good to eat, all that could possibly be 
eaten in time of famine and starvation, and also every 
poisonous and unwholesome plant. 

Some savage genius must have discovered that certain 
plants were "good medicine"; that certain tree-barks 
helped to check fever, and that others were worth trying 
when people had successfully devoured more than they 



could comfortably digest. The life of a savage meant 
tremendous meals, followed by days of starvation ; even 
now, when young children are fed on rice in India, a thread 
is tied round their waist, and, when this bursts, they are not 
allowed to eat any more. 

Very probably some of these early physicians were lady 
doctors usually of a certain age. Men were too busy with 
their hunting and warfare to have time to try experiments 
with drugs, to make concoctions of herbs all more or less 
disquieting and to find out if these were of any use. 

So that such medicine-men or witches gradually came to 
understand enough about poisons or fruits to make them- 
selves respected and even feared. They would, no doubt, 
make botanical excursions in the forest, accompanied by 
their pupils, in order to point out the poisonous and useful 

It is worth noting, in passing, that this habit of botanical 
professors going on excursions with medical students has 
persisted down to our own times, probably without any 
break in the continuity. 

But it was soon found advisable to make this knowledge 
secret and difficult to get. They did not really know so very 
much, and a mysterious, solemn manner and a quantity of 
horrible and unusual objects placed about the hut^ would 
perhaps prevent some irate and impatient savage patient 
from throwing a spear at his wizard — or witch-doctor. 

Shakespeare alludes to this in Macbeth. "Scale of 
Dragon ; tooth of wolf ; witches' mummy ; maw and gulf 

^ This is still the custom in the huts of the wizard or medicine-man in 
West Africa, where one finds small cushions stuck over with all sorts 
of poisonous plants, bits of human bones, and other loathsome acces- 



of the ravin''d salt sea shark ; root of hemlock digg'd i' the 
dark ; . . . gall of goat and slips of yew "" ; and so on. 

Most of their cures were faith-cures, and they were, no 
doubt, much more likely to be successful when the patient 
believed he was being treated with some dreadful stew of all 
sorts of wonderful and horrible materials. 

This explains how it was that the knowledge of medicine 
became so mixed up with pure charlatanism and swindling 
that no man could tell which drugs were of real use and which 
were mere ornaments giving piquancy and flavour to the 
prescription. It is not possible to say that a snake's head, 
the brain of a toad, the gall of a crocodile, and the whiskers 
of a tiger, were all of them absolutely useless. Within the 
last few years it has been found that an antidote to snake- 
bite can be obtained from a decoction of part of the snake 
itself, and it has also been discovered that small quantities 
of virulent poisons are amongst our most valuable and 
powerful remedies. 

Whether the savages and their successors the doctors of 
feudal times even down to the fifteenth and sixteenth cen- 
turies, suspected or believed that this was the case must re- 
main a rather doubtful hypothesis, but there is no question 
" that the hair of the dog that bit him "" theory of medicine 
was very prevalent. 

The following was a cure for hydrophobia of a more 
elaborate nature : " I learned of a Friend who had tried it 
effectual to cure the Biting of a Mad Dog ; take the Leaves 
and Roots of Cowslips, of the leaves of Box and Pennyroyal 
of each a like quantity ; shred them small to put them into 
Hot Broth and let it be so taken Three Days Together and 
apply the herbs to the bitten place with Soap and Hog's 
suet melted together " (Parkinson). 



This prescription is not so preposterous as it sounds. Box 
and Pennyroyal both contain essences which would be in all 
probability fatal to the germ of hydrophobia, and the soap 
and hog's suet would keep air from the wound. 

Other prescriptions read like our modern patent medi- 

" Good Cloves comfort the Brain and the Virtue of Feel- 
ing, and help also against Indigestion and Ache of the 
Stomach " (Bartholomew). 

" Senvey " (the old name of mustard) " healeth smiting of 
Serpents and overcometh venom of the Scorpions and 
abateth Toothache and cleanseth the Hair and letteth" 
(that is, prevents or tends to prevent) "the falling thereof. 
If it be drunk fasting, it makes the Intellect good." 

Even in those days the people can scarcely have believed 
that drinking mustard improved the intellect. Many of the 
remedies and cures are obviously false, for example the 
following : — 

" A man crowned with Ivy cannot get drunk." 

" Powder of dry Roses comforteth wagging Teeth that be 
in point to fall." 

The fact that the surgeon was also a barber, and also a 
" face-specialist," appears from the two following : — 

" Leaves of Chestnut burnt to powder and tempered with 
Vinegar and laid to a man''s Head plaisterwise maketh Hair 
increase and keepeth hair from falling." 

Those whose hair turned grey could employ the following 
prescription : — 

'•Leaves of Mulberry sod in rainwater maketh black 

If a doctor was not quite sure of the endurance of a 
patient under these heroic remedies, he could easily find out 



if he would recover, for it was only necessary to try the 
following : — 

" Celandine with the heart of a Mouldwarp " (that is mole, 
Scottice moudiewort) "laid under the Heade of one that is 
grievouslie Sicke, if he be in danger of Death, immediately 
he will cry out with a loud voice or sing ; if not, he will 

In Lightfoot's Flora Scotica, there is an interesting 
account of the Ply Mushroom {Agaricus muscarius) which is 
not very rare in Britain, and which may be easily recognized 
by the bright red toj) or cap, with whitish scales scattered 
over it, and a sort of ring of loose white tissue round the 

"It has an acrid and deleterious quality. The inhabit- 
ants of Kamschatka prepare a liquor from an infusion of 
this Agaric which taken in a small quantity exhilarates the 
spirits, but in a larger dose brings on a trembling of the 
nerves, intoxication, delirium and melancholy. Linnaeus 
informs us that flies are killed or at least stupefied by an in- 
fusion of this fungus in milk and that the expressed juice 
of it anointed on bedsteads and other places effectually 
destroys" — what we may describe as certain lively and 
pertinacious insects with a great affection for man ! 

As a matter of fact the fungus is said to be a deadly 

These quotations are enough to show how the real medi- 
cal knowledge of those times was encrusted with all sorts of 
faith-curing devices, sheer falsehoods, and superstitions. The 
most learned men of the Middle Ages were almost invariably 
monks and hermits, for there was nothing in the world of 
those strenuous times to attract a studious, sensitive disposi- 
^ Cooke, British Fungi. 


tion. The spirit of their learning can be judged from the 
wearisome disquisitions and lengthy volumes written about 
the Barnacle Goose and Scythian Lamb. 

In certain deserts along the Volga River in Russia, a 
peculiar fern may be found. It might be described as 
resembling a gigantic Polypody ; the stem is about as thick 
as a lamb''s body and grows horizontally on the ground like 
that of the common fern mentioned; thick furry scales cover 
the outside of its stem, which ends at the tip in an elongated 
point. The blackish-green leaf-stalks springing from the 
furry stem end in large divided green leaves. 

It occurred to some medieval humorist to cut off the 
upper part of the leaf-stalks, and to make a sort of toy lamb 
out of the four leaf-stalk stumps and part of the woolly or 
furry stem. 

This was palmed off as a wonderful curiosity of nature, as 
"a plant that became an animal,"" upon the ingenuous 
tourist of the period. 

Such a subject was thoroughly congenial to the learned 
mind in the Middle Ages, and an enormous quantity of 
literature was produced in consequence. The general theory 
is given in the following lines : — 

^' Cradled in snow and fanned by Arctic air, 
Shines, gentle Barometz, thy golden hair. 
Rooted in earth each cloven hoof descends. 
And round and round her flexile neck she bends. 
Crops the grey coralmoss and hoary thyme. 
Or laps with rosy tongue the melting rime. 
Eyes with mute tenderness her distant dam. 
Or seems to bleat, a vegetable lamb." 

Such is the old idea of a well-known fern, Cibotium 

Yet the original researches of some African "Obi"" wizard 


The Garden of Eden 

The title-page of John Parkinson's " Paradisus." In the distance may be seen a 
Scythian Lamb growing on its tree, and in the foreground many plants are shown as 
well as Adam and Eve. 


or red Indian were not forgotten, and gradually came into 

It must be remembered that these savages were true 
scientific experimentalists, and made discoveries which have 
been of infinite service to mankind. We remember great 
men like Harvey, Lister, and Pasteur, but we never think 
of the Indian who discovered quinine. 

The quinine trees, the yellow variety or Calisaya cinchona^ 
grow in the mountains of north-eastern Bolivia and south- 
eastern Peru, in wild, inaccessible places at heights of 5000 
to 6000 feet. The Indians probably experimented with 
almost every part of every wild tree before they discovered 
the wonderful properties of this particular species. The 
quinine in nature is probably intended to prevent some fun- 
gus or small insect from attacking the bark : when quinine 
is used in malaria, it kills the fever germ which attacks the 
blood corpuscles of the sick person, so that it is of the 
utmost importance in all tropical countries. 

When the Jesuit fathers reached Peru and made friends 
and converts of the Indians, they discovered this remedy. 
Soon after the Countess de Chinchon, wife of the Viceroy of 
Peru, fell seriously ill of fever and was cured by the use of 
Jesuit's bark or quinine. It was introduced into Europe 
about 1638, but for a very long time the entire supply came 
from South America. The British Indian government were 
paying some £12,000 every year for South American quinine 
and, at the same time, the supply was running short, for the 
Indians were cutting down every tree. 

At last, in 1859 (on the suggestion of Dr. Royle in 1839), 

the adventurous journeys of Clements Markham, Spruce, and 

Robert Cross resulted in the introduction of the Cinchona 

now flourishing in Madras, Bombay, and Ceylon. In 1 897 

c 33 


British colonies produced about £43,415 worth of quinine, 
and the price is now only 7 Jd. or 8d. a pound ! 

Such drugs as Safflower are of very ancient date. It was 
commonly employed in Egypt with other dyes and spices for 
embalming mummies. It is now used with carbonate of 
soda and citric acid to give a pink dye to silks and satins, 
and occasionally, in the form of rouge, to ladies' cheeks! 
How did the ancient Egyptians discover that this particular 
thistle-like plant {CarthamiLS tinctorius) had flowers from 
which a red dye could be extracted by a tedious process of 
soaking in water ? The natural colour of the flowers is not 
red but yellow. 

The history of other drugs reads like a romance. Ipeca- 
cuanha, for instance, was discovered by some unknown 
Indian who lived in the damp tropical forests of Brazil and 
New Granada. A worthy merchant in Paris obtained a little 
of the drug in the way of trade. Shortly afterwards he 
became very ill and was attended by a certain Dr. Helvetius, 
who was exceedingly attentive to him. The grateful mer- 
chant gave the kind-hearted physician some ipecacuanha. In 
the course of time the great King Louis XIV's son fell ill of 
dysentery, and Helvetius received 1000 louis d'or for his 

A very interesting and romantic history might be written 
about the efiect of drugs, dyes, and spices in developing 
trade. During the time when Britain was struggling to 
obtain a share of the foreign trade of Holland and France, 
such spices as Clove, Cinnamon, and Pepper were of the 
greatest importance. The Dutch, especially, adopted every 
possible method to keep the spice trade in their own hands. 
They cut down the clove, cinnamon, and other trees, in all 
the islands not directly under their control. They imposed 



the most barbarous penalties on any interloper. For in- 
stance, any one who sold a single stick of cinnamon in 
Ceylon was punished with death. When the English cap- 
tured the island in 1796, all such restrictions were of course 
repealed. Nevertheless its cultivation remained a monopoly 
of the East India Company until 1832. 

Logwood {Haematoocyhn campechianum) is closely con- 
nected with the story of adventure and colonisation in the 
West Indies. Its use was at first forbidden by Queen 
Elizabeth as it did not yield fast colours ; this was because 
the dyers of those times did not know of any mordant to 
fix them. Yet this is one of the few vegetable dyes which 
retain their position in the market in these days of aniline 
colours, and it is said to be a large constituent, with brandy, 
of cheap " port wine."" 

Indigo was known to the Romans, who imported it from 
India on camel-back by way of the Persian and Syrian 
desert. In the fifteenth century, when the Dutch began to 
introduce it in large quantities, it was found to interfere 
with the "woad'"*^ (Isatis tinctoria) which was then a very 
important cultivated plant in Europe. In Nuremberg, an 
oath was administered once a year to all the manufacturers 
and dyers, by which they bound themselves not to use the 
"deviFs dye,"" as they called Indigo. Its more recent his- 
tory shows a very different system. In Assam and other 
parts of British India, enormous sums of money have been 
invested in indigo plantations. It has been estimated that 
four million pounds was invested, and that a population of 
something like 700 Europeans and 850 workmen to the square 
mile in Behar, were entirely supported by indigo plantations. 

^ The same "woad" which was used by the Britons to paint them- 
selves with. 



Now all these planters are ruined and the population 
is dispersed, because German indigo manufactured from 
coal-tar is destroying the sale of the British-grown material. 
The plant has pretty blue flowers and belongs to the 
Leguminous order. The dye is obtained by steeping the 
leaves and young branches in water, and it is finally turned 
out in blue powder or cakes. 

Perhaps the most interesting of all these drugs is Pepper. 
The Dutch, in the days of Queen Elizabeth, had a monopoly 
of the East Indian trade, and they tried to cut down or 
burn all spice trees except those in their own control. They 
could thus form a corner in pepper, and alter the price as 
they felt inclined. At one period they doubled the price, 
raising it from three shillings to six shillings per pound. 
This annoyed the London merchants so much that they met 
together and formed the " Society of Merchants and Adven- 
turers trading to the East Indies." This wlas of course the 
original source of our great East Indian trade, and later on 
resulted in the Indian Empire. 

At present, and for centuries past, the whole world is 
searched and explored for drugs and spices. Our medicinal 
rhubarb for instance, grows in China on the frontiers of 
Tibet ; it is carried over the mountains of China to Kiaghta 
in Siberia, and from thence taken right across Russian 
Siberia to London and New York. It is closely allied to 
the common or garden rhubarb, which grows wild on th© 
banks of the Volga. 

It is only our duty to remember with gratitude all those 
long since departed botanists who have made our life so full 
of luxury and have supplied our doctors with all kinds of 

The first doctors were of course just savage botanists, but 



as soon as men began to write down their experiences, we find 
botanical treatises. The first, and for a very long time the 
only, botanical books were intended to teach medical students 
the names and how to recognize useful flowers and drugs. 

Medicinal herbs such as mandrake, garlic, and mint are 
found described on those clay cylinders which were used in 
Babylon instead of books, about 4000 b.c, that is some 6000 
years ago ! The Egyptians thought that " kindly, healing 
plants,*" such as opium, almonds, figs, castor-oil, dates, and 
olives, were derived from the "blood and tears of the 
gods''; that would be about 3000 b.c. It is not known how 
far back Chinese botany can be traced, but, by the twelfth 
century before Christ, some three hundred plants were known, 
including ginger, liquorice, rhubarb, and cinnamon. 

Theophrastus, who flourished about 300 b.c., was a scien- 
tific botanist far ahead of his time. His notes about the 
mangroves in the Persian gulf are still of some importance. 
It is said that some two thousand botanical students attended 
his lectures.'^ It is doubtful if any professor of botany has 
ever since that time had so large a number of pupils. 
Dioscorides, who lived about 64 b.c, wrote a book which was 
copied by the Pliny (78 a.d.), who perished in the eruption 
of Vesuvius. The botany of the Middle Ages seems to have 
been mainly that of Theophrastus and Dioscorides. In the 
tenth century we find an Arab, Ibn Sina, whose name has 
been commemorated in the name of a plant, Avicennia, pub- 
lishing the first illustrated text-book, for he gave coloured 
diagrams to his pupils. 

After this there was exceedingly little discovery until 
comparatively recent times. 

But Grew in 1682 and Malpighi in 1700 began to work 
^ Lascelles, Pharm. Journ., 23 May, 1903. 


with the microscope, and with the work of Linnasus in 1731 
modern botany was well started and ready to develop.^ 

It is interesting to compare the numbers of plants known 
at various periods, so as to see how greatly our knowledge has 
been increased of recent years. Theophrastus (300 b.c.) knew 
about 500 plants. Pliny (78 a.d.) knew 1000 species by 
name. Linnaeus in 1731 raised the number to 10,000. 
Saccardo in 1892 gives the number of plants then known as 
follows : — 

Flowering Plants 


105,231 species 



2819 „ 

Horsetails and Club-mosses 

565 „ 


4609 „ 


3041 „ 

Lichens . 

5600 „ 


. 39,663 „ 


. 12,178 „ 


But, during the years that have elapsed since 1892, many 
new species have been described, so that we may estimate 
that at least 200,000 species are now known to mankind. 

But it is in the inner meaning and general knowledge of 
the life of plants that modem botany has made the most ex- 
traordinary progress. It is true that we are still biu-dened 
with medieval terminology. There are such names as 
" galbulus," " amphisarca,'' and " inferior drupaceous pseudo- 
carps," but these are probably disappearing. 

The great ideas that plants are living beings, that every 
detail in their structure has a meaning in their life, and that 
all plants are more or less distant cousins descended from a 

* Bonnier, Cours de Bofaniqtie, 

2 Saccardo, Atti d. Con^resso, Bot, Intern, di Genova^ 1892. 


common ancestor, have had extraordinary influence in over- 
throwing the unintelligent pedantry so prevalent until 1875. 

Yet there were many, not always botanists, of much older 
date, who made great discoveries in the science. Leonardo 
da Vinci, the great painter, seems to have had quite a 
definite idea of the growth of trees, for he found out that 
the annual rings on a tree-stem are thin on the northern and 
thick on the southern side of the trunk. Dante ^ seems to 
have also understood the effect of sunlight in ripening the 
vine and producing the growth of plants {Purgatorio^ 
XXV. 77). Goethe seems to have been almost the first to 
understand how leaves can be changed in appearance when 
they are intended to act in a different way. Petals, stamens, 
as well as some tendrils and spines, are all modified leaves. 
There is also a passage in Virgil, or perhaps more distinctly 
in Cato, which is held to show that the ancients knew that 
the group of plants, Leguminosae, in some way improved 
the soil. I have also tried to show that Shelley had a more 
or less distinct idea of the " warning " or conspicuous colours 
(reds, purples, spotted, and speckled) which are characteristic 
of many poisonous plants (see p. 238). 

But if we begin with the unlettered savage, one can trace 
the very slow and gradual growth of the science of plant-life 
persisting all through the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, and 
recent times, until about fifty or sixty years ago, when a 
sudden great development began, which gives us, we hope, 
the promise of still more wonderful discoveries. 

^ *• Guarda il calor del sol che si fa vino 
Giunto all' umor che dalla vite cola." 
He is speaking of wine — that "lovable blood," as he describes it. 




Hemlock spruce and pine forests— Story of a pine seedling— Its struggles 
and dangers — The gardener's boot — Turpentine of pines — The giant 
saw^y — Bark beetles— Their effect on music— Storm and strength 
of trees— Tall trees and long seaweeds— Eucalyptus, big trees- 
Age of trees — Venerable sequoias, oaks, chestnuts, and olives — 
Baobab and Dragontree — Rabbits as woodcutters — Fire as protection 
— Sacred fires— Dug-out and birch-bark canoes— Lake dweUings — 
Grazing animals and forest destruction — First kind of cultivation — 
Old forests in England and Scotland — Game preserving, 

*' The murmuring pines and the hemlocks 
Stand like harpers hoar with beards that rest on their 
bosom. " — LongfelUm. 

OF course the Hemlock here alluded to is not the 
" hemlock rank growing on the weedy bank,'' which 
the cow is adjured not to eat in Wordsworth's well- 
known lines. (If the animal had, however, obeyed the poet's 
wishes and eaten " mellow cowslips," it would probably have 
been seriously ill.) The " Hemlock" is the Hemlock spmce, 
a fine handsome tree which is common in the forests of 
Eastern North America. 

These primeval forests of Pine and Fir and Spruce have 
always taken the fancy of poets. They are found covering 
craggy and almost inaccessible mountain valleys; even a 
tourist travelling by train cannot but be impressed by their 
sombre, gloomy monotony, by their obstinacy in growing on 


A Giant Douglas Fir 

This species of fir tree grows to an enormous height in British Columbia. It 
now being planted in many Scotch forests. 


rocky precipices on the worst possible soil, in spite of storm 
and snow. 

But to realize the romance of a Pine forest, it is necessary 
to tramp, as in Germany one sometimes has to do, for thirty 
miles through one unending black forest of Coniferous trees ; 
there are no towns, scarcely a village or a forester'^s hut. The 
ground is covered with brown, dead needles, on which scarcely 
even green moss can manage to live. 

Then one realizes the irritating monotony of the branches 
of Pines and Spruces, and their sombre, dark green foliage 
produces a morose depression of spirit. 

The Conifers are, amongst trees, like those hard-set, 
gloomy, and determined Northern races whose life is one 
long, continuous strain of incessant endeavour to keep alive 
under the most difficult conditions. 

From its very earliest infancy a young Pine has a very 
hard time. The Pine-cones remain on the tree for two years. 
The seeds inside are slowly maturing all this while, and the 
cone-scales are so welded or soldered together by resin and 
turpentine that no animal could possibly injure them. 
How thorough is the protection thus afforded to the young 
seeds, can only be understood if one takes a one-year-old 
unopened cone of the Scotch Fir and tries to get them out. 
It does not matter what is used ; it may i^e a saw, a chisel, 
a hammer, or an axe : the little elastic, woody, turpentiny 
thing can only be split open with an infinite amount of 
trouble and a serious loss of calm. 

When these two years have elapsed, the stalk of the cone 
grows so that the scales are separated, and the seeds become 
rapidly dry and are carried away by the wind. 

These seeds are most beautiful and exquisitely fashioned. 

The seed itself is small and flattened. It contains both 



resin and food material, and is enclosed in a tough leathery 
skin which is carried out beyond the seed into a long, very 
thin, papery wing, which has very nearly the exact shape of 
the screw or propeller of a steamer. This wing or screw is 
intended to give the seed as long a flight in the air as 
possible before it reaches the ground. If you watch them 
falling from the tree, or throw one up into the air and 
observe it attentively, you will see that it twirls or revolves 
round and round exactly like the screw of a steamship. It is 
difficult to explain what happens without rather advanced 
mathematics, but it is just the reverse of what happens in 
the steamer. 

The machinery in the steamer turns the screw, and the 
pressure of the water, which is thrown off, forces the boat 
through the water ; in the case of the pineseed, the pressure 
of the air on the flying wings makes the seed twirl or turn 
round and round, and so the seed must be a much longer 
time in falling. They often fly to about 80 or 100 yards 
away from the parent tree. 

Once upon the ground, the seed has to germinate if it 
can ; its root has to pierce the soil or find a way in between 
crevices of rocks or sharp-edged stones. All the time it is 
exposed to danger from birds, beasts, and insects, which are 
only kept off by its resin. But it is difficult to see, for its 
colour is just that of dead pine needles and its shape is such 
that it easily slips into crevices. Then the seven or eight 
small green seed leaves break out of the tough seed coat, and 
the seedling is now a small tree two inches high. It may 
have to grow up through grass or bramble, or through 
bracken, which last is perhaps still more dangerous and diffi- 
cult. It will probably be placed in a wood or plantation 
where hundreds of thousands of its cousins are all competing 



together. " In this case, the struggle for life is intense : each 
tree seeking for sunlight tries to push its leader-shoots up 
above the general mass of foliage ; but all are growing in 
height, whilst the lateral branches which are cramped by the 
neighbouring trees are continually thrown off. The highest 
branches alone get sufficient light to remain alive, but they 
cannot spread out freely. They are strictly limited to a 
definite area ; the crown is small and crowded by those of 
the trees next to it, and the trunk is of extraordinary 

The above quotation from Albert Fron's Sylviculture 
(Paris, 1903) refers to an artificial forest cultivated and 
watched over by man. But the trees in such forests have 
" extra "" dangers and difficulties to fight against. Even 
scientific foresters admit that they are very ignorant of what 
they are trying to do. In fact, the more scientific they are, 
the more readily they will confess how little they really 

Watch a labourer in a nursery transplanting young pine 
trees; each seedling tree has a long main root which is 
intended to grow as straight down into the ground as it 
possibly can. All the other roots branch off* sideways, 
slanting downwards, and make a most perfect though com- 
plicated absorbing system. With his large hand the man 
grasps a tree and lifts it to a shallow groove which he has cut 
in the soil. Then his very large, heavy-nailed boot comes 
hard down on the tender root-system. The main root, 
which ought to point down, points sideways or upwards or 
in any direction, and the beautifully arranged absorbing 
system is entirely spoilt. The wretched seedling has to 
make a whole new system of roots, and in some trees never 



All sorts of animals, insects, and funguses are ready to 
attack our young tree. Squirrels in play will nibble off its 
leading shoots. Cattle will rub against its bark, and the 
roe-deer, a very beautiful creature, and yet a destructive little 
fiend from the tree's point of view, nibbles the young shoots 
and tears the bark with its horns. 

A tree's life is full of peril and danger. Yet it is most 
wonderfully adapted to survive them. Take a knife and cut 
into the bark of a pine tree, and immediately a drop of resin 
collects and gathers on the wound. After a short time this 
will harden and entirely cover the scar. Why ? 

There are in the woods, especially in Canada and North 
Russia, hundreds of insects belonging to the most different 
kinds, which have the habit of laying their eggs in the wood 
of tree-trunks. In those regions the entire country is in the 
winter covered with snow and ice for many months. Insects 
must find it difficult to live, for the ground is frozen to a 
depth of many feet. Where are the eggs of these insects to 
be stored up so that they can last through the winter without 

There is one insect at least, or rather many, of which the 
Giant Sawfly may be taken as an example, which have 
ingeniously solved this problem. She painfully burrows 
into the trunk of a tree and deposits her eggs with a store 
of food at the end of the buiTow. A drop of resin or 
turpentine, which would clog her jaws, makes this a difficult 
task, but, as we find in many other instances, it is not 
impossible, but only a difficulty to conquer. If it were not 
for the resin, trees might be much more frequently destroyed 
by Sawflies than they are. 

The larva of the Sawfly is a long, fleshy maggot. Just at 
the end are the strong woodcutting jaws by which it 



devours the wood and eats its way out as soon as it feels the 
genial warmth of spring penetrating through the tree-bark. 
Many other insects hibernate or lay their eggs in tree-trunks. 
Some are caterpillars of moths, such as the well-known Goat 
moth; others are beetles, such as one which burrows be- 
tween the bark and the wood of apple trees. The mother 
beetle lays a series of eggs on each side of her own track. 
Each egg produces a grub which eats its way sideways away 
from the track of the mother. The track made by these 
grubs gets gradually wider, because the maggots themselves 
grow larger and more fat with the distance that they have 
got from their birthplace. We shall find other instances of 
burrowing insects when we are dealing with rubber plants. 

This resin or turpentine is a very interesting and peculiar 
substance, or rather series of substances. It is valuable 
because tar, pitch, rosin, and colophony are obtained by 
distilling it. 

When travelling through the coast forests of pine trees in 
the Landes of Western France, one notices great bare gashes 
on the stems leading round and down the trunk to a small 
tin cup or spout. These trees are being tapped for resin, 
from which rosin is manufactured. It would be difficult to 
find any obvious connexion between music and the Giant 
Sawfly. Yet the rosin used by Paganini and KubeHk has 
probably been developed in Conifers to keep away sawflies 
and other enemies. This very district, the Landes in France, 
was once practically a desert, and famous as such in French 
history. The soil was so barren that no villages or cultiva- 
tion were found over the whole length of it. Now that 
it is planted with trees which are able to yield firewood 
and rosin, it is comparatively rich and prosperous. 

Storms are also very dangerous for tree-life. One can 



only realize the beauty of a tree by watching a pine or ash 
in a heavy gale of wind. The swing of the branches, the 
swaying of the trunk, the balancing support of the roots 
which, buttress-like, extend out into the soil, give some 
idea of the extraordinary balance, toughness, and strength 
in trees. Except in the case of the common umbrella, 
which is an inefficient instrument in high wind, engineers 
have never attempted the solution of the problem satis- 
factorily solved by trees. A factory chimney only 51 feet 
in height will have a diameter at the base of at least three 
feet. This means that the height is about seventeen times 
its diameter. But the Ryeplant, with a diameter at base 
of 3 millimetres, may be 1500 mm. high! That is, the 
height is five hundred times its diameter, and the Ryeplant 
has leaves and grain to support as well as its own stem ! In 
Pine forests on exposed mountain sides there is almost al- 
ways at least a murmuring sound, which in a storm rises into 
weird howls and shrieks. With Greek insight and imagina- 
tion, the ancients supposed that spirits were imprisoned in 
these suffering, straining pines. That is most beautifully 
expressed in The Tempest^ where the dainty spirit Ariel had 
been painfully confined in a pine tree for a dozen years, and 
" his groans did make wolves howl and penetrate the breasts 
of ever-angry bears.'"* 

One of the most interesting points in botany depends on 
the fact that evil conditions of any sort tend to bring about 
their own remedy. Endymion's spear was of " toughest ash 
grown on a windy site"*' (Keats). The prosaic chemical 
analyses of German botanists have, in fact, confirmed the 
theory there suggested, for it is found that the wood of trees 
grown in exposed windy places is really denser and tougher 
than that of others from sheltered woods.^ 

^ Hartig finds the specific gravity of the wood in a tree is increased 



If one realizes all these dangers from insects, animals, and 
storms, the height to which some trees grow and the age 
to which they live become matters for astonishment and 

The tallest trees in the world are probably certain 
Eucalyptus of Australia, which have obtained a height of 
495 feet above the ground. 

They are by no means the longest plants, for there are cer- 
tain rattans or canes, climbing plants belonging to the Palm 
family, which may be 900 feet long, although their diameter 
is not more than two inches.^ There are also certain Sea- 
weeds in the Southern Ocean, off the coast of Chile, which 
attain a prodigious length of 600 feet {Macrocystis pyriferus^ 
or "Kelp"). That is not so remarkable, for their weight 
is supported by other plants in the case of the rattans, 
and as regards the seaweeds, by the water in which they 

The next in order to the Eucalyptus are those well-known 
Mammoth or Big trees of California {Sequoia giganted). 
They grow only in certain valleys in the Sierra Nevada, at an 
altitude of 5000-8000 feet. Their height is usually given as 
from 250-400 feet, and the diameter sometimes exceeds 
thirty-five feet. Since they have become a centre of the 
tourist-industry in the United States, various methods have 
been adopted to make their size more easily realized. Thus 
a coach with four horses and covered by passengers is (or 
used to be) driven through a gateway made in one of them. 
The trunk of another has been cut off some feet from the 
ground, and a dancing-saloon has been made on the stump. 

from 0-60 to 0*74 when the surrounding wood has been cut down. Bot. 

Central, vol. xxx, p. 220. 

^ Bonnier, Cours de Botanique. 


It is at least doubtful if dancing would be very agreeable 
upon such a cross-grained sort of floor ! A complete section 
of one of them was carried across the United States to make 
a dining-room table for an American millionaire. The age 
of one of these trees has been estimated at 3600 years. That 
is to say that it was a seedling in 1400 b.c, and has been 
peacefully growing in a Californian valley during all the time 
when Greece, Rome, Spain, France, Britain, and of course 
the United States, developed their civilizations. The speci- 
men of the Mammoth tree in the Natural History Museum 
in London was 1335 years old. 

The possible age of many of our common trees is much 
greater than any one would suppose. The "Jupiter" oak 
in the forest of Fontainebleau is supposed to be 700 years 
old. Another oak which was cut down at Bordya, in the 
Baltic provinces of Russia, was supposed to be about 1000 
years old. Other millennial trees are or were another oak 
and two chestnuts: the oak grew in the Ardennes, the 
chestnuts still flourish, one at Sancerre (France), and the 
other the famous specimen on Mount Etna. There are 
also eight olive trees in the garden of Gethsemane at 
Jerusalem, which are certainly 1000 years old, and were, 
according to tradition, in existence in the time of Jesus 

And yet all these trees are mere infants compared to 
Adanson's Baobab and the Dragon tree of Orotava. The 
celebrated traveller alluded to visited the Cape Verde islands 
in 1749 and found inscriptions made by English travellers 
on the trunk 300 years before his time. From the growth 
since then, he calculated that some of these trees were about 
6000 years of age, and they were 27 feet in diameter.^ 

1 Bonnier, I.e. 


The record is held by the Dragon tree of Orotava, in the 
Canary Islands. 

When the Spaniards landed in Teneriffe in 1402, its 
diameter was very nearly 42 feet. It was, however, greatly 
injured by a storm in 1827, and finally destroyed in 1851. 
(The wood was then made into walking-sticks and snuffboxes.) 
The age has been estimated at 10,000 years, or by other 
authorities at 8000 years only. The " dragon's blood "*' of 
the Canaries, a well-known remedy in the Middle Ages, was 
not, as is popularly supposed, derived from this tree, but was 
obtained from a totally different plant. 

But there is a hazy tradition to the effect that the story 
of the Dragon which guarded the golden fruit in the island 
of the Hesperides was nothing but a garbled account of this 
redoubtable veteran of the plant world. 

There is no particular advantage in growing to these 
enormous heights and clinging to life in this way for hun- 
dreds and thousands of years. Nature seems to have found 
this out and preferred the ordinary pines, oaks, and larches, 
which are mature in a few hundred years. In a thousand 
years, ten generations of larch or pine can be produced, and, 
as each is probably better than its predecessor, a distinct 
improvement in the type is possible. All these long-lived 
giants belong in fact to the less highly specialized orders of 
plants. They are like the primeval animals, the Mammoths, 
Atlantosauri, and Sabretoothed Tigers. 

Yet when we come to think of the many and diverse 
perils to which trees are exposed, the existence of even these 
exceptional monsters seems very wonderful. 

After a violent storm which had blown down many of the 
trees in a friend's park,^ I visited the scene of destruction and 
^ Dunlop House, Kilmarnock. 
D 49 


discovered what had apparently in almost every instance 
produced it. Rabbits had overthrown these trees ! 

They had nibbled away part of the cork and part of the 
young wood on the projecting buttress-like roots at the base 
of the tree. In consequence, water, bacteria, and fungus 
spores had entered at the injured places, and part of the 
roots had become decayed and rotten. When the gale 
began to sway them backwards and forwards and a severe 
strain came on what should have been a sound anchoring or 
supporting buttress, the rotten part yielded, and these fine, 
beautiful trees fell a prey to the rabbit. 

The influence of forests and timber on the daily life of 
mankind is a most romantic and interesting chapter in history. 

Every savage tribe, every race of man, however degraded 
or backward, is acquainted with fire. Fuel is therefore a 
necessity of existence for all savages, and not merely for 
cooking. There is a very interesting passage in London's 
TTie Call of the Wild, when the Dog " Buck " in his dreams 
remembers a hairy man crouching over the fire with Buck's 
ancestor at his feet, whilst in the darkness all round them 
the firelight is reflected from eyes of wolves, bears, and even 
more terrible and dangerous brutes which have now happily 
vanished from the world. For protection at night fire was an 
absolute necessity. Even at that long-distant period, there- 
fore, man had commenced to attack the forest. Unless one 
has had to tend a wood fire for twelve hours, it is difficult to 
realize what a quantity is required. To prepare fire was a 
long, laborious, and difficult operation ; one piece of wood 
was placed on the ground and held in position by the toes, 
a pointed stick was taken between the two palms of the hand 
and twirled vigorously round and round until the heat was 
enough to ignite a piece of rotten wood placed as tinder. 



Therefore smouldering branches were kept always burning, 
as they are to-day amongst the Fuegians and some other 
savages. It was a sacred duty to watch this fire, and the 
woman (usually old) who was entrusted with the task was 
very probably put to death if she failed. From this very 
ancient savage custom probably arose the cult of the Vestal 
Virgins in Ancient Rome.i 

Another very important factor in savage life was the canoe 
or piroque necessary for fishing or to cross lakes and rivers. 
The first chantey of Rudyard Kipling has a probable theory, 
and is a beautiful account of how man first thought of 
using a floating log. 2 They hollowed out the log and " dug 
out "" the canoe, by first lighting a fire on it and then scrap- 
ing away the cinders ; then the sides were pressed out, and it 
was trimmed and straightened to the right shape. All this 
was the idea of some paleoHthic genius far more persevering 
and ingenious than any marine architect of our own days. 

" Birchbark " canoes are not so common as Dugouts. The 
tree, the White or Paper Birch, is found in Canada and the 
Northern United States ; those Indians who discovered that 
the light, waterproof cork-bark could be fashioned into a 
canoe made a very great discovery, and indeed it was their 
canoes that made travel or exploration possible in North 

When man began to long for a settled permanent home, 
it was absolutely necessary to find a way of living in safety. 
Wolves, bears, hyenas and other animals were abundant; 
neighbours of his own or other tribes were more ferocious 

* It will be remembered that they were obhged to keep the sacred fire 
always burning, and were put to death if they misbehaved. The fire was 
never allowed to go out during the whole of Roman history, and the 
custom has been even preserved in some Roman Catholic convents and 
chapels. 2 Seven Seas. 



and more dangerous than wild beasts. Some neolithic genius 
imagined an artificial island made of logs in the midst of a 
lake or inaccessible swamp. Such were the lake dwellings 
which persisted into historic times, and which are indeed 
still in existence in some parts of the earth.^ 

The trees were abundant ; they could be felled by the help 
of fire and an axe, and the lake dwelling gave a secure 
defence. The wood of some of the piles supporting the 
great villages in Switzerland seems to be still sound, though it 
has been under water for many centuries. Some villages are 
said to have required hundreds of thousands of trees. 

The forest afforded man almost everything that he used, 
bows and arrows, shelter, fuel, and even part of his food. 

Nuts and fruits would be collected and when possible 
stored. In seasons of famine, they used even to eat the 
delicate inside portion of the bark of trees. 

But as soon as the first half-civilized men began to keep 
cattle, sheep, and especially goats, more serious inroads still 
were made upon the forest. Where such animals are allowed 
to graze there is no chance for wood to grow (at any rate in 
a temperate country). The growing trees and the branches 
of older ones are nibbled away whilst they are young and 
tender. The days of the forest were nearly over when 
cultivation commenced. Dr. Henry describes the process of 
" nomadic "" culture in China as follows : " They burn down 
areas of the forest ; gather one or two crops of millet or 
upland rice from the rich forest soil; and then pass on to 
another district where they repeat the destruction."^ A 
very similar process of agriculture existed until the eighteenth 
century in Scotland. 

^ Munro, Lake Dwellings. 

^ Royal Dublin Society^ vol. i. part v. No. 11. 


stereo Copyright, i'nderu'oo.i e~" L'ltderitoo.t L 

Shooting the Hozu Rapids in Japan 

nd A'eiv York 

The logs in the long train of rafts are of bamboo tied together. In spite of their fragile nature 
the lumbermen are so fearless and agile that they cleverly steer the frail bundles with but few 



Thus the forest was being burnt or cleared for cultivation. 
It was devastated by black cattle, goats, and other animals, 
and it was regularly exploited for fuel and building every 
day by every family for centuries. 

It is not, therefore, surprising that the ancient forests 
in Britain have disappeared. Dr. Henry mentions one 
square mile of virgin forest on the Clonbrock estate in 
Ireland. The Silva Caledonica of the Romans is said to 
exist in Scotland at the Blackwood of Rothiemurchus, 
at Achnacarry, and in a few other places. Of the original 
oak forest, which covered most of England and Southern 
Scotland, not a vestige (so far as is known to the writer) 
remains to-day. 

There are in places very ancient forests. A few miles 
from Retford are considerable remains of Sherwood Forest, 
which is for ever associated with that genial bandit Robin 
Hood. One huge oak (called the Major) has or used to have 
a keeper always on guard and paid by Lord Manvers, but 
there are hundreds of aged oaks all round it. Then there 
is the Knightwood Oak and some other ancients in the New 

But it is not ceii:ain that these even date so far back 
as the time of Canute, for so far as the New Forest is con- 
cerned, it seems that this was formed either by Canute or by 
William I. The Saxons seem to have destroyed most of the 
English forests. 

In Scotland oak forest existed as far north as the Island 
of Lewis, in Caithness, Dornoch, Cromarty, and along Loch 
Ness, as well as in every county south of these.^ The deer 
forests and grouse moors, now desolate, whaup-haunted muir- 
land and peat mosses, were flourishing woods of magnificent 
^ Niven, Bot. Section British Association, 1901. 


Scots fir at no very distant period. They ascended the hills 
on the Cairngorms to 1400 or 1500 feet, and in Yorkshire 
to 2400 feet.i 

Even in remote historical times, such as those of Canute, 
the forests had become seriously and dangerously destroyed. 
This king was apparently the first to artificially protect the 
woods as a hunting preserve. He was followed by William 
the Conqueror and other sovereigns. The game preserves 
of the landed proprietors to-day are, of course, the remains 
of the same custom. 

Fortunately, however, we do not kill poachers or cut off 
their right hands, and we do not cut off the forepaws of 
poaching dogs, as used to be done in medieval days. 

This connexion of forests with game no doubt prevented 
the entire disappearance of wood, but when, as is the case 
in England, the comfort of pheasants is thought of more 
importance than the scientific cultivation of forests, the 
result is often very unfortunate. 

The use and value of timber is, however, too important 
a matter to take up at the end of a chapter. 

1 Boyd Watt, Cairngorm Club Journal, vol. iv. No. 20, January, 1903 ; 
Smith, Lewis, Roy. Geog, Soc. Journal. 



The forests of the Coal Age— Monkey-puzzle and ginkgo— Wood, its uses, 
colour, and smell— Lasting properties of wood— Jarrah and deodar— 
Teak— Uses of birch — Norwegian barques — Destruction of wood in 
America— Paper from wood pulp— Forest fires— Arid lands once fertile 
— Britain to be again covered by forests — Vanished country homes- 
Ashes at farmhouses— Yews in churchyards— History of Man versus 
Woods in Britain. 

WHAT was the first tree like ? That is a very diffi- 
cult question to answer. Perhaps the first forests 
were those of the great coal period, of which the 
remains, buried for untold ages in the earth, became the 
coal which we now burn. 

The flames and red-glowing heat of a fire are the work of 
the sunlight which fell in these long-past ages through a 
steamy, misty atmosphere, upon these weird, grotesque 
vegetables, unlike anything which now exists upon the earth. 
Their nearest allies amongst living plants are the little club- 
mosses which creep over the peat and through the heather 
in alpine districts. 

Of course no one can say exactly what these coal forests 
were like. But although some modern authorities have 
questioned the general accuracy of the descriptions of Heer 
and others, yet, as they have not given anything better in 
the way of description, we shall endeavour to describe them 



according to our own beliefs, and as they probably existed 
in the Lanarkshire coalfield and other places in Britain. 

In that gloomy mirk of the Carboniferous epoch, an 
observer (if there had been any) would have dimly perceived 
huge trunks rising to sixty or eighty feet and divided at the 
top into a very few branches. All branches were covered over 
by comparatively quite small leaves. Not a bad idea of the 
Sigillarias, Lepidodendrons, etc., which made the forest can 
be obtained by carefully looking at a pan of Selaginella 
such as one finds in almost every botanical garden, and 
imagining this to be eighty feet high. Through the bottomless 
oozy slime which formed the ground, horizontal runners and 
roots penetrated in every direction. Great fern-like plants 
might be observed here and there. Sluggish rivers mean- 
dered slowly through these forests, carrying silt and refuse 
(their deposits are our Cannel coals). In the water and in 
pools, or perhaps in the mud, were curious waterferns with 
coiled-up crozier-like leaves. Perhaps horsetail-like plants 
of huge size might have formed great reed-beds to which 
those of to-day are as a plantation of one-year-old firs is to 
a pine forest that has lasted for a century. 

Fishes and crustaceans, or lobster-like creatures, crawled 
and squattered through the slime, pursued by salamander- 
like animals with weak limbs and a long tail. Some of 
these latter were seven to eight feet long. Millipedes, 
scorpions, beetles and maybugs existed, and huge dragonflies 
preyed on them. 

But there is one very ancient group of trees, the Arau- 
carias or Monkey-puzzles, which are by no means uncommon 
even now. The ordinary one (Araucaria imbricata) is often 
planted in the British Isles, and it has, if you look closely 
at it, a most peculiar appearance. It is like the sort of tree 



that a child would draw ; it is a clumsy attempt at one, and 
very different from the exquisite irregularity of the ash or 

Its leaves are especially curious : they cover the branches 
very closely, and are hard, rigid, and spiny. Its cones, 
though of the nature of pine-cones, are yet quite unique. 
The seeds are edible, and used to be an important article of 
diet to the Indians on the slopes of the Chilian Andes, 
where monkey-puzzle forests used to exist. This of course 
is a very out-of-the-way region ; other species of Araucaria 
are found scattered about the world in a most perplexing 
manner. One kind grows in Norfolk Island, in the Pacific ; 
another occurs in the inner mountainous districts of Brazil ; 
there are some in Australia and others in New Caledonia. 

But in the Jurassic period of geology, in the age of 
ammonites and gigantic lizards and crocodiles, Araucarias 
were the regular, ordinary trees. They grew all over Europe, 
and apparently as far north as Greenland, and, indeed, seem 
to have existed everywhere. 

Perhaps the spiny leaves discouraged some huge lizard, 
perhaps Atlantosaurus himself (he was thirty feet high and 
one hundred feet long), from browsing on its branches. 
Perhaps the Pterodactyls, those extraordinary bird or bat- 
like lizards, used to feed upon the seeds of the monkey- 
puzzle, and carried them in their toothed jaws to New 
Caledonia, Australia, and Norfolk Island. Other improved 
types have driven the monkey-puzzles from Europe, Asia, and 
Africa, and taken their places, but in out-of-the-way districts 
of South America and Australia they are still able to hold 
their own. 

An ally of theirs, the Ginkgo or Maidenhair tree, seems to 
have been extremely common in certain geological periods. 



To-day it has almost entirely disappeared. A few trees 
were discovered in certain Chinese temples, where they had 
been preserved as curiosities for centuries, but it is almost 
extinct as a wild plant. The Bigtree group {Sequoia p. 47) 
was a companion of the Ginkgo in its flourishing period. 
So also were the Sago palms or Cycads. All the ordinary 
trees, Pines, Oaks, Beeches, and the like, did not appear upon 
the earth'*s surface till a much later period. 

The most important economic product of trees is the 
timber which they furnish. Wood, as we have tried to show 
in the last chapter, has been always of the greatest import- 
ance to mankind. It is easily worked, durable, buoyant, and 
light, and it is used for all sorts of purposes. 

Silver fir,^ which is accustomed, when growing, to be con- 
tinually swayed and balanced by the wind, is preferred for 
the sounding-board of pianos and for the flat part of violins, 
whilst Sycamore or hard Maple is employed for the back and 
sides of the latter. 

But there are enormous differences in different kinds of 
woods. The colour of wood varies from white (Beech), 
yellow (Satinwood), lemon-yellow and bluish red (sap and 
heartwood of Barberry), to dark and light brown mottled 
(Olive), black (Persimmon), and dark brown (Walnut). Some 
woods have a distinct smell or perfume. Cedarwood, Sandal- 
wood, Deal, and Teak, are all distinctly fragrant. The 
Stinkwood of South Africa and the Til of Madeira have an 
unpleasant smell. 

More important in practice are the differences in the hard- 
ness and weight of wood. The Iron wood of India cannot be 
worked, as its hardness blunts every tool. It requires a 
pressin-e of something like 16,0001b. to force a square-inch 
' The Romans used it for ships' masts and spars. 


punch to a depth of one-twentieth of an inch in Lignum vitce. 
Even Hickory and Oak (if of good quality) require a pressure 
of 32001b. to the square inch to do this. On the other 
hand the Cotton tree of India (Bomhax malaharicum) has 
exceedingly soft wood. It is quite easy to drive a pin into 
the wood with the fingers. 

Some woods are far too heavy to float: many tropical 
woods are especially very weighty. Perhaps the Black Iron- 
wood, of which a cubic foot weighs 85 lb., is the heaviest of 
all. But the same volume of Poplar, Willow, or Spruce does 
not weigh more than 24 lb. 

There are many ancient and modern instances of the 
extraordinary way in which timber lasts when at all carefully 
looked after. Thus the Cedar which "Hiram rafted 
down "" to make the temple of Solomon (probably Cedar of 
Lebanon) seems to have been extraordinarily durable. Pliny 
says that the beams of the temple of Apollo at Utica were 
sound 1200 years after they were erected. 

Cypress wood (Cupressus sempervirens) was often used to 
make chests for clothes because the clothes moth cannot 
penetrate it, and it also lasts a very long time. There is a 
chest of this wood in the South Kensington Museum which 
is 600-700 years old. The Cypresswood gates of Con- 
stantinople were eleven centuries old when they were 
destroyed by the Turks in 1453. The fleet of Alexander 
the Great, and the bridge over the Euphrates built by 
Semiramis, were made of Cypress. This wood seems to have 
been of extraordinary value to the ancients, and was used 
for mummy cases in Egypt, for coffins by the Popes, as well 
as for harps and organ pipes. ^ 

* Most of these interesting details are found in Boulger's valuable 
treatise on " Wood." 



Perhaps the most valuable woods are Box, which is used 
for woodcuts, and Walnut, which used to be highly prized 
for gun-stocks, as much as £600 having been paid for 
a single tree. 

But the most interesting histories of trade in timber 
belong to the commoner and more usual woods. The great 
woods of Jarrah {Eucalyptiis marginatd) cover 14,000 
square miles of Australia, but they are being rapidly cut 
down and sawn up into small blocks to be carried right 
across the world in order to form the pavement which 
London cabmen and cab-horses prefer to any other. 

One remembers also the beautiful Deodar forests of 
Afghanistan, and the Himalayas. Logs of deodar were floated 
down the rivers to form bridges or temple pillars in Srinagar, 
the capital of far Cashmere. Nowadays great " slides "" are 
made, winding down into the valleys from the recesses of the 
hills. When winter approaches, water is sprinkled on the 
logs which make the slide ; this freezes and forms a slippery 
descending surface, down which the deodar timber rushes till 
it reaches the low ground, where it is cut up into railway 
sleepers and takes part in the civilizing of India. 

The fragrant Teak has an oleoresin which prevents the 
destructive white ants from attacking it ; it is the most 
valuable timber for shipbuilding, and grows in many places 
of India, Malaysia, Java, and Sumatra. It floats down the 
rivers of Burmah, coming from the most remote hill jungles, 
and elephants are commonly used at the ports to gather the 
trunks from the water and pile them ready for shipment. 

The Birch is carried all the way from Russia to Assam 
and Ceylon, in order to make the chests in which tea is sent 
to England and Russia (native Indian woods are also used). 
It is also used in the distillation of Scotch whisky, for 



smoking herrings and hams, for clogs, baskets, tanning, 
dyeing, cordage, and even for making bread. 

But one of the most curious and interesting sights in any 
seaport is sure to be an old white Norwegian or Swedish 
sailing barque or brigantine. She will have a battered, storm- 
beaten appearance, and is yet obviously a comfortable home. 
The windows of the deck-house may be picked out with a 
lurid green. The tall, slowmoving, white-bearded skipper and 
his wife, children, and crew, not to speak of a dog and cats, 
have their home on this veteran "• windjammer." She carries 
them from some unpronounceable, never-heard-of port in 
Norway, all over the world. You may see her discharging 
a cargo of deal plank, through the clumsy square holes 
in her stern, in a forgotten Fifeshire village, in Mada- 
gascar, in China, or in the Straits of Magellan. All her life 
she is engaged in this work, and her life is an exceedingly 
long one, to judge from the Viking lines on which she is 

Moreover, her work is done so economically that it used 
to be much cheaper to use her cargo in Capetown than to 
utilize the beautiful forests of the Knysna and King 

But there are not wanting signs that the forests of Nor- 
way, of Sweden, and even those of the United States, are 

It is said that seven acres of primeval forest are cut down 
to supply the wood which is used up in making the paper 
required for one day's issue of a certain New York journal. 
What a responsibility and a source of legitimate pride this 
must be to the journalists ! Let us hope that the end 
justifies the means. 

Boulger cal«ilates that in 1884 all the available timber 



from 4,131,520 acres of Californian Redwood was used in 
making the sleepers of the railways then existing in the 
United States. 

He finds that no less than 18,000,000 acres of forest are 
necessary to keep up the supply of sleepers for the old lines 
and to build new ones. 

So that, if we remember the wood required for paper, 
firewood, and the thousand other important requisites of 
civilized man, the United States must soon exhaust her 
supply and import wood. 

Then will come the opportunity of British North America. 
The Southern forest of Canada, which extended for 2000 
miles from the Atlantic to the head of the St. Lawrence, has 
indeed gone or is disappearing into pulpwood and timber, 
but there is still the great Northern forest from the Straits of 
Belleisle to Alaska (4000 miles long and 700 miles broad), 
and in addition the beautiful forests of Douglas Spruce and 
other trees in British Columbia covering 285,000 square miles. 

It is the wood-pulp industry which is at present destroying 
the Canadian forests. The penny and halfpenny papers, and 
indeed most books nowadays, are made of paper produced by 
disintegrating wood : it is cheap, and can be produced in 
huge quantities ; nevertheless it is disquieting to reflect that 
probably nineteen-twentieths of the literary output of the 
twentieth century will be dust and ashes just about the same 
time (some fifty years) that the writers who produced it reach 
the same state.^ 

Yet, considering the amount daily produced to-day, the 
future readers of fifty years hence who are now in their cradles, 
may consider this a merciful dispensation of Providence. 

One very curious use of wood may be mentioned here. 
^ Compare the report by the Society of Arts. 



Near Assouan, on the First Cataract of the Nile, one dis- 
covers broken granite or syenite needles, which had been 
intended by the ancient Egyptians for monuments. Where 
the broken pillar lies, there are rows of wedge-shaped holes 
cut in the rock. 

They used to drive in wedges of dry wood and then wet 
them with water. The expansion of the wood split the rock, 
though this is hard granite or syenite. Very often the process 
failed because the stone cracked. The same method is said 
to be still used in some quarries. 

The destruction of the forest is really necessary. Most of 
the corn land and rich pasture of the world has been at one 
time forest. It could scarcely be such fertile soil if it had 
not been for the many years during which leaf-mould fell on 
it, and the roots broke up and penetrated the subsoil 
below. Canada, Russia, and the United States are now pass- 
ing through the same experience as that of Great Britain 
in the time of the Romans, Saxons, and Danes. 

But there is terrible waste by fire. 

When the trees become dry and withered in the height of 
summer in either India or the United States, some careless 
tramp may throw aside a lighted match. If a fire once 
starts, it spreads with enormous rapidity; great clouds of 
smoke roll over the surrounding country, and every village 
sounds the alarm. Everybody rushes to help and try to 
stop the conflagration, or if too late hurriedly saves what- 
ever he can get of his possessions. His log hut and all the 
accumulations of years of saving may be turned into a 
heap of ashes in a very few minutes. 

But the crackling of the leaves and the flaming twigs and 
scorching bark make such a volume of fire that nothing 
which man can do is of any avail. 



Of course every beast, every bird and insect is in the 
greatest possible danger. 

This is how a fire in New Zealand has been described by 
Mr. William Satchell:— i 

" For a while it seemed that the battle must go to the wind, 
the fiery monster withdrew, lay hidden, roaring angrily in the 
dry heart of the woods ; then insidiously he stretched forth 
his glittering arms, first one, then another, and locking the 
shuddering trees in an irresistible embrace, sprang once again 
erect. In an instant the whole bush from edge to edge 
became a seething, rocking mass of flames. 

"'Fire! Fire!' 

" Then, insignificant no longer, transfigured rather beyond 
all living possibilities of loveliness, the bush stood revealed 
to its centre. It became less a fire than an incandescence, 
waxing in brilliance to the point when, as it seemed, it must 
perforce burst into indistinguishable flame. Every leaf and 
twig of that fairy forest was wrought and hammered in virgin 
gold, every branch and trunk was a carved miracle of bur- 
nished copper. And from the golden leaves to the golden 
floor, floatingly or swiftly, there fell an unceasing rain of 
crimson flame petals, gorgeous flame fruits. Depth after 
depth stood revealed, each transcending the last in loveliness. 
And as the eye sought to penetrate those magic interiors 
there seemed to open out yet farther vistas, beyond belief 
beautiful, as of the streets of a city incorruptible, walled 
and towered, lost in the light of a golden incomparable 

"'Fire! Fire!' 

" In the face of that vision of glory the cry rang out with 
all the ineptitude and inappropr lateness of the human 

1 The Toll of the Bush, 


weakling. On one side the titanic forces of nature, in- 
exorable, eternal ; on the other the man, frail of body, the 
creature of an hour, matching himself against them. 

"'Fire! Fire!' 

" Sheltering his face from the insufferable heat, the Swede 
hammered madly at the solid house-door. At the back, now 
utterly unapproachable, the kitchen, the roof, and a part of 
the main wall were already in flames. A few minutes — five 
at the most — would complete the demolition of the house. 
To right and left the great trees one after another went off 
like rockets, the roar of their burning foliage shaking the 
very earth. A deafening crashing of falling timber came at 
intervals from the bush beyond." 

In some countries the destruction of the forests has had a 
very serious effect on the climate. The rain which falls upon 
a forest is partly absorbed by the leaves, and but a very small 
part of it is carried off by burns and streams : most sinks 
down into the forest soil, and is only gradually given back 
again after being taken in by the tree roots and evaporated 
by the leaves. 

But bare hills denuded of wood allow most of their rain to 
rush down to the sea in dangerous spates of the rivers and 
burns, and then the ground becomes afterwards very dry 
and burnt up. There are very many countries now barren 
and desolate because they have been robbed of the beautiful 
forests which once covered the springheads and mountain 

Perhaps Palestine is one of the worst instances. But it is 
when we remember Babylon, Nineveh, and all the cities of the 
coast of Asia Minor, as they were even a thousand years 
ago, and compare their present barren, desolate condition, 
that the full meaning of mountain forests becomes clear. 
E 65 


Where once there were thriving, prosperous cities with 
enormous populations, now the goats graze or a few miser- 
able peasants carefully husband the water of a few miserable 
streams. The same thing has happened in Mauritius, in 
the Cape Verde and Canary Islands, and in many other places. 

But men are now beginning to see how dangerous the 
destruction of forests may be, and in many countries and 
especially in Britain, new forests are being planted. Perhaps 
in time we may grow in Britain so much timber that we shall 
gain something like £32,000,000 a year, which is what we 
spend on imported woods. 

At present plover, whaups, snipe, and grouse, or useless red 
deer, inhabit what was once the Caledonian forest, and every 
thousand acres of such land nowadays supports perhaps one 
shepherd and half a gamekeeper. But when it is planted 
again with woodlands it will afford a living to at least ten 
foresters, and surely a whole gamekeeper as well. 

In the lowlands of Scotland and in England one often 
discovers, in walking over the hills, remains of cottages and 
farmhouses which have now vanished. The people have 
gone into the towns, and the healthy yeomen and farmers' 
boys have become weak-chested factory hands and hooligans. 
Such sites of old farms can often be recognized by a patch 
of nettles, and especially by eight or nine ash trees. These 
were always planted near the houses to give a ready supply 
of wood for spears. The ash, " for nothing ill,'' as Spenser 
puts it, would be available also for repairing the handles of 
tools, carts, etc. Some authorities say that it was the law of 
Scotland that these eight or nine ash trees should be planted 
at every " farmtoon." 

So also, when forests began to vanish in England, laws 
were made to the effect that yew trees should be planted in 


A Forest Fire 

Such fires frequentiv occur in New Zealand, and the Maoris have to fly for their lives. 


ev^y village churchyard. Probably this was to ensure a 
good supply of bows for the English archers, who, like the 
Scottish spears, were the best soldiers of their kind in 

So that if we try to compare the conditions of man and 
of the forests in Great Britain from the earliest days, it 
would be something like this : — 

1. When the earliest inhabitants lived on shell-fish, sea- 
birds' eggs, nuts, and fruits, almost the whole country was 
covered by oak, Scotch fir, or birch forests. 

2. When man was a hunter of reindeer and other deer, 
horses, cattle, and birds, he used much wood for fires and 
for building his lake dwellings. 

3. When man kept herds of swine to eat acorns, black 
cattle, goats, and ponies, there would be many clearings 
and a great deal of open wood in which the cattle roamed 

4. When man grew com and other plants, the forest 
vanished altogether. Dr. Johnson said he scarcely saw a 
tree between Carlisle and Edinburgh. Yet first the King, 
then the Barons, had their parks and woodlands for pre- 
serving game. Moreover, the yews in the churchyards of 
England, and the ash trees by the Scotch farmtoons and 
peel-towers, were carefully looked after. 

5. When great towns arose, and men became factory hands 
and steel workers, rich men began to make plantations in 
the lowlands, and to use the depopulated highlands for 
grouse moors and deer forests. 

6. When men become wiser than they are now, it will be 
seen that great forests are necessary on all waste-land and 
barren places, both to keep a healthy country population 
and because it will pay. 



Man's ideas of the use of flowers— Sprengel's great discovery — Insects, 
not man, consulted — Pollen carried to set seed — Flowers and insects 
of the Whinstone Age— Coal Age flowers — Monkey-puzzle times — 
Chalk flowers — Wind-blown poUen — Extravagant expenditure of 
pollen in them— Flower of the pine — Exploding flowers — Brilliant 
alpines — Intense life in flowers — Colour contrasts — Lost bees — Even- 
ing flowers — Humming birds and sunbirds — Kangaroo — Floral clocks 
— Ages of flowers — How to get flowers all the year round — Ingenious 
contrivances — Yucca and fig— Horrible-smelling flowers— Artistic 
tastes of birds, insects, and man. 

FOR many centuries flowers were considered as pleasing 
and attractive decorations stuck about the world in 
the same way as they are put in a drawing-room in 
order to give people pleasure. Very soon they were found 
to be extremely useful in poetry, sometimes to point a 
moral or disguise a sermon, like the primrose in Peter Bell, 
but more generally to produce a good impression on the 
BELOVED OBJECT. Bums puts the usual view of flowers very 
nicely in the following : " But I will down yon river rove 
amang the woods sae green, and a' to pu"* a posie to my ain 
dear May."*' Possibly this is the meaning also in the ex- 
quisite lines of Shakespeare about the pansy : — 

" Yet marked I where the bolt of Cupid fell : 
It fell upon a little western flower, — 
Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound, — 
And maidens call it, love-in-idleness. '^ 


Even if there is no particular meaning, the "little western 
flower " gives point and beauty to the lines. 

People only began to understand flowers about the year 
1793, when Christian Conrad Sprengel, Rector of Spandau, 
near Berlin, published a very interesting work. He had 
discovered that the beauty of flowers and their colour and 
shape were by no means intended solely to please human 
eyes, but that they were designed to attract and allure the 
eyes of insects. Before his time there had been many 
guesses. Indeed, Theophrastus (bom 371 b.c, and often 
mentioned in this work) seems to have quite well understood 
why flowers produce pollen, and that the fruit would not set 
and form seed imless pollen was carried to the female part of 
the flower. He mentions that the Pistacio has both male 
and female plants, and that Palms only form dates when the 
pollen is carried to the female tree. This experiment with 
the Date-palm was tried in 1592 by an Italian (Alpino) 
in an Egyptian tour, and the Englishman, Jacob Bobart, 
the Pole, Adam Zaluzianski (the latter in the same year) con- 
firmed the general idea. Then in the year 1694 Rudolp 
Jacob Camerarius, a German, carried on a few more experi- 
ments, but no real definite advance was made until 1793, in 
the very midst of the French Revolution.^ 

The great point of SprengePs discovery was in its being 
an intelligible explanation of the reason why flowers have 
bright colours, scent, and honey. At his time and indeed 
for many years afterwards, botanists looked on the stamens, 
petals, and other parts of the flower exactly in the way that 
a stamp collector looks at punctures and postmarks, that is 
without thinking about their meaning. Now we find that 

' The historical account by Bonnier, Cours de Botamque, is very 
interesting and complete. 



they are always designed to fulfil a perfectly definite pur- 
pose, and that all their details are contrived accordingly. 

This purpose is to carry the pollen from the stamens of 
one flower to the stigma of another. The pollen can usually 
be recognized as a yellowish or reddish dust formed in the 
stamens ; this dust is generally rubbed off" on an insect's 
proboscis or on part of its body. When the insect reaches 
another flower the pollen is scraped off* by a sticky or 
gummy stigmatic surface. When the pollen has been placed 
on this surface it grows, germinates, and part of it unites 
with the egg-cell of the young seed. 

The latter is then, and not till then, able to become ripe 
and mature. It may be compared to cross-breeding in 
animals, though the process does not exactly correspond. 

But all flowers do not require insects to carry their pollen. 
In early geological periods we do not find any flowers like 
those that now exist, nor in those early times were there 
any flies, bees, or butterflies. 

The cockroach seems to have existed in Silurian (whin- 
stone) times, and many gigantic and extraordinary insects 
lived in those damp forests of ferns, club-moss, and horsetails, 
of which the remains now form our British coalfields. May- 
flies, plantbugs, and especially dragonflies (some of them 
with wings two feet across) existed, but none of these insects 
are of much use as pollen-carriers. 

Even much later on, when screw pines, monkey-puzzle trees, 
ginkgos, and bamboos formed the forests and woods of 
Europe, crickets and earwigs existed ; but it is not until that 
geological period in which the chalk was formed (the Creta- 
ceous age) that fossil plants like most of those now familiar 
to us occur. These had flowers intended for insects, and 
with the fossil plants we find the fossils of the insects that 



visited them. Bees, butterflies, and ordinary flies appeared 
upon the scene just as soon as there were flowers ready for 
them. Mr. Scudder has even found the fossils of certain 
plants, and with them the fossils of butterflies closely allied 
to the present butterflies which now live on present trees 
allied to those fossils ! 

How then was the pollen of the first flowers carried ? 

It was in all probability blown by the wind or carried in 
water. Even now poplars, alders, birches, and oaks rely chiefly 
upon the wind to carry their pollen. These plants were 
amongst the first of our modem flora to appear upon the 
earth. Some of them possess very neat contrivances suited 
to the wind. The catkins of the alder, for example, hang 
downwards, so that each little male flower is protected from 
rain by a little scale or bract above it. The pollen is very 
light, dusty, or powdery, so as to fly a long distance. The 
Scotch fir {Pinus sylvestris) has male flowers in little cones. 
These are upright, and the pollen of each stamen drops on 
to a small hollow on the top of the stamen below. It is 
then blown away by the wind on a fine dry day, but it is not 
allowed to get out in wet weather. It is said that vast 
clouds of pine pollen occur in America, and that the water 
of certain lakes becomes quite yellow and discoloured by it 
at certain seasons. Each little particle of pollen has two 
minute caps or air-balloons which give it buoyancy, so that 
it can float easily immense distances. 

A curious little herb, the Wall Pellitory, and another 
foreign species, the Artillery plant, produces small explosions 
of pollen. When it is touched, there is a little puff" or 
cloud of dusty pollen. Even the common Nettle does the 
same on fine dry days when it is in full flower. 

But of course this carrying of pollen by the wind is a 



very expensive arrangement. It is so much a matter of pure 
chance that a grain arrives at its right destination. Sup- 
pose that a flower is giving out clouds of pollen, then the 
chance of a pollen grain reaching a female flower only five feet 
away is very small, even if the stigma of the female flower 
is a quarter of an inch in diameter. The chance of pollen 
reaching it will only be about 1 to 1440; 1439 pollen 
grains will be wasted ^ for every one that reaches the stigma. 
But even this is not quite a fair calculation, for if the female 
flower is not down wind, none will reach it at all ! 

But if an insect goes to the catkin of an alder or any 
other male flower, it will see the red points of the stigma 
and will very likely go there at once. This shows how 
much more reasonable and efficient insects will be. 

The immense majority of flowers are, in fact, purple, blue, 
red, yellow, or white, so that they are conspicuous, and stand 
clearly out against the green of their leaves. It is well 
known to all who have arranged flowers for the table that 
the green of the leaves of different plants varies greatly in 
its shade and tint. Many greens do not match special 
flowers at all, but it is the fact that the green of any one 
plant is always quite harmonious, and agrees well with its 
own flowers ! 

Besides varied and beautiful colours, sweet or strong scents 
and supplies of honey or nectar are provided for insects. 

How did flowers manage to produce all these attractions ? 
No one has answered that question. We know in a general 
sort of way that the parts of flowers are modified leaves, and 

1 The pollen from the great pine forests of the Italian Alps blown up 
to the snow becomes used in nourishing the Pink or Red Snow Alga, 
which colours it a delicate rose-pink. In lower grounds all such pollen 
becomes, like leaf-mould, a manure for other plants. There is no waste, 
strictly speaking. 



that petals and stamens become yellowish or pure white 
because they do not form green colouring matter like 
ordinary leaves. 

It is also known that on the Alps or on any high moun- 
tain, where the air is pure and the sun strong, flowers 
become rich, brilliant, and vivid. In such places as the 
"Jardin" near Mont Blanc, the pure, deep, rich blue of 
gentians, the crimsons, reds, and purples of other flowers, 
impress the most casual and unobservant traveller. " White 
and red, yellow and blue, brown and green stand side by 
side on a hand's breadth of space." In that strong mountain 
air, also, perfumes are stronger, purer, and of finer quality 
than in the lowlands. There is a more intense, active, and 
vigorous life going on in flowers than is required by 
the more prosaic industries in other parts of a plant. 
Flowers also often live at a higher temperature than the 
surrounding air. 

Kerner has described how the little flowers of Soldanella 
penetrate the snow by actually melting a passage for them- 
selves through it (see p. 103). 

This high temperature and vigorous life, shown also by 
the rapid transpiration of flowers,^ seems to hint that 
colours and perfumes appear in consequence of rapid chemical 

It was, of course, by degrees that the extraordinary varia- 
tion in colour, which exists in nature, came about. No 
doubt bees, bumble-bees, wasps, and the more intelligent 
flies were improved and developed aesthetically. We can 
almost tell by looking at a flower what sort of insect prob- 
ably visits it. 

* Pharmaceutioal Journal^ May 20th, 1899. 

■^ Buscalioni e Traverse, Atti del 1st. Bot. di Pavia, vol. 10, 1904. 



Not only so, but there are the neatest imaginabk contrasts 
and blends of colour. The common Bluebeard Salvia, e.g., 
has the uppermost leaves (three-quarters to an inch long) of 
a deep, rich, blue-purple, which the roving Bumble-bee will 
see from a long way off. The Bumble-bee flies to this great 
splash of her favourite hue and for a second buzzes angrily, 
then she notes the small bright-blue patches on the upper 
lips of the small flowers below the leaves which are set off* by 
white hairs of the upper and yellow hairs of the lower lip. 

That bees really do understand and are guided by colour 
may be gathered from the following unfortunate accident. 
A certain hive of bees which had been brought up in a blue- 
striped skep became accidentally scattered. They tried to find 
their way back to their old home, but many strayed, and it 
was noticed that they had tried to enter the doors of every 
blue hive, which were strewn with the bodies of the un- 
fortunate intruders.^ 

The rich blue-purple of Aconite, the dark strong red of 
the Woundwort {Stachys silvaticd) are specially beloved by 
bumble-bees and hive-bees. Butterflies like any bright colour. 
Those flies which have a long, sucking proboscis, resemble 
the bees in their tastes, but all these insects are quite capable 
of finding out where they can get honey most easily, and 
visit flowers whatever the colour may be. 

A very strange and wonderful fact is that quite a number 
of plants prefer the dark, or rather the dim, mysterious light 
of the gloaming. Then the Honeysuckle, the Evening 
Campion, the Night-scented Stock, Tobacco, and Schizopetalon 
give out their strongest scent and open out their white flowers 
as widely as possible. That is because they wish to attract 
the owlet moth and others which come out at this time, 
^ Von Buttel, Eespen. 


when there are fewer enemies and more security. If you 
look at any of these moth-flowers at mid-day, they are for 
the most part closed up, they are not particularly attractive, 
and they are giving out very little scent. The contrast to 
their condition in the evening is most striking. 

Not only insects but birds are used to carry pollen. The 
gorgeous little humming birds, with their brilliant metallic 
crimson, bronze-green, and purple, are of the greatest 
importance in the New World. In the Old World they are 
replaced by the tiny Nectarinidce or Sunbirds, with breast- 
plates almost as exquisitely jewelled. They prefer the most 
gorgeous reds and scarlets, such as that of Salvia horminum^ 
Lobelia cardinalis, and the like. Fuchsias are regularly 
visited by them in Tierra del Fuego, where sometimes they 
may be seen busily at work dm-ing a shower of snow. In 
South Africa they seize the stem of a Redhot Poker {THtomd) 
(Kniphqfia macowanii), and twisting their little heads round, 
they suck the honey from every blossom in succession. Still 
more interesting it is to see them perched on the edge of one 
of those great tumbler-like heads of Protea (e.g. P. incompta) 
and dipping their slender curved beaks repeatedly into the 
flowers. Then the little male bird will alight on a branch 
and make the most elaborate preparation for a song of 
triumph. Although helped out by fluttering of wings and 
much display of feathers and tail, the song is a very faint 
cheep of the feeblest description, and very difficult to hear. 

Not only birds but even animals are sometimes called into 
the service. There is a group of small mammals which live 
on the honey of flowers. Even the Kangaroo is said to 
occasionally take a draught of nectar from some of the cup- 
like flowers of the Australian Dryandra (Protea^eae), 

But one of the most interesting and extraordinary facts 



is the manner in which flowers fit in. They begin early in 
the morning : one blossom opens out and then another ; all 
endeavouring to catch the attention of some passing insect. 
Allionia violacea opens at three or four a.m., and closes about 
eleven or twelve. Some wild Roses open about four or 
five in the morning, as well as the Chicory, Roemeria, etc. 
Virginian Spiderwort, Dandelion, and Nightshade are ready 
at six in the morning. A great many (Buttercups, White 
Water Lily, etc.) are open by seven a.m. Most of these 
early flowers are shut at noon. Others begin to close about 
three or four in the afternoon. The regular evening moth- 
flowers open about six p.m., though Cactus grandiflorus does 
not open till nine or ten p.m., and closes at midnight.^ 
Extraordinary as these variations seem, they are easily 
explained. Some open early because there are then few 
competitors. By far the greater number are open from nine 
a.m. till one or two p.m., because those hours are the favourite 
working time of most insects. 

Flowers live for very different periods. That of the Wheat 
only lasts for fifteen or twenty minutes (its pollen is carried 
by wind), and is then over. There are others. Hibiscus and 
Calandrinia, which only remain open for three or four hours, 
but a Foxglove will last six days, a Cyclamen ten days, 
whilst Orchids may last for from thirty to eighty days 
{Cypripedium villosum, seventy days, Odontoglossum Rossii, 
eighty days). 

Thus the sun every day through the summer, as he calls 
into life new swarms of insects, sees at every hour of the day 
new flowers opening their petals to his genial warmth and 

^ Linnaeus and many others have made Floral Clocks. Kerner, 
Natural History of Plants^ describes the opening and closing of flowers 
very fully. 



ready for the new bees and flies. The development of the 
flower and that of its insect are probably simultaneous, and 
equally regulated by the sun's warmth. Moreover the open- 
ing periods do not merely fit in during the day, but each 
flower has its own special month, and even in Scotland there 
is no month in which some flower may not be found in bloom. 
Any stray wandering insect can get its draught of honey at 
any season of the year. 

This is a matter of some importance for those who keep 
bees, and the following list may be of some use. Fehruary : 
Crocus vemus^ Snowdrop, Black Hellebore, and Hazel. 
March: The preceding, Arahis alpina, Bulbocodium, 
Corrnis mascula, Hellehorus fodtidus^ Giant Coltsfoot, Goose- 
berry, various species of Prunus and Pyrus, Willow. April: 
The preceding as well as Adonis vemalis, Barbarea vulgaris, 
Brassica napus. 

It is not worth while noting those that bloom from May 
to September, for there are hundreds of good bee-flowers in 
these months. In October: Borage, Echium, Sunflowers, 
Lycium europcBum, Malope grandiflora, Catmint, Tobacco, 
Ocimum, Origanum, Phacelia tanacetifolia, and others. 
Most of these last into November.^ In December and 
January very few plants are in bloom. The following 
have been noted at Edinburgh Botanical Gardens : Dondia 
epipactisy Tussilago fragrans, Snowdrop, Geum aureum^ 
Hepatica, Primula acaulis, P. veris, Aubrietia deltoidea, 
Crocus imperati, C. suaveolens, Erica herbacea alba, Hellehorus 
(3 species). Poly gala chamaebuxus, Andromeda Jloribunda; 
also Sir H. Maxwell ^ mentions Azara integrifolia, Hamamelis 

* Huck, Unsere Honig u. Bienenpjianzen. These are drawn up for 
Germany, and cannot be warranted for this country. 
2 Memories of the Months. 



arborea, and Chimonanthus fragrans. Of wild plants, Chick- 
weed, Whin or Furze, Lamium purpiireum^ and Dandelion 
can generally be found in the depth of winter. 

The contrivances which can be found in flowers, and by 
which the insect is forced to enter exactly along the proper 
path, are endless. Each flower has some little peculiarity of 
its own which can only be understood by thoroughly examin- 
ing the plant itself. It is not therefore possible to do justice 
to the ingenuity of flowers in a work of this sort. There are 
orchids which throw their insect visitors into a bath of water, 
so that they have to crawl with wet wings up a certain path 
where they touch the pollen masses and stigma; others 
which hurl their pollen mas'^.es at the visitor. In the Ascle- 
piads a groove is provided into which the leg of the insect 
slips, so that it has to struggle to get its foot out, and must 
carry off* the pollen masses, though it often fails and leaves 
its leg behind. Some Arums and Aristolochias have large 
traps in which they imprison the insects, and only let them go 
when they are sure to be pollen-dusted. In one of these 
flowers there are transparent spots on the large petal-prison, 
which so attract the insects that they remain opposite them 
instead of flying out (just as flies do on a window-pane). 
Salvia has a stamen which is like a see-saw on a support ; 
the bee has to lift up one end, which brings the other with 
its pollen flat down on to its back. The Barberry has a 
sensitive spot on its stamen ; when the insect touches the 
spot, the stamen springs up suddenly and showers pollen 
upon it. In Mimulus the two flaps of the stigma close up as 
soon as they are touched, which will be when they have 
scraped off* any pollen; then when the creature withdraws, 
covered with the flower's own pollen, none of this can be left 
on its own stigma, as this is shut up. 



But instead of reading, one should watch a bumble-bee 
visiting the Foxglove flowers. The sight of her busily 
thrusting her great hairy body into the bell, which almost 
exactly fits her shape, while she gurgles with satisfaction, 
will teach the reader far more about the romance of flowers 
than many pages of description. If he then carefully ex- 
amines the flower, he will see how the honey, the arched 
converging stamens, and the style, are placed exactly in the 
right place and where they will have the most effect.^ 

One orchid, A7igraecum sesquipedale, has a spur eighteen 
inches long, and the great Darwin suggested that there must 
be an insect somewhere with a tube long enough to reach the 
honey. Such an insect, a large moth, was actually brought 
home from Madagascar, the place where this orchid occurs, 
after a lapse of many years ! 

Perhaps more remarkable than anything else are such cases 
as the Yucca and the Yucca-moth or the Fig-wasp and the 

The Yucca is a fine lily-like plant resembling the Aloes in 
general appearance. A particular sort of moth lives entirely 
upon the Yucca. When the flowers open, the mother-moth 
kneads up a ball of pollen and places an egg inside. This 
ball she thrusts down the style into the ovary of the flower. 
There a grub develops from the egg and eats the pollen, yet 
some of this pollen fertilizes the young seeds. If Yuccas 
died out the moth would be exterminated. If the moths 
were destroyed, no Yuccas would ever set their seed ! 

The Fig has two sorts of flower. The one (caprifig) 
produces only male or pollen-yielding flowers. The other is 

^ Compare Shelley, who watched all day "the yellow bees in the ivy 
bloom," but he " did not heed what things they be." Moreover, though 
he appreciated the general spirit of the bee, it is very unlikely that he 
saw any of them on the Ivy ! 



the true edible fig. Inside the caprifig are the grubs of the 
fig- wasp, which rejoice in the name of Blastophaga grossorum. 
When grown up these force their way out of the caprifig 
and, flying to the true fig, the mother-wasp lays her eggs in 
certain flowers which have been apparently specially modified 
for the purpose. At the same time she covers the ordinary 
flowers with pollen from the caprifig. Her progeny return 
to the caprifig. Here again the future of a valuable fruit- 
tree is absolutely bound up with the fortunes of a tiny and 
in no way attractive wasp ! 

Another very remarkable case is that of those flowers 
(Stapelia, etc.), which in colour and general marking closely 
resemble decaying meat or other objectionable substances. 
Very often the smell of such flowers is exceedingly strong, and 
resembles the ordinary smell of putrid matter. In one case 
an artist employed to paint the flower had to use a glass 
bell, which was put over it. He could only lift it for a 
second or two at intervals in order to see the exact colour, 
before the horrible odour obliged him to cover it over again. 
Blow-flies and others, which are in the habit of resorting to 
such substances, seek out these flowers in great numbers and 
lay their eggs upon them. In so doing they carry the pollen. 

There are certain fungi which have quite as horrible a 
smell, and some of them also resemble decaying animal 
matter. These are most eagerly sought out by the same 
blow- and other flies (bright green lucilias, yellow-brown 
scatophagas, bluebottles, etc.). But in the case of these fungi 
it is the spores, not pollen, which is carried by the insect. 

The effect of this flowery sort of life is abundantly evident 
in the structure of the insects themselves. Their mouth has 
been most wonderfully modified into a complex sucking 
apparatus ; their legs have been transformed to act as poUen- 



carrying baskets, and the habits and tastes of the insects have 
been modified in the most extraordinary way. 

Perhaps also the association of bright coloxu-s with a very 
pleasant sensation — that of a full, satisfying meal — has 
raised the artistic sensibilities of butterflies, sunbirds, hum- 
ming birds, etc. For certainly these flower-haunting birds 
and butterflies are remarkable for their brilliant colouring. 
This has probably been brought about by the preference of 
the females for the most brilliantly coloured male butterflies 
and humming birds. 

At any rate bright reds and blues are common to both 
bird or insect and to the flowers that they frequent. But 
the most curious point of this whole question lies in the fact 
that human beings of all grades, South Sea Islanders, the 
Ancient Greeks, Peruvians, Japanese, Romans, as well as the 
Parisians and Londoners of to-day, appreciate the beauty of 
colouring and grace of form which are so obvious in the 
world of flowers. 

Yet man has had nothing whatever to do with the 
selection of either these colours or shapes. Many of those 
which he considers most precious (such as the weird, spotted, 
and outlandish Orchids of Madagascar and South America) 
have very likely scarcely ever been seen by man at all. It is 
to the artistic eye of the honey-bee, bumble-bee, butterfly, 
and of the humming bird and sunbird, that we owe these 
exquisite colours. The grace and beauty of outline probably 
depend upon their perfect symmetry and on the perfect 
suitability of every curve to its purpose. 

Therefore it seems that the eyes of man, whether savage or 
civilized, are pleased and comforted by these same colours 
that delight the little brains of insects and birds. 

This is indeed a mysterious fact. 
F 8i 



Mother-earth— Quarries and Chalk-pits— Wandering atoms— The soil 
or dirt — Populations of Worms, Birds, Germs — Fairy Rings — Roots 
miles long — How roots find their way — How they do the right thing 
and seek only what is good for them — Root versus stones — Roots which 
haul bulbs about — Bishops weed — Wild Garlic — Dandelion, Plantain 
—Solomon's Seal — Roots throwing down walls— Strength of a seedling 

THE word " Adam " means red earth, Poets and 
essayists still regularly write about Mother-Earth 
and, in so doing, admit one of the most interesting 
and wonderful facts in Nature. 

If you go to some quarry or clifF where a section has been 
cut, laying bare the original rock below ; then (with Hugh 
Miller) you may reflect on the extraordinary value of those 
few inches of soil which support the growth of all our trees 
and of all our cultivated plants. 

It is probable that plant-roots never go deeper than about 
thirty feet. All our food, our energy, and activity depend 
therefore on this thinnest surface-layer of an earth which is 
8000 miles in diameter. But in most places the depth of 
true soil is far less than thirty feet, generally it is not more 
than thirty inches, and by far the most valuable part of it is 
a very thin layer five or six inches thick. 

It is in this true soil that the roots gain their nourishment, 
and not only roots, for whole populations of worms, of 



germs, of insects, even of birds and the higher animals, live 
upon it. To it return the dead leaves, the bodies of dead 
insects, and waste products of all kinds. Within it, they 
are broken to pieces and worked up again by the roots of 
other plants in order to form new leaves, new insects, and 
food for bird and beast. Just as in engine-works, you may 
see old engines, wheels, and scrap-iron being smashed into 
pieces ; they are melted down and again worked up into 
engines of some improved design. 

On a chalk-clifF, which dates from the long-distant Cre- 
taceous period, the entire thickness formed by the yearly 
work of plants for millions and millions of years is often less 
than a foot in depth, and probably only four to five inches 
are true soil. 

But this is an exceptionally thin stratum, although it is 
capable of producing rich turf, fat snails, and excellent 
mutton. In peat-mosses and in those buried forests which 
form the coalfields, vegetable matter may accumulate in 
deposits of thirty feet of coal. Yet these stores of carbona- 
ceous matter seem to be at first sight miserly and selfish, 
at least jfrom a vegetable point of view. 

They resemble the gold and silver withdrawn from 
circulation in the world by some Hindoo miser and buried 
deep within the earth. Yet somebody is pretty certain to 
find out and make use of such stores eventually. 

In the case of the peat and coalfields, an animal of 
sufficient intelligence to utilize them has already been pro- 
duced, and now they are used by man as fuel. 

It is very important to remember that the soil is a sort of 
last home to which the particles of carbon, of nitrate, and 
minerals always return after their wanderings in the bodies 
of plants, of insects, or of other animals. They probably 



rest but a short time before they again set off on new 

One might say the same of the water, and of the carbonic 
acid gas and oxygen of the atmosphere, for the water, falling 
as rain upon the earth, trickles down to the underground 
water-level. Then it immediately begins to rise up be- 
tween the particles of earth and is promptly caught and 
sucked in by the roots, only to be again given out by their 
leaves. The carbonic acid gas and oxygen also are always 
entering and leaving the foliage. Even the nitrogen of the 
air is not left alone in the atmosphere. There are small 
germs in the soil which are able to get hold of it and make 
it into valuable nitrates. 

More curious still is the fact that electric charges can be 
used to change the comparatively useless air-nitrogen into 
useful manures. Probably the farmer will some day make 
his own nitrates by electricity. 

The structure of the soil or earth is a most interesting 
and romantic part of botany. It is true that a "radical'' 
disposition is necessary if one is to go to the root of the 
matter, but, unless we do this, it is impossible to realize the 
romance of roots. 

Down below is the unaltered rock, sand, or clay. Next 
above it comes the subsoil, which consists of fragments of 
the rock below, or of sand, clay, etc., more or less altered by 
deep-going foots. Even in this subsoil, bacteria or germs 
may be at work, and the burrows of worms and insects often 
extend to it. Next above the subsoil comes the true soil ; 
there is plenty of the stones, soil, sand, or whatever it may 
be that constitutes the subsoil, but its richness consists in 
its contents of valuable minerals, and especially of broken- 
up leaves, corpses of insects, and manure. Above this true 



soil are first the leaf-mould of two years ago, then that of 
the year before last, and on the top is the leaf-mould and 
other decayed products of last winter. 

All these upper layers are full of life and activity, which 
probably goes on vigorously all the year round. 

The population of worms is especially important. The 
worm is a voracious and gluttonous creature : it is for ever 
swallowing bits of leaves and rich soil. Inside its body 
there are lime-glands which act upon the vegetable food and 
improve its quality as manm-e. The worm comes up to the 
surface at night or early morning and leaves the worm-casts 
upon it. The rain then washes the rich, finely-divided 
matter of the casts down into the soil again. It is said 
that there are about 160,000 worms at work in an acre of 
good soil. Yet their life is full of danger. A keen-eyed 
population of blackbirds, thrushes, starlings, peewits (plover), 
and partridges are always watching for and preying upon 
the poor worm. Even in his burrows, which may be six feet 
deep, he is not safe, for the mole (moudiewarp) is also both 
very hungry and very active, and delights in eating him. 

In the soil also and even deeper in the subsoil are many 
insects ; some hibernate in the winter, and at other times 
actively gnaw the roots of plants or devour dead leaves and 
twigs (see Chapter xxiii.). Thus there are many burrows and 
holes, so that there is no want of air in the soil, which 
is indeed necessary both for these creatures and also for the 
roots of the plants. 

Rain comes down through the soil, carrying with it car- 
bonic acid, mineral salts, and also germs or bacteria, which 
form perhaps the most important population of all. 

No work could be carried on without their help ; it is 
bacteria which, at every stage of decay, assist in breaking up 



leaves, twigs, insects' bodies, worm-casts, and other manures. 
The way in which they work is too difficult to explain here, 
but to get an idea of the romance of the underground world 
one must try to picture to oneself these swarms and myriads 
of germs and bacteria all incessantly and busily engaged at 
their several duties. In the uppermost layers there are prob- 
ably in a single cubic inch of good soil from 54,000,000 to 
400,000,000 of these microbes. Many are absolutely 
necessary to the harvest ; a few may be of little importance, 
but there are sure to be some of those dangerous sorts which 
might devastate a continent with disease in a single summer. 

There are also quantities of other fungi. The fairy rings 
which one sees year after year in widening circles of bright, 
fresh green are the work, not of fairy footsteps, but of an 
underground fungus {Marasmius oreades and others). Its 
threads are thin, white, and delicate ; they attack the roots 
of glasses, etc., on the outer side of the ring. It is therefore 
on this outer side yellow, dry, and more or less withered. 
On the inner side, however, the grass is luxuriant and of a 
rich bright green. Here the fungus has died off, and its 
remains, as well as those of the plants which it destroyed, 
form a rich manure for the new grass following on its track. 
Every year the ring widens ; at a certain time in summer one 
sees the irregular line of mushroom-like fungi which are 
formed by the destructive underground absorbing threads. 
This, however, is but one of the underground fungi. There 
are many kinds ; some are useful, others are very destructive. 

Upon the upper surface of the soil there falls not only 
rain, but another sort of rain consisting of seeds, dead 
leaves, insects' bodies, fungus spores, bacteria, and dust. 

Every year when the ploughman turns the sod there is a 
revolution in the whole of these populations. 



So far nothing has been said about the roots themselves, 
which penetrate, explore, and exploit all these layers of dead 
leaves, soil, and subsoil. 

The length of roots produced is very much greater than 
any one would suppose. A one-year-old Scotch fir seedling 
when grown in sand produced in a season a total length 
(branches, etc.) of no less than thirty-six feet of root. The 
total surface of this root system was estimated to be about 
twenty-three square inches. This little Scotch fir after six 
months' growth was laying under contribution a cone of 
earth twenty to thirty inches deep and with a surface of 222 
square inches. In certain kinds of corn the same author 
estimated the total length of the roots as from 1500 to 1800 
feet. S. Clark estimated the length of the roots of a large 
cucumber plant as amounting to 25,000 yards (fifteen miles), 
and made out that it was occupying a whole cubic yard of 

Clover roots are said to go down to depths of six or nine 
feet, but many weeds go deeper still. Coltsfoot, for instance, 
may be found, according to a friend of mine, living at a 
depth of twenty spades. In Egypt and other places the roots 
of acacias go down to twenty feet or even further, so that 
they can tap the water supplies, which are at a great depth. 

But a still more extraordinary fact is the manner in which 
the root-branches arrange to grow in such a way that they 
search every part of the soil. 

The main root in many plants grows straight down, or as 
nearly as it can do so. Its branches are inclined downwards 
at a quite definite angle which is often 30"'-45° to the surface. 
Moreover, these branches come off in quite a regular way. 
Each keeps growing in its own special direction to the east, 
south-east, or west, or whatever it may be, of its parent root. 



Have they some extraordinary sense of the direction of 
the points of the compass ? It is said that if a side root, 
which is growing, say for instance downwards and west- 
wards, is turned in some other direction, it will after a 
time resume its original westerly voyage. This fact is a 
most extraordinary one, if true, but it can scarcely be said 
that it has been proved, and, as will be shown later, there are 
other curious facts in the behaviour of roots which might 
explain the experiment without assuming that roots know 
the points of the compass. 

If one cuts a branch of willow and plants it upside down 
in the earth, it will very likely take root and grow. Its ap- 
pearance will be most extraordinary, for the roots will grow 
downwards, whilst the branches, instead of growing in the 
direction of the old branches, turn round and grow up- 

Why do roots generally grow downwards ? The fact is so 
familiar that the difficulty of answering does not, at first 
sight, seem so great as it really is. 

Pfeffer, the great physiologist, has the following interesting 
comparison. Suppose a man is trying to find his way in the 
dark, then a single lingering ray of light gives him an im- 
pulse to walk towards it.^ So our root, also in the dark, 
feels the pull of gravity and endeavours to grow downwards. 
Others have compared the direction of gravity to the 
sailor's compass, and suppose that the root is guided in the 
same sort of way. 

But a young, vigorous root making or forcing its way in 
darkness through stones and heavy earth is a most interesting 
and fascinating study. 

1 Kerner and Oliver, I.e., vol. 1, p. 88. 

2 Ammls of Botany , 1904. 



There are the most extraordinary coincidences in its 
behaviour. It has the property of always doing exactly the 
right thing in any emergency. 

It is of course intended to keep below the ground and in 
the dark. So we find that if roots are uncovered, they will 
turn away from the light and burrow into the earth again. 
They avoid light just as a worm would do. 

Roots are of course intended to absorb or suck in water. 
If there is a drain in the soil or a place where water collects, 
the roots will grow towards that place. Very often they 
form a dense spongy mass of fibres which may almost choke 
the drain. Along a riverside one can often find great fibrous 
masses of tree roots near the water. But how does the root 
learn that the water is there and turn away from its original 
track to find it ? It certainly does so ! 

Then again, Herr Lilienfeld has recently shown that roots 
seem able to turn away from poisonous materials in the soil 
and to seek out and grow towards valuable and nutritious 
substances. He found that peas, beans, sunflower, and other 
roots were very sensitive to different substances in the soil, 
and were directly attracted by what was good for them and 
turned aside from what was unwholesome. 

This property and the power of growing towards water 
probably explain the mysterious sense of direction alluded 
to above, for roots will take a line which has not been 
exhausted by their neighbours.^ 

But of all these wonderful properties, the most remarkable 
is the way in which roots find their way past stones and 
other obstacles in the soil. They insinuate themselves into 

^ Lilienfeld, Beiliefte z. Botan. Centralhlatt, Band XIV. , abth 1, pp. 131- 
212. The facts were denied by Newcombe and Rhodes, Bot. Gazette^ 
36, 1904. 



winding cracks and crawl round stones with an ingenuity 
that makes one wonder if they can possibly be without some 
sort of intelligence. 

It is the very tip or end of the young root that seems to 
be responsible ; for if, in the course of its journey ings under- 
ground, it should strike a stone or something hard, the root 
does not grow on and flatten itself. 

But some sort of message is sent back from the tip to the 
growing part which is a short distance behind it. After 
this message has been received, the growing part begins to 
curve sideways, so that the tip is brought clear of the obstacle 
and can probably proceed triumphantly upon its way. The 
inexplicable part is that the growing part which curves has 
never been touched at all, but simply answers to the message 
from the tip.^ 

This is perhaps the most reasonable and intelligent be- 
haviour found in the whole vegetable world, and it is not 
surprising that Darwin compared the root-tip to a brain. 

These extraordinary responses fill one with astonishment, 
but there are others still more interesting and remarkable. 
It will be remembered that we have already shown how 
different the soil is at different levels. The subsoil, soil, and 
uppermost layers are all quite different from one another. 

This may explain why it is that many plants seem to 
prefer to develop their roots at one particular depth below 
the surface. Not only so, but they find their own favourite 
level in the most persevering way. 

If, for instance, you sow a barley-corn at too great a 
depth, the seed germinates and forms a few roots, but it im- 
mediately sends out a stem which grows upwards towards the 

^ If the growing part itself touches a stone it curves round the stone, 
not away from it — the reverse of the reaction at the tip ! 



light. As soon as this stem has reached the proper place, 
which is just below the surface, there is an enormous develop- 
ment of roots, which begin to search and explore their 
favourite stratum of soil.^ 

In some few cases one can see in a dim sort of way the 
reason for the level which certain plants prefer. Thus 
the underground stems of the common Thistle, which are 
very long and fleshy, are found just a few inches below the 
level usually reached by plough or spade. This makes it 
very difficult to tear them out. Even if grubbers with long 
spikes which reach as deep as these buried stems are driven 
through the ground, it generally happens that the stems are 
only cut in pieces and not dragged up. These hardy weeds 
are not much injured by little accidents of this kind, for each 
separate bit will form upright thistle stems next year. In 
fact if one cuts this fleshy subterranean runner of the Thistle 
into pieces a quarter of an inch long, each piece will probably 
become a TTiistle. 

Sometimes indeed these weeds are carried from one field to 
another by pieces of them sticking in the very machines 
which are used to eradicate them. 

The Bishops weed is one of the hardest cases. The writer 
was once ambitious enough to try to dig up an entire plant 
of this horrid weed. The first foot or so revealed no sign of 
the end of the branching runners, and it was not until a hole 
about four feet deep and five feet across had been excavated 
that there was any sign of an end to the plant. 

When it was at last removed, the original deeply buried 

stem was found to give off* branches which again branched in 

a most complicated manner, until almost every green shoot of 

1 Pfeffer, I.e., p. 139. 



Bishopsweed ^ within a space six feet in diameter was seen to 
be really a branch of this one original plant ! So to eradicate 
the plant it would have been necessary to dig over the whole 
garden to a depth of at least five or six feet. 

How did the stem get down to such a depth below the 
surface? This is one of the most curious stories in plant 
life, and the process which we shall now try to describe has 
only been explained within the last few years.^ 

The seed of the Wild Garlic {Allium ursinum) lies at 
first upon the surface of the ground, but it is soon buried by 
a growth of the stalk of the seed-leaf, which pushes the germ 
down below the earth. As soon as it is buried, roots are 
formed and pass obliquely downwards, where they become 
fixed by forming root-hairs all round themselves. These 
root-hairs round every root hold its tip firmly in the earth ; 
then these same roots contract or shorten, which of course 
hauls down the root a little deeper in the earth. One might 
compare it to a few men hauling down a balloon by ropes 
attached to the car. About September to November, roots 
of quite a different character are formed ; these explore the 
surrounding soil and gather in food and moisture. 

Then the roots rest during the winter, when the buds and 
young leaves are being formed. In April the buds begin to 
push out their leaves and a new ring of roots appear. These 
April roots are quite different from the September ones. 
They again fix themselves firmly and then contract, becoming 
fully a third shorter than they were originally. The bulb is 
dragged down still deeper below the surface. It flowers in 
May and fruits in June and July. Then in September the 

^ This weed is a cure for gout, and seems to have been called Bishops- 
weed because it was supposed that gout was a common ailment of bishops ! 
'^ By the classical researches of Rimbach. 



same series of operations begins again. The process 
goes on until the plant is three to five inches below the 

It follows from all this, that every year the roots find new 
ground to explore and utilize. Nor is the Wild Garlic at all 
exceptional in this respect. A great many plants have roots 
which contract and drag the bulb or stem after them deeper 
into the earth. Something of the same sort happens, for in- 
stance, to Bramble branches. They arch or droop over, when 
growing, so that the end touches the earth. On the under- 
side of the tip, as soon as it begins to rest on the ground, 
roots are formed. These roots make their way into the 
ground, and then, when fixed, they shorten or contract, so that 
the end of the branch is dragged down to a depth of several 
inches. After this has happened the old branch generally 
dies away, and a young, vigorous Bramble develops from its 
buried tip. 

Raspberry branches also are often buried; their roots 
become coiled or rolled in a very curious manner. The end 
of the i*oot becomes firmly attached in the soil, and then the 
rest of it revolves like a tendril so as to draw the stem 
deeper into the earth.^ 

On any ordinary roadside in the country one is sure to 
find the rosettes of the common Dandelion and of the Rats- 
tail Plantain (Plantago major). These are two of the most 
interesting plants in the world, although they are vulgarly 
common. How is it that their leaves are always at the level 
of the ground ? The stem is always growing upwards ; 
every year fresh circles of leaves are formed above the older 
ones. Yet the crown of the stem is never so much raised up 

^ Scott Elliot and Fingland, Trans. Nat. Hist. Soc. Glasgow, vol. 5, 
New Series, part ii., 1997-8. 



above the ground that the toe of a boot would be likely to 
knock it off. It is always kept so deep in the earth, that it 
is by no means easy to kick or " howk " the crown out of the 

The Dandelion root contracts very strongly at the end of 
the season, and by this shortening or contraction keeps its 
leaves just at the soil level. The Plantain sends out about 
forty to sixty oblique downward-growing roots, which fix 
themselves in the soil by throwing out branch roots. These 
forty to sixty roots are at first about ten inches long, but, as 
soon as they are firmly attached, they contract, and pull 
the stem with its crown of leaves about one-third of an inch 
deeper. This is just enough to keep the leaves flat on the 
ground and to prevent any possible injury from passers-by. 

So that in finding their favourite level in the soil, plants 
are often pulled or hauled about by the roots. But they 
are not always moved by the roots. Even though buried in 
darkness, they seem able in some way to tell when they are 
in the most favourable position. 

Every gardener knows that Autumn Crocus and other 
bulbs do not remain in the same position. They wander 
below ground in a curious and inexplicable fashion. 

The Solomon's Seal has an underground, fleshy stem, 
which prefers to grow at a definite depth. If it is planted 
close to the surface, then the point of the next year's little 
fleshy bud turns downwards ; next year it again turns down- 
wards, and so on every year, until the stem has reached its 
proper depth. Then it grows horizontally. Similarly, if it 
is planted too deep it grows upwards. 

Thus if one wishes to realize the underground life of 
plants, one must picture to oneself : — 

1. The usual descending roots, whose system of branching 



may be compared to the ordinary branching above ground. 
It is often not unlike the reflection in water of the tree 
itself, such as one might see on a fine winter's day along the 
shore of some still lake. 

2. The bold, exploring, horizontal runners of Couchgrass, 
Thistle, Bishops weed, etc., vigorously pushing their way at 
a depth too great for the gardener's spade. 

3. All sorts of bulbs, runners, and roots being slowly 
hauled or dragged about till they get into exactly the right 
position, but never remaining for two years in exactly the 
same place. All have their favourite depth ^ — 

Herb Paris . . . . § to If inches deep. 
Solomon's Seal . . . . 1^ to 2J ,, „ 
Cuckoo Pint (Arum maculatum) . 2 to 4 „ „ 

Colchicum (Autumn Crocus) . 8^ to 5 J „ „ 
Asparagus . . . . 6| to 13^ j, ,, 

The water evaporating on the surface of the soil must, 
as it rises from the permanent water-level below, pass the 
gauntlet of all these thirsty rootlets and their hairs. Tree- 
roots will be ready to intercept it at ten feet depth, many 
herbaceous plants will suck it in at depths of five to six feet, 
and in the upper layers of soil it will have to pass root- 
system after root-system from Asparagus to Paris, so that 
very little will be lost. 

Perhaps of more importance are the bacteria-germs, and 
dissolved mineral salts in the rain-water as it trickles down 
from the surface. The soil particle acts as a filter : at every 
inch of the descent some of the bacteria and salts will be 
left, so that by the time the level of Asparagus has been 
reached there will be exceedingly few, and the water is com- 
paratively speaking pure. The effect of this vigorous under- 
^ See Rimbach's researches. 


ground life is often visible on the surface. Roots, and 
particularly tree-roots, are often extraordinarily strong. 
Kerner, in his invaluable Natural History of Plants^ has a 
beautiful picture of a young larch tree which had grown in 
a fissure of a huge boulder. 

In attempting to grow, the root had forced up part of this 
stone. It was estimated that it had lifted a weight of 
3000 lb., though it was only some ten inches in diameter. 

Along a dry-stone wall, or even near houses, the growth of 
tree-roots very often damages the entire wall, which may be 
entirely overthrown if the tree is too near. The force of the 
growth of the roots is so great that even a six-foot stone 
wall cannot keep them down. 

Quite a young seedling root, in forcing itself through the 
soil, may exercise a pressure of two-thirds to four-fifths of a 
pound ! 

This is of course necessary, if one remembers that it has 
to drive itself through the earth, pushing aside and com- 
pressing the earth particles along its course. 




The life of a cherry tree— Cherries in March— Flowering of gorse — 
Chickweed's descendants — Forest fires in Africa— Spring passing 
from Italy to the frozen North — Life in the Arctic — Dwarfs — Snow- 
melting soldanellas — Highland Arctic- Alpine plants — Their history — 
Arctic Britain— Edelweiss— An Alpine garden. 

IT is impossible to understand and very difficult to explain 
the sort of life and consciousness which is enjoyed by 

That they do live is obvious ; we know instinctively that 
they enjoy fine weather in summer and gentle showers in 
spring, but we cannot prove it. 

Much of a plant's life is concealed and hidden from us. 
Even the few explanations which have been given by certain 
observers are by no means generally accepted. 

This is true even as regards the case of the Cherry tree, 
which has been experimented with, and fought over and 
argued about by botanists, and yet we only know a very 
little about its inner life. 

When the leaves fall in autumn, next season's buds are 
are already formed and are then about one-eighth of their 
fiill size. At this time the tree contains enormous quantities 
of food-stores, for the whole season's work of the leaves has 
been accumulating until this moment. During the long 
winter's "sleep" the tree is by no means at rest. It is 
G 97 


arranging and packing up those stores in the safest place and 
in the most convenient form. 

Just as a bear, before it retires to sleep during the winter, 
takes care to get as fat as possible, so the Cherry turns its 
starch to fat, and stores it away in the innermost and least 
exposed parts of the tree, that is in the central wood. As 
soon as the winter ends, and indeed before it heis ended, pre- 
parations are beginning for the great moment of the year. 
For weeks there is a slow, gradual, almost imperceptible 
growth of the buds, then they develop with a rush, and in six 
to ten days double or treble their weight. Then comes the 
supreme moment, for the flower-buds suddenly burst open 
and the Cherry is in active and vigorous bloom and covered 
all over with exquisite blossoms. All last year's fats and 
starches are rapidly used up. Very soon the young leaves 
are beginning to make sugar and other food, which give some 
help during the ripening of the fruit. 

The flowers are actively at work. One of our usual mis- 
conceptions as to the nature of a flower is that it is an em- 
blem of peace, of restful enjoyment, of serene contemplation 
of its own beauty. That is very far from being the truth. 
The petals are actively, vigorously working. If one could 
take the pulse of a petal, which shows the rapidity of its 
breathing, one would find that it is twice as fast as that of 
the leaf. The work of changing water into vapour and 
pouring it out goes on three times as quickly in the petals 
(as compared with the leaves). Moreover their temperature 
is higher, and often distinctly above that of the atmosphere. 

This feverish activity of the flowers themselves is matched 
by the hurrying crowds of excited and exhilarated insects 
which are searching every blossom. 

No wonder that the Japanese Prime Minister, in the midst 


Stereo Copyright, Underivood £- Under-cocd 

Wistaria in Kamaido Park, Japan 

London &• Xew York 



of their great and famous war, invited the whole cabinet to 
spend an afternoon watching the cherry trees in bloom ! 

From the blossom of the springtime all through summer 
and autumn follows one continuous spell of hard work. Day 
after day an endless stream of food is entering the stem ; 
night after night it is condensed and arranged and repacked, 
until, when the leaves fall, the period of slow and quiet pre- 
paration begins again. 

Under certain conditions it is possible for gardeners to 
modify the life of a cherry, and to make it bloom much 
earlier, but this is only possible within well-defined limits. It 
is no use trying to force it to bloom before January. It micst 
have a quiet time after summer. But by beginning in Janu- 
ary and by very carefully managing the temperature, it can 
be made to produce fruit quite early in the year. 

The following account is given to show how very carefully 
gardeners have to work when they upset the ordinary course 
of Nature's events. The plant is taken into a greenhouse, 
and the temperature kept as follows : — 





First week .... 

. 48°-50^ F. 

4r-45° F. 

Second week 

. 50°-53° F. 

45°-48° F. 

Third week .... 

. 53°-59° F. 

48°-51° F. 

Till flowering 

. 59°-64° F. 

51°-57° F. 

Flowering period . 

. 46°-53° F. (!) 

43°-50° F. (!) 

After flowering . 

. 59°-64° F. 

51°-57° F. 

During development of stone 

. 53°-59° F. (!) 

48°-51° F. (!) 

After development of stone . 

. 61°-66° F. 

53°-59° F. 

Ripening of fruit . 

. 68°-70° F. 

59°-63° F. 

Not merely strong, forcing heat, but a little judicious cold, 
is necessary to get out the flowers and to ripen the fruit. ^ 
Most flowers have very much the same general history as 

^ Schimper, Pflanzengeograj[)hie. The account is based on the works of 
Pynaert, Sachs, Askenasy, etc. 



the cherry, but it must not be supposed that they are all 
alike. The differences are very interesting and curious. 

Thus, for example, plants of our common Gorse, furze, or 
whin may be found in bloom at almost every season of the 
year. There are at least four seasons when there is that 
tremendous display of golden blossom which made the great 
Linnaeus fall on his knees and burst into tears. These are 
about the 22nd March, 24th May, 15th August, and 
21st November ; yet there are enough odd flowers blooming 
in almost every month to give some cause for the saying, 
" The gorse is out of bloom when kissing is out of favour." 
The last practice, though uncleanly and dangerous, not only 
on general grounds, but on account of bacterial germs which 
may be transferred, has been authoritatively condemned in 
the United States, but it is still more or less popular in 
other countries at all seasons. 

The Chickweed and some other of our annual weeds show 
a hardy disregard of climate. Its seeds germinate and grow 
at any time, so that flowers and seeds can be formed when- 
ever there is a spell of favourable weather. Now one chick- 
weed can produce 3000 seeds. Suppose that there are only 
five generations in the year, which is a very low estimate. 
Then one seed of chickweed might produce 3000 x 3000 x 
3000 X 3000 individuals in one season ! 

Other plants show much the same tendency. In fine 
warm autumns a great many annuals bloom a second time. 
It is on record that forty-four spring species bloomed in one 
warm November. At the Cape and in other warm climates 
many of our annuals do not die at the end of autumn, but 
go on growing. They become perennial. 

It is even possible to make a Tree Mignonette by pinching 
off* the flower-buds, though this plant is usually an annual. 



In fact plants are not absolutely confined to one rigid 
scheme, but they can alter and modify their blooming time 
if they find it convenient to do so. In the Mediterranean 
some blossom in early spring and others in late autumn, 
whilst in the dry, hot, and dusty summer very few flower. 

In Central Africa during the dry season forest fires are by 
no means rare. The trees are scattered, and the ground is 
only covered by dried and withered grasses and sedges. One 
sees in the distance a rolling cloud of smoke, and soon one 
comes to a line of flame. It is not dangerous, not even very 
impressive, for a jump of three feet carries you over the 
flame and on to a desolate wilderness of black cinders, out of 
which stand up the scorched trunks and half-burnt branches 
of gaunt, naked trees. A day or two afterwards, bright blue 
and white and yellow flowers break out of those scorched 
branches and also from the ground. 

It is difficult to understand why this happens, but cer- 
tainly it is good for the flowers, which can be seen by insects 
from a long distance. 

But these are unusual cases. Generally the warm breath 
of spring wakes up the bulbs and buds, and one after another 
has its moment of flowering. 

Spring travels towards the North Pole at an average rate 
of four miles a day. 

A pedestrian visiting Italy in the end of January might 
follow the spring northwards, and if he wished to accompany 
it all the way, it would be quite possible to do so without 
exceeding an ordinary day's march. He would have to 
reach North Germany by the end of March, Sweden in May, 
and by the end of June and July would find spring begin- 
ning in the desolate Arctic regions. 

Of course the presence of mountains would make this tour 



a little difficult and devious, but still it is quite a possible 
undertaking. It would be very interesting, for he would be 
able to watch the cold and frost and chilliness of winter 
disappearing as the sun's rays thaw out a greater and 
greater extent of the cold and frozen North. 

The life of an Arctic plant is truly set in the midst of 
many and great dangers. 

For 250 days the ground is hard frozen and the tem- 
perature never above the freezing-point. About the end of 
May it begins to rise a little, but the plant has to crowd the 
whole of its life, its flowers, fruits, and seeds, into the space 
of two months ! 

About the 23rd to the 29th June the first flower appears, 
then follows strong, active growth in uninterrupted sunshine 
during July and August. The flowers are brilliant in colour 
and richly produced. The tiny dwarf Arctic plants are 
covered all over with blue or golden yellow or white blossoms. 
All is in full activity and luxuriance. Then suddenly, in a 
night, the icy grasp of winter falls upon them. 

Hard-frozen flowers, buds, and ripening fruits remain 
chilled and incapable of life from the 30th August until the 
end of May. 

Of course, under such conditions, these hardy and vigorous 

little plants cannot become trees or shrubs. To show the 

effect of the climate upon them, a few British plants which 

are also Arctic may be compared. j j , 

Great Britain. Arctic Regions. 

Matweed {Matricaria inodora) . 6 in. to 1 ft. high 2 in. 

Goldenrod {Solidago virgaurea) . 1-2 ft. 3-4 in. 

Red Rattle {Pedicularis palustris) G in. to 1 ft. 2-8 in. 

Mugwort {Artemisia vulgaris) . 2 to 4 ft. 4-6 in. 

Willowherb {Epilobium palustris) 1 to 2 ft. 2 in. 

Grass of Parnassus {Parnassia 6 in. to 1 ft. 1 in. 



These wretched little dwarfs seem, however, to have pretty 
long lives, and, as we have said, deck themselves in the most 
gaudy colours every summer. 

In the Alps of Switzerland and other temperate countries, 
the flowering season is also a very short one and soon over. 
It is often not more than six weeks, yet in that short time 
the rich blue of the Gentian, the Alpine Roses, Soldanellas, 
Campanulas, and many others make some of these grass slopes 
high up in the mountains a perfect garden of loveliness. 

Sometimes in passing over the snowfields of Switzerland 
just before spring, one notices the pretty violet flowers of the 
Soldanella swaying to and fro in the wind above the un- 
melted snow. One does occasionally see in this country the 
Snowdrop in the midst of snow, but then it has fallen after 
the Snowdrop had blossomed. 

The Alpine Soldanella flowers whilst the earth is still 
covered. It begins as soon as the ground below the snow 
is thawed. Each little developing flower-stalk melts out a 
grotto in the snow above itself, and so bores, thawing its way 
up into the air above. It has already been mentioned that, 
inside a flower, the temperature is often higher than the 
surrounding air. It is this higher temperature of the flower 
which thaws a little dome or grotto in the snow above the 
head of the flower.^ When a flock of sheep are covered by 
a snowdrift, a similar hollow is formed above them by their 
breath and the high temperature of their bodies : they often 
seem indeed to be little or none the worse for being buried. 
The Soldanella melts its way in just the same manner. 

In this country we have no such magnificent chain of 
mountains as the Alps, and yet we find on the Scotch and 
Welsh mountains quite a number of real alpines. 

^ Kerner, Natural History of Plants (Blackie), vol. 1, p. 468. 


There are, for instance, such flowers as Seapink {Armeria\ 
Sea Plantain (Plantago maritima), Scurvy-grass, and others, 
which can be found on windy, desolate gullies and corries 
high up on the Highland hills, and which also occur on the 
sea-coast, but never between the seashore and the tops of the 
mountains. You might search every field, every moor, and 
every riverside throughout the country, but you would not 
discover those three plants anywhere between the seashore 
and the summits. 

At first sight it seems quite impossible to explain why this 
should be the case. But all those three plants are found in the 
Arctic regions, and the explanation is in reality quite simple. 

At one time the shores of England and Scotland formed 
part of the Arctic regions. Ice and snow covered the hills 
and mountains ; huge glaciers occupied the valleys and 
flowed over the lowlands, plastering the low grounds with 
clay which they dragged underneath them, and polishing 
and scratching any exposed rocks. 

When the ice began to melt away and left free "berg 
battered beaches '' and " boulder-hatched hills," Lincolnshire 
and Yorkshire must have been like the Antarctic regions in 
those days. This is how Dr. Louis Bernacchi describes the 
Antarctic continent : — 

"The scene before us looked inexpressibly desolate. . . . 
No token of vitality anywhere, nothing to be seen on the 
steep slopes of the mountains but rock and ice. . . . Gravel 
and pebbles were heaped up in mounds and ridges. In some 
places these ridges coalesced so as to form basin-shaped 
hollows. Bleached remains of thousands of penguins were 
scattered all over the platform, mostly young birds that had 
succumbed to the severity of the climate."" 

Great Britain must have been just as savage and desolate 



when these hardy little Arctic plants colonized the shingles 
and rooted themselves amongst the rocks. 

They covered not only the seashore, but they probably 
made a settlement wherever rock or land of any kind was 
exposed. These original settlers have had three bands of 
descendants. One band has remained ever since on the sea- 
shore of Great Britain; another set gradually travelled 
northwards. As the ice melted away, leaving the land bare, 
first in Denmark, then in Norway, and finally in Greenland, 
this second set followed it, until now we find them far to the 
northward, populating the Arctic regions of to-day just as they 
did those of Britain in the Great Ice Age. 

The third set of descendants would at first cover all the 
land and rocks of the lower hills and valleys near the sea ; 
then as the ice and snow melted and exposed the higher 
mountain sides, they would climb the hills and eventually 
reach the exposed summits where they are now living. There 
they find themselves in an impossible, savage sort of climate, 
in which they alone are able to exist. Violent storms, 
drenching mist, scorching sunshine (when the rocks become 
so hot that it is almost impossible to touch them), rain- 
storms and months of snow and hard frost, cannot kill Scurvy- 
grass, Seathrift, or Plantain, but there are few other plants 
which can stand such conditions. Lower down on the flanks 
of the hills and in the valleys, they have long since been dis- 
possessed of the rich and fertile lands by plants which can 
grow more rapidly and luxuriantly. 

The little Alpine Creeping and Least Willows, for instance, 
some of which get up to 3980 feet in Breadalbane, are mere 
dwarfs only a few inches high, and totally different from 
their allies in the fertile lowlands, which are trees eighty to 
ninety feet high. 



Some of the Alpine plants which also occur in the Arctic 
regions have not even been able to survive by the seaside in 
Great Britain. Their nearest allies are in the Norwegian 

It would be impossible even for shrubs to stand the violent 
winds and snowstorms of these summits. Alpine plants are 
generally low-growing mats. They are also often clothed all 
over in cottonwool, such as the Edelweiss. This probably 
keeps them from losing too much water during the dry 
season, when the rocks on which they grow are strongly 
heated by the sunlight. 

Yet, like the Arctic plants, they have rich, deep, and 
brilliant colours. 

A queer point is that they have got so accustomed to this 
stormy and perilous existence that it is extremely difficult to 
grow them in a garden. Like mountaineers, they dwindle 
and pine away in the richer soil and softer air of the low 

To make an Alpine garden, rocks and stones must be 
arranged with pockets and hollows, like natural crevices and 
basins, between them. Rich leaf-mould must be placed in 
these hollows. There must be good drainage, and as much 
sunlight as one can possibly get. 




Famous countries which were covered by it — Trees which are colonizing 
the desert — Acacia scrub in East Africa, game and lions — Battle be- 
tween acacia and camels, etc. — Australian half-deserts — Explorers' 
fate — Queen Hatasu and the first geographical expedition recorded — 
Frankincense, myrrh, gums, and odorous resins — Manna — Ladanum 
— Burning bush — OUves, oranges, and perfume farms — Story of roses 
—Bulgarian attar of roses — How pomade is made — Cutting down 
of forests and Mohammed. 

A SCRUB or Half-desert does not seem at first sight to be 
in the least interesting. 

But if one remembers such places as Cordoba, 
Seville, Florence, Genoa, Sicily, Athens, Constantinople, the 
great cities of Ephesus, Corinth, etc., of St. PauPs Epistles, 
Persia, Arabia, Palestine, and Carthage, surely the countries 
which have had such splendid histories deserve a chapter to 
themselves. What achievements in war, in art, in literature, 
and in romance are connected with these lands bordering the 
Mediterranean or fringing the great deserts of Sahara and 
central Asia! 

The animals which belong to such country are also 
interesting. It is the home of the camel, ass, horse, 
donkey, not to speak of the giraffe, rhinoceros, gazelle, 
antelope, zebra, lion, and hyena. 

The plants are full of interest too, and some of them are 
of great importance to man. The Olive, Orange, Fig, Roses, 



and many perfumes and spice- trees, are natives of scrub. In 
fact, it is the real centre of all gums, frankincenses, and 

As man depends upon plants and animals, and as animals 
also are dependent on the plant world, it is the climate 
which really is responsible for everything. 

The world of plants is entirely and exactly regulated by 
the character of the climate. What, then, is the climate of 
scrub ? 

Those countries enjoy brilliant sunshine, cloudless skies, 
and yet there is sufficient rain to permit of irrigation and to 
prevent the unmitigated desolation of the desert. When, as 
has happened in many of these famous lands, the forests 
have been cut down and the aqueducts have been neglected, 
they become arid, dry, and almost useless. But when care- 
fully and industriously worked, as they were in the days of 
Greece, Carthage, and Rome, they produce results which will 
for ever live in the history of the world. 

The meaning of such half-desert climates and of the scrub 
which covers them has been already suggested. 

The scrub is trying to occupy the desert. 

If one takes the sternwheel steamer at the First Cataract of 
the Nile and passes southwards, the desolation of black rock 
and "honey-coloured" sand of the Libyan Desert is at 
first unbroken. But here and there the thorny trees of the 
" Seyal " . Acacia show the beginnings of a scrub region. 
Much further to the south, those acacias and others become 
great forests which extend all along the south of the Sahara 
Desert and furnish the valuable gums of the Soudan. 

If one passes southward through this forest of acacias, it 
alters in character. The trees become taller, closer together, 
and climbing plants and undergrowth become more frequent. 



Still ftirther south, one finds the regular tropical forest 
which is characteristic of the tropics everywhere. 

The most interesting part, which is also the richest in big 
game, is the intermediate zone between the desert and the 
acacia forest or scrub. 

All sorts of transitions are found. Sometimes there are 
thickets of thorny bushes. Occasionally scattered clumps of 
woodland alternate with stretches of grass or what looks like 
grass. Near the desert one finds pioneer acacias dotted singly 
here and there ; these are the scouts or skirmishers of the army 
of trees which is trying to occupy and colonize the desert.] 

This explains why this sort of scrub occurs in so many 
parts of the world. On the European side of the Mediter- 
ranean, the dry climate of Spain, the Riviera, and Greece 
must no doubt at one time have supported a scrub vegeta- 
tion. At present it is difficult to tell what this was. There 
is a sort of scrub called Maqui which covers parts especially 
of Corsica and other Mediterranean countries. In Greece, 
also, thorny, woody little bushes are very common. 

But these are just what the goats, who are fiends from a 
vegetable point of view, have been unable to destroy. We 
cannot tell what sort of country revealed itself to the first 
Phoenicians when they landed in Southern Spain to traffic 
with the savage inhabitants, or what met the eyes of 
Ulysses when he made his great voyage to unknown lands. 

But there are places in the world where man has never 
either kept domestic animals or cultivated the soil. Possibly 
Spain and Sicily in those early days were not unlike parts of 
British East Africa, such as the Taru Desert between Mom- 
basa and Kibwezi. 

The following may give an idea of how this scrub or desert 
appeared to me. 



Gnarled and twisted acacias of all sorts and sizes, usually 
with bright white bark and a thin, naked appearance, cover 
the whole country. Amongst these one finds the curious 
trees of Euphorbia. In Britain Euphorbias are little green 
uninteresting weeds, but here some of them are twenty to 
thirty feet high, with many slender whip-like branches, but 
no leaves. Others are exactly like Cactus, and take on weird, 
candelabra-like shapes. Nobody meddles with them for, if 
the slightest cut is made in the bark, out pours an acrid, 
white milk which raises painful blisters, and may even cause 
blindness if a drop touches the eyes. 

Almost all the plants are either covered with thorns or 
protected by resins, gums, or poisonous secretions. 

Between the scrubby trees the soil is dotted over by little 
tufts of grass or sedge, but these are so far apart that the 
tint of the landscape is that of the soil. 

Game is abundant everywhere. Sometimes it is a small 
bustard or a persistent, raucous guinea-fowl that affords a 
chance for a good dinner. Occasionally a tiny gazelle, the 
"paa,*" with large ears, springs out of the thorns and 
vanishes down the path. I saw footprints of giraffes, and 
came across ostriches more than once. I also made a per- 
severing attempt to slay a Clarke's gazelle, an animal with 
enormous ears and a long thin neck.^ 

These long-necked creatures can see far above the usual 
short thorny bush, and it is exceeding difficult to get near 
them. Water probably exists under the stony grit soil, but 
at present one has to be contented with that found in the 
stagnant pools at Taru, Maungu, etc., which, if not occupied 
by the decaying remains of a dead antelope, are, as a rule, 

* Naturalist in Mid-Africa. 


These acacias are quite well fitted to live in this dry and 
arid region. Their roots go down to twenty feet or more, 
so as to reach the deep-seated water supplies. 

Their leaves are generally adapted to resist any injury 
from the strong glare of the sunshine. The gums, already 
alluded to, are also very important, for any crack or break 
in the tree is promptly gummed up, and there is no loss of 
precious water thereby. This gum will also prevent or dis- 
courage burrowing and boring insects from getting in ; they 
would, if they tried to do so, become " flies in amber,"" like 
those found in fossil resin. The trees are generally pro- 
vided with strong spines, which guard them from the many 
grazing animals which try to devour the succulent leaflets. 

The fight between the grazing animal and the plant is, in 
these scrubs and half-deserts, very severe. In Egypt it is 
said that the whole flora has been entirely altered by the 
camel and the donkey.^ 

But in this case the battle is unfair. Man keeps those 
camels, donkeys, and goats. He provides them with water 
and protects them from lions, leopards, and snakes. In East 
Africa man has not yet interfered, and the plants probably 
get the better of the animals. In such places lions, leopards, 
and hyenas are common. It will be remembered that a lion 
not very long ago stormed and took charge of a railway 
station on the line to Uganda, and was only routed with 
very heavy loss. 

There is also some reason to suppose that the antelopes 
and other creatures do help the plants in their efforts to 
colonize the Sahara. Their droppings will very greatly im- 
prove the soil, and more vigorous thickets and undergrowth 
will spring up when the soil is improved in this way. Such 

> Floyer. 


a vigorous growth of plants will be better able to resist the 
long eight or nine months'' drought, and so help the wood to 
develop, until perhaps it is too thick, and the trees are too 
high, for the antelopes to graze upon them. In this manner 
the Acacia scrub is slowly and painfully colonizing the 

It is not only in Africa that one finds these half-deserts or 
scrub. There is the Brigalow Scrub in Australia, which has 
a curious silver-grey shimmering appearance on account of 
the blue-grey sickle-like leaves of the Brigalow Acacia. 
The foliage casts no shade, for the leaves are flat and thin, 
and place themselves edgewise to the light, so that there is 
no danger of the strong light injuring them. Also in 
Australia is the Mallee Scrub, covering thousands of square 
miles between the Murray River and the coast. It con- 
sists of bushy Eucalyptus, six to twelve feet high. Its 
monotonous appearance when seen from a small hill is very 
striking.^ " Below lies an endless sea of yellow-brown bushes : 
perhaps far away one may observe the blue outline of some 
solitary hill or granite peak, but otherwise nothing breaks 
the monotonous dark-brown horizon. Everything is silent 
and motionless save perhaps where the scrub-hen utters its 
complaining cry, or when the wind rustles the stiff eucalyp- 
tus twigs."" 2 

There is a melancholy interest attaching to both the 
Mallee and Brigalow, for in them lie the bones of many 
gallant and persevering explorers. Nor is the East African 
thorn-tree desert without its victims. The missionary. Dr. 
Chalmers, was lost near Kibwezi in the Taru Desert. 

There are a certain number of valuable plants found in 
these half-deserts or scrubs. Perhaps the earliest geo- 
* Drude, Vegetation der Erde. ^ Drude, I. c. 




graphical expedition of which we have a good account (with 
illustrations) is that sent by the Egyptian Queen, Hatasu, 
from Thebes, about three thousand years ago. She built on 
the Red Sea a fleet of five ships, each able to carry from 
fifty to seventy people, and sent them to the land of Punt, 
which was probably Somaliland. The natives lived in round 
huts built on piles like the ancient lake dwellings. The 
object of the journey was to obtain incense. No less than 
thirty-one incense-bushes were dug up with as much earth as 
possible about their roots, and carried to the ships, where 
they were placed upright on the deck and covered with an 
awning to keep off the sun's rays. Whether they did really 
survive the journey and grow in Egypt is uncertain. Sacks 
of resin, ebony, cassia, apes, baboons, dogs, leopard-skins, 
and slaves, as well as gold and silver, were also taken away. 
The Queen of Punt accompanied them. From her appear- 
ance it is not probable that the Queen of Sheba was any 
relation, although some writers have supposed that Sheba 
and Punt were the same place. 

The whole story is represented in coloured bas-reliefs in 
the temple at Tel-el-Bahiri, near Thebes.^ 

The incense here alluded to was a very valuable drug in 
Egypt on account of its use in embalming mummies. Quite 
a number of gums, resins, and the like, are obtained from 
Somaliland and similar half-desert countries. The frankin- 
cense of the Bible, which may be the incense of Hatasu, is 
obtained from Olibanum produced by various species of 
Boswellia. In February and March, cuts are made by the 
incense gatherers in the bark of the trees. Tears of resin 
soon appear and become dried by the sun over the wound. 
The best kinds still come from Saba, in Arabia, where the 

^ Rawlinson, Story of Egypt. 
H 113 


Romans obtained it in the time of Virgil. Besides Oli- 
banum, frankincense contains Galbanum {Ferula galhaniflua) 
and Storax {Storax officinale). Equal parts of these were 
mixed with the horny shield of a certain shell-fish. When 
the last is burnt, it has a strong pungent odour. The Gal- 
banum is now found in Persia, and Storax in Asia Minor, 
both half-desert countries. The true Myrrh {Commiphora 
myrrha) is also found in East Africa and South-west 

The name is supposed to be derived from Myrrha, the 
daughter of Cinyras, King of Cyprus, who in consequence 
of a great crime was banished to Arabia and became the 
tree which bears her name. The myrrh of the Sacred 
Oracles was used as incense at least 3700 years ago, and it 
is mentioned by Moses (Genesis xxxvii. 25). 

The sovereign of England used always to present gold, 
frankincense, and myrrh in the Chapel Royal, London, on 
the feast of the Epiphany, and, strange though it may 
appear, the symbolic offering is still made each year by our 
present king. 

Balm of Gilead (Balsamodendron Gileadense) belongs to 
scrub or half-desert regions. Cleopatra obtained plants 
from Jericho for her garden at Heliopolis. The Jews used 
to sell it regularly to the merchants of Tyre. 

It is still valuable, for the essence i^ worth from £2 to 
£3 per lb. 

The opoponax described by Dioscorides belongs to the 
Orient. It yields a valuable gum resin, which is much used 
in perfumery (Pastinaca opoponax). It also is obtained by 
incisions in the bark ^ of the tree. 

In fact a very large proportion of these fragrant sweet- 

* Ridley, I.e.; Lindley, I.e.; Maisch, Materia Medica. 


smelling substances, Myrrh, Cassia, Bdellium, etc., come 
from these sunny Eastern lands, which are not exactly 
deserts but very close to them. Manna, e.g., is obtained from 
the flowering Ash (^Fraxinus ormus) in Sicily by transverse 
incisions being made in the bark, so that the brownish or 
yellowish viscid juice exudes and hardens on the wound. 
Ladanum is a varnish or gluey coating found on the leaves of 
Cistus creticus^ which grows in Crete. In old times the glue 
was collected from the beards of the goats which had been 
browsing on the plant. Although this method, no doubt, 
increased the strength of the perfume, it has been abandoned, 
and the ladanum is obtained by a "kind of rake with a 
double row of long leathern straps." The straps take the 
glue from the leaves. It is used as a perfume in Turkey. 

Another very interesting Eastern plant sometimes seen in 
old-fashioned country gardens in Britain is the "Burning- 
bush " (Dictamnus fraxinella). Like a great many of these 
half-desert plants, it is full of an acrid, ethereal, odorous 
substance. On a calm, hot summer's day, this material 
exudes from the leaves and surrounds the plant with an 
invisible vaporous atmosphere. Such an atmosphere prob- 
ably £issists in preventing the water from evaporating or 
being transpired from the leaves.^ 

Now if one places a lighted match a little below the leaves 
or flowers this vapour catches fire, and there is a display 
of flames and smoke with little explosions, followed by a 
strong smell. The plant may be injured if it is set on fire 
too frequently, but generally does not seem to be any the 
worse for the experiment. 

The Mediterranean is the home of the Myrtle and Olive, 
of Oranges and Lemons, of Figs and Vines, of Almonds and 
* This was suggested by Tyndall, but has been denied by others. 



Raisins, as well as of many other important and interesting 

The olive crop in Italy yields about ninety millions of 
gallons of olive-oil every year. The olives are collected as 
soon as they become ripe, and are crushed in circular stone 
troughs with a perpendicular millstone. The paste is then 
pressed in bags and afterwards clarified by passing through 
cotton wool.^ To the eye of a foreigner the white gnarled 
stems and silver-green foliage of the olive groves are not 
particularly attractive. 

Near Burriana, in Spain, one may walk for miles through 
the plantations of oranges. The dark-green glossy leaves 
and golden fruit of the orange make a most beautiful con- 
trast, but the dry, thirsty soil, and the careful way in which 
the water is regulated and supplied by small gutters, most 
jealously watched over, make the tourist realize the difficulty 
of agriculture in so dry and arid a country. 

The Myrtle is not a very important plant nowadays, 
though its berries are still eaten and myrtle wreaths used to 
be worn by the bride at every wedding. In classical times 
it was sacred to Venus, but the victors in the Olympian 
games were also crowned with myrtle, and the magistrates at 
Athens had the same privilege. It is no longer used as a 
medicine and for making wine. It is really a native of 
Persia, but has been introduced to the Levant, Italy, France, 
and Spain. 

It is along the Riviera that one finds a very curious and 
interesting industry. This is the manufacture of perfumes 
and essences from the petals of flowers. A great many 
different flowers are used, such as the Garden Violet, Mig- 
nonette (a native of Egypt imported in 1752), Lily of the 

* Jowmal Society of Arls^ August, 1896. 


Valley, Tuberose, " the sweetest flower for scent that grows," 
Jonquil {Narcissus jonquilla), Heliotrope (imported from 
Peru in 1757), Spanish Jasmine (/. grandiflorum), which is 
a native of Nepaul, and was brought to Europe in 1629, and 
various Roses.^ 

These Roses have had a long, interesting, and honourable 
history. No one knows when they were first cultivated. 
Solomon had his rose-gardens at Jericho. Queen Cleopatra 
spent some £400 on roses in one day, and Nero is said to 
have beaten this record by wasting 4,000,000 sesterces 
(£30,000) in roses for a single banquet. 

Rosewater is said to have been first produced by an Arab 
physician called Rhazes in the tenth century. When Sultan 
Saladin recovered Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187, the 
pavement and walls of the Mosque of Omar were washed and 
purified with rosewater. That stout warrior Thibault IV, 
Count de Brie et de Champagne, brought back roses from 
Damascus on his return to his native land. That was the 
origin of the valuable Provence roses. The Lancastrians 
chose a Provence rose as their badge at the beginning of 
the Civil Wars of the Roses in England. 

Otto of Roses, or the essential oil, was discovered by Prin- 
cess Nour Jehan at the court of the Great Mogul, and she 
received as her reward a pearl necklace worth 30,000 rupees. 
The price of otto of roses seems to have been about £320 
per pound in Persia and India when the traveller Tavernier 
visited those countries in 1616. 

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centm-ies, peers of France 
had to present bouquets and crowns of roses to the assembled 

1 Heuze, Les Plantes Indtistrielles. Most of the following details are 
obtained from this valuable work. 



At present there are very important rose plantations in 
France,^ Bulgaria,^ and in the Fayoum in Egypt. In France 
about ten or twelve thousand roses are grown on two and a 
half acres. The season is from April to May. Women 
gather from twenty to twenty-five pounds daily, and obtain 
from twopence to threepence for two and a half pounds. 
Each tree will give about a quarter of a pound of roses. 
The petals are distilled to make rosewater. 

Some 12,000 people on the slopes of the Balkans, at 
Kerzanlik and other places, entirely depend upon their rose 
plantations. These are on light soil, fully exposed to the 
sun, at over 1200 feet above the sea. It is interesting to 
find that the pure mountain air strengthens the perfume, for 
these Balkan roses are fifty per cent richer in essences than 
those of lowland plants. 

Another interesting plant much cultivated in the Riviera 
is the Gassier {Acacia famesicma). It is really a native of 
India, but was introduced from the West Indies to Europe in 
1656. Cannes, Grasse, Antibes, and Nice are the places 
where it is most cultivated. Its flowers appear from July to 
November. An old tree may yield as much as twelve to 
twenty pounds of flowers, worth about five to six francs. But 
116 pounds of flowers only yield about a pound of essence, 
so that it is not surprising that this last is worth £60 the 

The cultivation is a little uncertain, for a temperature of 
three or four degrees below the freezing-point kills the 

The pomades made from many of these flowers are pro- 

* 4,400,000 pounds of roses were produced in France in one year. 
' In 1899 Philippopolis produced 1800-2000 kilogrammes of otto of 
roses, worth 700 to 800 francs the kilo. {Plutrm. Journ. Sept. 1st, 1900). 



duced as follows : A series of trays are covered with fat or 
grease ; the petals are placed on the grease and replaced by 
fresh petals every twenty-four hours or so ; in the end the 
grease is so saturated with scent that it forms pomade or 

Thus these half-desert countries are by no means without 
intei-est from a botanical point of view. The conditions of 
life are no doubt hard both for plants and animals. The 
scent so richly produced depends upon the strong sunlight 
and pure air. It is very useful, partly because it attracts 
those useful insects which carry the pollen, but also because 
such odours are distasteful to grazing animals. The gums, 
incenses, thorns, and spines are all of great use to the plant 
in its dangerous struggle for existence with hungry camels 
and thirsty soil. 

When men understood how to iiTigate the soil, and before 
they were foolish enough to cut down the forests which once 
guarded the mountain springs, these half-deserts were ex- 
ceedingly prosperous ; they were full of vigorous intellectual 
life, and of strong, hardy, and industrious peoples. Asia 
Minor, Turkey, Greece, and the Northern Coast of Africa 
from Morocco to Egypt, were rich and wonderful countries. 

But it was not only the destruction of the forests that has 
ruined them. The curse of Mohammed, the fatalism produced 
by his religion, and the slavery which is a necessary part 
thereof, have destroyed the people in mind, body, and spirit. 
Even in Greece, Algiers, and Cyprus there has been as yet 
but small recovery. 

In the future, not merely these countries, but Northern 
Nigeria, British East Africa, and South-west Cape Colony, 
may have as rich a history as Greece, if British brain and 
energy are helped by the strong muscles of the Afr'ican. 




English tea-drinking— Story of our tea— Assam coolies — Manufacture in 
India and China— Celestial moisture— Danger of tea— The hermit and 
his intelligent goat — Government, coffee and caf^s — Chicory — 
Chocolate— Aztecs — Kola and its curious effects — Tobacco— Sir Walter 
Raleigh — Great emperors and tobacco — Could we grow tobacco? — 
Story of a Sumatra cigar — Danger of young people smoking tobacco. 

ON every day throughout the year English people 
drink about 600,0001b. of tea. That is about 270 
tons, which would form, when made into the bever- 
age, a lake quite large enough to float a man-of-war ! No 
other civilized nation takes its tea in the reckless way that 
we do. Yet our fellow-subjects in Australia drink even 
more than ourselves. 

Almost the whole of this tea is grown in British colonies 
OT possessions, manufactured by British subjects, and im- 
ported in British ships. 

The coolies who work in the tea-gardens of Assam and 
Ceylon, the Englishman who manages them, the engineers in 
Glasgow and Newcastle who made the machinery, the ship- 
builders, shipowners, and crews, are all fellow-countrymen of 
those who drink the cup that cheers. Every sixpence in the 
£8,000,000, which is our yearly account for tea, finds its 
way into the pockets of our fellow-subjects either at home or 



Every one would suppose that a trade like this, which 
benefits everybody, would be very carefully fostered by 

Far from it, for this is one of those articles that are 
always being attacked by Chancellors of the Exchequer, who 
seem to have a special ill will against tea. 

Indeed, it is so heavily taxed that it is extremely difficult 
to make a profit on tea-gardens. Elsewhere in this chapter 
some other v^y curious facts will be found illustrating the 
extraordinary habits and methods of the British Govern- 

The author does not try to explain these facts, but only 
points them out ; a nation that can manage to exist at all 
when such things are done by its Government is a nation to 
which one is proud to belong. 

The Tea-plant is a native of China and Assam. It is a 
very handsome shrub resembling a camellia, with dark, 
glossy, green leaves and beautiful flowers. It is said to have 
been used in China about 2700 b.c, and the first plantations 
in India were made with Chinese seed. But a Mr. Bruce 
reported the presence of an indigenous wild tea in Assam.^ 
Three botanists who were sent to investigate the question 
suggested that this Assam variety was only the Chinese plant 
run wild, and advised the introduction of Chinese seedlings. 
This was a very unfortunate mistake, for the wild Assam 
plant gives much better results. 

The jungle is first cut down and cleared away by the 
native tribes, with the help of elephants. Then at the right 
season, i.e. after the rains begin, the Indian women and 

^ Watt, Economic Dictionary of the Products of India. This valuable 
work of reference should be consulted for interesting details as to all the 
plants cited in this chapter. 



coolies go into the plantations. They carry on their backs a 
basket supported by a band across the forehead. These 
women nip off the first two leaves and a bud with their 
finger and thumb and throw them into the basket over their 
shoulders. When the basket is full they take it back to the 
factory, where their gatherings are weighed. The actual 
manufacture is, in India and Ceylon, all performed by 
machinery. The tea is first emptied on to trays in a shallow 
layer : a pound of tea when so spread out covers more than 
a square yard. These trays are then placed in a room which 
is heated to a high temperature, for " withering.*" After six 
hours it is passed through a machine which " rolls "" or gives 
a twist to the leaves. It is then "fermented" on cement 
floors, where the tea is covered by strips of moist muslin. It 
is again rolled and afterwards dried or " fired." The sifting 
out of the different sorts or blends, and also the packing of 
the tea in chests, are done by machinery. 

That is the Indian system of manufacture, in which there 
is scarcely any hand-labour. 

In China the rolling, and indeed every stage of the process, 
appears to be done by hand. It is obvious that in the hand- 
ling, pattings, and rollings of the tea by Chinese coolies, 
" celestial moisture " may be imparted to it. In spite of 
this, however, the export of Chinese tea is steadily diminish- 
ing. In the old days, the Liverpool " tea clippers," fast and 
beautiful sailing-ships, raced each other home from China in 
order to get the first tea upon the market. 

Tea is sometimes dangerous, and especially when it is 
allowed to stew on the fire for hours at a time. Besides 
theine, which is the stimulating, active part of it, and which 
is a bracing tonic to the nerves, tannin is also found therein. 
When meat is taken with a large amount of tannin, the 


latter acts on the meat exactly as it does on hides in a tan- 
ning factory. It forms a substance resembling leather, which 
taxes the powers of the strongest digestion. 

Once upon a time in those fertile mountains of Abyssinia 
which have never yet been explored by the white man, there 
was a very holy and pious hermit. He used to live entirely 
on the milk of a few goats which he carefully tended with 
his own hands. One morning he noticed that one of these 
goats showed signs of unusual excitement. It was frisking 
about, and obviously was exceedingly well pleased with 

That was not a usual experience with the holy recluse, who 
watched the animal carefully. He soon discovered that it 
was in the habit of grazing on the bright red berries of a 
very handsome shrub in the hills. The anchorite tasted 
those fruits and discovered that he also became both pleased 
with himself and somewhat excited. 

His disciples soon discovered a brightness and exhilaration, 
an unusual "snap,'" in the good man's sermons, and they 
watched him and also discovered Coffee ! 

The author refuses to take the responsibility of more than 
the discovery of the above story. Coffee was, however, 
introduced into Arabia by the Sheikh Dabhani in 1470. It 
was taken to Constantinople about 1554, and about a hun- 
dred years later coffee-houses and cafes were regular and 
habitual daily resorts in London and Paris. 

As usual with stimulants of all kinds, the watchful eye of 
a moral Government discovered something objectionable in 
coffee, and Charles II in 1675 imposed heavy taxes, or rather 
forbade the use of it altogether. 

There was in 1718 a coffee-plant in the botanical gardens 
at Amsterdam, and in that year some of its seeds were sent 



to Surinam, in Dutch Guiana. Apparently the millions 
of shrubs in the enormous coffee plantations of the New 
World are all descended from this particular Amsterdam 

This New World coffee is by far the most important 
supply. Brazil alone exports about £19,000,000 worth of 
coffee, and that from the New World forms about 82 per 
cent of the total world's producticm. 

The story of coffee in Ceylon is a tragedy. There happened 
to be in the jungle a particular fungus (Hemileia vastatrix) 
which got its living on the leaves of wild plants belonging to 
the coffee order (Rubiacece) and others. When Arabian 
coffee was introduced, the fungus began to attack its leaves. 
The result was the utter ruin of the industry. It is said 
that about £15,000,000 was lost by this Hemileia disease in 

The plantations require a grea* deal of care. The shrubs 
have to be carefully pnmed, and the preparation of the 
coffee bean is not a very easy matter. It is really the seed of 
a bright red, fleshy berry. The pulp or flesh has to be re- 
moved, and also both a homy skin, the " parchment," and a 
thin delicate membrane, the " silverskin,"' in which the seed 
is enclosed. Coffee is not nearly so much used in Britain as 
in some other places, and particularly in Holland, for the 
Dutch drink about twenty-one pounds per head in the year, 
whilst we in Great Britain only use about three-quarters of 
a pound. 

It is in fact not very easy to make good coffee, and it is 
absolutely necessary to grind and roast the beans just before 
using them. Very often also too little coffee is used. 

Tinned coffee is often adulterated with either Chicory or 
Endives, but those are only the two most important im- 



purities, for burnt sugar, biscuits, locust-beans, date-stones, 
rye, malt, and other substances are ground up and mixed 
with coffee. 

The use of chicory is, however, more or less recognized. 
It is the roots which are ground up and mixed with it. 
They contain no caffeine^ which is the active part of the 
coffee bean, and are quite harmless. At one time chicory 
was grown in Essex and other English counties, and was a 
distinctly profitable crop. 

Here again come in the mysterious ways of the British 
Government. The cultivation of chicory was absolutely 
forbidden by the Inland Revenue Department ; but a 
considerable amount is still grown in Belgium and is im- 
ported to this country. Those who prefer chicory with their 
coffee have to pay a heavy duty ; but the Belgian farmer is 
allowed and the British farmer is forbidden to take up a 
paying and profitable industry ! The plant is allied to the 
dandelion. It occasionally occurs in this country as a weed, 
and is a rather striking plant with bright blue flowers. 

Another of these useful productions which also suffers from 
a heavy duty is Cocoa or Chocolate, There are a great many 
different plants called Co Co, or by some name very similar to 
it. The Cocoanut Palm furnishes not only the nuts but the 
fibre or coir enclosing them, as well as a great many other 
useful substances. The cocaine used by dentists, and 
which deadens or stupefies the nerves of the teeth, is de- 
rived from the leaves of a Peruvian shrub, " Coca " {Ery- 
throocylan Coca), These leaves are chewed in the mouth 
and have very extraordinary effects, especially on the Indian 
labourers. They are a strong nerve stimulus and take away 
any feeling of hunger or fatigue. It was by the use of coca 
leaves that the postmen of the Inca emperors in Peru were 



enabled to carry messages at the rate of 150 miles a day. 
Then again the Cocoes of the West Indian Islands is a sort 
of Yam (Colocasia antiqitAj7'U7ri). Coco-de-mer is the fruit of 
a palm common in the Seychelles Islands (Lodoicea Sey- 

The cocoa which gives the ordinary chocolate and cocoa of 
the breakfast table is the seed of a tree (Theobroma cacao). 
The name is derived from Oeos, god, and IBpoojuLa, food. It 
may be translated, " That which the gods browse upon.'" 

This plant is one of those which were cultivated by that 
ancient, powerful, semi-civilized nation, the Aztecs of Mexico. 
They have almost entirely vanished ; at any rate their 
descendants, if they have any, exercise practically no in- 
fluence in the world, but they have left us chocolate. They 
fully appreciated the plant, and even more than we do, for 
they worshipped it with grateful and superstitious awe. 

In their tombs, chocolate flavoured with vanilla was 
placed, in order to provide the ghost with suflicient susten- 
ance for his or her aerial flight to the Land of the Sun. 
Columbus brought home some cocoa on his return from his 
first voyage. The Jesuit fathers in Mexico greatly helped 
in developing the plantation of cocoa in the days of the 
Spaniards. At present the largest amount comes from 
Ecuador, which produces about 50,000,000 pounds weight. 

It is a small tree, twenty to thirty feet high, growing in 
the warm, moist, and sheltered forests of Central and South 
America. It has a large fruit, within which are the numerous 
cocoa beans, " nibs,*" or seeds. The tree does not bear until 
it is five years old. The fermentation and drying of the 
beans require some care. 

Chocolate is made from the powdered cocoa mixed with 
sugar and other materials. Chocolate, like tea and coft'ee, 


Stereo Copyright, Underwood Gr Under-wood London 6~ Xem York 

A Tobacco Plantation in Cuba 


depends for its effect on an extremely powerful drug, theine 
or caffeine, of which it contains minute proportions. There 
are very few other plants known which possess this powerful 
substance. Amongst these is the Kola nut, which is every- 
where regularly employed in West Africa. On the way up 
to the barracks at Freetown, Sierra Leone, natives were 
always to be seen seated by the roadside; they sold kola 
nuts to the soldiers, who were thereby enabled to walk 
steadily and uprightly past the sentry, and to return his 
challenge in a clearly articulate voice, although they might 
previously have been somewhat injudiciously convivial in the 
town. This kola is one of the very strongest nerve tonics ; 
under its influence men can endure severe physical and 
mental strain. Like the others, however, a depressing re- 
action inevitably follows, accompanied by insomnia, head- 
ache, and other evil effects. 

When one comes to ask. Why do those few plants out 
of all the vast multitude of the vegetable world possess such 
extraordinary virtues ? it is difficult to find an answer. 
Possibly some obscure insect or fungus enemy finds caffeine 

Nor can one find any reason for the curious properties 
developed in the Tobacco leaf by fermentation, except 
a possible protection to the leaf from the attacks of insects. 
No doubt the leaf, even in its natural state, would be too 
strong for them. 

Tobacco is a native of Central America. The name 
Nicotiana tahacum is derived (the first) from a certain Jean 
Nicot, Ambassador to the King of Portugal, and the second 
from the Haytian name for a pipe. 

On Columbus's voyage in 1492 the use of tobacco was 
noted. The story of Sir Walter Raleigh's servant, who 



threw a bucket of water over his master when the latter was 
smoking a pipe, is not supported by much evidence, but it 
seems to be probable that Sir Walter did smoke his pipe on 
the way to the scaffold. 

At any rate it was cultivated in Europe by the year 1570, 
and Spenser speaks of the " soveraine Weed, divine Tobacco." 

From the first it was detested by all governments and 
authorities. James I published a very intemperate Counter- 
blaste against Tobacco. It was prohibited by the Czar of 
Russia in 1635, and by the King of France. The great 
Sultan Jehanghir in India, Sultan Amurath II in Turkey, 
Shah Abbas the Great in Persia, and the Emperor Kang 
Ching in China, all prohibited the use of tobacco in their 
respective dominions. 

Yet none of these great rulers were able to check its 
progress. The " Herb of Amiability," or the " Queen Herb 
of the rude Barbarian " as it is described in Chinese, prevails 
almost over the whole earth. There is scarcely a people or 
tribe in existence which does not use it. 

But almost everywhere it is either heavily taxed or a 
Government monopoly ; in the latter case it is always ^ 
exceedingly bad. We ourselves import tobacco worth about 
£4,500,000 in the year, and pay a heavy duty. The 
world probably smokes from 1,800,000,000 to 2,000,000,000 
pounds of tobacco every year. 

The plant is a very pretty one, with large leaves and long 
pinky or white flowers, which are open and strongly scented 
at night. It is an annual, and is not at all difficult to culti- 
vate. There is an impression in this country that it is a 
tropical plant, but by far the greatest amount of our 
tobacco comes from temperate countries. Large quantities 
are grown in Germany, in Hungary, and in other parts of 



Europe. As a matter of fact tobacco was once cultivated in 
both England and Scotland. 

There is evidence to show that in 1832 it was successfully 
grown in Roxburghshire, where 1000 pounds an acre was 
obtained. The land was let at about £5 to £6 per acre. 
Experiments of recent years have also proved very encourag- 
ing, and in fact it is difficult to see how any reasonable doubt 
can exist as to the fact that it would be perfectly easy to 
grow plenty of that sort of tobacco which we now obtain 
from Holland and (Germany. A prominent Irish statesman 
has admitted this : " There was no doubt but that tobacco 
could be grown in Ireland, but whether there are Irishmen 
patriotic enough to smoke it, is very doubtful," ^ 

Of course every one knows that the differences in tobacco 
depend chiefly on the preparation, but the Constitutional 
objection to tobacco, illustrated by the above remark, is the 
real reason why it is not grown. 

Oliver Cromwell sent his troopers to ride down the grow- 
ing crops. Charles II imposed a penalty of £1600 per acre. 
Modem statesmen are flippant and unfair. 

The reason of course is that a large income is cheaply 
obtained by taxing imported tobacco. If this were at all 
interfered with, new taxes, which would certainly be un- 
popular, would be required. 

There is a good deal of interest in the story of the 
tobacco plantations. Many prisoners of the Civil War in 
England were sold to Virginia and other places. Even 
nowadays there is some romance in the history of a cigar. 
In the Dutch island of Sumatra the jungle is cleared 

^ Wrightson, Journal R. Agr. Soc, Second Series, vol. 10, part ii. p. 
312; Jenkins, Ibid., vol. 11, part i. p. 192; De Lanne, Ibid., vol. 23, 
part i. p. 213. Carter, Tobacco in England. 
I 129 


away by the natives under the orders of an English 
manager. Chinese coolies are then imported. The estate 
provides each coolie with tools, tea, a barber, and sufficient 
cash to buy rice, fish, or pork, as well as a little over for his 
opium, to spend in fireworks, and to propitiate his demons. 

The coolie grows the tobacco, which is bought from him 
and manufactured by the estate. Some of it goes to India, 
where it is used as the outer wrapper of cigars.^ 

For adulterating tobacco all sorts of leaves are occasion- 
ally employed, such as those of the dock, chicory, burdock, 
foxglove, comfrey, elm, coltsfoot, plantain, beech, cabbage, 
lettuce (steeped in tar oil), etc., etc. 

The substance nicotine is a deadly and dangerous poison. 
When young people smoke tobacco, it has been quite con- 
clusively proved that they will very probably not reach their 
full growth, but be miserable weaklings, stunted, half- 
developed, and below the proper standard of a man. 

This is not surprising, if one reflects on the constitution of 
tobacco smoke. This contains "nicotine, empyreumatic 
resin, oil, ammonia, carbonic acid, carbonic oxide, hydro- 
cyanic acid, sulphuretted hydrogen, carburetted hydrogen, 
and paraffin.'^ ^ 

^ Dunning, Tobacco, 1876. 

■^ Journal Society of Arts, March, 1896. 




What are deserts like ? — Camel-riding — Afterglow — Darwin in South 
America — Big Bad Lands— Plants which train themselves to endure 
thirst — Cactus and euphorbia— Curious shapes — Grey hairs — Ice-plant 
— Esparto grass— Retama — Colocynth — Sudden flowering of the Karoo 
— Short-lived flowers— Colorado Desert— Date palms on the Nile — 
Irrigation in Egypt— The creaking Sakkieh — Alexandria hills — The 
Nile and Euphrates. 

A CROSS the whole of Africa, at its very broadest part, 
L\ from the dominions of the Emperor of the Sahara at 
Cape Juby on the Atlantic, and to the very borders 
of British India, stretches a desert of the most uncompro- 
mising character. It is famous in history : the strongest 
races of man, the great religions of the world, as well as 
most cultivated plants and domestic animals, have originated 
in some part of this dreary waste. 

One cannot really appreciate deserts unless one has really 
seen them. But it is necessary to try to describe what they 
are like. 

Sometimes the desert is a wilderness of broken, stony 
hills covered by angular pieces of shivered rock. In other 
places the soil is hard, and is everywhere covered by pebbles 
or shingle. Often it is a mere waste of sand blown into 
downs and hillocks which look sometimes like the sand dunes 
by the coast, and elsewhere like the waves of the sea. 



One finds valleys in the desert quite like ordinary ones in 
shape, but instead of water there is only sand in sweeping 
curves and hollows, like the snow-wreaths and drifts in a 
highland glen. 

Rocks stand out of this, but their projecting faces are 
polished smooth and glittering or deeply cut by the flinty 
particles scraping over them continually in storms and 

The traveller on camel-back, where his waist has to act as 
a sort of universal joint giving to every unexpected jolt and 
wrench of his rough-paced mount, suffers from the heat, for 
nowhere else in the world are there such high temperatures. 
He suffers from thirst, and still more from the dust which 
fills eyes, mouth, nostrils, and ears. 

Yet the dry pure air is most exhilarating. 

In the evening there is a feast for the eyes in the glorious 
afterglow when the sun has just set. The light from below 
the horizon produces an ever-changing, indescribable play of 
colour from violet to salmon pink and through the most 
delicate shades of yellow, blue, and rose, until everything 
fades and there reigns only the mysterious silence of the 
beautiful starlit night. 

No wonder the air is dry and pure, for rain only falls on 
perhaps eight days in the year in some places (Ghardiaia). 

Yet plants manage to exist even where there is only about 
seven inches of rain annually. 

But this seems still more extraordinary if one remembers 
that sand may be almost glowing hot during the day, whilst 
in winter it may be, at night, cooled below the freezing-point. 

Yet a desert absolutely bare of plants is an exceedingly 
rare phenomenon. Such do occur. Darwin speaks of " an un- 
dulating country, a complete and utter desert.'' This is not 



very far from Iquique in South America. " The road was 
strewed with the bones and dried skins of the many beasts of 
burden which had perished upon it from fatigue. Excepting 
the Vultur aura^ which preys on the carcases, I saw neither 
bird, quadruped, reptile, nor insect. On the coast moun- 
tains, at the height of about 2000 feet, where, during this 
season, the clouds generally hang, a very few cacti were grow- 
ing in the clefts of rock ; and the loose sand was strewed 
over with a lichen which lies on the surface quite unattached. 
... In some parts it was in sufficient quantity to tinge the 
sand, as seen from a distance, of a pale yellowish colour. 
Farther inland, during the whole ride of fourteen leagues, I 
saw only one other vegetable production, and that was a 
most minute yellow lichen, growing on the bones of the 
dead mules."" ^ 

Rydberg, speaking of the Big Bad Lands in South Dakota, 
says that there are in some places great stretches of land con- 
sisting of canons separated by small ridges, in which not a 
speck of green is visible over several sections.^ (A section is 
more than a square mile.) 

But though Aden looks exactly like " a barrack stove that 
no one's lit for years and years," plants grow there. Even in 
Egypt, when one has left the Nile inundation limit, a 
botanical eye very seldom fails to detect plants of one sort or 
another even in a dangerous and thorough-going desert. 

Plants are almost as hardy as men ; they can adapt them- 
selves to almost any climate. 

In some curious and inexplicable way the very dangers of 
the climate seem to produce automatically a means of resist- 
ing it. The chief peril, of course, is a loss of the precious 

^ Darwin, Nattn-alist^s Voyage round the Wot'ld in the Beagle^ p. 387. 
•^ Schimper, Z.c, p. 674. 



water through the leaves. When the skin or epidermis of a 
plant is being formed, the walls of its cells are laid down, 
layer by layer, one inside the other, by the secretion of the 
living matter inside. In a dry desert the loss of water by 
evaporation will be so rapid that these layers of cell-wall are 
much thicker than in ordinary plants. The very fact that 
they are thicker and less penetrable tends to prevent any 
further loss of water. ^ 

So that plants in a dry climate have the power of altering 
themselves to resist its dangers. 

Another author found that, in Scandinavia, plants of the 
same species can acclimatize themselves if necessary. Sheep's 
Sorrel which had grown on dry, droughty gravel banks only 
lost 10 per cent of its water in the first two days, when it 
was artificially dried. Other Sheep's Sorrels, which had been 
luxuriating in meadows where they had no lack of moisture, 
lost no less than one third (33 per cent) of their water when 
dried in the same way. 

That is interesting, because very likely our readers might 
in crossing a desert be perishing of thirst when a Bedouin 
Arab would be perfectly happy. The plants have learnt to 
do without water just in the same way as the Arab has done. 

Of the many interesting desert plants, the Succulents, 
Cacti, Euphorbias, and others of the same extraordinary, 
fleshy, dropsical appearance, come first. 

When a Cereus plant (one of the American Giant Cacti) 
was dried, it did not lose the whole of its water for 576 days. 
That is probably the longest time "between drinks" on 
record. A Houseleek (Sempervivum), which has to grow on 
dry rocks where it has no water for days together, remained 
quite fresh for 165 days. 

^ Schimper, I.e., p. 653. 

Giant Cactus near Aco:.c..gua Valley, Chile 

This plant was about 8 feet high. The darker part on the tallest branch is the 
dark red flower of the parasitic horanthus. The thorns covering the branches are 
quite distinct. 


There are several reasons why these plants took so long to 
dry up. To begin with, they have inside their stems and 
leaves certain substances which hold water and delay its 
escape. Moreover their extraordinary shapes are of very 
great assistance. They prefer globular, round, circular, 
pear-shaped, or cylindrical forms. 

Suppose you were to cut such a round mass into thin slices 
and lay them out flat, it is quite clear that they would cover 
a much greater surface. Thin leaves also, if squashed up 
into a round ball, would have a very much smaller surface. 

The water can only escape from the surface exposed, so 
that these condensed round balls and fleshy columns have 
far less water-losing surface than ordinary leaves. 

As a matter of fact, it was found by calculation that the 
surface of an Echinocactus was 300 times less for the same 
amount of stuff" as that of an Aristolochia leaf. If the 
actual loss of water from the Echinocactus, as found by ex- 
periment, was reckoned as one unit per square inch, then the 
amount of water lost from a square inch of the Aristolochia 
was no less than 5000 units ! 

This shows that these odd, outrageous shapes of Prickly 
Pears, Cacti, and other succulents are an extraordinary help 
to them. We have already pointed out in a previous chap- 
ter how necessary their spines and prickles are if they must 
resist rats, mice, camels, and other enemies. 

What we may call the " hedgehog "" type of plant is also 
very common in desert countries. There are many woody 
little, much branched, twiggy shrublets, which bristle all over 
with thorns and spines. They are not at all fleshy, but do 
with the least conceivable amount of water. 

Another striking characteristic of the desert flora is 
noticed by every one. Almost every plant is clothed either 



in white cottonwool, like the Lammie''s Lug of our gardens, 
or else in grey hairs. The general tint of the landscape is 
not green, but it is rather the colour of the soil silvered over 
by these grey-haired plants. 

The reason of this is, of course, quite easy to understand. 
We put on a thick overcoat if we are going to walk in a 
Scotch mist, to keep out the moisture. These plants cover 
themselves with hairs or cottonwool to keep the moisture 
inside. It does not escape easily through the woolly hairs on 
the skin. 

One very strange plant should be noticed here. This is 
the Iceplant {Mesembryanthemum cristallinum). Every part 
of it is covered with little glittering swellings which shine in 
the sun like minute ice crystals. The swellings contain a 
store of water, or rather of colourless sap, which makes it able 
to exist in dry places. Dr. Ludwig says that a torn-ofF branch 
remained quite fresh for months on his study table. It is 
probable that these peculiar pearl or ice-like swellings also 
focus the sunlight, acting like lenses, upon the inner part of 
the leaf, but that is not as yet fully understood. 

There are two grasses, growing in the desert, which are of 
some value ; both are called Esparto or Haifa. They are very 
dry, woody, or rather wiry grasses, especially common in 
Algeria, Tripoli, and also found in Spain. One of them, 
Stipa tenacissinia, grows in rocky soil in Morocco, Algeria, 
and Tripoli. The Arabs search for it in the hills, and dig it 
up by the roots ; they then load their camels with the grass 
and bring it to the ports whence it is sent to London or 
other places. A very good and durable paper is made from 
it, and ropes, mats, and even shoes are also produced from the 
fibre. Part of the "esparto" is, however, furnished by 
another grass {Lygeum sparteum). The natives sometimes tie 



a knot in a halfa leaf, which, according to them, cures a 
strain of the back. The Stipa is also used as fodder, but it 
is not nutritious and is indeed sometimes dangerous. In one 
year Britain imported 187,000 tons of esparto, worth nearly 
£800,000. The yield is said to be about ten tons per acre. 

Another very interesting plant at Tripoli and in the North 
African Desert generally, is a sort of broom, the Retama 
{Retama Raetam). It is not very unlike the common broom, 
but has long, leafless, whip-like branches covered by bright 
pink-and-white flowers. It can often be seen half submerged 
in waves of sand, and struggling nevertheless to hold its 
own. As it has no leaves its loss of water is very much kept 
down. This is the Juniper of the Bible, and it is still used 
for making coals. 

The length of the roots is very great in most of the 
broom-like, "hedgehog," and other plants. A quite small 
plant not more than six or eight inches high will have a root 
as thick as one's thumb. Even at a depth of four or five 
feet below the surface its root will be as thick as the little 
finger, so that the root-length is at least twenty times the 
height of the visible part above ground. These thirsty 
roots explore the ground in every direction, and go very deep 
downwards in their search for water. 

Another very interesting plant in the Egyptian Desert is 
Citrullus Coloci/nth, from which the drug colocynth is pre- 
pared. The great round yellow-green fruit and finely divided 
bright green leaves may be seen lying on the sand. It 
remains green all the summer, but appears not to have any 
particular protection against loss of water. It is always 
supplied by its roots with underground water. If a stem is 
cut through it withers away in a few minutes. This is 
found also in Asia Minor, Greece, and Spain. The pulp of 



the fruit contains a strong medicinal substance ; it is a 
drastic purgative, and in overdoses is an irritant poison. 
This was probably the Wild Vine or gourd which the young 
prophet gathered, and which produced " death in the pot." 
He probably mistook it for a water melon. It is still 
plentiful near Gilgal (2 Kings xiv. 38-41).^ 

Below the surface of the earth, of course, there is not 
nearly the same dryness or danger of losing water, so that 
there are often a great number of bulbs, tubers, and the like 
hidden in the soil. There they wait patiently, sometimes 
for a whole year or even for a longer period. So soon as 
a shower of rain falls they start to life, push out their 
leaves, and live at very high pressure for a few days. After a 
shower of rain, the Karoo in South Africa, for instance, 
is an extraordinarily beautiful country. There are bulbous 
Pelargoniums, a very curious leafless cucurbitaceous plant 
{Acanthosicyos\ hundreds and thousands of Lilies, Irids, 
and Amaryllids. A single scarlet flower of a Brunsvigia 
can be seen more than a mile away ! 

These tender and delicate, exquisitely beautiful bulbs 
flourish amongst the succulent Euphorbias and Mesembry- 
anthemums, between the hedgehog-like thorny plants and the 
woody little densely-branched mats of the permanent flora. 
The rain stimulates even these last to put out green leaves 
and flowers, but their time comes later on, when by the 
return of the usual drought every leaf and flower and the 
fruit of every bulb has been shrivelled up, turned into 
powder, and scattered in dust by the wind.^ 

Then the Karoo becomes unlovely, desolate, and barren- 
looking, with only its inconspicuous permanent plants visible. 

^ Ridley, Pharmaceutical Journal^ May 19th, 1900. 
3 Scott Elliot, Tram. Bot. Soc. Edin., vol. 18, p. 243. 


The above description applies to bulbs and perennial 
plants with underground stores of food. Yet these are by 
no means the only plants which manage to exist in the 
Egyptian and Arabian desert. After a shower of rain a 
whole crowd of tiny annuals suddenly develop from seed; 
they come into full flower and have set their seed before they 
are killed off by a return of the desert conditions, when the 
effects of the rain have died away. These plants are not 
really desert plants at all, for they only grow during the 
short time that it is not a desert. They are like the 
Ephemerid insects which live for a summer day only. 

Nor is it only in Egypt that we find such ephemerals. 
Mr. Coville found them in the Colorado desert in North 
America. The plants are quite different, but similar con- 
ditions have brought about an entirely similar mode of life 
on the other side of the globe ! In Colorado they seem to 
be much influenced by the quantity of rain. Mr. Orcutt, 
after the great rain of February, 1891, found plants of 
Amaranthus (allied to our Love-Lies-Bleeding), which were 
ten feet in height, but in 1892 he found specimens of the 
same in the same place only nine inches high, though they 
were perfect plants and in full flower ; in this last year there 
was only the usual very scanty rainfall. 

It is, however, in deserts when man has set to work and 
supplies water and strenuous labour, that the most wonderful 
results appear. The whole of lower Egypt, Babylon, 
Nineveh, Damascus, Baghdad, Palmyra, and other historic 
cities, show what the desert can be made to produce. 

As one slowly steams up the Nile from Philae or Shellal 
towards Wady Haifa, there are places where the brown, 
regular layers of the Nubian Sandstone form cliffs which 
advance almost to the water's edge. Yet there is a narrow 
strip of green which fringes the water. 



It is upon the actual bank itself, which is a gentle slope 
of ten to fifteen feet, that Lupines, Lubia beans, and other 
plants are regularly cultivated. This narrow green ribbon 
remains almost always on each bank. Where the cliffs 
recede, one notices a line of tall, graceful date palms, mixed 
occasionally with the branched Dom palm (the nut of which 
yields vegetable ivory).^ Tamarisks, conspicuous for their 
confused, silvery-green foliage, can be noticed here and there. 
The Acacias are common enough, and sometimes one of 
them is used as a hedge. It is a spreading, intricately- 
branched little shrub, with very white branches and stout 
curved thorns. 

If one lands and strolls along the banks below the palm 
trees or amongst plantations of barley, wheat, or lentils, one 
sees the native women in their dark green robes gathering 
fruits or digging. Goats and donkeys are tethered here and 
there. There are sure to be castor-oil bushes. Small but 
neat pigeons, with a chestnut-coloured breast and bluish- 
banded tails are perching on the palms or acacias, and utter 
their weak little coo. The air is suffering from the horrible 
creaking and groaning of a "sakkieh"*' water-wheel. This 
is made entirely of acacia wood, and is watering the planta- 
tions. Sometimes it seems like a crying child, then, perhaps, 
one is reminded of the bagpipes, but its most marked peculi- 
arity is the wearisome iteration. It never stops. One of them 
is said to supply about 1| acres daily at a cost of seven 
shillings per diem. Exactly the same instrument can be seen 
pictured on the monuments of Egypt 4000 to 5000 years 
ago. The " shadouf " is of still older date. This is a long 
pole bearing at one end a pot or paraffin tin and balanced 
by a mass of dried mud or a stone. All day long a man 

^ Used to make billiard balls. 


can be seen scooping up the cofFee-coloured water of the 
Nile and pouring it on the land for the magnificent sum of 
one piastre a day. 

Where not irrigated, the soil is dry and parched and can 
only carry a few miserable little thorny bushes. The entire 
absence of grass on the brick-like soil has a very strange 
effect to English eyes. 

The Date Palm, however, requires a little respectful con- 
sideration. If one enters a thick grove and looks upwards, 
the idea of Egyptian architecture as distinguished from 
Gothic and others is at once visible. It has quite the same 
effect as the great hall of columns near Luxor. The 
numerous stems ending in the crown at the top where the 
leaves spring off was quite clearly in the minds of the 
architect at Karnak and other temples. It goes on bearing 
its fruits for some two hundred years, and begins to yield 
when only seven years old. It revels in a hot, dry climate 
with its roots in water, and seems to require scarcely any 
care in cultivation. Yet during the first few years of its life 
it is necessary to water the seedling. A single tree may 
give eight to ten bunches of dates worth about six shillings. 
Generally it is reproduced by the suckers which spring out 
from the base of the tree. 

Dates make a very excellent food, not merely pleasant 
but both wholesome and nutritious. Sometimes toddy is 
made by fermenting the sap, but this is a very wasteful 
process, as it is apt to kill the tree. 

The stones are often ground up to make food for camels. 
The feathery leaves are exceedingly graceful. When quite 
young they are not divided, but they split down to the main 
stalk along the folds, so that a full-grown leaf affords but 
little hold to the wind. 



In some parts of Egypt, as for instance at Mariout, which 
is some fifteen miles from Alexandria, the wild flowers are 
probably more beautiful than anywhere else in the world. 
Amongst the corn and barley, which can be there grown 
without irrigation, masses of scarlet Poppies and Ranunculus 
are mingled with golden-yellow Composites, bright purple 
Asphodels, and hundreds of other Eastern flowers. The 
result is a rich feast of colour indescribable and satisfying to 
the soul. 

So that these deserts under the hand of man rejoice and 
blossom as the rose. 

Why is it that, as Disraeli has pointed out, civilization, 
culture, science, and religion had their origins in the desert ? 
The answer is not difficult to see : for there is a dry, healthy 
climate ; the severe strain of a long day''s journey is varied 
by enforced leisure, when, resting at his tent-door, the Arab 
is irresistibly compelled to study the stars and to contemplate 
the infinite beauty of the night. It seems also to have been 
in the desert of the old world that man first learnt to culti- 
vate the soil. In fact, it was only by irrigation on great 
tracts of alluvium, such as were furnished by the Nile and 
Euphrates, that the enormous populations of Egypt, Baby- 
lon, Nineveh, and the other great monarchies could be 
maintained. So that city life on a big scale first developed 




What was Ancient Britain ? — Marshes and bittern— Oak forest — Pines — 
Savage country — Cornfield — Fire — Ice — Forest — Worms — Paleolithic 
family — The first farmers— Alfred the Great's first Government 
agricultural leaflet — Dr. Johnson — Prince Charlie's time —Misery of 
our forefathers — Oatmeal, milk, and cabbages — Patrick Miller — 
Tennyson's Nwihefrn Farm&r — Flourishing days of 1830 to 1870 — 
Derelict farmhouses and abandoned crofts — Where have the people 
gone ?— Will they come back ? 

WHEN the eyes of man first beheld Britain, what 
sort of country was this of ours ? It is very 
interesting to try to imagine what it was like, but 
of course it is a very difficult task. Still it is worth the 
attempt, for we ought to know something of what has been 
done by our forefathers. 

Where the great rivers Thames, Humber, Tyne, Forth, 
Clyde, Mersey, and Severn, approached the seashore they 
lost themselves in wildernesses of desolate, dreary fenlands. 
Here a small scrubby wood of willow, birch, and alder ; 
there a miles -wide stretch of reeds and undrained marsh 
intersected by sluggish, lazy rivers, or varied by stagnant 
pools. The bittern boomed in those marshes. Herons, 
geese, swans, ducks, and aquatic birds of all sorts found what 
is now Chelsea a paradise, only disturbed by the eagle, 
harrier-hawk, vulture, and the like. 



Neither at the mouth nor even much higher up in its valley- 
course, was a river a steady stream in a defined bed. Such 
beds as it had were probably four or five times their present 
width; they would be quite irregular, meandering about, 
changing at every flood, full of islands, loops, backwaters, and 
continually interrupted by snags of trees. 

The rolling hills of the lowlands would be an almost 
unbroken forest of oak, except where perhaps level land and 
the absence of drainage produced a marsh or horrible peat- 
moss. But when we say forest, we do not mean a glorified 
Richmond Park. 

In good soil there might indeed be tall and magnificent 
trees. But it would be quite impossible to see them ! The 
giants of the forest would be concealed in an inextricable 
tangle of young trees, brushwood, fallen logs, creepers, and 
undergrowth. Where the soil was sandy or stony, it might 
be a scrub rather than a forest, of gnarled, twisted, and 
stunted oaks, or possibly thickets of sloe, birch, rowan, 
hawthorn, brambles, and briers. 

Every stream would be " wild water " leaping down water- 
falls and cutting out irregular, little woody ravines. Here 
and there boulders and escarpments of rock would break 
through the forest soil, which would be mossy, thick with 
undergrowth, and entangled with rotting fallen trunks and 
branches, crossing at every conceivable angle. The higher 
hills were covered by a dreary, sombre pine forest. It was 
of a monotonous, desolate character. Greenish-grey tufts of 
Old Man's Beard lichen hung from the branches. The 
ground, treacherous, and broken by boulders, peaty hollows, 
and dead logs, would be shrouded in a soft, thick cushion of 
feathery Mosses, with Blaeberry, Ferns, Trientalis, Linnea, 
Dwarf Cornel, and other rare plants. Through it descended 



raging and destructive torrents which here might be checked 
and foamed over dead logs, whilst in another place they 
cut out bare earth-escarpments or started new waterfalls 
which ate back into the hills behind. 

At the summit of the higher hills, bare rock crags pro- 
jected out of occasional alpine grassy slopes, or irregular 
terraces, ravines, and gullies. Below, these alpine ravines 
ended in a peat-moss, which scattered, dwarfed, distorted, 
and miserable-looking Scotch Firs and Birches painfully 
endeavoured to colonize. Here and there on very steep 
hillsides, wiry, tussocky grass might be growing instead of 
forest or peat. 

A horrible, forbidding, and desolate land, where Deer, 
Irish elk, bison, bear, wolf, boar, wolverine, badger, and 
fox, alone enjoyed themselves. 

Now consider our country to-day. Mark the " trim little 
fields'"; "that hedge there must have been dipt about 
eighty years ""; " The lifting day showed the stucco villas on 
the green and the awful orderliness of England — line upon 
line, wall upon wall, solid stone dock and monolithic pier."^ 
The road, carefully macadamized, sweeps on correct and 
straight or gracefully curving from neat village to country- 
town. In the heart of the country the roadsides are scraped 
bare to produce that hideous tidiness which is dear to the 
soul of the County Council roadman. That is if an in- 
dividual whose life is spent in stubbing up roses, briers, and 
every visible wild flower, can possibly possess a soul ! Those 
fields without a rock, or even a projecting stone, have been 
drained, dug over, and levelled with the greatest possible 
care. The very rivers have been straightened and em- 
banked ; the rows of pollarded willows have been planted ; 

* Kipling. 
K 145 


they may, when in flood, overflow, but the results are very 
soon no longer visible. Even on the moors and in the 
depths of the Highlands, black-faced sheep, draining, and 
the regular burning of the heather, have quite transformed 
our country. 

The original woods have long since vanished : those which 
now exist are mostly quite artificial plantations, and the 
very trees are often strangers to Britain. 

The story of the Herculean labour by which our country, 
once as wild and as savage as its early inhabitants the 
Icenians and Catieuchlanians (and probably with linea- 
ments as barbarous as those of the Coritanian and Trino- 
bant), has been changed to peaceful, fertile meadowlands or 
tidy arable, is one long romance. To tell it properly would 
require a book to itself. In this chapter we shall only try 
to sketch what may have happened on one particular corn- 
field which 'exists on the trap-rocks of Kilbarchan, near 
Glasgow.^ The reader must bear in mind that even this is 
a very ambitious attempt ! It is an exceedingly difficult 

The subsoil in this particular cornfield (on Pennell Brae) 
lies upon the trap-rock formed by one of those gigantic 
lava-flows which cover that part of Renfrewshire. The 
whole district at that time must have been exactly like 
Vesuvius during the late eruption. Its scenery in this early 
miocene period consisted of glowing molten rock, accom- 
panied by flames of fire, electrical storms, clouds of gas, dust, 
ashes, and superheated steam. 

Every plant and every animal must have been extermi- 

1 As the story probably differs in detail for every district, the author 
is obliged to confine himself to ground which he has actually seen and 



nated. That was unfortunate, for, at that time, Pines, Oaks, 
Guelder Rose, Willows, as well as Sequoias allied to the 
Mammoth tree and Sassafras, may have lived in Scotland 
along with tapirs, opossums, marsupials, and other extra- 
ordinary beasts. 

When the lava cooled and became trap-rock, it was at once 
attacked by frost, by wind, and by rain. Then by a very 
slow process of colonization, vegetation slowly and gradually 
crept over the trap-rock and rich mould and plant remains 
accumulated. At a much later date, there was another 
wholesale destruction. This time, it was the great Ice Sheet 
coming down from the Highland hills. Probably it drove 
heavily over the top of Pennell Brae and worked up into fine 
mud and powder every vestige of the miocene vegetation. 

The very rocks themselves would be scratched, polished, 
and rounded off. When the glaciers melted away and left 
the surface free, it would consist of these rounded rocks alter- 
nating with clay-filled hollows. The trap-rock below would 
be covered by a subsoil due to particles of trap, of Highland 
and other mud, with remains of the miocene vegetation. 
Upon this surface, frost, wind, sunshine, and rain would 
again begin to perform their work. 

But the subsoil, thus wonderfully formed by fire in the 
miocene, by frost in the glacial, and by weather in our own 
geological period, very soon felt the protecting and shelter- 
ing effect of a plant-covering. 

First a green herb rooted itself every here and there amidst 
the desolate boulder-clay or perhaps in a crevice where good 
earth had accumulated. Then the scattered colonists began 
to form groups ; soon patches of green moss united them. 
Then a continuous green carpet could be traced over a few 
yards here and perhaps on a few feet somewhere else. But 



when things had got as far as this, progress became much 
more rapid, and soon the whole site of the future cornfield 
was covered over by a continuous green carpet. Only, every 
here and there, hard stones and uncompromising trap-rocks 
remained still protruding from the green covering. 

In another chapter this first covering of the soil will be 
described at length. 

So far it has been subsoil and underlying rock, but now the 
roots begin to disintegrate alid work up the subsoil ; the earth- 
worm has his chance, and forms true soil. On this particular 
hillside, the water would drain away and there would be no 
danger of mosses strangling and choking the Blaeberry and 
the Heather. The worm flourished and multiplied, and the 
soil became rich and black. Here and there a Sloe or a 
Rowan, or Poplar, or perhaps Alder and Birch, began to 
appear. In certain places Whins and Brooms, Brambles 
and Briers, diversified the hillside. Then a few Scotch firs 
began to push their way up, through the thickets. At first 
they were very small and stunted, but as each one formed a 
dense, deep-going mass of hardy roots, they were able to 
investigate the riches of the subsoil. Every year the 
amount of leaf-mould above increased, until the original 
moss-covering was utterly destroyed and a pine forest (see 
Chap, xxviii.) occupied Pennell Brae. 

About this time, a paleolithic family may have encamped 
on the side of the cliff near a little stream which can still be 
traced. The camp was only a few sticks and branches, with 
a skin or two for shelter from the north wind. The women 
lopped down fir branches for firewood, and cut up the young 
trees. The children set fire to the shrubs on dry days and 
paths ran here and there through the forest. This would be 
about 198,000 b.c. 



Every year meant a further very gradual, slow destruction 
of the pine forest. 

About 60,000 B.C., our paleolithic hunters with chipped- 
stone weapons would be obliged to travel further to the 
north. New savages with round heads and polished-stone 
weapons would make life in Renfrewshire too uncertain and 
too diversified by massacres. These last possessed seed corn, 
a few fruit trees as well as goats, cattle, and perhaps a few 
hardy, shaggy ponies. At first these settlers would be 
obliged to live in a lake dwelling, say in Linwood Moss, 
which is close at hand. They would then drive their cattle 
over the surrounding district, and camp in slightly-built 
villages. Near at hand, probably on the hill, they would 
build a (round) camp or fort, where they could fly for safety 
in the continual fights and invasions of the period. 

Sooner or later a village would be built near Pennell Brae. 
One summer day the villagers attacked the wood that 
covered it ; they cut down all the small brushwood and 
hacked through the bark of every big tree. After a few 
weeks, when the trees were dead, the wood was set on fire. 
Then a rough fold made of rude wattle and daub was 
formed, and every night the cattle and sheep were driven in. 

After three or four years, this fold would be ploughed up 
by exceedingly rude instruments. Barley or certain kinds of 
wheat would be grown year after year until the crop was not 
worth gathering. When that happened, another fold would 
be ploughed up. Probably the whole of Pennell Brae went 
through this rude sort of agricultural treatment at one time 
or another. At the same time goats, cattle, and the demand 
for firewood, obtained in the most reckless and wasteful 
manner, would have very seriously interfered with the 



Although no doubt great changes for the better were intro- 
duced, the spearmen of Wallace of Elderslie close by had their 
" infield " land, which was practically the sheepfold as above 
described, and their " outfield **' or grazing commons. Even 
down to 1745 the above system was practised (see below). 

But when men's minds were stirred up and invigorated by 
the great Revolution of 1788-1820, all sorts of new agricul- 
tural discoveries were made. Yet the cornfield on Pennell 
Brae was probably not drained or enclosed by stone walls 
and hedges until 1830 to 1840! About 1870, it was more 
profitable to its owner than it has ever been since, though 
even now it forms part of our British farmlands which 
yield, on the whole, a larger amount of oats per acre than 
those of any other country in the world (except possibly 

Let us however look a little closer into the long, long 
period during which the "fire and stone-axe methods'" of 
farming prevailed. Before the Romans landed there seem 
to have been no towns. ^ There was but little cultivation, for 
the Britons wore skins and lived chiefly on milk and 

In the time of King Alfred, the increase of population 
made it necessary to take more trouble about farming, so we 
find a description of what the good farmer ought to do. We 
might call this the very first Government leaflet, and it has 
led to the Agricultural Leaflets published by the Board of 
Agriculture for Great Britain and Ireland. 

"Sethe wille wyrcan wastbaere lond ateo hin of tham 
acre aefest sona fearn and thornas and figrsas swasame 

He was to clear off" fern, bracken, thorns, sloe, hawthorn, 
1 Mr. Chisholm, Geographical Jourrialt November, 1897. 


bramble, whin, and weeds. The names of the months give 
some idea of Anglo-Saxon methods of farming. May was 
Thrimylce^ because the cows might then be milked thrice a 
day. August was Weodmonath (weed-month), November 
Blotmonath, or blood-month, because the cattle were then 
killed to supply salt beef for winter time.^ 

Very much later in history, after our English friends had 
laid waste and depopulated Scotland, so that woods sprang 
up again everywhere, and again long after that time when 
the gradual increase of population had again utterly de- 
stroyed those woods, a certain Dr. Johnson travelled from 
Carlisle to Edinburgh. This gentleman declared that he 
saw no tree between those places. This statement must not 
be taken too literally, for he had written a dictionary and 
considered himself not merely the Times but an Encyclopoedia 
Britannica as well.^ 

The Earl of Dundonald (in 1795) thus describes the 
agriculture of 1745 (Prince Charlie's days) : " The out-field 
land never receives any manure. After taking from it two 
or three crops of grain it is left in the state it was in at 
reaping the last crop, without sowing thereon grass-seeds for 
the protection of any sort of herbage. During the first two 
or three years a sufficiency of grass to maintain a couple of 
rabbits per acre is scarcely produced. In the course of some 
years it acquires a sward, and after having been depastured 
for some years more, it is again submitted to the same 
barbarous system of husbandry '" (that is used as a fold and 
then ploughed up). In the same year (1745) in Meigle 
parish, the land was never allowed to lie fallow : neither 
pease, grass, turnips, nor potatoes were raised. No cattle 

^ Sir H. Maxwell, Memories of the Months^ First Series. 
'^ This may of course have been an exaggeration, a sort of joke. But 
he had no right to make jokes on such a subject. 


were fattened. A little grain (oats or barley) was exported. 
In 1754 or thereabouts, there was only one cart in the 
parish of Keithhall. Everything was carried about on 
ponies'* backs, as is the case nowadays in the most unsettled 
parts of Canada. The country in places was almost im- 
passable. Bridges did not exist, and the roads were mere 
tracks. In Rannoch the tenants had no beds, but lay on 
the ground on couches of heather or fern. These houses 
were built of wattle and daub, and so low that people had 
to crawl in on hands and feet and could not stand upright. 

"In the best times that class of people seldom could 
indulge in animal food, and they were in use to support 
themselves in part with the blood taken from their cattle at 
different periods, made into puddings or bread with a 
mixture of oatmeal. Their common diet was either oatmeal, 
barley, or bear, cleared of the husks in a stone trough by a 
wooden mallet, and boiled with milk ; coleworts or greens 
also contributed much to their subsistence, and cabbages 
when boiled and mashed with a little oatmeal."^ Potatoes 
were introduced in Dumfriesshire some time after 1750, and 
the use of lime as manure at about the same time. Even 
in 1775 the roads were such that no kind of loaded carriages 
could pass without the greatest difficulty. 

There is a most fascinating account in Dr. Singer's work 
of a strong man's difficulties in starting reasonable agricul- 
ture in Dumfriesshire about the year 1785. This was Pat- 
rick Miller, of Dalswinton. (It was on Dalswinton Loch 
that he tried the very first steamboat.) " When I went to 
view my purchase, I was so much disgusted for eight or ten 
days that I then meant never to return to this county. A 

1 Mr. John Murray, of Murray thwaite, referring probably to 1780, 
from Singer, Agricultural Survey of Dumfriesshirey 1812. 



trivial accident set me to work, and I have in a great manner 
resided here ever since. ... I have now gone over all of this 
estate, and this I have done without the aid of a tenant. . . . 
I need not inform you that the first steps in improvement 
are draining when necessary, inclosing sufficiently, removing 
stones, roots, rubbish of every kind, and liming. . . . These 
operations cost me, I reckon, about £11 per acre upon an 
average ; and I lay my account with being repaid all my 
expenses by the first three crops, but at any rate by the 
fourth. When the land which I make arable will give at 
least (if brought from a state of nature) twenty times the 
rent when I began to improve it.'"' 

Major-General Dirom, of Mount Annan, writing from that 
place in 1811, says that all over Scotland for about thirty 
years (from 1780-1810) he has seen " cultivation extending 
from the valleys to the hills, commons inclosed, wastes 
planted, and heaths everywhere giving way to corn : . . . 
extension of towns and villages, by new lines of excellent 
roads, magnificent bridges and inland navigation . . . our 
rapidly increasing population, by our now exporting great 
quantities of grain from parts of Scotland into which it was 
formerly imported, and by the superior comfort and abund- 
ance which appear in the domestic economy of the inhabit- 
ants." If you read any newspaper of to-day published in 
Canada or in the Argentine Republic, you find exactly 
the same process at work, and the same enthusiasm about it. 
Even in 1840-1850 all these improvements were still vigor- 
ously going on. 

Look at Tennyson's Northern Farmer (old style) : — 

" 'An I a stubb'd Tliurnaby waaste. 
Dobbut loook at the waaste, theer warnt no feead for a cow_, 
Nowt at all but bracken an fuzz_, an loook at it now. 
Warnt worth nowt a haacre and now there's lots o feead. 
Four scoor yows upon it an some on it down i seead. " 



Even in his days, the good farmer was following King 
Alfred's directions. About 1830-1850 most of the land 
was in good bearing, and the roads were sufficiently good to 
admit of the stage-coach with four horses. But they after 
all lasted but a very short time before the railways again 
entirely altered the conditions of country life. 

As we have seen, rents were in places, five times as large 
in 1820-1830 as they had ever been previously.^ Therefore 
it was that about this time the gentlemen's houses were in 
many places rebuilt on a more magnificent scale. Then also 
were begun those circles and strips, or belts of plantation, 
which are now conspicuous features of the Scotch lowlands. 
An enormous majority of these plantations are not more 
than eighty years old. I think avenues were planted in the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The fashion about 
1820 was to destroy them as unnatural, at least in England. 
Unfortunately no respect was paid to the economic practice 
of forestry, with very unfortunate results for the proprietor. 
The rest of this chapter is necessarily unpleasant and dis- 
tressing reading, but it is necessary if we are to understand 
the romance of the fields. As one wanders over the grassy 
pastures of Southern Scotland, where the black-faced sheep 
foolishly start away, and where one's ears are irritated by the 
scolding complaints of the curlew or whaup, it is no rare ac- 
cident to find a few broken-down walls, a clump of nettles, 
and badly grown ash trees. That was once a farm steading, 
where a healthy troop of children used to play together 
after walking three or more miles barefoot to school. The 
ash trees were planted at every farm " toon," for the Scottish 

^ The agricultural rents in Dumfriesshire were valued in 1656 at 
£13,225, in 1790-1800 as £109,700, in 1808 £219,037 10s. 8d. In 1905 the 
value per acre was from £1 to £2. 



spear was a very necessary weapon until recent times. Often 
also, upon some monotonous grouse moor, one sees the ridges 
that betoken a little croft where a cottager lived. 

In one parish (Troqueer) over seventy coimtry cottages 
have been abandoned during the lifetime of a middle-aged 

Many families, of which the laird was often the best 
farmer in the district and his own factor, have disappeared. 
The fine houses, with their parks and shootings, are let to 
strangers, who come for a few weeks or months, and then 
leave it in charge of a caretaker. Before this recent develop- 
ment, the " family '" lived all the year round upon the land ; 
they spent their income chiefly in wages to the country 
people. Where once forty or fifty people were employed all 
the year, there are now but three or foiu-. The big house 
with shuttered windows and weed-grown walks, is a distressing 
and saddening spectacle. 

Of course such changes must occur. The farmer's and the 
cottar's children are now carrying out in Canada, Australia, 
or the United States, what was done in Scotland from 1780- 
1830. India, South Africa, and China have been developed 
by the brains and hold the graves of many of the laird's 

Yet this poor old country, abandoned of her children, 
shows signs of revival. Both the poor and the rich are 
beginning to find out that a country life is healthier, 
quite as interesting, and sometimes quite as profitable as the 
overcrowded city with its manufactories, mills, and offices. 
All new countries are beginning to fill up, and there is some 
hope that a new and vigorous development of farming may 
make the countryside once more vigorous, prosperous, and 
full of healthy children. 




Lake Aral and Lake Tschad— Mangrove swamps of West Africa— New 
mudbanks colonized — Fish, oysters, birds, and mosquitoes — Grasp- 
ing roots and seedlings — Extent of mangroves — Touradons of the 
Rhone — Sea-meadows of Britain — Floating pollen — Reeds and sedges 
of estuarine meadows — Storms — Plants on ships' hulls — Kelps and 
tangles in storms — Are seaweeds useless ? — Fish. 

THE way in which the savage, rugged, inhospitable 
Britain of the Ice Age changed into our famihar 
peaceful country formed the subject of the last 

But plants do far more than cover the earth and render it 
fertile, for some of them assist in winning new land from the 
sea or from freshwater lakes. The Sea of Aral, for instance, 
or Lake Tschad are rapidly becoming choked up by reeds 
and other vegetation. Blown sand from the deserts around 
is caught and intercepted by these reeds, so that fertile 
pastures are gradually forming in what used to be the open 
water of a deepish lake. 

By far the most extraordinary of all these plants which 
form new land are the Mangroves. 

They are only found in the tropics or subtropical regions, 
and are always along the seacoast. It is where a river ends in 
a delta, dividing into intricate and confused irregularly 
winding creeks, that the mangroves are especially luxuriant. 



Such a river will have probably flowed through hundreds 
of miles of the most exuberant tropical forest, where growth 
is never checked by the cold grasp of winter. 

Its waters are yellowish brown or cafe au lait coloured, 
because they are full of mud and of decaying vegetation, with 
dead leaves and decaying branches floating on the surface. 
So full are such rivers of decaying material that they have 
a distinct and unmistakable smell, which has been compared 
to " crushed marigolds." 

So soon as the muddy water reaches the sea, most of its 
mud is deposited and forms great banks and shoals of shift- 
ing odoriferous slime, which confuses and interferes with the 
discharging mouths of the river. 

It is upon these changing, horrible-smelling banks of 
bottomless slime that the Mangrove is especially intended 
to develop. 

If one takes a canoe in such a delta and paddles inwards 
on the incoming tide, a dense forest of glossy-green man- 
groves will be found to cover the whole coast-line, and also 
to extend far inland by the winding creeks, lagoons, and 
river channels. 

The whole theory of the mangroves becomes clearly 
revealed as soon as the water begins to sink at low tide. 
First one notices that the stem of every mangrove ends 
below, not in a single trunk, but in an enormous number of 
arched, stilt-like supporting roots. Not only the stem but 
the branches also give off* descending roots, which branch into 
four or five grasping arched fingers as soon as they get near 
the water. When they reach the mud, these fingers grow 
down into it and form a new supporting root to the tree. 
It is very difficult to give any idea of the extraordinary 
appearance of these mangrove roots. 



Imagine an orchard of very old apple trees in winter, and 
suppose that one were to cut off every tree and plant it 
upside down in black mud, and also to crowd them so closely 
together that the branches were all mixed and confused. 
This may give an idea of the odd and strange appearance 
of the root-system in a mangrove forest. Upon these arching 
roots, even on those which are not yet attached, multitudes 
of oysters may be seen. There is also a little fish (a sort of 
perch) which climbs up on to the roots or out of the mud 
below, and gasps or squatters about in it. 

As to the mud itself, it is a horrible, greasy, oozy, black or 
blue-black slime of bottomless depth. " It is full of organic, 
putrefying, strongly-smelling material, clearly full of bacteria. 
The water itself is sometimes covered by a dirty, oily scum, 
and air-bubbles rising from the bottom, spread out on the 
surface and let loose their microbes in the atmosphere."^ 
There are many crocodiles, which may be seen reposing on 
the mud above high tide. It is difficult to distinguish them 
from a rough log of wood, but it is still more difficult to kill 
them, for their scales turn any ordinary bullet. There is 
scarcely any experience more exasperating than when, after 
one has taken a long, careful, and accurate aim, one observes 
the sleeping brute suddenly wake and scurry down into the 
water with a hideous leer on its face. Sea-cows or manatees 
are said to live in these creeks. Little ducks of many kinds 
rise in hundreds and thousands, but the commonest bird is 
the "curlew'' (either a whimbrel or closely allied to it). 
During the day they sift the mud with their long curved 
beaks for insects, and at sunset fly down in vast numbers to 
the mudbanks near the sea. A miserable little white crane 
called " Poor Joe *" is common, and has the same habit. It 

^ Warming, Lehrbuch der (Ecol Pfi. Qeog. 


is not worth shooting, and it is quite aware of the fact. 
Herons, cormorants, and other birds are often to be seen. 
Monkeys sometimes visit the mangroves, probably to eat 
oysters or crabs. There are several kinds of crablike 
creatures which climb up the roots and may be seen running 
about all over them. But during the three weeks spent 
by the writer in the Mahela creeks of Sierra Leone, it was 
the insects that made the deepest impression upon him ; as 
soon as the evening falls the mosquitoes appear in myriads 
and in millions. Such creeks and mangrove swamps are 
always feverstricken and dangerous, and probably enjoy the 
very worst climate in the whole world. Of course nowadays, 
when Sir Patrick Manson and Dr. Ross have discovered that 
the mosquito carries the malaria germ, it is possible with great 
care to guard against malaria. One has also the satisfaction 
of knowing that the mosquito itself cannot be perfectly at 
ease with all these tiny parasites attacking its digestive 

At first sight such swamps appear to be useless, impossible, 
and dangerous. But that is not the case. No one, of course, 
would ever willingly reside in mangrove swamps, and the 
mangroves themselves are of scarcely any use to man, al- 
though the bark does sometimes furnish a useful tanning 
material ; but, indirectly, the mangroves are one of the most 
important of all Nature's geographical agents. 

On those horrible, slimy, shifting mudbanks no other 
plants could manage to exist. If one looks carefully at the 
seaward side of the last of the mangrove swamps, then it is 
easy to see that they are colonizing and reclaiming the mud. 

Not only do the roots depending from the branches grasp 
and colonize new mud, but the seedlings are also specially 
adapted to fulfil the same office. 



They remain a long time attached to the parent fruit ; 
they also grow to a considerable length before they fall off. 
When ready to fall, they have a distinct seedling stem, which 
swells out towards the base and ends in a pointed root. The 
seedling is, in fact, like a club hanging upside down and with 
a pointed end. When it does fall, it goes straight down 
deep into the mud; then it promptly forms some anchoring 
roots, and the young mangrove is fixed in new mud and 
begins to develop. So that the forest continually grows 
towards the sea. 

Such mudbanks soon become pierced by roots in every 
direction. Then the leaves of the mangroves themselves, 
as well as silt, soil, and rubbish floating in the water, 
gradually accumulate about and around these roots. This 
must raise the level of the ground. Eventually the soil 
becomes hardened and is above the level of the water. When 
this happens, the mangrove, which likes salt water about 
its roots, becomes unhealthy and the ordinary jungle trees 
kill it and take its place. Thus in course of time, when the 
jungle is cleared, fertile ricefields may be thriving on what 
was once a pure, or rather impure, mudbank. 

In this way, by the continual development of the man- 
groves, enormous stretches of land are being added to the 
continents, and the process continues so long as the 
character of the coast-line favours it. 

The shore-line covered by these mangrove swamps is 
enormous. In fact, within the tropics one finds them almost 
everywhere along the seashore, but coral, rock, or an ex- 
ceedingly dry climate such as that of Arabia or Northern 
Peru, prevents their growth. Central and South America, 
West and East Africa, India, Polynesia, Australia, and much 
of the Asiatic coast-line, is covered by mangroves. 



stereo Copyright, Lhideruood &• Under-wood 

A RicEFiELD IN China 

London and New York 

The proprietor and two of his coolies are in front of the paddy field. The young rice 
plants can be seen growing in the water. 


Theophrastus speaks of those in the Persian gulf, and 
that exceedingly shrewd botanist has some valuable notes 
about them worth reading even to-day.^ 

In temperate countries, such as our own, the districts 
where great rivers enter the sea are for the most part aguish 
and rheumatic, but, of course, there is nothing so startling 
and extraordinary as the mangrove swamps. 

Yet, even in temperate countries, the work of winning or 
gaining new land plods steadily onwards, and it is performed 
by humble, inconspicuous little plants. 

Where the Rhone enters the Mediterranean, there are 
some 40,000 acres of sandy and clayey land called the 
Camargue. The bare sand near the sea is often flooded and 
swept by violent storms in winter ; anything which tries to 
grow there is usually carried ^ off and destroyed. 

But, after a time, one finds here and there a solitary plant 
of a kind of Saltwort {Salicomia macrostachya) which has 
withstood the strain : its branches gather a little sand and 
hold it together, and its roots gradually explore and tie 
down the soil around it. Next winter it can stand the sweep 
and scour of the stormy water ; next summer other plants 
begin to grow on this tiny sand-heap, and the " touradon," as 
it is called, is now fairly well established. It goes on growing 
until it may be, after a few years, six feet in diameter. 

Eventually the salt gets washed out of the soil and these 
little heaps become united by a continuous covering of green 
plants in which shrubs and then trees begin to grow.^ By this 
time of course the sand has accumulated farther out to sea 
and the same process is going on there. 

^ Drude, Lc. ; Schimper, ^c; Warming, I.e.; Colonial Beports^ No. 
3, Miscellaneous. Schimper, Indo-Malayische Strandfiora. 
'^ Flahault, after Schimper, I.e. 

L i6i 


In Britain we have the "sea meadows" of Sea-grass, 
which covers the submerged sand and mudbanks near the 
mouths of great rivers. 

The waving green grasslike leaves form a rich submarine 
meadow. They are used for stuffing pillows and cushions, 
especially in Venice, but their real importance in the world 
depends upon their being able to tie down and fix per- 
manently those unseen shifting banks which form a real 
danger to all navigation. 

These plants are very remarkable. They lived, no doubt, 
at one time on the land, like most of the flowering plants. 
But, like the whale and the seal, they have been driven 
to take refuge below the ocean. They are not easily seen, 
and, indeed, one may wander for years along the sea-coast 
and never suspect that great meadows of Zostera (the 
Eelwrack, Grasswrack, or Sea-grass) are flourishing under 

But, one might ask, how is the pollen of its flowers 
carried ? Obviously neither insects nor the wind can be 
of any service. The pollen of Zostera is, however, of the 
same weight exactly as the water, so that it neither rises 
to the surface nor sinks to the bottom, but floats to and 
fro until it reaches the outspread styles of another plant. 
This is perhaps the most remarkable arrangement known for 
the carrying of pollen. 

Sometimes along the seashore, or especially on the muddy 
foreshore of an estuary or tidal river, one can watch those 
plants which are trying to form new land. One finds 
generally that there is a broad stretch of marshy meadow 
interrupted and intersected by small ditches and little 
winding streams. As one gets towards the shore. Sea-pink, 
Scurvy-grass, an Aster, and other plants, not to be found 



elsewhere, become common. Then stretching out into the 
mud there are rows of curious reeds and sedges. 

Try to pull up one of these reeds, and you will find 
a strong, buried, stringy stem, with hundreds of anchor- 
ing roots. These are the pioneers which first fix the sand. 

Over the surface of the sand between these upright 
stems, one often comes upon a most beautiful, glossy, dark- 
green, velvety cushion. It is composed of a seaweed called 
Vaucheria, whose twined and interlaced threads form a 
thick, silky cushion. But it is only beautiful to look at 
from above. If you pull up a piece of this cushion, you 
will find that it is growing on black and loathly mud, 
with many wriggling worms and horrible animalcula. 
First these pioneer reeds, then this soft, silky carpet of 
vaucheria, and then the sea-pinks and other estuarine 
marsh flowers gradually creep forward and extend over 
the bare muddy sand, so winning it from the sea for the use 
of cattle. 

In the worst winter storms, when the waves are thun- 
dering heavily over these sands, it seems as if nothing 
could resist them. Yet if you go down when the storm 
is over, no harm has been done : there is the silky green 
cushion of vaucheria, and there are the lines of pioneer 
sedges and reeds quite undisturbed ! 

The reeds bend and sway, yielding to the water ; the sea- 
weed is slimy and oily, and the water cannot injure it. But 
yet the strength of these seaweeds is extraordinary, and, 
indeed, almost incredible. 

More remarkable still, perhaps, are those seaweeds 
which grow upon rocks, often where the full strength 
of the waves beats upon them. After a heavy storm, 
when, perhaps, the great timbers of groins and the heavy 



concrete blocks of an esplanade have been shattered to 
pieces and tossed all over the shore, one may go down to 
the shore and there will be no visible diiFerence in the kelps 
and tangles of the rocks. Scarcely any seem to have 
been broken away. Indeed, if one looks in the rubbish 
left by the last high tide, one finds that when one of these 
Alarias has been broken away, it is often because the stone 
itself has been torn out of the rock ! One finds broken off 
stones with the seaweed still attached to them. 

The reason is that the outside of the seaweed is oily, 
slimy, or slippery, so that the water gets no hold of it. The 
stem and substance is also elastic and surprisingly strong, so 
that the daily tossing and wrenching when the tides come in 
and go out has no effect in tearing it away. 

But if you go down to a dry dock and look at the hull 
of a ship which has come in to be cleaned and scraped, 
you will see that it is entirely covered by seaweeds and 

That ship has been driven through the water perhaps at ten 
miles an hour or more, and yet those delicate-looking sea- 
weeds have held on ! It is more surprising still if you can get 
some of them and examine them with a microscope, for 
amongst them are tiny, delicate, graceful little fronds and 
sprays which one would think consisted of nothing but jelly. 
Yet they have been able to thrive and grow on the ship's 
hull while it has been hurrying day and night through the 
sea, in calm or in tempest, and in currents of hot or cold 

Those seaweeds were called by Horace Algae inutiles, 
or useless seaweeds ; but are they useless ? 

Go down to a little pool and watch them waving in the 
water. Could anything be more beautiful than these little 



graceful red, yellow, or brown sprays? All sorts of seaslugs, 
shrimps, and minute animals of weird and wonderful design 
are clearly living on them. Fishes live upon these animals, 
and fishes are an extremely useful and excellent food for 



An old wall — Beautiful colours — Insects — Nature's chief aim— Hard 
times of lichens— Age of lichens — Crusts— Mosses— Lava flows of 
great eruptions— Colonizing plants— Krakatoa— Vesuvius — Greenland 
volcanoes — Sumatra — Shale-heaps — Foreigners on railway lines — 
Plants keep to their own grounds — Precipices and rocks — Plants 
which change the scenery — Canons in America. 

AT first sight, and when one is striding along at some 
ZJL four miles an hour, there seems to be nothing at all 
interesting in an old wall. But if one stops and care- 
fully examines the stones, there is a great deal that is 

Rocks and walls possess a fascination of their own. 
Probably at least 2000 British plants are only found upon 
them, and yet of these, the vast majority are so small and in- 
conspicuous that an ordinary person never perceives a single 
one of them. 

It is perhaps on rocks or old walls near the sea that this 
stone flora is most richly developed. The nearly circular 
orange-yellow patches of the Lichen Physcia parietina are 
quite distinct and conspicuous. But any old wall, provided 
it is well out in the country, is pretty sure to be interesting. 

At first it seems to have only a dull grey or neutral tint. 
But if one goes to four or five feet distance, one discovers 
that many shades of brown, red, white, and black go to make 
this grey. 



But the extraordinary beauty of such a wall is only visible 
when one peers and scrutinizes the surface very slowly and 
carefully with the eyes six or seven inches away from it. 

In doing this, one is often troubled by rude and ribald 
boys. A botanical friend indeed complained that he had 
been for months avoided and shunned as a dangerous wander- 
ing lunatic on account of his botanical enthusiasm. But 
true botanists get accustomed to disagreeable incidents like 
that, and pay no attention to the vulgar crowd. 

The change in an old wall when one looks at it from a few 
inches distance is most remarkable. The entire surface is 
spotted or dusted, sprinkled or entirely covered by thick 
lichen stains and crusts. 

The original colour of the stone is nowhere visible. The 
lichens show the most delicate shades and contrasts in colour ; 
all pleasing and all blending together in harmonious general 
tones. The fruit of these lichens is like a minute saucer or 
platter generally with a thin rim or border, but it is exceed- 
ingly small, probably only one-sixteenth of an inch in 
diameter, or even less. The smallest of these crust lichens 
form continuous, very thin, coatings, covering the stone ; 
and against this background the little saucer -like fi-uits 
show up quite distinctly. 

The coating itself varies from " bright yellow, pale ochre, 
citron, chestnut colour, to mouse colour, different shades of 
grey and green, cream colour, lead colour, blue-black or pure 
black, tawny, brown, rusty red or pure white." The cups of 
one kind {Lec'idea^) are black, whilst those of Lecanora are 
generally reddish-brown. But they may be a ghostly pale 
hue which stands out plainly against the grey-green back- 
ground of the frond. 

1 Lecidea has at least 230 species on British stones and rocks (Leighton). 



Sometimes they are of the richest deep crimson or lake, 
set against a pure snow-white crust. Those of Lecanora 
vitellina are, though tiny, a brilliant yellow, and quite 
startling when first one notices them. Many of these con- 
trasts and shades are never used by artists, and even from 
the mere artistic point of view they have great interest. 

But if, after spending a few minutes in carefully looking 
over the rocks at a distance of six or seven inches, one stands 
up and goes back to four or five feet away, the whole of this 
colour scheme fades away and there is only the monotonous 
indeterminate grey or neutral tint of the wall. 

Now why is this ? Why should these delicate and exquis- 
ite shades be wasted on such minute and scarcely distinguish- 
able forms ? 

There are always two sides from which one can look at 
any subject, namely the inside and the outside. 

From the inside (that is from the point of view of the 
little lichen itself) these colours are decidedly useful. Small 
insects crawl about on such walls or hover a few inches in 
front of them, and to those insects these cups will be as con- 
spicuous and attractive as a scarlet geranium is to ourselves. 

Just as we habitually go to look at a geranium, so those 
insects fly towards the cups and crawl about on them. Then 
when the spores and dust of the lichen begin to stick in 
their hairs and feet, they go to a bare place and clean or 
brush them off. Thus the spores and dust are carried to a 
new part of the rock, where they will grow if they can find 
an unoccupied place. The taste in colour of these insects, 
moreover, is apparently not very different from that of man. 

But perhaps a still more interesting point of view is that 
from the outside. Why are those lichens there ? What are 
they doing, and are they of any use .'' 



The general scheme of Nature is to cover the whole 
world with green, so that every ray of sunlight may find a 
working leaf or green frond ready to welcome it and use it. 
Nature abhors bare rock, barren sand, and empty water, 
and never ceases to try to bring it under that beautiful 
covering of green plants and active vegetable life which 
supports both man and animals. 

We all know that there is a romance in the story of man's 
colonies. First the explorer searches out the country ; then 
the pioneer frontiersman settles and builds his log-hut or 
rough shanty. Next comes the frontier village, which may 
perhaps in many years' time become a crowded city where 
active, valuable work is carried on. 

The story of the colonizing of rocks and stones by plants 
is just as vividly interesting. These tiny lichens are almost 
the first pioneers, and prepare the ground for those that 
follow. Upon that bare rock, life is terribly severe. The 
frost shatters it, sunshine heats it until it almost burns the 
hand in summer. Floods of rain or of sleet beat against it, 
and it may be frozen over for weeks. 

What plant can stand such conditions ? Only these 
minute, tiny, scarce visible lichen films ! 

Gradually new lichen crusts develop upon it. They 
cover over the first pioneers ; first they suffocate them and 
afterwards devour their remains. Nature is very businesslike 
and severe in her working. The lichen crust may be now 
about one-sixteenth of an inch thick. It is a very slow 
process. There is a story of a boy who noticed a patch of 
lichen near his father's door. He went away to Kamschatka 
or somewhere and came back a very old man of eighty-five 
years ; but he found that the lichen patch was just the same 
size as when he went away. That, however, is just a story ! 



At any rate, one of thes?e little crust-lichens called Vario- 
laria has been known to increase half a millimetre in size 
(about a sixtieth part of an inch) between the end of 
February and that of September. 

Now if one tries to realize what the life of such a lichen 
crust or crottle must be, it is obvious that the stone below 
it must be a little corroded or weathered, and remains of the 
first choked pioneers, bacteria, and possibly tiny insects or 
animalcula will be under the crust, which may now be one- 
sixteenth of an inch thick. 

It is the turn now of other lichens to colonize it. These 
may be the little trumpet or horn and cup lichens, Cladonias, 
or perhaps the larger grey kinds, Parmelias and Physcias^ 
which have leaf-like fronds and form circles of perhaps 
eight to ten inches in diameter. The crust-lichen is over- 
grown, broken up, disorganized, and devoured by the Par- 
melias and Cladonias, who are helped by bacteria, insects, and 
animalcula which shelter below them. These leafy lichens 
grow much more rapidly. 

They may increase two-thirds of an inch in one year. 

But very soon after this, one notices a few inconspicuous 
green mosses; at first in crevices between the stones or in 
hollows, and not remarkable, they soon increase and form trail- 
ing sprays or branches which grow very quickly. Branches 
of moss four or five inches long extend over the leafy 
lichens in a season. The Parmelias and Cladonias struggle 
on, but they cannot keep pace with the rapid life of the 
moss, and soon our wall is covered by beautiful moss turfs. 

Underneath such a turf there may be an inch or so of 
good soil (dead moss and dust with lichen and insect bodies). 
Worms, insects, etc., shelter and flourish and multiply in this 



But the turn of the moss is coming. Here a few grass- 
blades, there a tiny plant of Sandwort, possibly a Rock Bed- 
straw, begin to root themselves in the moss. 

If people would only let the wall alone, it would soon be 
festooned with hanging plants, and producing quantities of 
grass, but somebody is sure to find that it looks very untidy, 
and everything is torn off the wall, which again looks new 
and raw and clean. Then of course the pioneer lichens begin 
again ! 

Some very interesting and remarkable facts have been dis- 
covered about the way in which lavas and basalts have been 
occupied by the plant world. 

In the great volcanic eruption of 1883, the whole island of 
Krakatoa was covered by hot lava and glowing ashes. In 
1884 and 1885 the sunsets were remarkable for a curious 
fiery red or orange glow, which was popularly supposed to be 
due to the volcanic dust of that explosion. It is said 
that the dust travelled three times round the earth, though 
I do not know on what authority. 

However, on Krakatoa island there was left a clean "slate." 
There were neither bacteria, nor leaf-mould, nor living plants 
of any kind ; no spores or seeds could have endured the fiery 
furnace of the eruption. 

Three years afterwards the botanist Treub visited the 
island. He found that the rocks had been first covered by 
thin layers of minute freshwater Algae, but that ferns were 
then occupying and inhabiting the lavas. Eleven kinds of 
ferns, and but very few other plants, were discovered. 

People were interested in this, and Dr. A. F. W. Schimper 
then visited another volcano which had been pouring out 
huge streams of lava in 1843. He found that there were 
still plenty of ferns, but also numbers of shrubs and other 



plants. Yet even then there were no trees, and there was no 
continuous mantle of green plants such as we are accustomed 
to in this country. He also found many plants growing on 
the lava which are generally found on the branches of trees, 
that is, which can do without a thick layer of soil. He also 
found quantities of a pitcher plant. Nepenthes (which lives 
mainly on insects caught in its pitchers). 

This does not at first sight seem to agree at all with what 
has been given for the walls. It is true that sometimes in the 
Highlands, or Lowland and Lakeland Hills, one comes across 
quantities of the Bladderfern and others growing on the 
" screes." (These last may be described as streams of broken, 
angular stones, filling small gullies, and spreading out at the 
base over a considerable space.) Often these ferns seem to 
be all that can thrive in amongst the stones. But in a mild 
and temperate country like our own, one would expect 
things to proceed differently. 

And in fact they do so. Every one must have noticed a 
green stain which covers wet walls, stones, stucco, even 
marble statues, and especially tree bark in wet or damp 
situations. This is a minute green seaweed rejoicing in the 
name of Pleurococcus. It is a pretty object for the micro- 

This, of course, is the first stage of colonization. It is 
followed by mosses of sorts. 

But there is a more interesting series still in a climate 
resembling our own. The iava-flows from Mount Vesuvius 
have been investigated by several observers. 

There it was found that the first inhabitants were lichens 
and small green seaweeds ; then " different mosses occupied 
the lava over which a certain quantity of vegetable dust had 
been scattered.**' After this, scattered ferns and even small 



shrubs could be seen even on flows which were red-hot only 
twenty years before, whilst on old lava-fields herbs, shrubs, 
bushes, trees, and even true woods had developed. ^ 

Yet in Greenland lava-flows dating from 1724-29 are still 
only covered by crust-lichens and a very few of the stone- 
mosses ! In Sumatra, on the other hand, the volcano of 
Tamboro, which in 1815 had entirely destroyed its vegetation, 
was covered with a fine young wood in 1874 ! ^ The strong 
heat and abundant moisture of Sumatra favours, whilst the 
horrible climate of Greenland prevents, the rapid growth of 
good soil. Just as cities of 20,000 inhabitants can spring 
up in a few months in the Western United States, whilst the 
Esquimaux of Greenland have not managed as yet even to 
live in villages ! 

The full beauty of this gradual colonization and occupa- 
tion of bare rock and stones only impresses one properly 
if one tries to trace the stages, but it is an interesting 

Near Glasgow one sees great heaps of shale or blaes 
(generally bldcJcband), which are often mistaken for natural 
hills. This is or was virgin soil, never occupied by plants, 
and entirely destitute of leaf-mould or any sort of organic 

If one scrambles to the top of one of these heaps, it is easy 
to see all the details of the occupation. Long underground 
runners of coltsfoot and of horsetail are climbing up the 
sides, fringes of creeping buttercup, couchgrass, and other 
hardy weeds occupy, every year, a little more of the flanks, 
but, on the top, one very soon finds that the dust of the 
atmosphere, aided by weathering, has afforded a chance to 

^ Engler, Humboldfs Centenaarschriftt 1889. 
2 Warming, Lehrbuch der Oekol. Pfl. Geog. 



mosses, to hawkweeds, and other rock plants. These in time 
cover the top, and soon hardy grasses and weeds form a 
regular turf on the top of the shale. 

It is interesting to scramble to the top of one of these 
heaps, especially in summer. One then begins to realize how 
every plant attends strictly to its own business. 

All over the sides of the heap there will be hundreds of 
a rare groundsel {Senecio viscos%is\ which is not really a 
native, and never occurs except on such places. In a grass 
field close by hundreds of thousands of Ragwort {Senecio 
jacohoed) make a glorious golden carpet ; in the marshy part 
of the meadow the Water Ragwort {Senecio aquaticus) may 
be found. In the cottage gardens and here and there 
along the roadside the groundsel {Senecio vulgaris) is 
flourishing abundantly. 

These plants never interfere with or encroach upon one 
another's grounds. Every year thousands of ragweed and 
groundsel seeds must be blown on to the shale-heap, but 
they never manage to grow there. 

It is only the foreigner {S. viscosus), accustomed to a very 
hot and dry climate, and with sticky leaves which catch atmo- 
spheric dust and probably insects, that can exist on the bare 
shaly sides. These slopes of shale are easily heated by the 
sun, and at the same time radiate the heat rapidly away, so 
that the Viscid Groundsel must have a very hard time of it. 
When its roots have worked up the shale a little, and its 
dead leaves have covered the surface with mould and organic 
matter, then possibly others (true British plants) can get 
a footing and suppress it. 

Along railway tracks, also, the ballast forms a very hot, 
a very dry, and a very barren soil. Many of the regular 
railway-track plants are foreigners from the far south, even 



from the sunny shores of the Mediterranean. They are 
mostly annuals, such as the little Toadflax {Linaria minor), 
which can just manage to exist under those conditions. 

Of course, the sides of the banks and of cuttings on rail- 
ways are generally formed of good earth or soil, and support 
a rich and flourishing flora of true Britons. 

Besides these slow, laborious lichens, mosses, and others 
which attack rock, there are other plants which are generally 
called rock plants, though they behave quite differently. 

These are those fine hardy Hawkweeds, Roseroots, Semper- 
vivums, Mew, and others which establish their roots in cracks 
or crevices of the rocks. 

Such cracks are soon full of good soil, for the wind blows 
decayed leaves and dust into them, and the roots are always 
burrowing into, eating into, and shattering the rocks. 
Most of them have a circle of leaves which are pressed flat 
to the ground. Thus they escape the violent winds and 
storms always common on such crags and precipices. The 
flowers, however, supported on tough, strong, and flexible 
stalks, sway freely to and fro in the wind, and can be seen by 
insects a long way off*. 

These rock plants are of some importance as stonebreakers 
and pioneers in a very interesting process. 

Wherever a cliff" or precipice of stone is exposed, it is 
"weathered." Water gets into the cracks and freezes in 
winter. But when water is frozen it expands or widens, and 
as this happens to the water in the crevices and cracks of 
rocks, pieces of rock are shivered and broken off. Besides 
frost and wind and rain, these rock plants help to attack 
the cliff". Their roots get into the crevices, and there 
widen and expand, tearing off* great slabs and splinters of 
rock which fall down to the foot of the cliff. 



Down below plants are every year growing over and 
covering up or "happing up'"" with green these bare fragments 
and splinters. A considerable amount falls down every year, 
so that the ground is always being raised up below the 
precipice. At the brow or edge above the precipice, there is 
also always a loss of rock and stone every year. 

So that every year the bare rock exposed becomes smaller 
and smaller, until eventually a steep, green, grass-covered 
slope covers over the entire site of that precipice. 

Moreover that is not by any means all that plants do in the 
way of changing the scenery of the country. Look at the out- 
lines of the hills in any part of Great Britain except in the 
broken, jagged, rocky mountain ranges of Scotland and 
Wales (also Cumberland, Westmorland, parts of Derby- 
shire and Dartmoor tors). Everywhere there are smooth, 
flowing, gently undulating rises and falls. No sharp, abrupt 
descents break these graceful sweeping curves. If you com- 
pare the scenery of a canon in the rainless deserts of Western 
America, the contrast is very striking. There the sides of the 
valleys are steep cliffs ; it is all harsh, precipitous, horrible 
country, which is obviously very unpleasant and very un- 
attractive to civilized people. 

It is this green covering of plants which makes the 
difference. The rain that falls is not allowed to cut out 
ragged ravines ; it is intercepted and soaks into the grasses, 
which so keep a smooth, gentle outline over hill and valley. 

If you notice the effect of a heavy shower of rain on a road 
or bare earth, you will see how soon tiny valleys and canons 
and beds of streamlets are cut out. But on the green fields 
beside the road, there is no change in the surface at all ! It 
seems to be quite unaffected by the heaviest storm of rain. 




Animals and grass — Travellers in the elephant grass — Enemies in Britain 
— Cactus vei'sus rats and wild asses — Angora kids v. acacia — The 
Wait-a-bit thorn — Palm roots and snails — Wild yam v. pig — Larch v. 
goat — Portuguese and English gorse — Hawthorn v. rabbits — Briers, 
brambles, and barberry — The bramble loop and sick children or ailing 
cows— Briers of the wilderness— Theophrastus and Phrygian goats — 
Carline near the Pyramids — Calthrops — Tragacanth — Hollies and 
their ingenious contrivances — How thorns and spines are formed — 
Tastes of animals. 

BY far the greater number of wild animals live by eating 
vegetables. If one thinks of the elephant's trunk, 
the teeth of a hippopotamus, or even of the jaws and 
lips of mice, rats, and voles, the thoroughly practical character 
and efficiency of their weapons become the more astonishing 
the more one reflects upon them. 

Yet the defences adopted by plants are just as wonderful, 
and are often most ingenious. 

It seems at first remarkable that the most usual food of 
animals, grass, should be apparently unprotected. It is upon 
grass that the great herds of bison, of buffalo, of antelope, 
and guanaco, are or were supported. Yet grass is so wonder- 
fully reproductive, produces such enormous quantities of 
buds and foliage, and grows in such luxuriance, that there is 
no fear of its being killed out. 

There are many places in the world where vegetation 
M 177 


defies the attacks of the animal world. Neither man nor 
elephant can live comfortably in the thick jungles of 
West Africa and the great forests of Brazil. Nor can 
either man or elephant utilize great tracts of country in 
Central Africa which are covered by the Elephant Grass. 

For, perhaps, four or five hours the weary caravan plods 
on through a sort of burrow, two feet wide, made in this 
gigantic grass. The stems are ten feet or more in height, 
and nearly meet overhead. There is nothing whatever to be 
seen except the narrow path. The atmosphere is stifling and 
hot. To cut a new road a few hundred yards long through 
it involves hours of labour. It is only when there has been 
a long drought that it is possible to set fire to the Elephant 
Grass, and then for a very short time the young growing 
shoots can be grazed. But no cattle can break through when 
it is fully grown. 

The very exuberance of vegetation in such cases prevents 
any harm. 

Perhaps it is best to show how, even in Great Britain, all 
plants have many dangerous foes. The roots of trees are 
nibbled by mice, voles, and sometimes by swine. The bark 
is injured by cattle, roedeer, reddeer, fallowdeer, who 
tear the bark with their horns, and especially by rabbits 
and hares. The leaves are eaten by the same animals and 
also by horses, goats, sheep, etc. The young buds are 
attacked by squirrels, who also break off" the leading shoots 
of certain firs when they happen to be in a playful mood. 

But it is in cultivated lands and in open, rather dry and 
arid country that one finds the most interesting weapons in 
the fights between plant and animal. It is in such places 
that some of the most beautiful and useful creatures have 
their home. The horse, ass, camel, goat, and sheep probably 



— ^ 


IS' B I '''' 

Bnllm If' II 1 -^ "^ ^ 







1 ! 


i i'lH 






f ■ ''lIBf rflXj 






'? i ■• 


.ilHi'- ' 1 

i ^ 

KMf!^| r ^1 tHH 


^HK^ijii ^ ^^m 

:■ 1 1*^-1- .. . ... 

H^^ll ^ m 

: w^mm 

^c* • « < i i^ ' '' - * 

''' Hi 


31^ r^i^ 


■r^ ^'-■ 

If-..- sv:- ^ 

■<^"^P 3^ "^Z 'v"^"** y^Iv^ 

'"^"- " ''f '^tL'-M 

K^' 3 ^^ '^!^!^^ -S-S^.^ t^ ?^v| 

' <'::^ 'i*;- iv^'- -■ -35 

^^^•^ * ^ %^i> 1^'^: 3 1^1 

' < ■' ^* %:^ >^- 

B^s^ffiMif, ' ■ BJL^^J&VMW 1 

, ■ •-•■ ^^-r^n'^ -- 

O^l^^Si'^^'. -i 

1 =^' i;^.-. - ' 

. f :-i^^ •::^^a. - •- : 7-i_l 

^^"1' !'■■ 

^■^nKiMB^Kai^ 1 

stereo Copyright, Undericood &■ L'jtdtruood 

Lo>tdon and Xeiu York 

Cultivated Bamboo in a Chinese Plantation 

These giant grasses are sometimes one hundred and twenty feet high and one foot in 
diameter. They at times grow at the rate of three feet per day, and are used for all sorts 
of purposes, such as scaffolding poles, flower-pots, as a vegetable, etc. etc. 


belong to those wonderful lands which border the great 
deserts of Africa and Asia. These animals have been 
obliged to travel far and fast, and to perfect their bodily 
strength in order to pick up a living. 

They have been taught (perhaps we should say learnt) by 
the thorns and briers of the wilderness. 

The Cactus, Prickly Pears, or other succulent plants which 
belong to true deserts, are covered over with most curious 
and interesting spines. A row of little projections runs 
down each edge of the round fleshy stem. On each projection 
there is a rosette of spines. Sometimes these are long, 
slender, and diverging ; in other cases they are short, stout, 
and curving over. 

Now imagine a guanaco in South America, or even a rat 
or mouse, which is perishing of thirst in the arid desert 
where such things are found. It will be seen that it is by 
no means easy for it to taste the water in the juicy stem, for 
even the thin muzzle of a rat could scarcely get between the 

Kerner describes how the wild asses in South America 
root up or try to split the Cacti with their hoofs to get at 
the juicy tissue of the unarmed lower parts. Yet they 
often receive dangerous wounds in doing so from the frightful 
spines of Melocactus ^ and others. 

It is very interesting to see a flock of Angora goats in 
South Africa attacking an Acacia. The kid is a pretty, 
white, flufly little creatm-e, with the most meek, mild, and 
innocent expression. Yet it is a quarrelsome little brute. 
In a few minutes an Acacia will be despoiled, broken, and 
robbed of its foliage by a flock of them, although it bristles 
all over with long spines, of which there are a pair at the base 
of each leaf. i Kerner, I.e., vol. 1, p. 447. 



Even the Kameeldom, Camelthorn Acacia, or the Wait-a- 
bit in South Africa cannot defend itself. 

The Wait-a bit (Wacht cen hcetje) is so called from the 
ingenious nature of its spines. There are two together, of 
which one is straight and the other curved round like a hook. 
Both are very sharp and strong, so that an incautious traveller 
is sure to injure himself and his clothes. The straight one 
runs into his tender flesh, whilst the curved one fixes itself in 
his clothes. 

It is by thorns, spines, and prickles that plants often 
protect themselves against the attacks of grazing animals. 
But it must be remembered that these are by no means the 
only safeguard. Plants produce poisonous, bitter, or strong- 
smelling substances which keep off their enemies, and these 
indeed often afford a more efficient protection (see Chap. iii.). 
These thorns, etc., can be produced in the most unexpected 
places. There is one rule, however, namely that they are 
invariably found in the exact spot where they can be most 

Thus there are certain palms which possess green, juicy 
leaves, much relished by snails. These are protected by a 
sort of spine entanglement formed upon certain roots, 
which grow at the base of the leaves. Nor is this the only 
case in which spines are found on roots. There are certain 
South African bulbs {Moroea) which are protected from the 
wild pigs by a dense mass of spiny roots.^ On my march to 
Uganda from Mombasa, I was very much astonished to see 
an extraordinary Wild Yam. It had a huge underground 
tuberous part full of starchy matter, but it was quite im- 
possible for any marauding wild boar to get at it, for it was 
entirely enclosed in a sort of arbour of long, arching roots 

1 Scott, Annals of Botany ^ vol. 11, p. 327. 


densely covered by stout spines, which made a perfect 

It is more usual to find thorns developed on the branches 
or stems. Generally these are formed on the outside towards 
the end of the branches. In the Alps, larches have to suffer 
from the attacks of goats which nibble off the ends of the 
young shoots. The part behind the scar dries up, but fresh 
twigs are put out from further back along the branch, until 
the tree becomes a closely branched, twiggy, bristling mass 
which looks like the clipped yews in old gardens. But so soon 
as it has grown tall enough to be above the reach of the 
goats, an ordinary larch stem develops and may grow into 
quite a respectable tree. This fact is given by Kemer von 
Marilaun (I.e., p. 445), and is very instructive, as explaining 
why it is that so often the ends of the branches become hard 
thorns : the green leaves and twigs are hidden and protected. 

One of the neatest examples of this is the Portuguese 
Gorse or Whin, which resembles a little cushion with every 
branch ending in strong thorns and every leaf terminated by a 
stout spine. 

The common Whin, Furze, or Gorse, is very nearly as per- 
fect an example of thorniness and spininess. The South- 
down sheep do not seem to injure it on those beautiful 
Sussex downs so famous for succulent mutton, yet in the 
early spring, or in a very wet season, one often finds in the 
grass at the foot of the bush (or even in the bush itself) 
small shoots which would be taken at first sight as belonging 
to some other plant. These little shoots are grey with hairs 
and have soft trefoil leaves which are quite unprotected, for 
their spines are quite soft. They are probably seldom eaten, 
for most of them are in the shelter of the old spiny bushes. 

^ Scott Elliot, Naturalist in Mid Africa. 


Yet even the old bushes can be used as fodder for sheep if 
they are crushed and ground up so as to break the thorns 
and spines. The Gorse is a very hardy plant, and is said to 
be only out of flower " when kissing is out of fashion " (see 
p. 100). 

There is still some uncertainty as to the exact way in 
which animals set to work when they are eating thorny 
or spiny bushes. This makes the arrangement of the 
thorns sometimes a little difficult to follow. Moreover it is 
often not so much the leaves as the juicy bark in winter and 
early spring that is required. Sometimes everything above 
ground is eaten down. 

Rabbits, for instance, do not as a rule touch the Hawthorn, 
yet Mr. Hamilton says, " The second winter after planting 
was very severe and this hedge was eaten down to the very 
ground by rabbits. For about 600 yards I do not think that 
a single plant was missed."^ In frost and snow almost every 
plant is attacked by rabbits, and indeed by any grazing 

Remembering that it is very often the young juicy shoots 

that are sought after, it is quite easy to see why the young 

Rose suckers and shoots from the base of the stem fairly 

bristle with long and short prickles. These latter are 

generally straight, not curved like those of the long arching 

branches which are supposed to hook themselves on the 

branches of the surrounding trees. The young light-coloured 

branches of the cultivated GoosebeiTy are flexible, and hang 

over in such a way as to make it difficult for an animal to 

reach the bark : a cow or sheep, if it wished to eat these 

branches, would begin at the hanging tip and make a sort of 

upward tearing jerk while its tongue gathered the branch 

1 Mr. Thomas Hamilton, Researches by Lanarkshire Teachers, 1902-3. 



into its mouth. If one copies this with the hand it is easy 
to see how the length and arrangement of the prickles and 
the flexible nature of the spray would make such a pro- 
ceeding on the cow's part most uncomfortable. 

So also in the Barberry, the young juicy upright shoots 
which spring from the older branches have stout three to 
seven-branched prongs pointing downwards, of the most 
efficient character. Each is really a modified leaf and is 
found below each bud. Even the mere idea of an animal's 
tender lips or tongue tearing at these shoots from below 
gives one a momentary shudder. In the younger, wavy 
branches of the Barberry the spines are straighter or more 
diverging. The young leaves of the short bud above 
alluded to are also most efficiently protected by their spines. 
The Hawthorn has a curious arrangement of very long stout 
thorns, behind which the leaves are sheltered. The younger 
flexible branches have smaller spines, which become efficient 
in winter and tend to prevent animals from eating the bark. 
The Cockspur thorns are 4 to 5 J inches long, and extremely 
like the spur of a gamecock. 

Bramble prickles are generally curved back in order to 
hook or cling to the branches of other trees, but any one 
who has tried to force his way through a clump of brambles 
knows the difficulty of doing so. The loops made by the 
branches fixing themselves in the ground (see p. 93) were 
at one time given credit for healing various diseases. Chil- 
dren in Gloucestershire used to be dragged backwards and 
forwards under these loops ; in Cornwall also people afflicted 
with boils were made to crawl under them. Even cows 
when suffering from paralysis (supposed to be due to a 
shrew-mouse walking over them) were dragged through the 
Bramble-loop, in which case Professor Buckman remarks, " If 



the creature could wait the time of finding a loop large 
enough and suffer the dragging process at the end, we 
should say the case would not be so hopeless as that of our 
friend's fat pig, who, when she was ailing, had a mind to kill 
her to make sure on her."^ The brambles and briers 
of Gilead and Ezekiel were probably brambles of which 
Rubiis discolor is common in Palestine,^ and the Butcher's 
Broom (Ruscus acukatus). This last plant is really of the 
Lily family, and its flat leaf-like branches end in a sharp 
spine. The rabbit does not eat it.^ 

Amongst foreign thorny and spiny plants it is very 
difficult to make a selection. 

Theophrastus (one of the very earliest botanists — see 
p. 37) describes a class of shrub very common in Phrygia, in 
which the leaves are produced at the base of the young shoots, 
which latter end at the top in branch thorns. These thorns, 
therefore, entirely cover the foliage and keep off that 
vegetable demon the goat. Some of the Crucifers, Roses, 
Composites, Labiates, etc., take on this habit in goat-infested 

In Egypt, near the Pyramids, one often finds Carlina 

acaulis, a little thistle which has no stem, but is merely a 

flower seated in the middle of a rosette of leaves which lie 

flat on the sand. In the centre there is a circle of sharp 

spines, each of which is from one to two inches in length. 

The nostril of a hungry camel or donkey is sure to be pierced 

if it tries to eat the leaves. The spines of this thistle, like 

those of our Carline and the Centaurea calcitrapa (thistle of 

the Bible), spring from the bracts surrounding the flower. 

^ Lindley's Treasury of Botany. 

2 Ridley, Pharmac. Journ.y May 19, 1900. 

5 Maxwell, Memories of the Months, First Series, 1, pp. 74-76. 

* Kerner, I.e. 



The ancient " calthrops " or " crawtaes "" (first used by the 
Romans) were designed from the spines of the last-named 
plant ^ (cake, heel, and trappa, snare.) It had four iron 
spines, so that, however it was thrown down on the groimd 
or in a ford, a spine was sure to stick up and to lame man or 

1. Old Roman Calthrops, left on roads, fords, etc., to lame horses. 

2, 3. Fruits of Tribulus, showing efficient spines. Animals' feet, in passing, 

must catch them. They are more efficient than Calthrops. 

The Tragacanth plant has also very neat spines. They are 
the persistent spiny stalks or midribs of the older leaves 
from which the leaflets have dropped away. The fresh green 
leaflets are quite protected inside these withered spines. 

Several grasses have leaves which end in sharp or needle- 
like points. One of these, Festiica alpestris, actually pro- 
duces bleeding at the nostrils of grazing cattle, and is 
detested by all the shepherds of the Alps. 

The Holly is one of our most beautiful trees, as 
John Evelyn points out : " This vulgar but incomparable 

1 Ridley l.c, 


tree. ... Is there under Heaven a more glorious and refresh- 
ing object of the kind than an impregnable hedge of near 
three hundred feet in length, nine foot high and five in 
diameter : which I can show in my poor Gardens at any time 
in the year, glittering with its arm'd and vemished leaves ? 
The taller Standards at orderly distances blushing with their 
natural CoraV'^ This apparently was the identical hedge 
into which Peter the Great used to trundle his wheel- 
barrows. The barrows contained his courtiers. There was 
a nice run from the top of rising ground close at hand. It 
was at Sales Court, Deptford. 

The spiny leaves of the Holly are unfortunately not 
nearly strong enough to save it from its enemies. The bark 
is apparently of a particularly delicious and toothsome 
nature, for sheep, cattle, and the ubiquitous rabbit are 
always delighted to destroy the trees. 

It has been noticed that wild hollies have at the base 
very spiny leaves, but that higher up on the tree (above 
the reach of cattle) the leaves have no spines at all. Sir 
Herbert Maxwell, in his Memories of the Months,^ takes up 
this question. It is best to give the description in his own 
words : — 

" I strolled out along the banks of Tay in that noble wood- 
land which is continuous from Dunkeld to Murthly. Here 
there are many fine hollies, some on the river banks and 
cliffs, others on level ground, planted by no hand of man. 
There was not one of these which did not confirm my 
observations first made many years ago, and hardly one 
which did not bear evidence of special growth — not merely 
as a reaction against pruning or cropping, but as a pre- 

1 Evelyn, Sihm. 

2 Third Series, p. 60. 

1 86 


caution against any such contingency — so regular and de- 
liberate as to suggest that these trees are something more 
than unconscious automata. 

" Many of these hollies are thirty feet high, with foliage 
down to the ground. They carry spinous leaves up to a 
height of three or four feet ; above that level all the foliage 
is absolutely smooth and spineless. One tree rose from the 
ground in two bare stems, and the lower branches did not 
reach below the browsing level. But from between the two 
old stems rose a young shoot about four feet long, clothed 
throughout its entire length with intensely prickly leaves. 
This tree was growing in an enclosed wood where cattle 
could not come ; still, roedeer might be about, and the holly 
armed its young growth at the low level, although the 
leaders of the old stems, not less vigorous in growth, bore 
leaves as smooth as a camellia's. I noted one particularly 
suggestive tree, an unhealthy one. The growth had died 
back along most of the branches, which stood out bare and 
dry ; but a recuperative effort was in progress ; fresh and 
luxuriant growth was bursting along nearly the whole 
height of the stem, and the foliage of this was vigorously 
prickly up to about four feet, and smooth above that height. 
I noticed many instances of localised prickly growth where 
boughs, originally above the browsing level, and clothed 
with spineless leaves, had been weighed down and cropped 
by cattle. But this is merely a vigorous reaction against 
external injury, such as makes a clipped holly hedge bear 
spinous foliage from base to summit."^ 

This quotation shows that there is no doubt as to the 

facts. It is true that one finds cultivated hollies showing 

many variations. Sometimes all the leaves are spiny, both 

^ Memories of the Months, Third Series, p. 366. 



above and below. In other varieties none of the leaves 
possess spines at all. Yet it must be admitted that these 
are facts and cannot be denied.^ 

Moreover, the Osmanthus, with its holly-like leaves, the 
Evergreen Oak, and some Junipers are found to show exactly 
the same curious difference. The perilously-situated lower 
leaves are more spiny than those which are above the reach 
of grazing animals. 

Kerner von Marilaun^ also has remarked a similar pro- 
tective arrangement in Gleditschia chinensis and in the Wild 
Pear, Trees of the latter, when they are young, "bristle 
with the spines into which the ends of the woody branches 
are transformed"***; but tall trees twelve to fifteen feet high 
are entirely without thorns ! 

It is when one meets coincidences of this nature that the 
full meaning of plant life begins to dawn upon the mind. 

How is it that the plant knows the time to produce its 
spines, and the time to refrain from doing so ? 

There are certain queer facts that have been given on 
good authority as to the causes which tend to produce 
thorniness and spininess. 

Linnaeus, Philos, Bot., p. 215, § 272, says: — 

"Spinosae arbores cultura saepius deponunt spinas in 
hortis."" Lothelier found that Barberries grown in a moist 
atmosphere had no spiny leaves, and that the thorns were far 
less woody under those conditions, whilst in a perfectly arid 
and dry atmosphere only spines were formed ; a strong light 
also tended to produce spines. 

Professor Sickenberger grew a desert plant (Zilla mya- 
groides) in the Botanic Garden at Cairo, and found that its 

^ I had expressed some doubt in my Nature Studies : Plant Life. 
^ Lc, vol. I, p. 433. 



spines were much weaker and more slender than the strong 
rigid thorns which cover it in its natural desert. 

Professor Henslow^ found that the spiny form of the Rest 
Harrow, when grown in a rich soil with an abundance of 
water, gradually loses its spines. All these experiments 
certainly show that a dry desert sort of life, and possibly 
strong sunlight, favour the development of spines and 

Of this there cannot be any reasonable doubt, for the 
extraordinary quantity of thorny, spiny things in deserts 
shows that there must be some connexion between such 
a life and their production (see Chapter x.). In such 
places animals are always abundant. But these hollies, 
pears, and other plants show exactly the opposite to what 
we should expect. It is when the head of the young holly 
reaches the sunlight and feels the wind that its leaves 
become harmless ! 

If one remembers the case of the young larch and its goat 
enemies on page 181, it is perhaps possible to think that the 
lower branches and twigs were for untold generations exposed 
to laceration and biting. Thus, suffering from the loss of 
water by these regular annual wounds, the leaves developed 
their spines in response. So far, belief is not more difficult 
than it is with regard to the origin of any variety. But 
whenever, by reversion to their ancestral type, the original 
not-spiny leaves developed on the top of a tree, that tree 
would have an advantage, for every leaf on it would be more 
economically produced ; a smooth leaf would not require to 
spend food in order to make spines. Such trees, spiny below 
and smooth above, would be best fitted to survive, healthier 
and more vigorous, and in the end would leave more 
descendants. i Origin of Plant Structures, pp. 38-40. 



At the same time, such a case as this reveals again that 
mysterious and exquisite purposefulness which a reverent 
mind discovers in Nature everywhere. 

At the same time, as we have already pointed out, we are 
exceedingly ignorant of many of the very commonest facts. 
Leo Errera, the great Belgian botanist (whose recent death 
has been a terrible loss to science), collected together some 
facts as to the taste of cattle for various spiny and thorny 
plants ; he found that cattle wished to eat the following : 
Buckthorn, whin or gorse, raspberry, brambles, the Scotch 
thistle, the creeping thistle, as well as musk, welted and 
slender thistles, sow thistle, and saltwort. 

They avoided : Barberry, the petty and German whin, rest 
harrow, the carline, and the other thistles not given above, 
as well as the common juniper. 

They disdained or despised: Sea holly, common holly, 
milk thistle, Lactuca, and Urtica urens.^ 

So far as the holly is concerned, it is certainly not 
despised by sheep and rabbits in this country. But how few 
are the plants investigated! Several of the commonest 
British plants are omitted just because no one has taken the 
trouble to watch them. 

Here, then, is an opportunity oi discovering something 
new, fresh, and interesting which should be well within the 
reach of any one who passes his life in the country. 

1 Errera, Un Ordre de Becherches trop rdgligL See also Ludwig, 
Biologie d. Pflanzen^ p. 210. 



Stinging nettles at home and abroad — The use of the nettle — Sham nettles 
— Sensitive plants — Mechanism — Plants alive, under chloroform and 
ether — Telegraph plant — Woodsorrel — Have plants nerves ? — Elec- 
tricity in the Polar regions — Plants under electric shocks — Currents 
of electricity in plants— The singing of trees to the electro-magnetic 
ear — Experiments— Electrocution of vegetables. 

THE common nettle is one of our most interesting 
British plants. It is exposed to great danger; one 
sees it growing not only in pastures and parks, 
but in waste places, along roadsides, and near cultivated 
ground. Yet it is very seldom either eaten or even 
touched. Cattle do occgisionally eat the young shoots. But 
this is exceptional, for even in fields where there are plenty 
of cattle great clumps of nettle luxuriate and increase in 
size every year. 

The stinging hairs are hollow and shaped rather like a 
narrow bulb or flask; the tip is slightly bent over and 
rounded (not sharp) ; the hairs contain formic acid. If one 
grasps ^the nettle or strokes it in a particular way (from 
below upwards) the hairs are pressed flat against the stem or 
broken, so that no wound is made by them in the skin and 
consequently they do no harm. But if the point of the hair 
pierces the skin, the well-known irritation is set up. That 
is because formic acid is poured into the wound. Besides 



the stinging hairs which keep off all the larger animals 
(including man) there are others, shorter and thickly set, 
which do not sting at all, but are intended to keep off snails.^ 

The pain produced by our common nettle is, however, 
a very trifling matter compared with that produced by some 
of the foreign species. One of the Indian kinds was used to 
excite and irritate bulls when they were intended to fight 
with tigers in the games which used to be held at some 
Indian Courts. Another found in Timor is called the DeviPs 
Leaf ; the effect of its sting may last for twelve months and 
may even produce death. But a still more dangerous stinging 
plant is a handsome tree (Laportea moroides) found in 
Australia. It is often 120-140 feet high, and has fine dark- 
green leaves often one foot in length. The sting is so 
powerful that even horses are killed by touching its leaves. 
The sting of Jatropha urens is so strong that people become 
unconscious. In Java also the sting of Urtica stimulans 
continues to smart for twenty-four hours, and may produce 
a fever which is very difficult to shake off.^ 

Yet our common nettle is the favourite food-plant of the 
caterpillars of the Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Peacock, 
Camberwell Beauty, and other butterflies.^ These caterpillars 
are possibly more intelligent than many of our country folk, 
who do not know that the nettle is a very useful plant, as 
the following statements most clearly prove. Its young leaves 
make an excellent spinach, and it was, according to Sir 
Walter Scott, formerly cultivated in Scotland as a pot-herb. 
Pigs, turkeys, geese, and fowls like the leaves when they are 
chopped up. It is said that the dried leaves and seeds will 

1 Gard. Chronicle, 32, 390. 

2 Lindley, l.c. ; Ludwig, I.e. 

3 Memories of the Months First Series, p. 73. 



make hens lay in winter time. The seeds, under pressure, 
yield quite a good oil. A yellow dye can be obtained by 
boiling the roots with alum. An excellent string can also 
be made from the inner bark of the stems, which has, in 
fact, been used to make twine and even clothing. The 
nettle is also valuable as an external stimulant in cases of 

A plant with so many wonderful properties would not be 
so common as it is, or so little disturbed, if it were not for 
its powerful stings. 

There are one or two plants which are extremely like the 
nettle at first sight. Lord Avebury has an illustration in 
his excellent little book^ in which it is most difficult to tell 
which are White Deadnettles and which are stinging nettles. 
No doubt the harmless deadnettle is helped to escape injury 
by this resemblance. The Hemp Deadnettle and some 
Campanulas are also very like it when growing. These also 
are sham nettles and may escape in the same way. 

There are several common greenhouse Primulas which also 
produce irritation of the skin. When handled by gardeners 
a painful smart is set up which lasts for some time. Primula 
obconica is the worst of these, but P. sinensis^ P. cortusoides, 
and P. Sieboldii sometimes have the same effect. In all 
these cases it is due to a peculiar secretion of certain glan- 
dular hairs.2 

The methods of protection against grazing animals so far 
described, such as stinging hairs, thorns, spines, etc. (see 
page 190), are obvious enough, but perhaps the most 
ingenious system of defence is that exhibited by the Sensi- 
tive Plant and a few others. 

* Flowers, Fruit, and Leaves. 

2 Nestler, Sitz. d. K. Akad. d. Wiss, Wien, voL 3, p. 27. 
N 193 


When man or any heavy animal is approaching certain 
Indian plants, their leaves suddenly drop, and the leaflets close 
together. The mere shaking of the ground or of the air pro- 
duces these extraordinary movements in the sensitive Wood- 
sorrel (Oxalis sensitiva), in two Leguminous plants (Smithia 
sensitiva and Aeschynomene indica), and in several Mimosas. 

When one leaf-tip of Mimosa pudica^ the Sensitive Plant 
(par excellence)^ is touched or injured, a series of changes 
begin. All the little leaflets shut up one after the other ; then 
the secondary stalks drop ; after this the main stalk of the 
leaf suddenly droops downwards. After a short interval, the 
next leaf above goes through identically the same movements. 
If the shaking or injury is severe, every leaf from below 
upwards moves in the same way. 

One probable advantage of these movements can be un- 
derstood from the behaviour of flies, which alight upon the 
leaves and make them drop. The flies are startled and go 
away. Grazing animals will consider such behaviour in a 
vegetable as very uncanny, and will probably go to some 
other less ingeniously protected plant. 

Of course such extraordinary behaviour has been a chal- 
lenge to the botanical world, and there is an overwhelming 
mass of speculation, and observations about the Sensitive 

It has been proved that the movements are caused by the 
thickened part at the base of the main stalk of the leaf. 
This is swollen, and full of water, and much thicker than 
the stalk itself. It is by this thickened portion that the leaf 
is kept at its proper angle. When the tip of the leaf is 
shaken or injured, the cells on the under side of this swollen 
part allow their water to exude into the spaces between 
them, and in consequence down comes the leaf-stalk. 



This is not, by any means, a full or even a sufficient 
explanation. There is certainly some peculiar sending of 
messages from the tip of the leaf to the swollen part itself. 
It is not safe to say that it is a nerve message, but the 
process resembles the way in which messages are sent by 
the nerves in animals. Not only so, but the contraction of 
the under side and a corresponding expansion on the upper 
side, resembles the muscular movements of contraction and 
expansion in animals. 

It must always be remembered that plants are alive ; their 
living matter is not in any way (so far as we know) essentially 
different from that of animals or of man. Their living 
matter (protoplasm) in leaf-stalks and leaves is cut up into 
boxes or cells, each enclosed in a case or wall of its own. 
Yet these are not entirely independent and unconnected, for 
thin living threads run from cell to cell, so that there is an 
uninterrupted chain of protoplasm all along the leaf, leaf- 
stalk, and stem. 

In this particular case of the Sensitive Plant, the leaves at 
night regularly take up the position which they adopt when 
injured or shaken during the daytime. 

The easiest way to produce the shrinking of the leaves is, 
as has been mentioned, to hold a lighted match a little below 
the leaf- tip. Severe shaking, a strong electric shock, or a 
railway journey will also produce closing of the leaves. 

Under chloroform or ether, or if the atmospheric pressure 
is suddenly diminished, the leaves will also fall. In some res- 
pects they are very lifelike, for if too often stimulated they 
become "fatigued," and will not react unless a sufficient 
interval of rest is allowed them. 

The reaction occurs very soon if the plant is in good con- 
dition : in less than one second it begins, and the leaf-stalk 



may fall in two to five seconds, but the recovery is very 

Vivisection is a cruel sort of proceeding, although it may 
sometimes be necessary. The most curious vivisections have 
been performed on Mimosa. When the leaflets are cut off^, it 
is possible, on a stimulus being applied, to see water oozing 
out of the cut surface of the stalk. This would go to show 
that it is the water being discharged from the leaf-base that 
produces the movement. 

There are, however, many points in the behaviour of the 
Sensitive Plant which have not yet been explained. 

Possibly the curious Semaphore or Telegraph Plants, 
whose leaflets suddenly and without any obvious reason move 
with a jerk through an angle of several degrees, may also 
be protected from animals by this uncanny and unusual 

But though the Sensitive Plant is certainly protected from 
grazing animals by these movements, other advantages may 
be derived. Heavy rain, for instance, such as occurs in the 
tropics, will not injure its delicate leaves. Dust-storms will 
not damage it, and at night there will be no loss of heat by 
radiation. The " shrunk *" or folded condition of the leaflets 
will decrease any chance of injury by raindrops, for the rain 
will not fall on the broad surface of the leaflets. A nearly 
vertical leaf also will not suffer the loss of heat which 
a horizontal one would endure. 

Besides the plants mentioned above, there are several others 
in which by a rather severe shaking the leaves can be made to 
fold up. This is the case with the common Woodsorrel 
{Oxalis acetosella), with the False Acacia {Rohinia\ and a 
few others. 

The former has a peculiarly delicate leaf. In cold, wet 



weather its leaflets hang limp and numb from the leaf-stalk 
all day. In fine weather they are spread out horizontally. 
On a fine sunny afternoon its leaflets may sometimes take a 
mid-day sleep, for they hang loosely down in the same way 
that they do in cold, wet weather or at night. 

But in the Woodsorrel these movements are not for pro- 
tection against grazing animals. 

There are other examples amongst plants of a distinct 
sudden movement which begins whenever part of the plant 
is touched. The movements of tendrils have been already 
referred to. The Venus' Fly Trap and the Sundew will be 
mentioned when we are discussing Insectivorous Plants. 
There are also several flowers in which the stamens suddenly 
spring up when they are touched by an insect (Barberry, 
Centaurea, and Sparmannia), and in Mimulus the style-flaps 
close when touched (see p. 70). 

All these cases seem to involve some sort of mechanism 
which replaces the nervous system of animals. 

No very definite laws have yet been discovered as to the 
way in which plants are affected by electricity, but enough is 
known to show that there are many interesting discoveries in 

Professor Lemstrom has made some interesting experiments 
in the Polar regions which go to show that the rich develop- 
ment of plant life in that desolate region may be connected 
with the peculiar electrical conditions of the Polar atmo- 
sphere ; the aurora borealis, which is a common phenomenon 
there, being also produced by those conditions. 

Several writers have claimed that slight electric shocks 
given at frequent intervals help the growth of plants and 
especially quicken the germination of seeds, but it can 
scarcely be said that this has been proved. 



When a branch or leaf-stalk is wounded or injured by being 
tightly clamped in a vice, then it will be found that a 
current of electricity passes from the injured spot to the 
part that is untouched, and then in the reverse direction. 

Changes of current are also produced when a leaf is 
suddenly exposed to light for a short time and then shaded. 

One of the most interesting observations is that made by 
Major Squiers near Lorin Station, in America, where the 
California Gas and Electric Corporation of San Francisco 
has a long-distance transmission telegraph line. The power 
is transmitted at a voltage of 56,000 with a frequency of 
sixty cycles per second (three-phase). Major Squiers, from 
previous experiments, thought that a note corresponding to 
this frequency might be heard in a telephone receiver. The 
following was the result : — 

" Upon connecting the telephone between two nails driven 
in any growing tree along the route of the line, and at 
a reasonable distance therefrom, the telephone responded to 
this note with great clearness, and when the distance was not 
more than 100 feet, the sound was very loud. For this 
experiment no microphone need be used, nor any source of 
electromotive force other than that induced in the tree itself, 
the telephone being connected directly between two nails 
driven into the tree. . . . 

"Several kinds of trees of various sizes and forms were 
examined along this power transmission line, and all were 
found to be singing with a loud voice the fundamental note 
characteristic of the line current. Indeed, the strip of 
vegetation along this line has thus been singing continuously, 
day and night, for several years, since the operation of the 
line began ; it needed only the electro-magnetic ear to make 
the sound apparent. . . . 



" The general appearance of vegetation along this route is 
certainly vigorous."^ 

An interesting little experiment was carried out by the 
author in Glasgow, with the kind help of Professor Blyth, at 
the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College. By 
attaching one wire to the upper part of the stem of a young 
pot-plant whilst the other wire was inserted in the base of 
the stem, it was easy to show that an electric current was 
passing — at any rate, during the daytime. In the evening, 
however, this was not at all distinct. That such currents do 
occur in living trees seems to be admitted. A similar cur- 
rent was not found in a stick of dead-wood. The mere 
passage of the water through the plant in transpiration 
might, however, cause such a current, for the water is 
evaporated at the leaves. 

A strong electric shock may of course electrocute a plant 
by killing the cells. It is possible to cause the Mimosa 
leaves to close by means of an electric shock. 

1 Squiers, "On the Absorption of Electro-magnetic Waves by Living 
Vegetable Organisms," December 3, 1904. 




The first plant— Seaweeds in hot baths— Breaking of the meres— Gory 
Dew— Plants driven back to the water — Marsh plants— Fleur-de- 
lis — Reeds and rushes— Floating islands — Water-lilies — Victcyria 
regia — Plants 180 feet deep — Life in a pond, as seen by an in- 
habitant — Fish-farming— The useful Diatom— Willows and Alders — 
Polluted streams— The Hornwort— The Florida Hyacinth — Reeds 
and Grass-reeds— The richest lands in the world — Papyrus of Egypt 
— Birds and hippopotami— Fever and ague. 

WHAT was the first green plant ? When was the 
surface of the earth first covered with flowers? 
Such questions are quite impossible to answer. We 
cannot even tell how plants ever came to exist on the earth 
at all. Wonderful as are the stories of the hardihood of 
bacteria, of spores, and of seeds, it is not possible to imagine 
that they could have been whirled or drifted through infinite 
space to this particular planet. 

Yet it is at least probable that the first real plant on this 
world was a seaweed or alga. 

In Germany and Austria there are certain springs in which 
the water coming from immense depths is at an exceedingly 
high temperature. These hot springs are used as natural 
hot baths, and have many interesting peculiarities. Amongst 
others there is the fact that certain seaweeds or algae are 
found luxuriating in the hot water. Some of these can even 
live in springs with a temperature of 176° F. ! 



Such algae may have remained living in exceedingly hot 
water ever since that long distant time, the very first of all 
the geological periods, when there was no distinct separation 
betwixt land and water, and when the waters which were 
below the firmament had not been separated from those 
which were above it. Then the world seems to have been 
all fog and mist at a very high temperature. 

But all theories on the origin of the world might be 
briefly summarized by the last nine words ! 

At any rate, the first plant was almost certainly a sea- 
weed or alga not unlike those which produce the so-called 
" breaking of the meres." 

At some seasons the water of certain lakes, usually quite 
clear and pure, becomes discoloured, turbid, and everywhere 
crowded with multitudes of tiny, bright, verdigris-green 
specks. The fish at once begin to sulk, refuse to take the 
fly, and live torpid at the bottom of the water. The minute 
green particles consist of a certain seaweed or alga. Mr. 
Phillips put the head of a common pin in the water so as to 
obtain a very small drop. When placed under a micro- 
scope, this minute amount of water was found to contain 
300 individual algae.^ This was in Newton Mere (Shrop- 
shire), and as this lake extends over 115 acres, it is possible 
to imagine the millions upon millions of algae which must 
have existed in it. ITie names of these seaweeds are many 
thousand times longer than the algae themselves, and it is 
not really necessary to give them. One of them, however, 
Aphanizomenon Jlos-aquoe^ has been noticed " tingeing with 
its delicate green hue the margin of the smallest of the 
Lochs Maben, in Dumfriesshire."^ Yet it is not so big as 

^ Qjoke, British Freshwater AlgcB, on the authority of Phillips, Trans. 
Shropshire Natural History Society. 

^ Dickie, Journal Bot. Soc, Edin. , vol. 3, p. 79. 



the dot on the i in its name. Many other cases have 
been recorded of lakes that were coloured sometimes a " pea- 
green,"" or even brown or red by similar tiny little seaweeds. 
As we shall see, the water of such lakes generally contains a 
very large amount of suspended or floating vegetable life. 

Another curious appearance is Gori/ Dew. Patches of a 
deep blood-red or purple colour are found on the ground or 
on walls. They have just the appearance of recently-shed 
blood. This also is due to an alga {Poj-phyiidiurn cnwntum). 
Dr. Cooke quotes from Drayton as follows : " In the plain, 
near Hastings, where the Norman William, after his victory 
found King Harold slain, he built Battle Abbey, which at 
last, as divers other monasteries, grew to a town enough 
populous. Thereabout is a place which, after rain, always 
looks red, which some have attributed to a very bloody 
sweat of the earth, as crying to Heaven for vengeance of so 
great a slaughter." 

The ordinary " Rain of Blood " which appears on not too 
fresh meat, and looks like minute specks of red-currant 
jelly, is due to one of the Bacteria {Micrococcus prodigiosics). 

The original algae or seaweeds probably had descendants 
which migrated to the land and eventually after many 
geological periods became our flowering plants and ferns. 
But the earth has become so richly supplied with plants of 
all sorts and kinds that it is now by no means easy for any 
plant to find a roothold for its existence. So that a con- 
siderable number have been forced back to the water, and 
have accustomed themselves to live in or even under water 
in company with their lowly cousins, the seaweeds, who 
remained below its surface. 

These water plants are very interesting. They are always 
competing with one another. There is a perpetual struggle 



going on round every pond and loch, and by every river 

If you look carefully round the edge of a loch or pond 
which lies in a grass field, certain series of plants are gener- 
ally found to follow one another in quite a definite way. 
The first sign of water in grass is generally the presence of 
moss or " fog " between the grass-stems and the appearance 
of what farmers call the " Blue Carnation Grass." It is not 
a grass but a sedge {Carex glauca or C paniced) with leaves 
rather like those of a carnation. A little nearer the border 
of the pond, there may be a tall coarse grass {Air a caes- 
pitosa or Festuca elatior). Next there is almost certain to 
be a fringe of Rushes. Where the Rushes begin to find the 
ground too wet for them, all sorts of marsh plants flourish, 
such as Water Plantain, Cuckoo-flower, the Spearwort 
Buttercup, Woundwort, and the like. As soon as the 
actual water begins, one finds, whilst it is still shallow, the 
Flag series of yellow or purple Irises, Bogbeans, Marsh 
Cinquefoil, Mare's Tail, and Sedges of various kinds. In 
this part the water ranges from an inch or two to about 
eighteen inches deep. 

The Flag or Iris is a very common and yet interesting 
plant. It has a stout, fleshy stem lying flat on the mud, 
and anchored to it by hundreds of little roots. The flower 
is the original of the Fleur-de-lis, or Lily of France, which 
took the fancy of the King of France as he rode through the 
marshes towards Paris. (It is true that there are some un- 
romantic authors who hold that the emblem was really 
intended to represent a frog or toad !) 

The flower consists of three upright petals and three 
hollow sepals, which make so many canals leading down to 
the honey, and roofed over by an arched and coloured style. 



As the bee hurries down the canal to its nectar, its back is 
first brushed by a narrow lip-like stigma and then dusted 
with pollen. The leaves overlap in a curious way, and, when 
they have withered, their stringy remains serve to protect 
the fleshy stem. Orris root, which is used in perfumery, is 
the stem of the Iris Jlorentina. 

Most of the other plants in this Flag series will be found 
to have prostrate main stems growing under the water, but 
giving off flowering and foliage stems which stand up above 
it, so that the leaves and flowers are above the surface. 

In the next part of the pond, where the water is from 
eighteen inches to nine feet deep, masses of reeds will be 
found usually swaying, sighing, and whispering in the wind. 
There are many kinds, such as Bulrushes, Phragmites, 
Horsetail, Scirpus, etc. It seems to be the depth, the ex- 
posure to wind, the character of the soil, and other unknown 
factors, that determine which of those will be present. All 
of them are tall, standing well above the water ; their main 
stem is usually flat on the bottom of the pond, or floating 
horizontally in the water, but giving off* many upright 

Floating islands are often formed by some of these hori- 
zontal main stems breaking off* and being carried away. 
Those Chinese who possess no land make floating islands of 
such reeds for themselves, and grow crops on them. There 
are hundreds of such islands in the Canton River. 

Beyond the reeds, one sees the large flat, floating leaves 
and beautiful cup-like white or yellow flowers of the Water- 
lilies. They grow in water which is not more than fifteen 
feet deep. Their long stalks and leaf-stalks are flexible and 
yield readily, so as to keep the flowers and leaves floating. 
There are narrow submerged leaves as well. The actual 
^ 204 

Stereo Copyright, Underwood &■ Undernood 

London and New York 

A Leaf Raft 

Victoria Regia, the giant water-lily of the Amazons. 
Minnesota and are able to support the weight of a child, 
to be ten feet in diameter. 

Those shown are in a public park in 
In their native home the leaves are said 


stem of the White Water-lily is about three inches in 
diameter, and stout and fleshy. It is full of starchy material, 
and lies upon the mud deep down at the bottom of the 
pond. There are many advantages in the position of the 
flowers, for bees, flies, and other useful insects can reach 
them easily, but slugs, snails, and other enemies cannot do 
so. The little seeds have a curious lifebelt-like cup, which 
enables them to float on the surface. 

Of course, our own British water-lilies cannot compare 
with the magnificent Victoria regia of the tropics. Its 
petals are white or pink on the inside, and its gigantic 
leaves, six feet or more in diameter, can support a retriever 
dog or a child. There used to be some of them at Kew 
Gardens. A curious point about these enormous floating 
leaves is that they are covered with little spiny points on the 
under side and at the margin ; that is probably to keep 
some sort of fish from nibbling at the edges. 

But to return to our pond. Beyond the water-lily region 
and so long as the water is from twelve to twenty-four feet 
deep, Pondweeds are able to grow, and their leaves may be 
seen in the water, whilst their stalks stand up above the 
surface so as to allow wind to scatter the pollen. 

This depth of twenty-four feet seems at first sight very 
great, but it is a mere nothing compared with the regions 
entirely below the water, where certain Stoneworts {Chard) 
and Mosses have been found flourishing. The former has 
been dredged up from depths of ninety feet, and a little 
moss was discovered in the Lake of Geneva growing quite 
comfortably at a depth of 180 feet below the surface. 

But it is quite impossible to appreciate the wonder and 
beauty of the life in a pond unless by a strong effort of the 



Suppose yourself to be a fish two or three inches long, and 
accustomed to the dim, mysterious light which filters down 
through the water from the sky above. Every here and 
there great olive-brown leaf-stalks and stems cross and, 
branching, intercept the light. Everything, the surface of the 
mud, the stems and branches of the submerged water-plants, 
is covered by an exquisite golden-brown powder, which 
consists of hundreds and thousands of "Diatoms."" Here 
and there from the Pondweed and other stems hang festoons 
or wreaths or threads of beautiful green Algae. Little 
branching sprays of them, or perhaps of the brown kind, are 
attached here and there to the thick stems. 

Even the very water is full of small, floating, vivid green 
stars or crescents or three-cornered pieces which are free 
floating Algas or Desmids. Other diatoms are also free or 
swim with a cork-screwing motion through the water. Great 
snails and slugs crawl upon the plants, and weird large-eyed 
creatures, with a superfluity of legs and an entire absence 
of reserve as to what is going on inside their bodies, skirmish 
around. So that such a pond is full of vegetable activity. 
The free-swimming diatoms and desmids make up the food 
of the snails and crustaceans. These latter in turn are the 
food of fishes. 

It is even possible to-day by carefully stocking an artificial 
pond with water plants, by then introducing MoUusca and 
Crustacea, and finally by the introduction of " eyed ova " or 
fry of the trout, carp, or other fishes, to produce a regular 
population of fishes which can be made more or less 
profitable, and the process can be spoken of as "fish- 
farming.'* Unfortunately there are a great many gaps in 
our knowledge as to what fish actually feed on, and we know 
even less about what the Mollusca and Crustacea require. 



There is, however, a distinct annual harvest of these 
minute seaweeds, of which different sorts appear to develop 
one after the other, just as flowering plants do. The two 
months January and February, which are almost without 
flowers, are also those in which most of these minute 
vegetables take their repose in the form of cysts or spores. 

But these diatoms are too important and too interesting 
to be dismissed in such a cursory manner. Each consists of 
a tiny speck of living matter with a drop or two of oil en- 
closed in a variously sculptured flinty shell. They have, in 
fact, been compared to little protected cruisers which pass 
to and fro in the water and multiply with the most extra- 
ordinary rapidity. 

If you (1) use dynamite to blast a rock, (2) if you 
employ a microscope or telescope, (3) if you paint an oil 
picture, (4) if you make a sound-proof partition in a set of 
offices, the probability is that it has been necessary to use 
the substance diatomite in each case. This consists of the 
accumulated shells of myriads of diatoms. 

Nor does that represent by any means the whole of the 
usefulness of these tiny seaweeds. The oil shales, such as 
occur in Linlithgowshire and elsewhere, are supposed to be 
the muddy, oily deposits of such ponds as we have en- 
deavoured to describe. The oil found in the shales was 
probably worked up by these diatoms in long-past geological 
ages. It may be used to-day either (1) to drive motors, 
(2) to light lamps, (3) to burn as so-called " wax " candles, 
(4) to eat (as an inferior soii: of chocolate cream). 

Interesting as these diatoms are, it is not really possible to 
understand their structure without the use of a microscope, 
so that we must pass on to another side of the activity of 
water plants. 



Let us, for instance, notice some of the ordinary plants to 
be found along a riverside. Willows and Alders are the 
ordinary trees, because they are specially fitted to stand the 
danger of being regularly overflowed. They easily take root, 
so that branches broken off and floated down are enabled to 
form new trees without much difficulty. In the United 
States, it has become a custom to plant Willows along the 
banks, because they are then not so liable to be broken 
down and worn away. Yet when a big Willow tree has 
become undermined, the weight of the trunk may cause it to 
fall over towards the water, so that a large section of the 
bank may be loosened and serious damage may be done if it 
is torn away by a heavy flood. 

Amongst such Willows, should be mentioned the "cricket 
bat *" kind, which has to be grown with the very greatest care, 
and of which a single tree may be worth £28. 

Many of our rivers are, alas, sadly polluted by artificial 
and other impurities which kill the fishes and destroy the 
natural vegetation. When this happens a horrible-looking 
whitish fungus {Apodytes lacted) coats the stones and banks 
under water and the water swarms with bacteria. This 
fungus and the bacteria are really purifying the water, for 
they break up the decaying matter in it. 

The oily or slimy character of the outside skin of all sub- 
merged plants is of very great importance to them. It allows 
the water to glide or slip over them without any friction. 

Still keeping to our river bank, let us look for submerged 
plants. What is that dark green feathery plume ? It is 
the Hornwort (Ceratophyllum) gently wriggling or moving 
from side to side. It has probably never been still for a 
moment since it first began to grow. Take it out of the 
water, and it collapses into a moist, unpleasant little body, 



but as soon as it is put in its natural element again it is 
seen to have a thin flexible stem along which there are circles 
of curved, finely divided leaves. Watch it in the water and 
one is filled with astonishment at the perfection of the shape, 
arrangement, and character of the leaves, which enables them 
to hold their place even when a flood may cover them with 
an extra twenty feet of water ! The same sort of leaf, 
but with great difference in detail, is found in the submerged 
Water Crowfoot, Water Milfoil, Potamogetons, and others 
which live under the the same conditions. 

If it were the St. John's River, we might see that extra- 
ordinary Florida Hyacinth which has swollen, gouty-looking 
leaf-stalks, and grows with such extraordinary rapidity that 
it covers the whole surface of rivers, choking the paddle- 
wheels of steamers and destroying the trade in timber, for no 
logs can be floated down when it covers the water. Its 
rosettes float on the surface, and are very interesting to 
examine. If you upset one or turn it upside down in the 
water, the " buoys "''* or swollen stalks act as a self-righting 
arrangement, and it slowly returns to its proper position. 

But in most rivers, one is certain to come across back- 
waters where it is impossible to force a boat through on 
account of the reeds and other marsh-plants. 

There are places on the Danube where hundreds of square 
miles are occupied by waving masses of the feathery-plumed 
Phragmites, almost to the exclusion of any other sort of 
vegetation. Giant specimens of it eighteen feet high have 
been observed. 

The same reed occurs in North and South America and 
far up towards the Arctic regions. At first sight it seems 
as if this was a mistake of Nature ; why should so much of 
the surface be occupied by this useless vegetable ? But it is 

O 209 


necessary to say a little more about its habits and its 
object in life. 

The most interesting and curious point is the way in 
which it grows in dense thickets ; the main stem is really 
horizontal and below the water, but it gives off a number of 
upright stalks. Now every flood will carry in amongst the 
stalks quantities of silt and rubbish. Those upright stems 
will sift the water : all sorts of floating material, sand, silt, 
dead leaves, fruit, etc., are left amongst them. So that such 
a marsh or bed of Phragmites is gradually, flood by flood, 
collecting the deposits of mud, and the bed becomes every 
year more shallow. At the edge of the marsh there is 
scarcely any water visible, and grasses and other plants are 
beginning to grow between the Phragmites stems. Even- 
tually these latter are choked out, and a marshy alluvial flat 
occupies the site of the old reed-bed. 

So that the work of Phragmites is of the greatest possible 
importance : it has to form those fertile alluvial flats which 
are found along the course of every great river, and which 
are by far the most valuable lands in the whole world. 

Look, for instance, at the population of Belgium, Holland, 
and Lower Germany, and notice how dense it is upon the 
alluvial flats where the Meuse, Rhine, and other rivers 
approach the sea. It is just the same in Britain. London 
lies on the great alluvial flats of the Thames, Glasgow on 
the Clyde, Liverpool on the Mersey. In China it is the 
Yang-tze-kiang valley (especially near its mouth) ; in India, 
the Ganges, of lower Bengal, and in the Argentine the La 
Plata River, which show the greatest accumulations of 
humanity. In every case it is the rich flat alluvium, which 
is exceedingly fertile when drained and cultivated, that has 
originally attracted so many people. 




Lower Egypt is the gift of the Nile, but it is not so 
much the Nile as these neglected water plants which made 
the rich lucerne, cotton, and food crops of Lower Egypt 
possible. Amongst the Egyptian Reeds one especially is of 
great importance. The Papyrus antiquorum^ ten feet high, 
has much the same habit as our Phragmites and other water 
plants. It forms dense, almost impassable thickets, some- 
times completely occupying and choking a small valley, or 
leaving only a passage, often changing and half choked, 
through a larger one. This, with other plants, makes the 
" sudd " of the Nile, which is one enormous accumulation of 
marsh plants and reeds floating on the water and covering a 
length of over 500 miles. 

It was from the Papyrus that the ancient Egyptians made 
their paper. The stems are six to seven inches in diameter. 
"The pith of the larger flowering stems . . . cut into 
thin strips, united together by narrowly over-lapping mar- 
gins, and then crossed under pressure by a similar arrange- 
ment of strips at right angles, constitutes the Papyrus of 

These great marshes and reed-beds are full of interest to 
naturalists. The Fens of Lincolnshire and the Norfolk 
Broads show the way in which water plants keep hold of the 
worn and travelled rubbish of the hills, and prevent most of 
it from becoming useless, barren sea-sands. These places, 
however, like the sudd of the Nile, and the Roman " Cam- 
pagna," have an evil reputation so far as climate is concerned. 
This used to be the case even in lower Chelsea, in London 
(where snipe were shot not so very long ago). It is as if 
Nature had desired to do her own work in peace and without 
being disturbed, for fever, ague, mosquitoes, and malaria are 
very common. Yet a certain number of people always live in 



such places. In France, e.g., the leeches in the great marshes 
near the Landes form a source of riches. Such reeds also are 
or were the home of the hippopotamus, crocodile, and other 
extraordinary animals. The extinct British hippopotamus 
no doubt found in the Chelsea or other marshes a home as 
congenial to its tastes as is the sudd of Egypt to its living 
descendants or allies. In other places the enormous quanti- 
ties of water birds, myriads of ducks, geese, swans, regiments 
of flamingoes, snipe, and the like, have called into existence 
peculiar kinds of industry in fowling and netting that are 
not without importance. The decoys in the Fens yield 
hundreds of birds for the London market, and the duck- 
punts with their huge guns also bring in quantities of wild 

But all this industry is very trifling compared with that 
of Phragmites and its associates, who have strained from the 
water of the Thames most of the ground on which London 
now stands. 




Where is peace ? — Troubles of the grass — Roadsides— Glaciers in Switzer- 
land — Strength and gracefulness of grasses — Rainstorms — Dangers of 
drought and of swamping — Artificial fields — Farmer's abstruse cal- 
culations—Grass mixtures — Tennis lawns — The invasion of forest — 
Natural grass— Prairie of the United States, Red Indian, Cowboy — 
Pampas and Gaucho — Thistles and tall stories— South Africa and 
Boers— Hunting of the Tartars— An unfortunate Chinese princess — 
Australian shepherds. 

WHERE should one seek for peace on earth ? The 
ideal chosen for one well-known picture is a grassy 
down " close dipt by nibbling sheep," such as the 
fresh green turf of the South Downs. 

Others might prefer the " Constable country," near per- 
haps the famous " Valley Farm " of which the picture now 
hangs in the National Gallery, and especially in early spring. 
At any rate, once seen, one remembers for ever afterwards 
those glossy -coated, well-fed, leisurely cows grazing hock-deep 
in rich meadows full of bright flowers and graceful grasses, 
through which there winds a very lazy river bordered by 
trim pollarded willows. 

The charm of the South Downs and of Constable's 
meadows depends upon their peaceful quiet, and the absence 
of any sign of the handiwork of disturbing man. 

But such meadows are entirely artificial. They could no 
more exist in nature than a coal-mine, if it were not for man's 



help. Moreover, they are in a state of perpetual war ! No 
plant within them experiences the blessings of peace from the 
time it germinates until the day that it dies. 

Each plant is fighting with its neighbours for light, for 
air, for water, and for salts in the soil, and it is also trying 
to protect itself against grazing animals, against the vole 
which gnaws its roots, and against the insects and caterpillars 
which try to devour its buds. 

Besides its own private and individual troubles, it is but 
one of a whole company or army of plants which, like a co- 
operative society, occupy the field. 

Other societies, such as peat-moss, thickets, and woods, try 
to drive out the grasses and cover that particular place in its 
stead. The Grassland companions are also always trying to 
take up new ground, and to cover over any which is not 
strongly held by other plants. 

A road, for instance, is always being attacked by the 
grassland near it. It is sure to have a distinct border of Rafs 
Tail Plantain, Dandelion, Creeping Buttercup, and Yellow 
Clovers. These are the advanced guard of the grassland. 
However heavily you tread upon these plants, you will do 
them no injury whatever, for they are specially designed to 
resist heavy weights. But, if the road were only left alone, 
these bordering plants would be very soon choked out. ITie 
ordinary buttercup would replace the creeping species, and 
white or red clovers take the place of the little yellow ones, 
whilst grasses would very soon spring up all over it. 

But of course the roadman comes and scrapes off all the 
new growth of colonizing grasses, etc. Then the plantains, 
dandelions, and yellow clovers patiently begin their work 

In Switzerland, in those valleys in which the glaciers are 


Stereo Copyright, Underwood &• Under-wood London &■ NeTv York 

The Felling of Giant Trees in California 

These sequoias grow to from 250 to 400 teet high, though they are not quite the 

(See page 47.) 

tallest trees in the world. 


melting away, leaving stretches of bare mud, scratched stones, 
and polished rock, plants immediately begin to settle there. 
A Swiss botanist watched the process during five or six years, 
and describes how first the yellow Saxifrage {S. aizoides) 
establishes itself. Next season Coltsfoot, willow-herb, Oxyria, 
and two grasses had planted themselves. During the third 
season another grass came in. By the fourth season. Fescues 
and yarrow had appeared, and by the fifth season, five 
grasses, clovers, and yarrow had formed a regular grassland 
upon the new untouched soil.^ 

In such cases. Nature, who abhors bare ground, is 
endeavouring to clothe it with useful vegetation. 

The fights which are going on are of the most ruthless 
character. Many weeds are said to produce some 30,000 
seeds in one year, and every plant which grows in a meadow 
is scattering thousands of seeds. But of course the number 
of plants remains much the same, so that 29,999 seeds are 
wasted (or the seedlings choked out) for every one that 
grows up ! 

It is probably because of this perpetual warfare that the 
growth of the grasses is so vigorous, and their whole struc- 
ture so perfectly adapted. If you watch a flowering grass, 
you are sure to notice how narrow is its stem compared with 
the height. A factory chimney only fifty-eight feet high 
requires to be at least four feet broad at the base, yet a rye- 
plant 1500 millimetres high may be only three millimetres 
broad near the root. Man's handiwork, the chimney, is in 
height seventeen times its diameter, but the height of the 
grass is 500 times its diameter. 

The neatness of design, the graceful curves and perfect 
balance in the little flowering branches at the top of a 
^ Coaz, Mittheilungen d. Naturf, Berne, 1886. 



haulm, is always worth looking at, and particularly in the 
early morning when it is beset with sparkling drops of dew. 

It is all wiry, bending and swaying to the wind so as to 
produce those waves which roll across a hay-field, and on 
which the shimmering light is reflected and changes colour. 
The fight for light and air, the struggle to get their heads 
up above their competitors, produces all this exquisite 

It is true that a heavy rainstorm may beat the stems flat 
down to the ground, but, as soon as the weather becomes dry 
again these same stems will raise themselves up and become 
upright ; they have a special sensitiveness and a special 
kind of growth which enables them to do this. 

There are two special dangers which all such artificial 
meadows have to withstand. Let us see what will happen if 
such a meadow begins to dry up through a sinking of the 
level of the water below the soil. 

Each grass has its own special favourite amount of mois- 
ture. It likes to have its water at just one particular depth 
below the surface. Unfortunately there are not nearly 
enough sympathetic and careful observations of the pre- 
ferenees of each individual grass. A Danish author has 
worked out the facts in certain localities (Geest). Suppose 
first that the water-level of the wells, etc., is 6 J to 9| feet 
below the surface. This suits the Meadow Poa grass {Poa 
pratensis) exactly. It will grow luxuriantly and flourish. 
Now suppose the weather is very wet, so that the water rises 
in the wells till they are three to four feet deep. The 
Roughish Poa (P. trivialis) prefers this moister soil, and it 
will grow so vigorously that it will kill out the other kind. 
If it is a season of very heavy floods, or if the drains become 
choked so that the water rises to within fourteen to twenty- 



five inches of the surface, then the tufted Aira {Deschampsia 
caespitosa) will kill out the other kinds and flourish abun- 
dantly. But if the water rises higher than this the marsh 
series comes in (see Chap. xvi.). 

So that the thirsty grasses of the meadow are helped or 
hindered in their fight for life by changes in the water away 
down in the soil below their roots. 

Even in Great Britain one can see distinct differences in 
very dry and very wet summers, but all these pastures, 
meadow-lands, and hay-fields are, as we have already men- 
tioned, as much due to man's forethought and industry as a 
factory or coal-mine. 

It is very difficult to realize this. The best way is to go 
to the National, or any other good picture-gallery, and look 
carefully at any landscapes painted before the year 1805. 
You will scarcely believe that the country as painted can be 
the land we know. Where is the "awful orderliness"" of 
England ? Where are the trim hedges ? Where are the 
tidy roadsides and beautifully embanked rivers that we 
see to-day? 

As a matter of fact, until the great Macadam made good 
roads and the great Telford and other engineers built stone 
bridges, it was impossible to rely on getting about with 
carts and carriages. Gentlemen's coaches and wagons used 
to be literally stuck in the mud ! Horses were drowned at 
fords, or died in their struggles to pull very light loads 
through mud which nearly reached the axles of the wheels 
(see Chap. xi.). 

Besides the change due to roads, fences, drains, and farm 
buildings, the very grasses themselves are growing un- 
naturally. The farmer has selected and sown what he 
thinks best. 



He is obliged to do so, because grasses vary so much. 
Some of them shoot up quickly and die after the first year. 
Others live for two years, whilst a great many bide their 
time, developing very slowly, and not reaching their full 
growth until the fourth or fifth year. 

Some are tall and vigorous, others are short ; some flower 
early in the season, and others very late. Many send out 
quantities of suckers or runners at the base, so that they 
form a dense, intricate turf — a mass of stems and roots 
thickly covering the ground. 

A farmer wants his pasture to begin early and to continue 
late ; he must have a good first year's crop, and it must re- 
main good for years afterwards. So that his calculations as 
regards the proportions of the different grass seeds which he 
requires are of the most abstruse character. 

To sow such " permanent pasture,"' prepared by blending 
together grasses and clovers with an eye to all the above 
necessities, there will be needed some seven million seeds for 
every acre. 

The art consists in coaxing the good, lasting, nutritious 
ones to make both tall hay, rich aftermath, and a close, 
thick turf below, and, until these are ready, to use the 
annual and biennial grasses. 

Such beautifully shaven, green, soft turf as one sees in the 
lawns of cathedrals or the "quads'' at Oxford and Cam- 
bridge has been most carefully and regularly watered, rolled, 
and mown for hundreds of years. It is not easy to keep 
even a tennis - lawn in good condition. Little tufts of 
daisies appear. Their leaves lie so flat that they escape the 
teeth of the mower, and they are not so liable to be injured 
by tennis-shoes as the tiny upright grass-shoots which are 
trying to spring up everywhere. The Plantain is even 



worse, for it is specially built to stand heavy weights, and 
it has several roots which divide and branch like the prongs 
which fix teeth in the jaw, so that it is very difficult to 
howk it out. 

Thus our grasslands in Britain are unnatural and 
artificial productions. If the field drains are choked, moss 
or fog and rushes appear. Still more interesting, however, 
is what happens if the farmer is not careful to destroy the 
taller weeds, such as Dock, Ragweed, Cow Parsnip, Thistles, 
and the like. If you walk over a grass-field in early spring, 
you are sure to see some of these pests. At this stage they 
have a very humble, weak, and innocent appearance : they 
are quite small rosettes or tufts. Yet they are crowded 
with leaves, which are hard at work busily manufacturing 
food material. Soon they begin to shoot up. Their leaves 
overreach all the neighbouring grasses. Their roots spread 
in every direction, taking what ought to go to the " good 
green herb intended for the service of man." They finally 
accomplish their wickedness by producing thousands of 
seeds, which are scattered broadcast over the fields. 

By this time the farmer sees what is going on, and en- 
deavours to cut them down; but it is a long, slow, and 
laborious proceeding. One year's seeding means seven years' 

Yet these tall Thistles and Ragweeds are only the first 
stage of a very interesting invasion. Look around the field 
corners, on railway-banks, or in old quarries, where man has 
left things alone. You will see these same tall herbs (the 
Ragweed, etc.), but you are sure to find a place where they 
are being suppressed by Rasps, Briers, and Brambles. 
These are taller, stronger, and more vigorous than the 
herbs, and they also last longer, for their leaves are still at 



work in November. This is the second stage of the invasion. 
But if the place has been long neglected, Hawthorns and 
Rowans, Birch and Ash will be found growing up. These 
last show what is happening. 

A wood is trying to grow up on the grassland. If left 
alone, an oak or beech forest would, after many years, spread 
over all our grass pastures and hay-fields. These tall herbs 
are the pioneers, and the briers and brambles are | its 
advanced guard. 

As a matter of fact, by far the greatest part of our 
agricultural land was a foi-est, but it has been cut down, 
drained, dug, weeded, hedged, and "huzzed and maazed" 
with agricultural implements and more or less scientifically 
selected manures, until it is made to yield good beef, excel- 
lent mutton, and almost the largest crops per acre in the 

Natural grasslands exist, however, in every continent. 

The great Steppes of Southern Russia and the pastures 
that extend far to the eastward even to the very borders of 
China, the Prairies of North America, the Pampas of 
Argentina, the great sheep-farms of Australia, and a large 
proportion of South Africa, consist of wide, treeless, grassy 
plains, where forests only occur along the banks of rivers, in 
narrow hill-valleys, or upon mountains of considerable alti- 
tude. Upon these great plateaux or undulating hills the 
rainfall, though it is but small in amount, is equally dis- 
tributed, so that there is no lengthy and arid dry season. 
Take the American Prairie, for instance. These valuable 
lands, once the home of unnumbered bison and hordes of 
antelopes, lie between the ancient forests of the eastern 
states and the half-deserts and true salt deserts of the 
extreme west. Rivers, accompanied in their windings by 


A Bushman Digging up Elephant's Foot 

The Bushman is levering up the root of elephant's foot to get the starchy food 
inside. He does it by a stick run through a rounded stone. The woman has caught 
a lizard for the boy to eat. 


riverside forests, are found (especially in the east). The 
real prairie has a blackish, loamy soil, covered sometimes by 
the rich Buffalo or Mesquite grass, which forms a short, 
velvety covering, not exactly a turf such as we find in Eng- 
land, but still true grassland. It is only green in early 

From the spring onwards until the end of summer there 
is an endless succession of flowers. The first spring blossoms 
appear in April ; great stretches are covered with Pentstem- 
ons, Cypripediums, and many others in May and June ; then 
follow tall, herbaceous Phloxes, Lilies, and Asclepiads, but 
perhaps the most characteristic flora blossoms still later on, 
when every one "wants to be in Kansas when the Sunflowers 
bloom." Over these prairies used to travel the great wagons 
or "prairie schooners."' The cowboy, who almost lives on 
horseback, watches over great herds of cattle and troops 
of half-wild horses. Yet his life is, or used to be, almost as 
free, comfortless, and uncivilized as that of the buffalo- 
hunting Indian who preceded him. One must not forget to 
mention the prairie-dog — able to utilize the abundant grass, 
and diving into a safe refuge underground when threatened 
by the wolves or other carnivorous creatures, which, of 
course, multiplied exceedingly, thanks to the jack-hare, ante- 
lopes, and bisons. 

The Pampas in South America is a similar grassland. On 
the east it stops at the woodlands along the great Plate 
River, but on the west it becomes gradually more dry and 
arid, until long before the Andes are reached it is too dry 
even to carry sheep, and can only be described as a half- 

" It is a boundless sea of grasses fading into the distant 
horizon, which can only be distinguished when the sun is 



rising or setting." Yet amongst the grasses are hundreds of 
flowers, and, a fact which is very remarkable, many of them, 
such as Fennel, Artichoke, Milk Thistle, Burdock, Rye Grass, 
etc., are European plants which have dispossessed the natives 
over miles of country, exactly as the gaucho has driven away 
or exterminated the Indians who lived there. It is covered 
by tufts of grass betwixt which appears the rich alluvial 
earth, yet in good years it may become almost a perfect 
grass floor. "The colour changes greatly, for in spring 
when the old grass is burnt off, it is coal-black, which 
changes to a bright blue-green as soon as the young leaves 
appear; later on it becomes brownish green, which again 
changes when the silver-white flowers come out to the 
appearance of a rolling, waving sea of shining silver." 

Here would be the place to mention how an army en- 
camped upon the Pampas finds itself next morning im- 
prisoned and doomed to perish miserably in a forest of giant 
thistles which has sprung up during the night. There is no 
doubt that thistles and other weeds are very tall in both 
South and North America. Fennels are ten to twelve feet 
high, and even little Chenopodiums (such as in England may 
reach eighteen inches), become in South America seven to 
eight feet high, but the tallness of some of the stories is 
more remarkable even than that of the plants ! 

Over the Pampas used to roam thousands of guanacos (a 
creature of the most unlovely type, which resembles both a 
camel, a mule, a deer, and a horse) ; here also were Darwin's 
ostriches {Rhea Darwinii) and other game, which were 
caught by the lasso and by the peculiar "bolas" of the 
Indians. They used to surround the herds and then mas- 
sacre them by hundreds. The " tuco tuco " also, which is a 
burrowing rodent with habits very like those of the prairie 



dog, finds plenty of sustenance in the abundant grasses. 
Upon them subsist pumas, foxes, and other carnivores. 

We have said that the Pampas gradually changes from 
being very fertile on the east to being almost a desert on the 
west. Here is the place to mention a very interesting, if not 
romantic, fact. The guanaco does not travel hundreds of 
miles in order to die in one particular spot as soon as it feels 
ill, but it does resort especially to certain spots. There the 
grass is often a bright, fresh green, for it is plentifully 
manured, and consequently the guanaco helps to encourage 
the good grasses to occupy a half-desert. On the eastern 
side of the Pampas great changes are beginning to appear. 
The owners of the great camps, haciendas or cattle- 
ranches let off small parts of their land to Italian " colonists." 
These people grow crops of Indian corn, and when that has 
been reaped, the valuable Alfalfa or Lucerne is sown down. 
This forms the most exquisite and valuable pasture, and 
consequently far more Shorthorn and Durham cattle can be 

There are in South Africa enormous grassy plains, where 
once springbok and other game used to exist in enormous 
herds (Wangeman records having seen a herd of antelope 
four miles long), in spite of lions and other beasts of 
prey, and in spite also of the Boer, who was as much a 
horseman as the gaucho or Red Indian. The great buck 
wagons of South Africa were almost as much the real 
homes of the Boers as the two-roomed huts which make up 
his " farms." 

The great Steppes of Russia and Siberia are also grass- 
lands. " As seen from a distance hills covered by the Stipa 
grass resemble sand-hills, but, when nearer at hand, the sand- 
grey colour changes into a silvery white, and these ever-moving 



grasses remind one of the waves of the ocean and, in spite 
of their monotony, leave a pleasant impression.""^ 

Tulips, Hyacinths, Veronicas, Periwinkles, Scotch Thistles, 
Euphorbias, Wormwoods, and other of our common plants 
or their near cousins, make up most of the flora of the 
Steppes. Yet there are hundreds of others, for it is a 
vegetation very rich in species. 

If one reads in Gibbon's stately language of the mode of 
life of the Huns, the Scythians, and those other barbarians 
who, originating in these huge grasslands, occasionally 
overflowed and overwhelmed the civilization of declining 
Rome, the resemblance to Red Indians, Pampas Indians, 
cowboys, gauchos, and Boers is not a little striking. 

Read, for instance, the magnificent account of the great 
hunting matches of the Tartar princes. " A circle is drawn 
of many miles in circumference, to encompass the game of an 
extensive district; and the troops that form the circle 
regularly advance towards a common centre, where the 
animals, surrounded on every side, are abandoned to the 
darts of the hunters."" Both the Red Indians of the Prairie 
and the savages of the Pampas used to surround and destroy 
the game in exactly the same way. 

The unfortunate Chinese princess given over for political 
advantages to a prince of the Huns, " laments that she had 
been condemned by her parents to a distant exile, under a 
barbarian husband, and complains that sour milk was her 
only drink, raw flesh her only food, a tent her only palace."" 
This describes exactly the ordinary life and home of the 
Huns. " The Scythians of every age have been celebrated 
as bold and skilful riders ; and constant practice had seated 
them so firmly on horseback, that they were supposed by 

^ Schiraper, I.e.; Drude, l.c. 


strangers to perform the ordinary duties of civil life — to eat, 
to drink, and even to sleep — without dismounting from their 
steeds." Red Indians of Pampas and Prairie, cowboy and 
gaucho, lived exactly in the same way. 

In those pages of Gibbon which treat of the Huns, Scy- 
thians, and other hordes, one recognizes sometimes the 
wagon of the Boers ; sometimes a migration of the East 
African Masai; then perhaps it is a weapon that is really 
the lasso, or a disposition and character exactly paralleled by 
the Crows and Blackfeet. Even the great grass plains of 
Australia, where the kangaroo, the wallaby, and the dingo 
have been replaced by the sheep and the "Waler" horse, 
one finds, in the shepherd and squatter, traits that remind 
one of the gaucho or the cowboy. 

Nor is this in the least extraordinary, for when a scanty 
rainfall produces those great limitless rolling seas of grass, 
Nature provides first large herbivorous animals to eat it 
down as well as carnivorous beasts to keep their numbers in 
control, until such time as a race of horsemen appears, 
whose domestic cattle replace the bisons, guanacos, kan- 
garoos, and antelopes, and so assist in replenishing and 
subduing the earth. 




Poisoned arrows — Fish poisons — Manchineel — Curare — A wonderful 
story — Antiaris — Ordeals— The Obi poison — Oracles produced by- 
poisons — Plants which make horses crazy and others that remove 
their hair— Australian sheep and the Caustic Creeper— Swelled head 
— Madness by the Darling Pea— Wild and tame animals, how they 
know poisons— How do they tell one another ? — The Yew tree, when is 
it, and when is it not poisonous ? 

EVEN to-day all embryo chemists and doctors are 
required to " pass " in the recognition of the more 
important medicinal plants. 
But their knowledge is probably very superficial as com- 
pared with that of a bushman in the Kalahari Desert of 
South Africa. Every man, woman, and child in such a tribe 
knows thoroughly every plant that grows in the neighbour- 
hood. His diet is a varied one, for it includes maggots, 
fish, frogs, snakes, white ants, and other horrible ingredients, 
but he lives mainly on roots, bulbs, and herbs of sorts. 
In times of famine he has had to obtain the most intimate 
knowledge possible of many plants, that namely which is 
obtained by eating them, and he has most carefully observed 
the poisonous kinds. These latter have given him, too, a 
very powerful weapon, for it is the poisoned arrows which 
give him the chance of killing game, otherwise utterly 
beyond his reach. He is on the fair road to becoming a 



hunter and tribesman, instead of being only a member of a 
morose, outcast family, always wandering and always hungry. 

Probably poisons were first used in fishing. Many veget- 
able drugs, when thrown into pools and lakes, have the 
property of stupefying or killing the fish. A great many of 
these fish poisons are known, and it is quite easy to use 

Amongst the Dyaks of Borneo, screens of basketwork 
are placed along a stream to prevent the fish escaping. 
Then the Dyaks collect along either bank in their canoes. 
Everybody has a supply of the root of the tubai (Meni- 
spermum sp.), which they hammer with stones in the water 
inside the canoe, so as to extract the poison. At a given 
signal the poisonous stuff is baled into the river, and very 
soon afterwards a scene of wild excitement begins, for the fish 
are speared or captured with handnets as they rise, stupefied, 
to the surface. The women scoop up the small fry in their 

Even at the Sea of Galilee, Tristram mentions that Arabs 
sometimes obtain their fish by poisoned bread-crumbs. In 
the South Sea Islands, at Tahiti, a poison is obtained from 
the nuts of a kind of Betonica, and is used to catch the fish 
among the reefs near shore.^ In West Africa several fish poisons 
are in use (e.g. seeds of Tephrosia Vogelii), and probably 
the same methods are used almost everywhere. They are 
by no means extinct even at home, for the occasional poacher 
sometimes uses fish poisons. 

Arrow poison is, however, much more important, and is 
used by a great number of tribes in almost every part of the 

^ Ling Roth, Journ. Anthrop. Inst., vol. 22, London, 1892 ; and 
Mason, I.e. 

2 Tristram, Land of Israel ; Mason, Origin of Inventions, p. 298. 



world. In 1859, in a war with the Dyaks of Borneo, the 
English army lost thirty men by poisoned arrows. They are 
deadly weapons, for the dart is a very thin piece of reed or 
cane, which has been dipped in the Upas poison (Antiaris 
toxicaria). It is propelled from a blow pipe, which in 
practised hands is able to carry 250 feet. One or two of these 
darts may cause death in two hours' time. The Spaniards, 
in their conquest of the West Indian islands, were often de- 
feated by the poisoned arrows of the Caribs. The wounded 
died in agonies of suffering and delirium, sometimes pro- 
tracted for twenty-four hours after receiving the wound. 

The poison in this case is supposed to have been the 
Manchineel (Hippomane). 

It is a handsome tree, but a very dangerous one, for 
the slightest cut on the surface produces a flow of a 
very fine white milk which is acrid and poisonous. This 
juice produces temporary or total blindness if the slight- 
est speck enters the eyes, or even if one sits over a fire 
made of its wood. It is probably not true that people are 
killed if they merely sleep below it, and grass will probably 
grow quite well under its shade, although there are stories 
which deny this. Blowpipes and poisoned darts are used 
by many savages in Asia and South America. Perhaps the 
Curare or Woorali poison is the most wonderful of the South 
American kinds. The tree, Strychnos sp., grows along the 
Amazon and in the Guianas. The poison is obtained from 
the wood and bark, and several other vegetable substances 
are mixed with it. (This is a very common feature of native 
drugs and increases the chances of doing something,) It is a 
blood poison, and a very deadly one. Large animals like the 
tapir stagger about, collapse, and die after a very few steps, 
if they have been wounded by a dart. Humboldt declares 



that the earth-eating Otomaks were able to kill their 
antagonists by the mere pressure of their poisoned thumb- 

In Africa it is more usual to find poisoned arrows shot 
from a bow. The exquisitely beautiful seed of Strophanthus 
Komhe is used as an arrow poison. The plant is a climber 
found in forests or bush, and has large woody pods about 
seven to twelve inches long. When these are open, the 
inside is seen to be full of the small yellowish seeds ; 
each ends in a fine awn three to four inches long, which 
carries at the end a beautiful tuft of the finest silky 
hairs. The seed-coat is also covered with silk hairs. When 
viewed against a black surface, there is no more lovely object 
in nature. Yet from the seed-coat a very deadly poison is 
obtained; probably snake-venom and various gluey sub- 
stances form part of the mixture, which is daubed on the 
arrows. Dr. Kolbe saw the Hottentots plastering their 
arrows with the poison of the hooded snake. Bushmen use a 
Lily bulb, Haemanthtis toccicariics, but sometimes add part of 
the inside of a small caterpillar. 

Another African poison which is not so well known is the 
AcoJcarUhera, which was the ingredient in the arrows obtained 
by the writer in British East Africa. 

North America is singularly free from these unsportsman- 
like and horrible weapons, but they were not unknown in 
Europe in very ancient times. Pliny speaks of the Arabian 
pirates as poisoners, and allusions to their use of deadly 
arrows can be found in Horace, Ovid, and Homer. In the 
Odyssey^ the hero goes to Ephyra (Epirus ?) to purchase a 
deadly arrow poison, but he is refused for fear of the eternal 
gods. Poisoned arrows were employed by the Celts in Gaul, 
and also by the Saracens in the War of Granada in 1484. 



Yet even in the time of Homer the sense of humanity 
seems to have decided against poisoned arrows as being both 
unnecessary and cruel, just as, in our own times, explosive 
bullets have been condemned, and are no longer used by 
civilized nations. But we should remember that until man 
became so expert with the bow and spear and so civilized by 
tribal fights as to be able to do without poisons, they were a 
very useful help in the struggle for civilization. Hundreds 
of thin pieces of bamboo about six inches long were 
regularly carried by certain African tribes. When dipped 
in poison and afterwards placed in paths in the ground, 
they formed a very efficient protection against barefooted 

The Antiaris alluded to above is the famous Upas tree of 
Java. The tree was said to grow in a desert with not 
another living plant within ten miles of it. Such was the 
virulence of its poison that there were no fish in the waters. 
Neither rat, nor mouse, nor any other vermin had ever been 
seen there ; and when any birds flew so near this tree that 
the effluvia reached them, they fell dead — a sacrifice to the 
effects of its poison. Out of a population of sixteen 
hundred persons who were compelled, on account of civil 
dissensions, to reside within twelve or fourteen miles of the 
tree, not more than three hundred remained alive in two 
months. Criminals condemned to die were offered the chance 
of life if they would go to the Upas tree and collect some of 
the poison. They were provided with masks (not unlike 
our modern motor- veils), and yet not two in twenty returned 
from the expedition. 

All the foregoing statements were for years implicitly 
believed. They were vouched for by a Dutch surgeon resi- 
dent in Java. Medicine is a profession, and Holland is a 



country which would in no way lead one to expect such 
magnificent mendacious audacity! 

For the whole of the preceding statements about Antiaris 
is pure romance. The inner bark of young trees, when made 
into coarse garments, produces an extremely painful itching, 
whilst the dried juice is a virulent arrow poison. 

Hellebore and Aconite were the favourite poisons of the 
Marquise de Brinvilliers and other specialists of the Middle 
Ages. The Christmas Roses or Hellebores were known to 
be poisonous fourteen hundred years before the Christian 
era, and are still used in medicine. Aconite, which has 
a tuberous root-stock, is dangerous, for it is occasionally 
eaten in mistake for the horse-radish, to which it has a faint 
resemblance. All kinds of aconite are poisonous. That of 
one of the Indian species is used to tip the arrows employed 
in shooting tigers. 

Trials by ordeal were very common in ancient times. The 
theory was that an innocent person was not injured by 
certain drugs, which, however, proved immediately fatal to 
the guilty. 

Such trials at one time were customary in almost every 
part of the world. They were supposed to be perfectly just, 
so that no man could be held guilty of the death of those 
who succumbed. In practice, however, they were almost 
invariably corrupt. The Tanghinia venenifera of Mada- 
gascar was regularly used in ordeals, and is probably still 
employed by certain tribes. The seeds are exceedingly 
poisonous, but, if the authorities wish the accused person 
to escape, a strong emetic is mixed with the powdered seeds, 
and the poison has no time to act. This, however, is seldom 
the case, for in any savage nation no one who is popular 
and in good esteem with the king or other people in authority 



is at all likely to be accused. The fact of his being accused 
means in most cases that he is already condemned to die. 
Another ordeal plant is the Calabar Bean (Physostigma 
venenosa), found in West Africa. The plant is a climber 
belonging to the Leguminosce, and the seeds, which are 
about an inch in diameter, are very deadly. The seed is con- 
spicuously marked by the long, dark, sunken scar, where it 
was attached to the pod. Besides being exceedingly 
poisonous, it has also a curious effect upon the pupil of 
the eye, which is contracted by this drug.^ 

Another famous poison is produced from Datura stra- 
rmnium and allied species. In tropical and sub-tropical 
countries, one is almost sure to find specimens of this hand- 
some plant along almost every roadside. It is in fact one 
of the commonest tropical weeds. The leaves are large with 
fine spinose margins, and the flower is most conspicuous, as it 
is four or five inches long. This is supposed to be one of the 
drugs employed by the Obi wizards and witches. The most 
horrible rites, accompanied by atrocious cruelties, were per- 
formed amongst certain West African tribes and are con- 
tinued amongst their descendants, the freed slaves of the 
West Indies and of the Southern United States. 

Even to-day no white man is allowed to learn anything 
of the proceedings, but some form of devil-worship or 
Shamanism, accompanied by incantations and the use of 
poisonous drugs, still flourishes. Preparations of various 
sorts of Datura or Thorn-apple produce sometimes stupe- 
faction, sometimes frantic, furious delirium, and sometimes 

It is used in medicine as a narcotic and diuretic. Burton 
says that the Arabs smoke the leaves in pipes as a cure for 

* The pupil of the eye is enlarged by belladonna. 


influenza and asthma. It is sometimes used in Europe for 
neuralgia and even epilepsy. On the other hand, the priests 
of the ancient Peruvians used Datura to produce the rav- 
ings mistaken for inspiration, and it is supposed that the 
priests of Apollo at Delphi employed an allied species for the 
same purpose. In India, China, West Africa, and amongst 
the American blacks, it is still very commonly used. 

A firm belief existed in the Middle Ages that every plant 
was a good remedy for something. There is a real basis in 
fact for this superstition, because every plant in the world 
has, so far as it can do so, to protect itself. The attacks of 
all sorts of grazing animals, from the mouse to the elephant, 
as well as the infinitely more dangerous and destructive 
insects, bacteria, and fungi, have to be provided for. By far 
the commonest form of protection is to develop within the 
plant strong medicinal or strongly smelling substances. 
These are far better as protective agents than the thorns 
and spines characteristic of deserts and half-deserts. We 
have already glanced at the turpentines and resins of 
Coniferous forests and at the odorous gums, frankincense, and 
myrrh of the Acacia scrub. 

The use of poisons as protection is eminently characteristic 
of three of the natural orders. The Buttercups {Ranun- 
culacece), the Potato order (SolanacecB) and the Lilies. Of 
the first named, the celery-leaved, and indeed all Buttercups, 
are extremely poisonous ; so also are all Aconites and 
Hellebores, as well as Marsh Marigold, Adonis, Clematis, 
and Larkspur. 

Others, though not poisonous, are strongly medicinal, such 
as Blake Snakeroot, Hydrastis, etc. It is therefore inadvis- 
able to use any of this order for food unless other people 
have eaten it without any inconvenience ! 



The beauty of the Lily order does not prevent it from 
being a particularly dangerous group of plants. Perhaps 
the worst poisons in this order are those of the Meadow 
Saffron (Colchicum autumnale), Herb Paris, Veratrum, Saba- 
dilla, Lily of the Valley, Tulip, and Crown Imperial bulbs. 
Chamaelirium, Trillium, Squills, Garlic, Solomon's Seal, 
Aloes, and the Sarsaparillas are all well-known medicines. 

The order Solanacece is perhaps the most interesting, for it 
includes such dangerous poisons as Tobacco, Datura, Atropa 
belladonna (Deadly Nightshade), Henbane, Bittersweet {Sola- 
num dulcamara). Common Nightshade {Solanum nigrum), 
and a very great many important drugs. Even the common 
potato contains a poisonous secretion solanin, and it is 
dangerous to eat green potatoes or the foliage. Yet the 
Tomato or Love Apple (so called because it was supposed 
to excite tender feelings) is both nutritious and delicious. 
Chillies and Cayenne Pepper (Cap-yia^T^t spp,) also commonly 
used as condiments. 

Such poisonous orders should of course be avoided, but 
much more dangerous are those deadly plants which appear 
as it were accidentally in orders which are amongst the most 
useful friends of man. Amongst the grasses there is the 
deadly Darnel {Lolium temulentum), a first cousin and not 
very unlike the very commonest and one of the most useful 
grasses — Rye Grass {Lolium perenne). 

Then in the useful Carrot order, there are such dangerous 
and even deadly plants as FooFs Parsley, Water Dropwort, 
and Cowbane. (Enanthe crocata (Water Dropwort) is one of 
the very commonest marsh and ditch plants in Great 
Britain. It is perfectly well known to botanists as distinctly 
poisonous, yet in 1902 a veterinary surgeon brought me 
some of the tuberous roots to name, and told me that six 



fine young cows were lying dead on a neighbouring farm 
through having eaten them ! 

A particularly useful order of plants {Leguminosce), the 
Beans and Peas, contains a few poisonous species. It is said 
that in every year children are sure to be killed by eating 
the seeds of the Laburnum, and to this order belong also 
the Calabar Bean and CraVs Eyes. The last named is only 
fatal when introduced below the skin in small quantities. 
The seeds of the Bitter Vetch {Lathams sativus) produce 
paralysis of the legs in man and also in horses. The Crazy 
or Loco weed of North America is sometimes eaten by horses 
in the Western United States. The wretched animals 
stagger about as if intoxicated, and eventually die. Belong- 
ing to this same order is the Wild Tamarind, or Jumbai, 
of Jamaica (Leuccena glauca). It is a weedy-looking acacia, 
and extremely common in all tropical countries. Dr. D. Morris 
thus alludes to it : — ^ 

" Mr. Robert Russell, of St. Ann''s, informs me that horses 
feeding on the leaves of this plant completely lose the hair 
from their manes and tails. This . . . statement was sup- 
ported by the testimony of so many people acquainted with 
the facts that there was no reason to doubt it. Many years 
afterwards (in December, 1895), I renewed my acquaintance 
with the plant in the Bahamas. The plant was much more 
plentiful there than in Jamaica; it was, in fact, distinctly 
encouraged in the former islands as a fodder plant. The 
people were fully aware of the singular effect it produced on 
horses, and added that it also affected mules and donkeys. 
Its effect on pigs was still more marked. These animals 
assumed a completely naked condition, and appeared with- 
out a single hair on their body. Horses badly affected by 
^ British Association, Liverpool, 1896, Section K. 


Jumbai were occasionally seen in the streets of Nassau, 
where they were known as 'cigar-tails.' Such depilated 
animals, although apparently healthy, were considerably 
depreciated in value. They were said to recover when fed 
exclusively on com and grass. The new hair was, however, 
of a different colour and texture, ' so the animals were never 
quite the same.' One animal was cited as having lost its 
hoofs as well, and in consequence it had to be kept in 
slings until they grew again and hardened. The effects 
of the Jumbai on horses, mules, donkeys, and pigs were 
regarded as accidental — due to neglect or ignorance. The 
plant was really encouraged to supply food for cattle, sheep, 
and goats. The latter greedily devoured it and were not 
perceptibly affected by it. It will be noticed that the 
animals affected were non-iiiminants, while those not affected 
were ruminants. The probable explanation is that the 
ruminants, by thoroughly mixing the food with saliva and 
slowly digesting it, were enabled to neutralize the action of 
the poison and escape injury. The seeds probably contain 
the deleterious principle in a greater degree than any other 
part of the plant. It was a common experience that animals 
introduced from other localities suffered more than the 
native animals. The latter were either immune or had learnt 
to avoid the plant as noxious to them." 

That animals resident in a district are not poisoned by 
plants which are often fatal to sheep and cattle when on the 
march through it, has been often observed in Australia. 
The great "mobs" or droves of sheep passing slowly on 
their travels through the bush to a new district are often 
poisoned by the Caustic Creeper {Euphorbia Drummondi), 
" The head swells to an enormous extent, becoming so heavy 
that the animal cannot support it, and drags it along the 



ground"; but this does not apparently happen to resident 
cattle. Similarly for the Darling Pea or Indigo (Swainsonia 
galegifolia). At one place this was growing abundantly 
where some travelling horses were hobbled for the night. 
" They had been on the road some nine weeks, and were up to 
this date caught without any difficulty. On this occasion . . . 
their eyes were staring out of their heads, and they were 
prancing against trees and shrubs. . . , When driven they 
would suddenly stop, turn round and round, and keep 
throwing their heads up as if they had been hit under the 
jaw. . . Two out of nine died, and five others had to be 
left at the camp." ^ 

In other natural [orders we find one or two dangerous 
plants amongst a whole series of perfectly harmless or useful 
forms. The Oleander, in the Olive order. Corncockle 
{Lychnis Jloscuculli), in the Pink order, Lactitca Scariola 
amongst Composite^ and others are all cases in point. So 
also is the Yew amongst ConifercB, etc. 

How do animals recognize these particular plants as being 
dangerous whilst all their allies are harmless ? But the 
reader will answer that they do not ; it is well known that 
animals are killed by eating poisonous plants, therefore poison 
cannot possibly be any protection against animals. 

This is one of those interesting questions in which the 
suppression of apparently irrelevant details produces con- 

As a matter of fact, wild animals, or even domesticated 
animals in nearly a wild state, do Twt eat the poisonous 
plants of the country in which they and their forefathers 
have been brought up — that is provided that they are 
either adult or are accompanied by full-grown animals. 

^ Plants Reputed Poisonous to Stock. Bailey & Gordon, Brisbane. 



Almost every case of cattle-poisoning in Great Britain occurs 
when young calves, foals, or lambs are turned loose in the 
fields without any mature older head amongst them. Some- 
times valuable stable-bred animals are lost, especially by 
eating yew-leaves, but there are exceedingly few instances of 
full-grown cattle being caught in such foolishness. When 
cattle, horses, or sheep are turned loose in a new country, 
plenty of cases do occur, and it is possible that they might 
make mistakes with unknown foreign plants which had 
escaped into their pastures here. 

But almost every case of poisoning, even of cattle, shows 
that it is young cattle who foolishly eat foxgloves, dropwort, 
buttercup, etc., and occasionally die thereby. 

Wild animals, who are of course brought up by their 
mothers, never seem to be poisoned. They probably recog- 
nize the dangerous plant by colour, smell, or taste. As a 
matter of fact, many are rendered conspicuous by some lurid 
sort of colour, such as bright red or purple. There is a 
general garishness of appearance about many of them. 
Aconite, Foxglove, Herb Paris, Henbane, and Nightshades 
all show this peculiar appearance. In Java it is said that 
the natives keep away wild pigs by planting hedges of certain 
species with purplish-red leaves around their plantations. 

Perhaps the most interesting point of all is that it seems 
to be quite justifiable to conclude that animals do, somehow, 
manage to tell their offspring and each other what they 
should and should not eat. 

Youth, with its tendency to rash experiment, is thus kept 
in check by the mature experience of age. 

But it must be admitted that it is exceedingly difficult to 
arrive at the facts in any particular case. 

I shall be rash enough to give an opinion as to the actual 



facts in connexion with the common Yew (Taanis baccata). 
The seeds are poisonous to poultry and pheasants, but the 
fleshy part round the seed is eaten with impunity by many 
wild birds (blackbirds, etc.). The leaves are sometimes 
poisonous and even fatal to horses, cattle, sheep, donkeys, 
and goats, but they are not eaten by or are harmless to roe- 
deer. When, however, e.g., horses are killed by eating yew, 
it is generally found that they have been grazing on cut-ofF 
branches which have been left lying on the ground. In this 
condition probably some specially poisonous substance is 
developed in them. 

As regards rabbits, it would be extremely comforting to 
believe that they would eat yew-leaves or anything else 
which would kill them, but, so far as one can judge, they can 
eat all sorts of things which ought to do so with perfect 




Bright colours of fruits— Unripe fruits and their effects— An intemperate 
Fungus— Oranges— Prickly pear and the monkey— Strong seeds— 
Bill-of-fare of certain birds— A wood-pigeon and beans— Ants and 
seeds— Bats, rats, bears, and baboons— The rise in weight of a Big 
Gooseberry— Mr. Gideon and the Wealthy Apple— Crossing fruits- 
Breadfruit and banana— Dates— Figs— Olives — Pineapples by the 
acre— Apples and pears — Home and Canadian orchards. 

AT Christmas time and during late autumn, there is 

l\ but little colour in the country. Most green grasses 

have become a dull greyish-green, and the leafless 

brown and grey branches of the trees are not, at first sight, 

particularly interesting. 

But amongst this monotony of sober colouring, points of 
bright red or flaming scarlet may be noticed here and there. 
Sometimes it is a spray of Hips (the fruit of the Rose), or it 
may be a cluster of Hawthorn berries. At Christmas the Holly 
is positively gaudy with its bright scarlet fruit set off* by the 
shining dark green leaves. 

Most fruits are some shade of red, but every fruit is con- 
spicuous and easily seen. 

There is the most extraordinary range in colour. The 
Snowberry and Dwarf Cornel are pure white. The Mistletoe 
is a yellowish green. Pure yellow fruits are not common, but 
some of the Cucumber orders and Lemons are lemon or 



orange-yellow. The bluish-black of the Blaeberry or Bil- 
berry, of the Bramble, and of many Plums and Prunes, goes 
along with a rather peculiar shade of green in the leaves which 
sets them off. The black Elder berries, on the other hand, 
have bright red or pink stalks which contrast prettily with 
them. The colours of apples vary : many of them have been 
rendered a gorgeous, glossy red through cultivation. One 
of the most beautiful colour contrasts in Nature is found 
in the rich black of the Olive, with its background of 
shining white twigs and silver-green leaves. Another very 
curious harmony is that of the Spindle tree fruit, which has a 
hard dull red case that opens to display the seeds : these are 
enclosed in a bright orange fleshy cup. ' 

Changes often occur. The Lily of the Valley fruit is at 
first green, then becomes flecked with red, and finally is a 
rich scarlet. Juniper berries change from green to purple. 

Now there is always some meaning in Nature for any series 
of facts such as these. Why are these fruits so brightly 
coloured and so conspicuous ? 

Birds and other animals are intended to scatter the fruits 
and seeds, and so the fruits must be easily distinguished at a 
distance. The seeds are taken to some other place, where 
they germinate and form a new plant. This furnishes the 
clue and guide to many other peculiarities in fruits and seeds. 

The pleasant smell of ripe apples, plums, strawberries, and 
other fruits, also attracts birds and other animals. But the 
sugary juice and delicious flesh is developed entirely for the 
purpose of making it worth a bird's while to eat it. The 
amount of sugary matter is enormous, and the seeds seem 
very small and inconspicuous compared with this luscious 
mass. The sugar is produced very rapidly towards the end 
of the ripening period. 

Q 241 


A Cucurbita fruit, for instance, may increase in weight at 
the rate of -0032 ounce per minute. All who have gathered 
strawberries know how quickly they ripen. 

The way in which the sugar is formed is not understood, 
but unripe fruits contain bitter, unwholesome acids and 
essences which may produce colic or very unpleasant effects 
if the fruits are eaten green. Thus the colour is a guide to 
the animal, who is not supposed to eat the fruit until it is 
ripe ; if eaten green, the seeds inside the fruit are quite de- 
stroyed and cannot germinate. Yet animals are so greedy 
that young birds, young animals of all sorts (even girls and 
boys) will and do eat green or half-ripe fruit. In this 
present year there is no doubt that many children have 
suffered for having done this. Yet if we come to think of 
it, throughout all the millions of years during which fruits 
have ripened. Nature has every year clearly told young ptero- 
dactyls and other lizards, young birds, young monkeys, and 
young people to wait till the fruit is ripe. None of them 
have learnt to do so. 

When investigating by experiment, on the vile body, the 
properties of plums, strawberries, and other fruits, you are 
sure to find here and there one that has decayed and become 
rotten. In most cases this is because a bird has pecked a 
hole in it, or because the outside skin has been broken by a 
wasp. The sugar has then begun to ferment. Why does it 
do so ? 

•If you gather a few fruits, put them into a jar of sugar- 
water, and leave it after closing the mouth with a bunch of 
cotton wool, then in a day or two fermentation begins and 
alcohol is produced. That is because, on the outside of the 
fruit, there were hundreds of an objectionable little fungus. 
It lives upon sugar and turns the latter into alcohol. This 



yeast fungus is really a living distillery. It lives in the 
midst of alcohol all its life, dying eventually (like the 
Duke of Clarence in his butt of Malmsey wine) by alcoholic 
poisoning, which it has brought about by its own work. 
This little yeast fungus can only be seen with a microscope. 
From a rotten fruit it drops on to the ground, where it 
remains all winter. Next spring certain small insects (green- 
fly and the like) carry some of these yeasts from the earth to 
next year's fruits. But the skin of the plum or apple, or the 
hairs on a gooseberry, or the delicate, waxy bloom on a 
grape, will prevent these insects or wasps from laying open 
the sugar inside the fruit to the attacks of yeasts and other 
fermenting fungi. 

Some fruits appear to have "favourites"; they seem to 
prefer that large animals should eat them. If you look care- 
fully at a piece of orange peel, and cut a small piece across, 
you will see distinctly small resin pits full of a curious essence 
which gives the characteristic taste to marmalade. This 
bitter stuff will prevent wasps from touching the sugar. It 
is, however, a valuable material, and some kinds of lemons, etc., 
are grown chiefly for this oil, which is obtained by scraping 
the peel with a little saucer which is studded with short pins. 

A still more extraordinary fruit is the prickly pear ; this 
is very delicious though very difficult to eat. Indeed, only 
monkeys and man seem able to enjoy it. The sugary part 
and the seeds form a little round mass in the inside. The 
outside part, though also fleshy, contains hundreds of minute 
mineral needles, which stick in the tongue and lips and cause 
most painful inflammation. The monkey eats the prickly pear 
with very great caution, getting his fingers into the top and 
scooping out the sugary part. Man requires a teaspoon to 
do this satisfactorily. 



Another very curious point about these fleshy fruits (and 
also ordinary ones) is the strength of the seed inside. It does 
not look very strong. 

But an orange seed, for instance, will not be in the least 
injured if you put it between two glass plates and gradually 
press upon the upper one up to even a pressure of some thirty 
pounds. Even hemp seed, which seems quite weak, will en- 
dure a weight of four pounds. It is impossible to break a 
prune stone, or to injure a date stone, by standing with your 
whole weight upon it. 

Such strength is necessary because many of these seeds are 
eaten by birds and ground up in their crops with bits of 
china, stones, shells, and the like, which the birds pick up just 
to help them in crushing their food. 

Fruits and seeds would seem to be exposed to some danger 
when they are lying on the ground. Horses or other heavy 
animals might tread on them. But the strength of seeds 
and their shape is such that no harm is likely to accrue. 
For instance, I arranged a thin layer of garden earth (a 
quarter of an inch thick) on a glass plate ; upon the earth 
I placed four hemp seeds; then I put a 58-lb. weight on 
the top of the seeds. They were not in the least injured, 
although the seed of the hemp is not a particularly tough one. 
Under such conditions the seed simply slips into the earth. 

This is made easy for it on account of its shape, which is 
generally rounded above and below. A transverse section of 
a seed would be in shape like the arch of a bridge and its 
shadow in the water, at least in many cases. There are also 
usually wonderfully thickened cells in the shell or coat of a 
seed, which makes it tough and strong. 

The following are a few cases of strong seeds or fruits : — 
Cotton seed bears a weight of 19 to 20 lb.; the hard fruits 



of the Dogrose, 3S lb.; Castor-oil seed, 17 lb.; Hornbeam 
nuts, 27 lb.; Pine seed (various sorts), from 11 to 22 lb.; 
Yew seeds, 16 lb.; Peas, 50 to 56 lb. In every case they 
are not at all hurt by these pressures. 

As regards the animals for whom fruit or seeds are of 
great importance, birds are of course the commonest. The 
following is part of the bill-of-fare of a few of our common 
birds : — Thrushes eat blaeberries (bilberries), brambles and 
mulberries. Missel-thrush (or mavis) is especially fond of the 

Now the berry of the mistletoe is exceedingly sticky and 
glutinous, and in the course of the bird's meal these sticky 
strings get on to the bill and feathers, so that the mavis 
wipes its bill on the branch of a tree. When it does so the 
seed becomes attached to the branch, and is drawn close to 
the latter when the viscous matter dries up, and so takes 
root on the branch. 

Nightingales and robins eat strawberries and elder-berries ; 
blackbirds are very fond of strawberries, gooseberries, and 
raspberries. Wood-pigeons eat beechmast, acorns, and, ac- 
cording to Pliny, mistletoe-berries also, but this latter author 
has not been confirmed by later observers. Some of the wild 
African pigeons are exceedingly fond of castor-oil seeds. 
When travelling through the Central African bush, it is 
often necessary to shoot your dinner (if you are to have any 
at all), and castor-oil bushes can be relied upon to produce 
pigeons, if you are content with and are able to shoot them. 

There is a widely-spread belief in the country that a great 
quantity of berries means that a very severe winter is 
going to follow. But as a matter of fact the winter of 1904 
was not a severe one, and yet there were enormous quantities 
of berries. 



We are still ignorant of many details about birds and 
berries. It is not quite clear how the seeds are not destroyed, 
though experiments have shown that they are not injured, by 
passing through the body of a bird. Kerner von Marilaun, 
for instance, tried the fruits and seeds of 250 different plants 
which were offered to seventeen birds, as well as to marmots, 
horses, cattle, and pigs. He found that from seventy-five to 
eighty-eight per cent of the seeds germinated afterwards so 
far as regards the blackbird, song-thrush, rock-thrush, and 
robin. Quail also bring seeds from Greece and the Ionian 
Islands to Sicily. 

Mr. Clement Reid says : " Some years ago I found . . . 
in an old chalk-pit the remains of a wood-pigeon which 
had met with some accident. Its crop was full of broad- 
beans, all of which were growing well, though under ordinary 
circumstances they would have been digested and destroyed."^ 
Such accidents are common. 

But it is not only birds which eat fleshy fruits and seeds. 

Even the tiny, industrious ant drags about seeds of certain 

plants. Sometimes they gather up corn or grasses, such as 

ant-rice, and store them for use in winter. They even bite 

off the growing root to prevent the seeds germinating and 

spoiling. Occasionally they seem to carry the seeds by 

accident, as, for example, those of the cow-wheat and a few 

others which resemble their cocoons in size, colour, and form. 

In other cases there is a little fleshy excrescence on the seed 

which they are fond of eating. Cyclamen, snowdrop, violet, 

and periwinkle seeds are supposed to be carried in this way. 

Many animals occasionally or regularly eat fruits. There 

are, for instance, the flying-foxes or fruit-eating bats of 

Madagascar and tropical countries, which may be seen hanging 

1 Reid, Origin oj the British Flora. 


from the upper branches of trees by their toes, with their 
heads tucked away under their wings. When disturbed a 
little fox-like head appears, and after much chattering, 
scolding, and expostulation, the creature unhooks itself and 
flies away with a strong flight not unlike that of a crow. 
Horses are occasionally fed on peaches in Chile. Rats eat 
the coff*ee cherry, and do a great deal of harm in coff'ee 

In Cashmir the mulberry and other fruit trees are some- 
times visited by sportsmen, who often find bears feeding on 
the fruits. Pigs, of course, eat all sorts of fruit, and several 
other mammals do the same, but it is especially monkeys 
that live chiefly on fruit. They plunder the banana planta- 
tions, and in South Africa melon-patches require to be most 
carefully watched to prevent baboons from destroying them. 

It is said that the baboons watch the plantations from a 
distance, and will only come down if they think no one is 
there : so five people walk to the patch, and while four go 
away again, one of them remains in hiding to shoot the 
baboons, who cannot tell the difference between four and 

Man himself is, and has always been, a great eater of fruit. 
Not only so, but he has enormously improved and altered 
wild fruits until they are modified into monsters of the most 
extraordinary kind. The ordinary wild gooseberry weighs 
about 5 dwt. But even in the year 1786 some of the 
cultivated forms weighed double this amount (10 dwt,), 
and in 1852 gooseberries which weighed more than 37 
dwt. were in existence. What size the largest big 
gooseberry may be this year is not very easy to say, because 
the public Press is at slack times too energetic about the 
question. The most usual way of improving fruits is by 



selecting the finest specimens for reproduction. It is by this 
means that the original wild banana, which is a rather small 
fruit with very large seeds and very little flesh, has been 
altered into something like 150 varieties, of which the 
immense majority have no seed at all. This is a very extra- 
ordinary fact, because the seed is the reason for the existence 
of the fruit. Of course, all such varieties must be repro- 
duced by suckers (like the banana) or by grafts, or in some 
such non-sexual manner. Seedless varieties exist of the 
Cucumber, Fig, German Medlar, Diospyros, and Orange. 

In the case of seedless varieties of the Vine, it has been found 
that it is necessary to carry pollen to the flowers to fertilize 
them, and the seedless fruit is also very much smaller in this 
case, not more than a quarter of the size of one that has 

The following instance is typical of the manner in which 
many well-known kinds of fruit have been developed, though 
the perseverance shown by Mr. Gideon is certainly not com- 
mon. About the year 1855 this gentleman began planting 
apple trees of about thirty named varieties. For nine years 
he continued his experiments. He not only planted trees, 
but also sowed apple seed sufficient to produce a thousand 
trees every year. Yet the cold winters were so severe that 
at the end of ten years one small seedling crab apple was 
the solitary survivor. One seedling of this turned out to be 
hardy enough for the climate of Minnesota, and this, the 
" wealthy" apple, has been of great importance to the 
Northern Mississippi growers. It is to be hoped that the 
name has been justified in Mr. Gideon's case. 
I Many other cases could be mentioned of a chance variety 
produced as a wild plant, and then propagated non-sexually 
for long periods, e.g. the New Rochelle Bramble, which was 


Z & 

< o 

< -i 

< 2 


found by the roadside, and which turned out to be exceedingly 
valuable. It is by crossing or hybridizing that the most 
extraordinary results have been obtained. Sometimes with 
plums, the hybrids of the first generation are nearly double 
the size of their parents. Some of the crosses are between 
different plants. The Loganberry, for instance, is said to 
be a cross between a Raspberry and a Bramble. It ripens 
in July, and is said to be far in advance of either of its 
parents as regards juiciness and acidity. 

In most cases, however, the crosses are between well- 
established varieties or races of the same species, and both 
hybridizing and selection are employed to get the desired 

There are several tropical fruits which, with the possible 
exception of wheat and oats, are more important to mankind 
than anything else. The Breadfruit {Artocarpus incisus), 
which is very common in the South Sea Islands, has a large 
fruit the size of a melon. When baked in an oven heated by 
hot stones, it forms a satisfying meal : it is rather like new 
bread, but has very little flavour. Coarse cloth is made of 
its bark, and the wood is used as timber. The tree also has 
a milky juice containing indiarubber, and is employed for 
caulking the canoes. The most interesting point for 
botanists about this plant is that the fruit is made up of 
thousands of little flowers, and the fleshy part is really the 
stalk. Fossil trees of this genus (of the chalk period) are 
found in some parts of Europe. 

Still more important to mankind is the Banana (Miisa 
paradisiaca). It is wheat, corn, and potatoes all in one, in 
tropical and sub-tropical countries. It is found all over the 
world wherever there is a hot, moist climate and shelter from 
wind. It is a most generous plant as regards the amount 



which it will produce. It will yield about 19 J tons of dry 
fruit on a single acre, which is about forty-four times the 
amount given by potatoes and 133 times that of wheat. 
Moreover, it differs from almost every other fruit in being 
both " rice and prunes," that is, it is nutritious and whole- 
some, and yet at the same time succulent. There are still 
people who declare that the taste is that of "cotton wool 
and Windsor soap," but that is a frivolous and unjust 
remark. It is very difficult to prepare it exactly in the 
right way for export to Great Britian, and the slightest 
change in temperature or period of gathering has the most 
distressing results. 

As with many other tropical fruits, the countries where it 
is most carefully produced and where the trade is most im- 
portant are just on the borders of the tropics. There 
Europeans can keep enough vigour and vitality to supervise 
and watch over the labour of natives. It is in the Canary 
Islands, Queensland,^ and Jamaica that the cultivation is 
most carefully looked after. The yield may be from five 
hundred to a thousand bunches per acre, and the value of 
the trade is enormous. A plantation is not very beautiful, 
because the huge leaves break up into irregular, ragged 
pieces which look untidy. The flowers are visited by the 
beautiful little honey-sucking sunbirds and humming-birds. 
Monkeys also are very fond of the fruit. 

In the tropics it grows everywhere, and with extremely 
little trouble. It is a doubtful blessing to the negroes, for 
they get their food so easily that they tend to become 
incorrigibly lazy. Jam, champagne, brandy, and meal can 
be made from the banana. When this meal can be pre- 

1 Queensland in 1900 had 6215 acres, and produced 2,321,108 bunches 
of bananas. 



pared satisfactorily, it may partly replace wheat in temperate 
countries. Besides this, the leaves are used for thatching, 
and the stalks which make the stem contain a valuable 
fibre which is used for string and rope. 

In Egypt and all along the great deserts of Sahara and 
Asia the graceful stately Date palm gives the favourite food 
of the people (see Chap. x.). 

The Arabs grind up the stones to make food for camels, 
and sometimes ferment the sap to make toddy. The trees 
are either male or female. The Arabs knew that it was 
necessary to pollinate the female flowers with male pollen 
long before the meaning of the process was realized in 

The Fig, a native of the Persian Gulf, is cultivated all 
along the Mediterranean and in India, Australia, and Cali- 
fornia. It is sometimes fifteen to thirty feet high, and reaches 
a very great age. There is one at Finisterre said to be 
several centuries old. It yields fruit worth about £14 an 
acre. The most interesting point about the Fig is the way 
in which the Fig-wasp carries the pollen (see Chap. v.). 

Olives are also one of the most important and charac- 
teristic Mediterranean trees. The crop in both Spain and 
Italy is worth about £8,000,000 to £9,000,000 annually. 
In California it is also successfully cultivated, and pays 
very well. The peculiar taste of the dessert olive is ob- 
tained by soaking it in lime or potash, and then in vinegar 
or salt. 

The Pineapple is one of the most delicious fruits, and is 
interesting in every way. The little sharp spines on the 
edges of the leaves keep animals off, and also make it a little 
difficult to harvest. The workmen must wear leather 
trousers to prevent their being cut and torn by the leaves. 



In Queensland the pineapple is grown in big fields, and 
about ten thousand fruits (worth about one penny each) 
can be got from a single acre. It is also grown in the 
West Indies, in India, and in other tropical countries. If 
you examine the horny outside skin of the fruit with a sharp 
penknife, you will find that each little piece of the mosaic is 
a flower in itself; with a little care the bracts, three sepals, 
three petals, and six stamens can be distinguished. The 
whole stem and all its flowers unite to make a compound 
fruit. Most varieties have no seeds. It is a native of South 

It is, however, our home fruits. Apples, Pears, Goose- 
berries, Strawberries, Raspberries, and Currants, that are 
most important to us in Britain. The Wild Crab Apple is 
found from Drontheim, in Norway, to the Caucasus, and 
grows over the whole of Europe. Apples were known to 
the Greeks and Romans. 

Unfortunately, in our own climate there are great dangers 
in the orchard. A touch of frost when the flowers are ripe 
will very likely kill the tender, green, baby apple. It is 
perhaps in Canada and North America that the growing of 
apples and pears is most carefully looked after. Our beauti- 
ful old orchards in Devonshire and other places, with com- 
fortable grass below the trees, and moss-covered, picturesque, 
ancient trunks, are not found in the New World. The 
regular lines of young trees in bare, carefully-kept earth, 
with every stem whitewashed and treated with the most 
scientific monotony, produce a most valuable return. But 
in this country those who are careful and scientific some- 
times obtain extraordinary results. It is on record that a 
man with a holding of twenty-nine acres near Birmingham 



made £600 a year from this small plot and paid £250 for 
labour on it.^ 

Mr. Gladstone also said that the future of British farmers 
depended upon jam. Yet it must be remembered that 
the trees take a long time to come into bearing, and the 
crop is most uncertain. 

^ Journal Royal Horticultural Society ^ vol. 27, part iv. 




Ships and stowaway seeds — Tidal drift— Sheep, broom, migrating birds 
— Crows and acorns— Ice— Squirrels— Long flight of birds— Seeds in 
mud— Martynia and lions — The wanderings of Xanthiura — Cocoanut 
and South Sea Islands — Sedges and floods — Lichens of Arctic and 
Antarctic — Manna of Bible— The Tumble weeds of America— Catapult 
and sling fruits — Cow parsnips — Parachutes, shuttlecocks, and kites 
— Cotton — The use of hairs and wings — Monkey's Dinner-bell — 
Sheep-kiUing grasses. 

THE ways in which fruits and seeds are scattered abroad 
over the face of the earth form one of the most 
fascinating chapters in the story of Plant Life. 
There is an infinite number of ingenious contrivances, so 
many indeed that it is not at all easy to explain them. 

However, suppose yourself seated on a grassy cliff near 
Eastbourne or Brighton. 

Looking lazily out over the blue waters, you see Nor- 
wegian timber ships and steamers of all kinds, from the 
little coasting "Puffing Billy" to the huge liner departing 
for Australia or South Africa. 

Plants are probably using every steamer ; in the straw of 
the packing cases, in the cargoes of corn or grain, in the ore, 
and in the ballast, there are sure to be seeds. Such stow- 
aways are mostly weeds, but of course many valuable 
garden, farm, orchard, and forest seeds are being intention- 
ally exported. 



Looking down on the seashore, you will notice the high- 
water mark, a yellowish brown line of floated rubbish which 
is quite distinct even at a distance. If you now go down 
and examine it closely (not a particularly pleasant operation, 
seeing that so much is in a decomposing condition) you will 
find many seeds amongst the corks and bits of straw, sea- 
weed, and objectionable, if lively, animalcula, and very 
likely also pieces of plants, such as willow branches, which 
might quite easily take root. 

On the coast of Norway, and on our own western sea- 
board, the fruits of a West Indian bean (Entada scandens) 
are occasionally to be found, and its seeds are probably able 
to germinate. We know that in long-past geological ages they 
were floating round the estuary of the Thames, where they 
occur as fossils. It has been found by experiment that fruits 
and seeds are not killed although they have floated for a 
year or more in salt water. Thus ocean currents are utilized 
to carry fruits and seeds. 

But from our comfortable seat on the South Downs, still 
more can be learnt of wandering seeds. The wind which 
blows across the downs carries with it hundreds of winged 
or hairy fruits, all of them exquisitely fashioned as miniature 
airships, aeroplanes, or other winged contrivances. The wind 
is an important distributer of seeds. 

One of the South Down sheep is trailing behind it a piece of 
bramble which has caught in its wool ; others, which have been 
grazing on the broken cliff'-edge where Agrimony, Forget-me- 
not, and Burdock are flourishing, are certain to have spiny 
or sticky fruits entangled in their wool. Animals therefore 
carry seeds in their wool or fur. If it should happen to 
be a fine, sunny afternoon, and if there are any plants of 
Broom near by, it is quite likely that you may, every now 



and then, hear a faint, sudden crack. This will be the Broom 
at work scattering its seeds by itself. The little pod, when 
it dries, contracts in such a way that it splits with a sudden 
explosive pop, and the seeds are sent flying to a distance of 
three or four feet. This curious fact was observed in 1546 
by the naturalist Boek. The Whin and many other plants 
act in the same way, for the dry fruit becomes elastic and 
coils up spirally, flinging away the seed. 

But here also, on the southern shore of England, we are 
at a main station of arrival and departure for migrating 
birds. A landrail or other marsh bird might be flushed in 
France, and might quite easily cross the Channel with 
French mud sticking to its plumage. In this mud, or in its 
crop, there may be seeds or fruits which will be left in an 
English pond. This method is probably a very important 
one, for these plants growing in duck-haunted places are 
amongst the most widely distributed of all. 

Mr. Reid has a very interesting discussion on this point. 
The crow or rook could quite well cross the British Channel 
now. In the days when Britain was covered with ice and 
snow, the gap between the French and the English shore was 
only half the present width. There was at that time 
much flat land with oak forest bordering the French 

Mr. Reid shows that it is probable that rooks regularly 
carry about acorns in the cup, for he found seedling oaks 
associated with empty acorn husks, stabbed and torn in a 
peculiar way. " On October 29th of 1895, in the middle of an 
extensive field, bordered by an oak copse and scattered trees, 
I saw a flock of rooks feeding and passing singly backwards 
and forwards to the oaks. On driving the birds away, and 
walking to the middle of the field I found hundreds of empty 



acorn husks and a number of half-eaten, pecked acorns."^ 
So that crows may have brought the acorns that colonized 
Britain with oak forest in the earliest historical period. 

Another means of dispersal is not so obvious on the South 
Downs. In the Arctic region a glacier breaks away at its 
tongue into icebergs, which float off and are stranded some- 
where perhaps hundreds of miles distant. Upon these ice- 
bergs are stones and soil and plants which may be caiTied to 
a great distance from their original place. In the Glacial 
period or Great Ice Age, ice may have been an important 
help in distributing plants, but at present it is difficult to 
find a good example. 

From all this it is clear that in order to carry plants to 
new countries and new homes, everything that moves on the 
earth's surface can be employed. Not only the wind, but 
ocean currents, river waters, icebergs, and floating ice are 
used. Migrating birds, mammals, and especially the most 
restless and unsettled animal of all, viz. man, are at work 
consciously and deliberately, or unconsciously and accident- 
ally, carrying the seeds to form new forest, grasslands, or 
harvests in other countries. 

The subject is in truth so vast that it is difficult to select 
the most interesting and important cases. 

The way in which squirrels, rats, voles, and lemmings 
devour nuts and the like often leads to the distribution of 
the fruit. A squirrel may, like a human being, forget where 
its store was buried, or be driven from the place. Then 
some of those forgotten nuts will grow into trees. 

Birds are known to travel enormous distances. It is said 

that one little Arctic bird travels from Heligoland to 

Morocco in a single flight. It would not, at first sight, 

* Reid, Origin of the British Flora. 
R 257 


seem likely that seeds and fruits could be carried by birds ; 
yet Darwin saw that this might possibly be the case. The 
mud and slime in which so many birds find the small insects 
which they require is full of seeds. An Austrian botanist, 
Kerner von Marilaun, examined the mud scraped from the 
beaks, feathers, and legs of a number of wading and marsh- 
birds. He found in it the seeds of no less than thirty-one 
different water and marsh plants (Grasses, Sedges, Toad- 
rush, etc.). This showed, as is very often the case, that 
Darwin was the first to discover a very important point. It 
is also interesting to find that these ugly little freshwater mud 
and marsh plants are at home almost everywhere, from the 
Arctic circle to Tierra del Fuego and from Peru to Japan. 

The most extraordinary cases known of sticking fruits and 
spines are the Martynias and Harpagophytons of South 
Africa. The fruit is covered by hooked claws, and becomes 
a regular pest wherever it occurs. Deer, antelopes, and 
other animals get their hoofs entangled in the fruit, and 
the wretched creatures have to limp about until the hard 
thorny fruit is trodden to pieces. Dr. Livingstone says that 
the fruit gets into the nostrils of grazing animals which 
cannot possibly remove it themselves, and so have to wait 
patiently till the herdsman comes to take it out. According 
to Lord Avebury, lions may sometimes be destroyed by these 
horrible fruits. When a lion is rolling on the sand, the claws 
(an inch long) stick in his skin, and when the lion tries to 
tear it away with his teeth his mouth gets full of the fruits 
and he cannot eat, and perishes miserably of starvation.^ 

Some of our common British fruits are most perfectly 

planned to stick or entangle themselves in the wool of sheep 

or in people's clothes. These, such as the Goosegrass 

* Ludwig, Biologie d. Pflanzen. 

stereo Ccpyright, L Jidernood &i Uticier-i'ood 

A Cocoa-nut Grove in Ceylon 

London &■ t^ew York 


(Robin-run-the-Hedge), Burdock, Forget-me-not, Sanicle, 
Avens, etc., have very often been described. It is only 
necessary to examine one's clothes after a walk through 
rough, broken ground to discover some of them, and the 
ingenuity and neatness of their tiny hooks, harpoons, or 
prongs can then be realized. We shall give one or two 
instances of some other spiny plants. There is, for instance, 
Xanthium, which is one of the Daisy flowers or Composites. 
Unlike most of this order, its little fruits possess no wind- 
hairs. The outside of the head of flowers is covered by 
strong curved little crooks. These get so entangled in wool 
or hair that they become a perfect pest to wool merchants. 
In 1814 Xanthium was unknown in the Crimea, but by 1856 
it had covered the whole of the peninsula. In 1828 the 
Russian cavalry horses brought it on their manes and tails 
into Wallachia, from whence it travelled to Servia. Servian 
pigs carried it into Hungary. In 1830 it was taken in wool to 
Vienna. By 1871 it had reached Paris and Edinburgh. In 
1860 Frauenfeld saw horses in Chile whose manes and tails 
were so felted together with thousands of these fruits that 
the animals could scarcely walk. In Australia, where it first 
appeared in 1850, it has caused a very serious loss to the 
wool merchants and squatters. The loss has been put at 
50 per cent, by some authorities.^ 

We have already alluded to the transference of fruits and 
seeds by ocean currents. In the Challenger expedition, no 
less than ninety-seven kinds of marine floating fruits were 

Amongst these the most important is the Cocoanut. The 

nut sold in this country is not the whole fruit, but only the 

inside shell. In the natural state this is enclosed in a dense 

* Ludwig, Z.C., after Ihne, Frauenfeld, Shaw. 


mass of fibres, which form the valuable "coir*' used for 
brushmaking and a variety of purposes. 

The entire outside of the fruit is covered by a smooth 
white skin. The whole fruit is about the size of a man's 
head, and is so light that it floats easily in the water. It 
has in fact been carried by the waves to uninhabited islands 
all over the South Seas. It is a very great blessing to 
Polynesia, for a tree yields thirty to fifty nuts, and four of 
these nuts will furnish enough food for one day. Coprah and 
the oil extracted by boiling the inside are also valuable. 
Spirit or toddy can be made from the young buds. The 
leaves are used for thatching and the trunk for timber. 

There are other very curious palm fruits which are also 
carried by water. Sir Joseph Hooker mentions the large, 
round fruits of Nipa, as big as a cannon-ball, turned over by 
the paddles of the steamer in the muddy waters at the 
Ganges mouth {Himalayan Journal). 

In this country a search in the rubbish left by a spate or 
freshet along a riverside is sure to furnish many floating 
fruits or seeds. Most of these are small and rather difficult 
to see. Perhaps the most interesting are those of the 
Sedges. The real fruit is only about one-sixteenth of an 
inch in size, but it is enclosed in a little sack or bag a quarter 
of an inch long and with a narrow opening, so that it floats 
quite easily. Many willow branches, pondweeds, hornweeds, 
and the like, are also found in the rubbish left by floods, and 
these can often take root. 

It is, however, in the exquisite modifications of those 
fruits which are blown by the wind that we find the most 
beautiful contrivances of all. They are effective also. 
Seeds are often so small as to be like dust particles, and 
such may be carried in the air to almost incredible distances. 



That of Goodyera repens weighs only 2077.0^.^00 of a pound, 
that of Monotropa, -000,000,006 lb. It is no doubt by the 
wind that the spores of lichens are carried from one 
mountain to another. On a map of the world the dis- 
tance from the Arctic to the Antarctic, between the North 
and South Poles, seems enormous. Moreover, the amount of 
water, desert, tropical forest, and cultivated land in this 
extent of country is very great. There are but few rocks 
on which lichens could manage to grow. And yet of the 
Antarctic Lichens in the South Polar regions, and which are 
also European species, more than 73 per cent are found in 
the Arctic or North Polar regions.^ 

An Arctic lichen spore probably travelled from Scandi- 
navia to the German and Swiss Alps, another journey took 
it to the Atlas Mountains, thence to Abyssinia, again to 
Mount Kenia, and from there, somehow, it wandered to the 
South Orkneys or King Edward VII Land. 

While talking of lichens, one must not forget the Manna 
of the Bible {Lecanora esculentd) and two other species, 
which form warted, wrinkled masses on rocks. It breaks off 
and may be carried away by the wind, or in heavy rain it 
may be washed into depressions of the soil, where a man can 
pick up 8 to 12 lb. in a day. 

It " is used as a substitute for com in years of famine — 
being ground in the same way and baked into bread. ... It is 
also remarkable that all the great so-called rains of manna, 
of which news has come from the East to Europe, especially 
those of the years 1824, 1828, 1841, 1846, 1863, and 1864, 
occurred at the beginning of the year, between January and 
March, i.e. at the time of the heaviest rains. . . . The inhabit- 
ants of the district actually thought that the manna had 

^ Darbishire, Trans, and Proc. of Bot. Soc. Edin., vol. 23, part 1. 



fallen from heaven, and quite overlooked the fact that this 
vegetable structure grew and developed (although only in 
isolated patches and principally as crusts on stones) in the 
immediate neighbourhood of the spots where they collected 

Amongst the wind-blown fruits and seeds there are cases in 
which entire plants are dragged out of the soil and hurried 
away by the wind, which rolls them over and over. They 
may be blown along for days together. The seeds drop out 
by the way. In this country one rarely sees anything of the 
sort, but in the Prairies of North America, when under 
cultivation, these tumble-weeds are a serious and expensive 
pest. Sometimes the farmers dig trenches to catch them, or 
they may put up fences against which the tumble-weeds 
become piled or heaped up until they blow over the top. 

It is not very much use to give the names of these weeds, 
for they are mostly rare or not British species. Such tumble- 
weeds are generally nearly spherical in general form and 
have a short, rather weak, root which is easily torn out of 
the ground. In some grasses, such as " Old Witch," a well- 
known pest of the United States, the grass-stalk, with many 
flowers on it, is pulled out of its sheath and blown away. 

But it is more usual for the fruits or seeds themselves to 
break off the parent plant, and to be carried away by the 
wind. To this end we find the most extraordinary changes. 
Although the flower may droop from its stalk, the latter 
becomes upright and grows quite a considerable length when 
the seed or fruit is dispatched on its wanderings. This will 
raise the fruit or seed as high as possible above the sur- 
rounding grasses. 

Then in some cases the jfruit opens to allow the seed to 

^ Kerner, Natural History of Plants, vol. 2. 


escape. Small holes appear in it, or the fruit splits. As the 
dry, elastic, withered stalk swings to and fro in the wind, 
the seeds are swung out of these openings, and starting with 
a certain momentum the wind will carry them often to a 
surprising distance from their parents. In wet or rainy 
weather these holes or slits generally close together, and no 
seeds are sent forth on their travels. The little holes in the 
top of a poppy-head by which the seeds are swung out 
have little flaps, which close over and shut them up in wet 
weather. ' 

Some plants make a sort of catapult to sling or hurl their 
fruits. Kerner von Marilaun was the first to describe some 
of these curious arrangements. He had brought home some 
fruits of Dorycnium herbaceum and laid them on his writing- 
table. " Next day as I sat reading near the table, one of 
the seeds of the Dorycnium was suddenly jerked with great 
violence into my face." Some of the neatest catapult fruits 
are those of Teucrium Jlavum. (There is a British species, 
the Woodsage, but it has not got the same arrangement.) 
When the petals have fallen off, the four small fruits are left 
inside the cup-like sepals ; the flower-stalk when dry is very 
elastic, and if an animal touches the sepals it swings violently 
and shoots out one of the fruits. But that is by no means 
the whole of the process : there are hairs arranged spirally in 
the throat of the sepals, and these give a spin or twirling 
motion like that of a rifle-bullet to the fruit. The fruit also 
flies out of the sepals in a line of flight which is inclined at 
an angle of about forty-five degrees to the horizon ; at this 
angle, as is well known, the trajectory or distance travelled 
will be the greatest possible. 

But by far the best way to understand these questions is 
to try with some common weeds in the country towards 



the end of summer or beginning of autumn. If either the 
Cow Parsnip or wild Angelica, or Myrrhis, be gathered and 
kept till it is quite dry, then if you take it by the stalk and 
swing it to the full extent of the arms the fruits fly off to 
fifteen (or more) feet away. Every part is elastic — ^not 
only the main stalk, but the thin separate stalks of the 
flowers and also the delicate piece by which each half- 
fruit is attached. The half-fruits themselves are also so 
made that they are of exactly the right shape to take a 
long flight. 

Ever since the days of Icarus, one of the unsatisfied ambi- 
tions of mankind has been to fly like a bird, to " soar into 
the empyrean," and to be no longer chained to the earth's 

It is a very curious study, that of the many and diverse 
inventions, almost always useless and very often fatal, by 
which men have endeavoured to solve this problem. Every 
one of these can be paralleled amongst the many neat con- 
trivances of wind-borne fruits and seeds. The principle of 
the "parachute," which is more or less like an umbrella, is 
found in both fruits and seeds. One of the most beautiful 
is the Dandelion fruit, where a series of the most exquisite 
branched hairs springs from the top of the slender shaft 
which carries the little hard fruit. Most of the Composite 
or Dandelion order have, however, more of the "shuttle- 
cock " idea. There is a row or crown of stiff* and spreading 
or feathery hairs. 

The classical person above alluded to seems to have 
copied the bird's wing, sticking on feathers with wax, which 
of course melted in the sun with the usual result to the 
inventor of flying machines. Many seeds have regular 
wings which act like those of the bat or flying squirrel. One 


Stereo Copyright, Underwood -l- l'r.d,:riL .^^od 

Cotton-fields in Georgia, U.S.A. 

Negroes picking the cotton harvest 

London &• A e-ai York 


of the most exquisite oi all is the seed of Bignonia. The 
Dahlia fruit has also a flying wing, and a great many others 
might be mentioned. Major Baden-Powell experimented 
with kites, which were supposed to raise a man high enough 
in the air to take observations of the enemy's movements. 
But a most exquisite " kite " is that of the Lime tree. The 
little fruit is hung from a broad, flying bract, and as it very 
slowly sinks to the ground it solemnly turns round and 
round. That is because the pressure of the air acts on the 
flat bract just as it does on an aeroplane, and forces it to 
revolve. So the fruit remains a long time in the air, and 
may be carried to nearly a hundred yards away from its 
parent tree. 

The Traveller's Joy {Clematis) and the Cotton have 
their seeds covered all over by many entangled hairs, which 
act like a piece of fluff*, so that the wind blows the seed 

No one has discovered the original wild Cotton plant. 
The robes of the priests in Egyptian temples were made of 
it. It was introduced into Spain by the Arabs when they 
invaded that country. When the Spaniards attacked the 
half-civilized Indian people of Central and South America, 
they found cotton was regularly cultivated there. Its 
history in England is rather interesting. In the days of 
Queen Elizabeth the great English industry was the pro- 
duction of woollen cloth from Yorkshire sheep. A penalty 
of £20 was imposed, even as late as 1720, on any person 
who imported or even wore cotton cloths. Yet this was 
unable to stop the growth of the trade which, thanks to the 
Flemings and Huguenots who took refuge from religious 
persecution in this country, eventually became our gigantic 
textile industry employing millions of factory hands. 



The advantage of these wings and hairs is at once seen if 
one compares the time that a fruit or seed takes to fall 
through a given height, first with its wings or hairs, and then 
after they have been cut off*. 

An Artichoke fruit, for instance, will take nearly eight 
seconds to reach the ground from a height of a few feet. 
But if you cut away its hairs, it will touch the ground in 
a little more than one second. A Sycamore fruit of which 
the wing has been removed falls to the ground in about 
a quarter of the time that it takes when it has not been 
injured, so that the wing helps it to fly to four times the 
distance that it could reach if it had none. The Ash fruit 
also remains twice as long in the air as it would do if it had 
no wing ; and so on. 

We shall finish this chapter by describing two very extra- 
ordinary cases. 

The Sandbox tree is a native of tropical America. The 
fruit, as large as an orange, consists of a number of rounded 
pieces, each with a single seed inside. When ripe each piece 
splits off^, making a noise like the report of a pistol. The 
plant is sometimes called the Monkey's Dinner Bell. These 
pieces may be thrown to a distance of fifty-seven feet from 
the parent plani. 

Even more remarkable are the hygroscopic grasses. There 
are four of them, which are widely separated as regards 
distribution, for one (Stipa capillata) lives in Russia, another 
{Stipa spartea) in North America, a third (Aristida hygro- 
metrica) is found in Queensland (Australia), and the fourth 
{Heteropogon contortus) belongs to New Caledonia. 

Yet all these four grasses are said to kill sheep, and do so 
in a manner that is almost identical. The mechanism is as 



The fruit is like that of most grasses, enclosed in a folded 
leaf, the bract (or glume), which in these particular cases is 
produced into a very long fine tapering hair or awn. This 
awn is sensitive to changes in the moisture of the air. It is 
strongly hygrometric : in wet weather it straightens itself, 
and it coils into corkscrew spirals in dry weather. The 
widened part of the base, which contains the grain, tapers 
into a sharp, very hard point ; upon this there are, on the 
outside, many stiff hairs, which point backwards away from 
the sharp tip. 

Now, suppose this fruit to fall on the ground, the awn or 
tail is sure to be entangled in neighbouring grasses or herbs, 
but the hard point will rest upon the ground. Every coil 
and twist made by the entangled awn or tail will push the 
point a little deeper into the earth, and the backward- 
pointing stiff hairs will prevent its being pulled out of the 

Therefore all these modified contrivances ensure that the 
seed will bury itself. 

But supposing that one of these fruits falls upon a 
sheep's back. Then an exactly similar process will go 
on. The seed will be forced through the skin into the 
body of the sheep. In fact, if it should fall above any soft 
or vulnerable part of the animal, the sheep will very likely 
be killed. 

As a matter of fact, sheep are said to be killed by these 
grasses in all those four countries, distant though they are 
from one another. 

We have endeavoured in this chapter to give some faint 
notion of the hundreds and thousands of ingenious con- 
trivances utilized by plants in order to ensure the dispersal 
and future prosperity of their children. 



Every species is always trying to colonize new ground, to 
seek fresh fields and new pastures. Plants are not content 
to keep to the old habitats, but every species tries to scatter 
its pioneers over all the neighbouring country, so that, as 
often happens, if it is exterminated or suppressed in one 
locality, new generations luxuriate elsewhere. 




Bloated and unhealthy plants— Oats of the Borderers, Norsemen, and 
Danes — Wheat as a wild plant — Barley — Rye— Where was the very 
first harvest? — Vine in the Caucasus — Indians sowing corn — Early 
weeds — Where did weeds live before cultivation ? — Armies of weeds — 
Their cunning and ingenuity — Gardeners' feats — The Ideal Bean — 
Diseased pineapples — Raising beetroot and carrot — Story of the 
travels of Sugar-cane— Indian Cupid — Beetroot and Napoleon. 

IT is difficult to understand the amount of labour and toil 
that has been spent on farmlands and pastures, if one 
only considers England. 
It is often impossible to discover one square mile still 
covered by the natural wild plants. It is all under com or 
arable, or rich artificial meadowland. 

But from a Scotch hillside, as one looks down at the fertile 
valley below, one can seejirst where the mosaic of hedges and 
dykes stops, then where, after a narrow stretch of rough grass 
pasture, the cultivation ends; finally, where, ridge after 
ridge, rolling, heathery moorland, without enclosures and 
without any sign of man's handiwork, rises up to the highest 

This fills one with a respect and reverence towards our 
forbears, which is increased by a study of corn, turnips, and 

Every one of these plants is a thoroughly unnatural, 
artificially bloated, and overfed sort of creature. Its consti- 



tution, as is usual with those who habitually overeat them- 
selves, is delicate and unsound. 

No cultivated plant could exist for more than a season if 
man did not look after it and protect it from its rivals and 
weeds. Moreover, they are a curiously assorted lot. 

Wheat probably came from Asia Minor, Swedes from 
Scandinavia, Mangelwurzel from the Mediterranean, and 
Potatoes from Chile. Turnips and Carrots are indeed 
native Britishers, though the original wild carrot or 
turnip would never be recognized as such by any ordi- 
nary person. 

The history of every one of them is interesting. The 
Oat is the true Teutonic and Scandinavian grain, which has 
more "fibre" than any other cereal. There is an inter- 
esting passage in Froissart's Chronicles describing the com- 
missariat of those hardy Scotch borderers who raided and 
ruined the northern English counties whenever they felt 
inclined to do so.^ They lived for the most part on the 
cattle of their enemies, but each man carried a small sack of 
oatmeal and a griddle, or iron plate, on which to make oat- 
cake. So that each man supported himself. His little 
rough pony also was quite able to look after itself. 

That hardy plant, the Oat (A vena sativa) can be culti- 
vated as far north as 69.50° N. lat. It is a native of 
Siberia and Western Europe. 

It was oatmeal that supported the Norsemen who con- 
quered Normandy and England, and who even dominated 
the Mediterranean. The Swedes of Gustavus Adolphus and 
the Danes of Canute also lived mainly upon oatmeal and 
porridge. It is true that in England oats are abandoned to 
the horses, but those horses are the best in the world. 

* Or whenever they could do so successfully. {Publisher's note.) 



There can, of course, be no question as to whether the 
Scotch or English are the best ! 

The history of Wheat is a very complicated one ; there 
are a great number of varieties and sub-species, all closely 
allied to our ordinary wheat, and difficult to distinguish 
from it. One variety occurs as a wild plant from Meso- 
potamia, near Ararat, over Servia, the Crimea, and as far as 
Thessaly, where entire hills are covered by it. This grain 
seems to have been cultivated at Troy, for Dr. Schliemann 
has found it at Hissarlik. It was, however, in cultivation 
long before the days of Achilles ; it was grown by the Stone 
Age people, who lived in the lake dwellings of Switzerland. 
Another kind, " spelt " wheat, seems to have been the main- 
stay in ancient Egypt, in Greece, and all through the 
Roman Empire. It is now very rare, though it is still grown 
in Spain and in other countries where the soil is poor. 

Grains of the true Wheat have been discovered in the 
Pyramids of Egypt, so that it also is very ancient. To-day 
Wheat extends to Norway (69° N. lat.), and may be grown 
up to 4400 feet on the Alps.^ India, United States, Russia, 
the Argentine, Chile, Australia, and many other countries, 
produce great crops of this useful and nourishing food. Its 
fibre is 3 per cent, albuminous matter 11 J per cent, and 
carbo-hydrates 66*5 per cent. Oat has 10 per cent fibre, 
11 J per cent albuminous, and 57 per cent carbo-hydrates. 

One guess as to the origin of Wheat is that the first- 
named (Mesopotamian sort) is the original wild plant. By 
cultivation in the rich alluvial valleys of Mesopotamia and 
Egypt, improved kinds were formed. These have eventually 
replaced both " spelt '"* wheat and the wild race, but could 
only do so when richly-cultivated fields were ready for them. 

^ Hackel, Trvs Grasses. 


On poor soil and with bad cultivation, " spelt "" is said to be 
even now the most profitable crop. 

Wild Barley grows in Arabia and from Asia Minor to 
Baluchistan. It is very important in the colder regions of 
Northern Europe, in Tibet, and in China, but with us " John 
Barleycorn " is chiefly used for brewing. 

Rye also comes from Asia Minor. It was not apparently 
known in Europe until the Bronze period, but is now " the 
chief cereal of the German and Slavonic nations." The 
black rye-bread is familiar to all who have travelled on the 
Continent. The straw is good fodder, and is used for 
making hats and for paper. ^ 

A very interesting point on which, however, it is quite 
impossible to come to a definite decision, may be noticed 
here. We will suppose what is quite as likely as any other 
theory, viz. that man as a gardening creature first settled 
somewhere in the Euphrates or Caucasian valleys. 

What wild plants, then, would have been available for his 
experiments ? 

This particular region is an interesting and remarkable 
one. Most of our common British plants occur along the 
shore of the Black Sea to the Caucasus (apple, pear, nut, 
turnip, cabbage, carrot, and others, are all probably to be 
foimd there). On the Babylonian side of the mountains, 
there is a warm sub-tropical climate in which almost every 
useful plant can be grown. The desert also contains a few 
other valuable plants. 

Near Ararat, Noah might have found rye, wheat, and 

barley growing wild. The Wild Vine also grows on the south 

of the Caucasus. " It grows there with the luxuriant wild- 

ness of a tropical creeper, clinging to tall trees and produc- 

* Hackel, True Qrasses. 

Stereo Cofyright, Cnderivo.hi &- Undtruood London &■ Xew York 


The buffaloes are puddling up tha soil before the seed is planted. 



ing abundant fruit without pruning or cultivation.""^ In that 
favoured district, the olive and the fig, the melon and 
cucumber, onions, garlic, and shallots, and other common 
garden and medicinal plants, can be found. Not far away is 
the native country of the camel, the ass, the horse, and most 
other domestic animals. 

Were these hillsides of Ararat or thereabouts, the first 
place where man sowed and reaped a harvest ? 

At any rate, in those flat, fertile, alluvial plains of the 
Euphrates, and also in Egypt, the first great cities arose. 

But even in the later Stone Age, which may have been 
about 58,000 b.c, some of these Caucasian plants seem to 
have been in cultivation in Switzerland. Probably every 
subsequent invasion, first that of races with bronze weapons, 
and then of others in the Iron Age, brought with it new 
cultivated plants. 

The Oat seems to be an exception to the rule, for, so far as 
one can gather, it was not a native of Asia Minor. 

The first harvest was, however, in all probability, a very 
casual and occasional kind of thing. 

Mason (Origin of Inventions, page 192) has described 
such a kind of cultivation which was in existence amongst 
the American Indians quite recently. "A company of 
Cocopa or Mohave or Pima women set forth to a rich and 
favoured spot on the side of a canon or rocky steep. They 
are guarded by a suflScient number of men from capture or 
molestation. Each woman has a little bag of gourd seed, 
and when the company reach their destination she proceeds 
to plant the seeds one by one in a rich cranny or crevice 
where the roots may have opportunity to hold, the sun may 
shine in, and the vines with their fruit may swing down as 
* De Candolle, Origin of Cultivated Plants. 
s 273 


from a trellis. The planters then go home and take no 
furtlijr notice of their vines until they return in the autumn 
to gather the gourds '"* (E. Palmer). 

There is an interesting point about the cultivation of 
those early savage peoples who built up for themselves un- 
healthy but elaborate wooden dwellings in the Swiss lakes, in 
order to escape wild beasts and human beings who were 
even more dangerous and ferocious than they. 

Weeds occurred in those cornfields, cultivated by stone 
implements, some 60,000 years ago. 

The seed of an Italian weed had been introduced with 
their corn, and was discovered in Switzerland ! 

Weeds are an extremely interesting group. A proverb 
about the hardiness and multiplication of weeds can be dis- 
covered in almost every language. " 111 weeds grow apace,"*' 
Unkraut verbessert nicht, and so on. They are very common. 
In fact weeds, wayside, and freshwater plants, have by far the 
widest distribution of all. There are twenty-five species 
which can be found over at least half the entire land surface 
of the earth, and more than a hundred occupy a third of it.^ 

Moreover, many of our common weeds existed in Britain 
when the glaciers and ice melted away, and there were as yet 
no people able to cultivate the ground. 

The Creeping Buttercup, Chickweed, Mint, Persicaria, 
Dock, and Sheep's Sorrel had already colonized the country, 
before the Great Ice Age came upon them, and at least four- 
teen weeds were here when the first corn-raising savages 
landed in Britain.^ 

At first sight it is difficult to understand where and how 
they lived. One discovers a very few, however, if one 

^ Drude, Handbuch Pfiam&ngeographie, p. 107. 
^ Reid, Origin of the British Flora, 


botanizes very carefully along the seashore, or on river banks 
where landslips have occurred, and in other such places 
where bare ground exists which is not the result of cul- 

There these weeds fulfil a very important and useful 
purpose. The " red smear " of a landslip is soon tinted 
green with Coltsfoot, Chickweed and the like, and the bare 
earth, which was useless and supported no green covering, is 
very soon made once more a part of the earth's fruitful field. 
In such places the weeds are soon overcome and suppressed by 
the regular woods, grass, or thicket of the district. 

It is far otherwise in arable land, where man desires to 
keep the ground bare in order to give his own domestic 
plants the best part of the soil. 

Let us look for a little at what actually happens in an 
ordinary cornfield. It is not merely one generation of weeds, 
but whole armies, that the farmer has to contend with. 

When the young corn is growing up (1) the bright yellow 
Charlock grows much more rapidly, and the whole cornfield 
is golden with it. The Charlock grows to some eighteen 
inches high, flowers, and sets its seed before it is suppressed 
by the growth of the cornstalks, which, of course, may be 
three or four feet or more in height. 

(2) Another series of weeds, such as Spurrey, are growing 
in the shelter of the tall stalks, and their flowers are ripened 
and their seed scattered long before the corn is cut. 
(3) Another series, such as Polygonums, etc., become ripe 
and are about the length of the corn, so that when it is cut 
and thrashed the seed of the Polygonum accompanies the 
grain and is probably sown with it. (4) Then there are 
such weeds as the False Oat grass, etc., which are taller than 
the Oat, and whose seeds are blown off" and scattered all over 



the field before the harvest. One would think that those 
exhausted the series, but far from it: the farmer cuts and 
carries the crop, and for two or three days the ground is 
almost bare, but if you revisit the field a week afterwards 
you can no longer see the ground. The cut-off yellow stalks 
of the corn are set off by a dark continuous green carpet of 
flourishing weeds. This last, (5) the "waiting division" 
of the weeds, remain quietly until the corn is removed and 
then get through their flowering and seeding before the field 
is ploughed up or covered by grass. 

Now if one thinks for a little over the cunning and 
ingenuity of these proceedings, it is obvious that each single 
weed has somehow learnt how to develop exactly at the right 
time. Those especially which are intended (by themselves) 
to form part of the seed mixtures must flower exactly at the 
same time as the corn. As a matter of fact, most seed 
mixtures are often full of weeds. In a single pound of 
clover seed, no less than 14,400 foreign seeds, including those 
of forty-four different weeds, have been discovered.^ 

Others scattered on the ground will probably be buried 
and remain five to seven years below the surface, yet they 
are ready to come up flourishing as soon as they get a chance. 

How has this been brought about ? It is only since about 
1780 to 1820 that our present system of farming has 
prevailed. In these 125 years, these weeds have found out 
exactly how to establish themselves. 

The explanation is probably a very simple one. Every 
weed which did not bloom and seed exactly at the right 
time was killed and left no seed. This encouraged the 
others, who have gradually brought about the neat little 

^ Report of the Botanical Department N.J. Agricultural Experiment 
Station, 1891. 



arrangements above described. A process of selection has 
been at work. Those that would not modify their arrange- 
ments to suit new methods of farming have been suppressed. 

But it is in some of the cultivated plants themselves that 
one sees the most extraordinary results of selection. 

The Wild Cabbage is still to be found on sea-clifFs on the 
south-western coast of England, and the Wild Turnip 
occasionally occurs in fields. There is nothing particularly 
interesting or attractive about either of them. 

Yet from the one has been produced cabbage, cauliflower, 
seakale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kohlrabi ; and the 
other has given the endless varieties of turnips. For the 
most part these extraordinary changes have been brought 
about in a perfectly straightforward way, by just choosing the 
biggest and finest sorts for seed. 

Some of the feats performed by gardeners in this way are 
almost incredible. A United States seedsman evolved the 
idea of a perfect bean from his inner consciousness. It had 
a particular shape which he described to a noted grower of 
beans. Two years later his ideal bean was produced ! 

The growers of pineapples used to have a great deal of 
difficulty on account of the pineapple cuttings becoming 
unhealthy. Sometimes 63 per cent were more or less 
diseased. Then certain growers began to carefully select 
disease-proof pineapples, and finally reduced the percentage 
of diseased cuttings to four per cent. Another French observer 
(M. Roujon) by continually selecting the smallest seeds, was 
able to obtain corn only eight inches high. 

But by far the most interesting and important researches 
have been those dealing with roots and tubers. Several 
people have, in fact, done in a few years what it took primi- 
tive man centuries to accomplish. 



Thus, in 1890, E. v. Proskowetz obtained some seeds of 
the wild Sea-beetroot which is found on the south coast 
of France. By very careful selection he was able in the year 
1894 to get good beetroots quite like the ordinary cultivated 
ones. These were biennials (not annuals like the wild plant), 
and had a large percentage of sugar — 16*99 per cent. This 
was by selection in good and fertile soil.^ Vilmorin also 
obtained quite good carrots in the fourth generation by culti- 
vating the wild form in rich and good soil, and selecting 
the best. 

In fact there are in natural wild plants great differences 
between individuals, and when such plants are cultivated in 
good soil, where they have far more to eat than they require, 
the result is that they produce extraordinary and monstrous 

These types are, however, more or less delicate, and are 
weak in constitution and easily killed. To prevent such 
variations those who wish to keep a race of seed pure are 
careful to keep it growing on poor land. 

In 1596 the Hyacinth {Hyacinthiis orientalis) was intro- 
duced from the Levant. In 1597 there were four varieties, 
and in 1629 eight kinds were known, but in 1768 two 
thousand forms of hyacinth were named and described. 

Besides selection, the method of hybridizing or crossing is 
often used in order to obtain new or valuable strains. 
Generally both hybridizing and crossing are employed. 
This method has long been practised. Bradley, in 1717, 
writes as follows : " A curious person may by this knowledge 
produce much rare kinds of plants as have not yet been 
heard of"; and, in fact, peaches, potatoes, plums, straw- 
berries, and savoys have all been greatly improved by 

1 Perceval, Agricultural Botany. 



hybridizing and selection.^ By crossing certain kinds of 
corn, such as the Chinese Oat and the wild European Oat, 
varieties have been produced by Messrs. Garton which at the 
Highland and Agricultural Society's trials produced 84, 87, 
and 99 bushels per acre, as compared with 58 bushels yielded 
by the ordinary Scotch Oat.^ With potatoes also astonish- 
ing results have been got. 

One single potato was sold for £50 not very long ago. 

The Potato, like the Indian corn, tobacco, and a few other 
plants, is an inhabitant of the New World. Of other 
cultivated plants the native country is not known. No one 
knows where, for instance. Sugar-cane was first cultivated, 
but it has nine Sanskrit names, one of which, khand^ is, or 
has probably at one time been familiar to us as sugar-candy. 
It was well-known when the Institutes of Manu were written, 
but that may have been somewhere between 2000 b.c. and 
A.D. 20. 

One of the Hindu Indian deities, Kdmadeva, who corre- 
sponds to Cupid, the God of Love, carries a bow made of 
sugar-cane, with a string which is composed of bees. 

'^ He bends the luscious cane and twists the string 
With bees : how sweet ! but ah ! how keen their sting, 
He with five flowerets tips the ruthless darts 
Which through five senses pierce enraptured hearts." 

From India it seems to have been carried by Alexander 
the Great to Asia Minor, for it is mentioned by Herodotus. 
In the time of the Crusades it was discovered in Syria, and 
the Venetians learned something about it when the Crusaders 
returned to Europe. The Spaniards introduced the Sugar- 
cane to the Canary Islands in 1470. Then the Dutch took 

1 Masters, Nature, July, 1899. 
■^ Journal Farmers' Club, February, 1900. 


it to Brazil, and when they were expelled from that country 
by the Portuguese they transferred their canes to the West 
Indian Islands. Our English islands, Barbados (1643) and 
Jamaica (1664), soon found the cultivation a very profitable 

The variations in price of sugar became in process of time 
of a very serious nature. In the year 1329 it is said that in 
Scotland a pound of sugar was worth one ounce of standard 
silver. But from 1780 to 1800 the price fell to 9d. The 
East Indian sugar began to compete with that from the 
West Indies about this time, but this was very soon crushed 
out by imposing a duty of £37 per cwt. 

The West Indies were then very flourishing, but even 
before this the fatal word beet-sugar had already been heard. 
It was nothing at first but an interesting experiment by 
Professor Marcgraf in a German laboratory, who had ex- 
tracted a little cane-sugar from beetroot in 1747. But in 
1801 the beet was already in cultivation. Napoleon saw 
England's monopoly of the cane and judiciously encouraged 
the beet. The result of his far-seeing policy only became 
manifest a few years ago, for then the West Indian Islands, 
which we conquered and guarded against Napoleon at such 
fearful expense of blood and treasure, were almost worthless ; 
Continental beet-sugar had ruined our colonial planters and 
our home refineries. It is in fact a most curious and in- 
teresting example of how a little judicious encouragement 
by a wise and far-seeing Government may destroy the profits 
of victory in a long, glorious, but yet ruinous war. 

1 For full details see Watts, Economic Dictionary of Products of 
India; Muller, Select Extra-tropical Plants. 



Meaning of Plant Life— Captive and domesticated germs— Solomon's 
observations denied by Buffon but confirmed by recent writers — 
Ants as keepers and germinators of corn — Ant fields— Ants growing 
mushrooms— Leaf-cutting ants— Plants which are guarded by insects 
—The African bush— Ants boarded by Acacias and by Imbauba 
trees — Ants kept in China and Italy — Cockchafer v. ant — Scale 
insects — A fungus which catches worms. 

THE world of plants supports all animal life, from the 
mite to the elephant. There are most intricate rela- 
tions between one form of life and another. Thus a 
Rose tree attacked by an aphis or green-fly may be succoured 
by the slim ichneumon, or other thin-waisted fly, which 
lays its egg in that of the aphis. Another insect, say a 
spider, catches the ichneumon. A starling may eat the 
spider, and be itself eaten by an owl. 

So that ichneumon and starling are friends to the Rose, 
whilst the other insect, the spider, and the owl are enemies. 
Yet both the starling and the spider are probably, almost 
certainly on the whole, friends of the Rose, although they 
are unfriendly in this special case. 

With all other similar series or changes the final term 
is either a bird or animal of prey or mankind. 

Until we introduce the idea of man as the culminating 
point of the series, the whole of it seems to be without any 
special meaning or advantage. 



But when we think of how man utilizes the work of plants 
and animals, then the whole scheme becomes intelligible and 
complete ; it is like a well-rounded story with a worthy and 
adequate end. 

Moreover, what man has done so far is only an instalment 
of what he will probably succeed in doing. All who have 
brought up caterpillars or bees know that their greatest 
difficulty arises from certain minute insects or fungus 
enemies. We already know enough about these latter to 
fight them with some chance of success, but there are 
hundreds of other spores and germs floating in the atmo- 
sphere, and coming to rest on animals, on clothing, or on the 
leaves or petals of plants. These germs are now just as wild 
as, and infinitely more dangerous than the furious aurochs, 
the disdainful wild asses, or the ferocious wolves that our 
forefathers succeeded in domesticating. 

Those bacteria, or germs, for instance, which are only 
one-thousandth of a millimetre long, are only visible by the 
help of a microscope. A row of three hundred thousand of 
them would be required to make an inch in length ! Yet 
one of these germs can be mature and divide into two new 
germs in twenty minutes. In forty minutes there would be 
four, in an hour eight, and so on. The number after twenty- 
four hours is almost incredible. 

These little germs stick to our clothes, fingers, lips, 
money, newspapers, and anything that is often handled. 
They hover in the air we breathe, permeate the food we 
eat, and inhabit water, and especially milk, in enormous 
numbers. Some of them are deadly. One might easily 
decimate a whole population, as indeed happened in the 
South Sea Islands when smallpox was introduced. Others 
are harmless and even necessary. 



But to-day if you go into a bacteriological laboratory you 
will find hundreds and thousands of little glass tubes all 
neatly labelled and stoppered with cotton wool. If you 
read those labels you will see that the bacteria of all sorts of 
horrible and loathsome diseases have been captured and im- 
prisoned. There is the deadly anthrax bacillus peacefully 
discolouring gelatine ; in another, possibly the germs of 
hydrophobia may be undergoing a process of taming or 

Each of these colonies of germs is under perfect control, 
and in many of them their natural wickedness has been so 
much alleviated that they are now useful aids to the doctor, 
who gives his patient a mild dose of the disease in order to 
accustom his system to resist accidental infection by the 
original type. 

Yet what has been done already is only an earnest of 
what will no doubt be accomplished. Every farmer and 
ploughboy will in time sow his own bacteria ; every dairy- 
maid will make all sorts of cheese, from Camembert, Roch- 
fort, to Gorgonzola, by sowing the right kind of germ 
upon it. 

Man will no doubt cultivate the whole earth in the way 
that he now cultivates Europe and Great Britain, and will 
obtain mastery not only over his domesticated plants and 
animals, but over fungi, bacteria, and insects also. 

Even if man had never risen above the state of the 
Banderlog of Mr. Kipling, there are other animals which 
cultivate and even combine together for warfare and con- 
quest. In some respects they are better disciplined even 
than man himself, and they can defy all sorts of mankind 
except civilized man. 

Possibly if man had not arisen on the scene, these insects 



might have developed some sort of civilization like that 
imagined by Mr. Wells in his story of the moon. We are 
only concerned with the relations of these ants to plants. 
Those who are interested in their conquests and civilization 
must consult the excellent account by Mr. Selous in his 
Romance of the Insect World, 

The most interesting points about them are as follows. 
They gather a harvest and store it up for the winter. This 
habit of the ant was well known to the ancients, and is 
mentioned by Solomon. At the time of the French Ency- 
clopaedists, when the fashion of the times was all for destruc- 
tion and disbelief, the fact that ants do so was ridiculed 
and flatly contradicted, and especially by the great naturalist 
BufFon. They pointed out that ants hibernated during 
the cold weather, and therefore required no food for the 
winter, so that Solomon's story was absolutely ridiculous. 

For nearly a hundred years people forgot that Palestine 
and those other countries where the habits of ants had been 
reverently observed possessed a climate much too warm and 
mild to make the ants hibernate. 

After careful study it has been discovered that the ants 
thoroughly understand the first stages of brewing ! 

The corn which they gather is not eaten by them in its 
hard winter c^ondition. When taken into the winter nest of 
the ants this corn would very soon germinate and grow into 
a plant, but the ants manage to prevent this by some 
method which is not yet understood. If such a nest is left 
alone by the ants, the corn immediately begins to grow, but 
it is not allowed to do so till it is required for food. Should 
the store of corn get damp by heavy rain, or mould appear 
upon it, then the careful ants bring up their store into the 
sunlight and dry it there. 



When it is required for food germination is permitted, 
but is soon stopped : the ants nibble off the growing rootlet 
of the seed. Then when the grain absorbs water and begins 
to change its starch into sugar, the ants suck in the sugar 
and reap the reward of all this labour and skill. 

In the conduct of this germination of the grain they are, 
of course, far in advance of all the savage races of mankind. 

There are certain South American species which go at 
least one step farther. They have their own fields — spaces 
three or four feet in diameter — which are entirely occupied 
by one single grass, the so-called Ant-rice (Aristida stricta). 
Dr. Lincecum states that the ants " work ^ these plantations 
very carefully, removing every weed or other plant that 
comes up, and sowing every year the new seed at the proper 

These facts are sufficiently strange and startling, but there 
are even, apparently, species still more intelligent, who not 
only sow and reap, but actually prepare a soil and reap 
a crop of mushrooms, or at least, if not of mushrooms, of 
fungi. These wonderful little insects gather leaves and cut 
them into fragments of an appropriate size ; they are then 
collected together so as to form a bed, and the fungus is 
introduced to this. The fungus is kept at a certain stage of 
growth by very careful treatment ; the fruit-bearing ends 
are nibbled off, so that the young shoots come up indefinitely. 
The ants feed upon these fungus shoots, and get a crop in- 
definitely prolonged. 

This is, of course, a system of agriculture far beyond that 
employed by any tribe of savages. Only man in a relatively 
advanced stage of agriculture grows mushrooms for himself. 

^ Proceedings Linnean Society^ 1861. Dr. Mac Cook adds nothing 
essential, and in no way disproves Dr. Linoecum's statements. 



These facts, startling as they may seem, are apparently quite 
well authenticated and have not been seriously questioned. 

There are a great number of leaf-cutting ants who are, 
indeed, amongst the most dangerous of the many insect pests 
in South America and elsewhere. Wallace {Revue Scieri- 
tijique^ 179, p. 29), in speaking of the Saauba or leaf-cutters, 
describes how he placed a large heavy branch across the route 
of one of their columns. 

The long line of laden ants was checked, and the greatest 
confusion set in at the head of the column. Each ant, for 
several feet down the column, then laid down its leaf, and all 
set to work to tunnel under the obstacle. This was managed 
in about half an hour's time, and the column then proceeded 
on its way. 

Amongst other interesting land curious facts connected 
with these extraordinary insects is that some kinds are 
actually kept up by certain plants as a sort of standing army 
or police. 

There are no less than 3030 species of plant which keep 
these standing armies of ferocious ants, or if they do not 
keep them, at any rate lay themselves out to attract them. 
The kinds which are attracted live upon sugar, and are 
strong, active, and extremely good fighters. When travelling 
through the bush in Africa, it is not unusual in some places 
to touch inadvertently one of these protected trees. In a 
moment one''s hand and arm are covered by ants whose heads 
are dug deep down into the skin, biting with all their strength. 

It is of course impossible to describe all the plants which 
protect themselves against injurious insects and even large 
animals in this way, but two of them must be mentioned. 

There are certain Acacias which are particularly inter- 
esting. Like most of this order, they have large hollow 



spines instead of stipules at the base of the leaf. It is in- 
side these spines that the troops of the police-insects live. 
These Acacias (Oxhorn Acacia, as well as A. sphcerocephala 
and A. spadicigera) also produce sugar, which is secreted by 
peculiar gland-like organs on the stalks of the leaves, and 
even albuminoids, for at the tips of the leaflets there are 
peculiar little bodies which contain albuminous matter. 

The Imbauba tree (Cecropia spp.) also possesses a 
standing army of these ants. It puts them up in the hollow 
pith in the centre of the tree, which is divided into large 
roomy spaces and makes a convenient nest. There is a 
minute opening by which they run in and out. On one 
occasion a naturalist found that the ants had been benumbed 
by a period of very cold weather, and in consequence had 
neglected their duty, and the trees had been stripped of their 
leaves by leaf-cutting kinds.^ 

These last mentioned, the leaf-cutting ants, are especially 
dreaded by owners of plantations. Foreign or introduced 
plants are not specially guarded against their ravages by 
special secretions, as is the case with the native flora, so that 
the coffee and cocoa plantations are often severely injured. 
In some places man has copied those Acacias and 
Imbaubas, for in the orange plantations of the province of 
Canton, in China, ants' nests are collected and placed on the 
trees. Moreover, the different trees are connected together 
by bamboos, so that the ants can easily pass, as on a bridge, 
from one tree to another. 

Near Mantua, in Italy, the same system seems to be adopted, 

and ants' nests are carefully placed near the fruit trees. 

Their use can be quite well understood, for Forel, in his 

work on the Ants of Switzerland, estimates that one ants'" 

^ Belt, Natv/ralist in Nicaragiui. 



nest will require a supply of 100,000 insects a day during the 

It is quite common to find ants crawling about on the out- 
side of the large heads of the Garden Centaury and a few- 
other Composites. If one looks carefully, one finds that 
there are streaks of honey to be seen coming from the scales. 
The honey is not produced in the flowers, and seems at first 
sight to be of no use at all so far as the plant is concerned, 
but that is very far from being the case. Here comes a cock- 
chafer or other destructive beetle, intent on absolutely 
devouring and destroying the young flowers. At once the 
pugnacity and wrath of the ants are aroused. They take 
up a menacing and ferocious attitude, and the cockchafer 
passes to some other plant.^ 

Such honey-glands found on the leaves and not connected 
in any way with the flowers, are more common than one 
would think. Even the common Bracken produces curious 
honey-secreting hairs when it is in a young condition. 
These attract ants which drive away caterpillars and other 
dangerous insect foes. 

Many very dangerous insects are too small for birds, and 
can only be dealt with effectually by insects or fungi. Of 
these perhaps the most dangerous are the "scale" insects. 
The best-known one is very like a minute mussel shell. It is 
about one-quarter to one-third of an inch long, and can be 
sometimes found in quantities on apples ; they are generally 
collected round the stalk. The mother insect has this scaly 
back, and lies down and dies on the top of her eggs, so that 
her scaly corpse forms a roof and a shield for her young 
ones. Like all pests of this sort, these creatures increase 
very rapidly. 

1 Kerner, Z.c, vol. 2, fig. 264, p. 242. 


A certain scale insect was doing an immense amount of 
harm in the orange plantations of Fiji, but it was destroyed 
by the introduction of lady-birds, and of a certain parasitic 
fly. It is said that these insects destroyed the " scale " in six 
months ! 

Experiments have also been tried with fungi. There are 
certain fungi which attack the bodies of living insects. So 
far, however, it cannot be said that the results have been at 
all satisfactory, for the propagation and infection of the 
living insects by fungus spores is not at all easy. There is 
also a certain feeling of doubt as to what may happen. 
Those fungi, and particularly bacteria, might set up danger- 
ous epidemics. 

Decaying meal contains hundreds of certain very curious 
worms called Nematodes. They are short, about one- 
twenty-fifth of an inch in length, and are smooth and 
very like minute eels. These creatures are very active, 
wriggling or swaying to and fro in a characteristic manner. 
Now in decaying meal there is a peculiar fungus. Like 
most fungi, it consists of very minute transparent threads 
which contain living matter or protoplasm. This par- 
ticular fungus has branches, but also forms curious loops 
or belts. When one of these eel- worms is swaying about in 
the meal, it may quite well happen that its tail slips into one 
of these loops. If that happens, the fate of the worm is 
sealed, for the loop is elastic, and the more it wriggles the 
farther it slips in and the stronger it is held. The fungus 
then begins to grow, and forms a tube which grows into the 
worm and kills it. All the material in the worm's body goes 
to nourish the fungus. This extraordinary fungus has been 
described and figured by Professor Zopf, but seems to be a 
very unusual and rare form. 

T 289 



The Phylloxera— French sport—Life history of the Phylloxera— Cock- 
chafer grubs — Wireworm — The misunderstood crows — Dangerous 
sucklings of greenflies—' * Sweat of heaven " and ♦ ' Saliva of the stars " — 
A parasite of a parasite of a parasite — Buds— The apple-blossom weevil 
— Apple-sucker— The oodlin moth and the ripening apple — The pear 
midge— A careless naturalist and his present of rare eggs— Leaf- 
miners — Birds without a stain upon their characters — Birds and man 
— Moats — Dust and mites — The homes of the mites- Buds, insect 
e^gs, and parent birds flourishing togpetber. 

THE difficulty in describing the Romance of Plant Life 
does not arise from a want of romance, but the sieges, 
battles, and alarms are so difficult to see, and the 
enemies are so tiny, that the terrific contests continually 
going on escape our notice altogether. 

When one does 'look carefully and closely at the life of a 
plant, one sometimes wonders how it manages to exist at all 
in the midst of so many and great dangers. 

There are great swarms of insects which devour or burrow 
into it, or suck its life-juices. These are infinitely more 
dangerous than the relatively clumsy, heavy-footed, grazing 

Every part of a plant has its own special insect foe, and it 
is really difficult to understand how it can possibly escape. 

Perhaps the " Achilles' heel'' is the root, for, underground, 
plants get no help from the watchful and ever-present army 



of birds, who are, as we shall see, the natural police of the 

The Phylloxera, for instance, which ruined the old and 
valuable vineyards in France, is a terrible little acarid, or 
mite, which attacks the roots. Too small to see, and im- 
possible to kill without killing the plant, it laid waste the 
fertile hills and valleys of all South and Central France, 
causing millions of pounds damage. One reason for this 
destruction sprang from the universal sporting instinct 
innate in every Frenchman. Everybody goes out with his 
gun to destroy any lark, sparrow, or titmouse that is idiotic 
enough to remain in the country. Only birds can deal 
efficiently with insect pests. Take this horrible little Phyl- 
loxera, for instance ; a single female in her life of forty-five 
days will lay about two hundred eggs. Each egg becomes a 
little grub, which after a few moments of uncertainty and 
agitation settles itself, and begins to suck steadily at any 
unoccupied part of the vine root. After ten to twelve days' 
life it will be laying eggs as rapidly as its mother. Thus in 
an ordinary summer the number of young ones produced 
from B. single female becomes quite incalculable. 

These pests are natives of America. Imported on Ameri- 
can roots about 1868, they had in thirteen years practically 
ruined the vineyards in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and 

All sorts of remedies were tried — saturation of the ground 
by poisons, flooding the vineyards to drown them, artificial 
cultivation of their insect and plant enemies, and many others. 

The correct and satisfactory method has been at last dis- 
covered. American vines of sorts which are able to resist 
these Yankee mites have been imported, and the valuable 
French vines have been grafted on to them. 



Another very dangerous root-enemy, which is common in 
this country, is the Cockchafer grub or Whitegrub. (But it 
is not nearly so bad as in France, where in the summer of 
1889, a single farmer collected 2000 lb. of Cockchafers.) 
The grub (each female lays seventy eggs) burrows into the 
earth, and for no less than three summers remains below 
ground devouring indiscriminately the roots of everything 
he can discover. Underground, the mole is almost his only 
enemy, but the rooks, starlings, and gulls, which follow the 
plough, are watching for him. The Wireworm, Clickbeetle, 
or Skipjack, is also an underground Jdemon which lives for 
three years, and gnaws and worries at plant roots for the 
whole of that time. It, however, shows itself above the 

A gentleman who had passed his whole life in the country 
complained, in my presence, of the damage done by rooks. 
He had had six thousand of them shot that summer, and 
remarked that he had seen with his own eyes one of them 
pulling out a young cabbage plant by the root. Of course it 
was quite unnecessary to point out that the poor bird was 
merely trying to get at the wireworms and devour them ! 

For some time I used to look out for great attacks of 
wireworm in turnip-fields : when one was recorded, I never 
failed to find that the crows had been ruthlessly shot down 
a season or two before. 

All these, and many other insects, attack the roots, which 
would be, one would suppose, quite well protected in the 
depths of the earth. Therefore we find roots producing all 
sorts of poisonous substances, tannins, and even strong- 
smelling bodies, which keep off these pests. 

It is perhaps the sucking battalions of the insect army 
which do the most harm. In themselves they are weak, 



stupid, and scarcely move from their birthplace. They live 
out their life wherever their long, lancet-like proboscis 
needles have pierced the plant's skin, but it is their power 
of multiplication that makes them really formidable. 

Huxley calculated that if all the offspring of one " green- 
fly " lived, and if their broods also lived for ten generations, 
then the tenth brood of that original green-fly would con- 
tain more animal matter than the entire population of 
China. Green-fly would, as a matter of fact, go on increas- 
ing at this rate, were it not for the enormous number of 
enemies that prey upon them. A mathematical friend of 
Mr. Buckton calculated that in 300 days the produce of 
a single green-fly might be 210^^, that is 210 multiplied 
by 210, and then again by 210 up to 15 times ! 

In summer time one may often notice, especially on syca- 
mores and lime trees, a peculiar shining, sticky, honey-like 
substance which covers the leaves. It is often so abundant 
as to drip like a rain of honey from the upper branches. 

This " honey-dew '■" was a puzzle which greatly intrigued 
learned minds in the ancient world. Pliny speaks of it as 
the " sweat of heaven " or " saliva of the stars."" 

In reality, however, it is nothing but the excretions of 
hundreds of millions of these green-fly or aphides, which 
will be found established on the under side of the leaves, where, 
moored by their little anchoring talons and with their pro- 
boscis inserted in the fresh green leaf, they are sucking hard 
and steadily at the sugary juice. In twenty-four hours it 
was observed that a single individual gave forth forty-eight 
minute drops of honey. 

Bees are very often tempted to collect this honey so 
abundantly produced, but this turns their own honey black, 
and may even make it poisonous. 



Plants try to protect themsdves again8t these pests 
chiefly by means of sticky or long hairs, by a thick skin, or by 
unpleasant tasting or smelling substances. But it is to insects 
such as lady-birds and others which devour the green-fly 
that they owe a deep debt of gratitude. In particular, there 
are certain parasitic insects which lay their eggs in their 
bodies. Not only so, but it is known that the eggs of some 
other insects are laid in the egg of the green-Jly^ and in one 
instance it has been found that yet another insect laid its 
egg in the egg of the parasite ! 

Some of the most interesting objects in nature are the 
buds in which, all neatly packed and stowed away, the young 
leaves and flowers remain awaiting the warm breath of 
spring. They are most interesting to examine : one finds 
series after series of overlapping scales which cover one 
another in the most ingenious way. No two are exactly 
alike, but each seems to have been moulded exactly to the 
proper shape. There is no waste anywhere, no useless ex- 
penditure of material. Very often turpentine or resin or a 
sticky gum seals up the joining of the scales. Every possible 
precaution seems to have been taken by nature. Neither 
rain nor snow can enter a winter bud. Neither can the cold 
of winter penetrate to the inside where the baby leaves and 
flower petals are cosily and tightly coiled up. But observe in 
the very earliest warm days of spring an extraordinary little 
insect, which has wakened up after its own winter sleep in 
the moss or lichen covering the rough and crannied bark of 
an old apple tree. This is the Apple-blossom Weevil, a 
beetle only about quarter of an inch in length, but with a 
curious snout or proboscis half the length of its body. This 
creature proceeds to the bud, and fixing its legs firmly, pro- 
ceeds to bore a hole through the scales into the middle of 



the bud. She then places an egg inside, and goeg on to put 
an egg in each of fourteen to forty-nine other buds. This 
takes a fortnight, and then she dies, probably satisfied that 
her duty is fully performed. A little footless, cream-white 
maggot develops in the apple-bud, which latter becomes 
rusty-coloured and dies away. 

Another pest is the Apple-sucker, which lays her eggs 
in September on the fine hairs which cover the shoots. As 
soon as the weather becomes mild and warm, little grubs 
come out of these eggs ; they are very small, and their bodies 
are almost flat. These tiny flat grubs, as s(xm as they are 
born, hurry off to the nearest buds and slip between their 
scales. They remain sucking the rich juices of the apple 
blossom until May or June, when they become perfect in- 
sects, and fly away so fat and well-nourished that they can 
live until September without feeding. 

But those are by no means the only dangers. It is not 
till the apple blossom, which has escaped all those perils, 
opens in the spring time, after its petals have unfolded in the 
warm air and the young apple is already half formed, that 
the Codlin Moth begins to attack them. This tiny little 
moth is then extremely busy. She lays about fifty ^gs, 
but only one on each young apple. It is put in the one 
weak spot of the apple, just at the top, in the base of the 
withered flower. The grub tunnels down to the core and 
feeds upon the seeds, which are entirely destroyed. When 
it has grown sufficiently, it drives another tunnel straight 
outwards to the skin. If the apple is still on the tree, the 
caterpillar lets itself down on a long silken thread and 
hurries off to hide in any convenient crack or crevice of the 
bark, or if the apple is already stored away, it conceals itself 
in the walls or in the flooring of the loft. The moths come 



out at the end of next May, just when the blossoms are 
getting ready for them. These codlin-moth apples cannot 
fail to have been noticed by the reader, as the tunnels in the 
ripe apple are most conspicuous. The gradual fattening of 
the caterpillar can also be traced, for its first tunnel down to 
the seeds is quite narrow, while the way out gets wider and 
wider as the creature became stouter and fatter whilst 
eating its way through the flesh. 

The Pear Midge attacks at the same place, but the mother 
insect has a long egg-laying tube, and puts from fifteen to 
thirty eggs into the opening pear blossom. The pears go on 
growing, but of course are quite spoilt by the maggots 
within. These latter have a curious springing or jumping 
habit, and when they reach the soil bury themselves an inch 
or two below the surface. 

So that all the care and neatness with which the young 
flowers and buds are packed up goes for nothing, and these 
insect pests get all the benefits of the apple and pear ! 

Besides these, there are hundreds of sorts of caterpillars 
which devour the leaves bodily. Cabbage-white butterflies, 
magpie-moths, gipsy-moths, diamondback-moths, and others, 
lay their eggs in hundreds. Many lay 300 eggs each. 

In the United States, somebody had sent an entomologist 
a present of some eggs of one of these moths. They were 
placed on a paper near a window which happened to be open ; 
the entomologist went out, and the paper must have blown 
across the street into a garden on the other side. At any 
rate, two or three years afterwards it was found that some 
trees were badly attacked by this moth. Nobody thought 
much about this, though of course it was interesting to find 
a new moth. But the pest became a very serious one. In 
consequence of the stimulating air of the United States the 



moth multiplied with the most extraordinary rapidity, and 
it is said that about 500,000 dollars was spent in one year in 
the attempt to stamp it out. 

All this happened because an entomologist forgot to lock 
up his eggs when he went away for half an hour ! 

These caterpillars and the locusts devour the leaves bodily, 
but there are others which live inside them. These so-called 
"leaf-miner" caterpillars make white irregularly- winding • 
tunnels between the upper and the lower skin of the leaf. 
The tunnel increases or widens because the caterpillar itself 
grows fatter £is it eats its tunnel. They can be seen on a 
great many leaves, and can be at once recognized by this 

Plants cannot run away from their enemies like animals, 
and it would seem at first sight that their case was very 
hopeless. But it is not so, for there is a vast, active, keen- 
eyed, and eager army of helpers always ready for eggs and 

It is birds that are of the greatest importance. A tit- 
mouse will eat 200,000 insects in a season. A starling has 
been seen to fetch food for its young ones from a grass 
paddock 100 yards away no less than eighteen times in a 
quarter of an hour. All the following are excellent birds, 
and without a stain upon their characters : the plover, 
partridge, robin, wagtail, starling. Crows and wood- 
pigeons are under suspicion, for though the latter do good 
in devouring the seeds of weeds, and the former in destroying 
wireworms, both are fond of corn and take large quantities 
of it. 

Thrushes, mavises, and blackbirds are amongst the most 
persevering and useful of our friends, but they are certainly 
fond of fruit. Yet the good which they do is very much 



more than any possible harm which an injudicious indulgence 
in the juicy fruits of summer might bring about. 

The sparrow cannot be given a character. Indeed, he is 
objectionable in every way, for he not only does no good 
himself, but he devours corn and drives away starlings and 
other valuable and interesting helpers. 

But it is very difficult to say what will happen if man 
interferes with the regular working of Nature. The starling 
has been a pest in Australia, though here it does nothing 
but good work. We are still grossly ignorant of many 
simple but very important facts. Even when we do know 
something, as for instance, that the peewifs or plover"'s 
whole life is occupied in clearing the ground of wireworm, 
daddy-long-legs grub, insects'* eggs, and the like, that does 
not help the bird in the least. Plovers' eggs are regularly 
sold in enormous quantities. Every farm-labourer collects 
them, and the farmer never dreams of interfering. 

Man shoots down owls, kestrels, hawks, who prey upon 
mice, voles, and sparrows. Then, when some farmers are 
half ruined, he has Royal Commissions to find out why the 
voles have increased so much. 

There are one or two peculiar contrivances found in plants 
which are intended to keep off insects, and which may be 
noticed here. 

Thus, the importance of a moat (which almost always 
formed part of the defence of a medieval castle) had been 
already found out by one or two plants. 

In a particular kind of Teazle and in a large Sunflower- 
like Composite (Silphium laciniatum) every pair of two 
opposite leaves run together, so that a little cup-like hollow 
is formed surrounding the stem, in which water collects. 
Insects climbing up the stem and trying to get at the heads 



of fk)wers fall in and get drowned in this water ; their bodies 
may be seen floating about in it, and probably when these 
decay, their decay -products are of some use to the plant. | 

This curious contrivance is only a development of a very 
common arrangement. In most leaves you will find that 
rain-water is intended to run in a particular direction. 
Inhere are little grooves and canals down which it is sup- 
posed to go, and dry, thirsty hairs may be found so arranged 
as to intercept part of it. Thus in summer the plants are 
not confined entirely to the water from the ground, but 
are also refreshed by the rain from above. 

But if you look closely along these little channels, and 
especially at the base of the leaf where they join the stem, 
you will find that dust particles washed down by the rain 
collect and form little streaks and patches. The air is full 
oi all sorts of dust particles which are made up of every 
conceivable substance. Many of these minute grains of dust 
will be dissolved in the water, and help to supply the plant 
with food. Nor is that all, for if you take a hand-lens and 
examine these dust particles very closely, you will very 
probably find small animalcula moving about. They are 
not pretty ; in fact they are quite horrible to look at. 
These are tiny mites which live in these places. Their 
office is probably to eat up everything eatable (including 
eggs of insects and spores of fungi), and their excreta as well 
as their own bodies will probably be dissolved in the water 
and go to help the plants. 

The most certain place to find them is on the leaves of 
the lime and other trees in August. On the under side of 
the leaf little bushes of hairs can be found just where the 
veins fork. It is necessary to take a pin and stir up these 
hairs to frighten them out, but when this has been done, the 



lens will show the disgusting-looking little creatures running 
hurriedly away. They are no doubt exceedingly annoyed at 
being disturbed in the midst of their sleep, for they come 
out and forage for anything eatable at night, retiring for 
the day into these hairy grottos. The structure of these 
grottos is very complicated. They are often like little caves 
with a narrow entrance, and the sleeping chamber is quite 
within the leaf. 

A great many trees have these curious mite homes. The 
insects are generally the colour of the hairs, and are not 
easy to distinguish. 

All those insects mentioned here have so arranged their 
life histories that they come into existence exactly at the 
proper season. The warmth of the sun, which opens the 
apple buds ever so slightly, stirs also the egg of the mite, 
the egg of the beetle, or the hibernating weevil, so that all 
these insect populations come into full active life just when 
they can do the most damage. 

But one must not stop there ; the bird population is also 
ready, and is building its nests and feeding its young, just so 
soon as the insect swarms are at their thickest and most 
dangerous stage. 

Man walks clumsily through this intricate tangle of living 
plants and animals : he sets his big foot on a hedgehog 
(good for the insects), or on a mole (so much the better for 
wireworm), collects plovers'* eggs (to the great help of every 
insect), shoots an owl (to the delight of voles and mice) or 

a whole brood of partridges, and in other ways makes a 

we had better say, shows that he is not so clever as he 
supposes himself to be. 




Effects of opium— The poppy-plant and its latex — Work of the opium- 
gatherer — Where the opium poppy is grown — Haschisch of the Count 
of Monte Cristo — Heckling, scotching, and retting— Hempseed and 
bhang — Users of haschisch — Use of india-rubber — Why plants pro- 
duce rubber — With the Indians in Nicaragua — The Congo Free State 
—Scarcity of rubber— Columbus and Torquemada— Macintosh— 

SUPPOSING that in China or Japan you meet a native 
who shows the following symptoms : — 
(1) Eyes hollow and surrounded by a bluish margin; 
(2) pupils much dilated; (3) with a stupid appearance; 
(4) with an emaciated body ; (5) of unsteady and stagger- 
ing walk ; (6) with a dreamy disposition ; — then, you may 
be sure that he is an opium-smoker. In some of the Chinese 
provinces every man smokes '03 to '07 oimce of opium daily, 
but those who indulge to excess consume '3 or even '6 
ounce. It is an excellent medicine when employed in a lawful 
and justifiable manner, for it calms the spirits and makes 
one sleep. But its use is always dangerous, even when em- 
ployed in very small quantity, as in laudanum and morphia. 
In the Fen country in England there used to be a very 
large sale of laudanum pills which keep off asthma and 
rheumatism, but even there it is a dangerous remedy, for it is 
only too easy to fall under the control of this drug either by 



injection of morphia, or by eating or smoking laudanum or 
morphia. De Quinoey's Confessions of cm Opium-eater 
and Kipling''s Gate of the Hundred Sorrows give a lurid 
picture of the ruin of body and soul brought about by 
opium. I 

It is produced from the heads of the Opium Poppy 
{Papaver somniferum). Any poppy (or indeed any plant of 
the Poppy order) when scratched or wounded exudes a thick 
white or orange milky fluid. This is called "latex"*' (or 
milk) ; it is always more or less poisonous, and generally con- 
tains some sort of resinous matter. ITius when the plant is 
scratched or pierced, a drop of this milky latex comes out 
and at once hardens over the wound. Of course the plant is 
much benefited by this, for any destructive insect, unless it 
is a confirmed opium-eater, will be poisoned or killed ; then 
also, if wounds are caused by wind, heavy rain, or animals 
passing, the scar is at once healed over and covered by the 
hardened opium, so that no dangerous fungus spores can get 
in to attack the plant. There is a mildew fungus and also 
a smut fungus {Entyhma) which attack the poppy, but both 
these enter by the stomata and live between the cells of the 

The general appearance of the Opium Poppy is quite 
familiar; its upright stems, large, clasping, bluish-green 
leaves and conspicuous flowers may be seen in many gardens. 
It is rather interesting, and in many ways ; when young, the 
buds droop or hang down, and are entirely enclosed in two 
large green, hairy sepals. These last are soon thrown off, 
and then the flowers open out and display the petals with 
their rich black spots, and the crowded mass of stamens 
which surround the central greenish head. In bud these 
petals are " cramb'd up within the empalement by hundreds 



of little wrinkles or puckers as if three or four fine cambrick 
handkerchifs [sic] were thrust into one's pocket," as an old 
writer describes it (Grew). 

Bees, and especially bumbles, are extremely fond of it, and 
even seem to be, in a way, opium-eaters, for they get quite 
exalted, almost intoxicated, and above their ordinary labor- 
ious selves. They scurry round and round the flower under 
the stamens or hover excitedly above it. 

It is at this stage that the opium-gatherer begins his work ; 
he goes round the beds and collects the petals of the poppy 
to use later on (see p. 304). The poppy-heads are then half 
grown and bluish-green, but they soon begin to turn yellow 
and ripen. When ripe they are most interesting to examine. 
There is a large platform covered by a radiating star-like 
ornament, which is the stigma. Underneath this is a circle 
o£ little holes just below the crown, but above the head. 
Each small hole has a flap. Now if you gather a ripe poppy- 
head on a fine dry day all these holes are open, and if you 
hold it upright and swing it vigorously from side to side the 
tiny seeds come flying out of the holes and will be thrown to 
a considerable distance. The stalk is supposed to swing in a 
high wind, and the seeds are really slung or thrown out of the 
holes. But if, when you come home, you put your poppy- 
head in water, or look at the plants in the garden on a very 
wet day, you will find that every hole closes or is shut up, 
because the small door mentioned above expands so as to 
close the opening. 

The seeds are only sent out on a fine dry day ; but they 
travel well. It was observed in America that certain poppies 
had been introduced as weeds at a certain place ; in fifteen 
years they were found twenty-five miles farther on, so that 
they were colonizing the country at the rate of three-fifths of 



a mile per annum.^ The seeds themselves are very light and are 
of some value ; they may be eaten like caraway-seed, as com- 
fits, or crushed to supply an oil for lamps, or used as medicine. 
It is said that the value of the seed raised in France was in 
one year £170,000. The heads themselves are also valuable 
(they are worth 35s. per thousand), and even the dried stalks 
and leaves, for they may be used as fodder. 

But the real reason why the plant is cultivated in so many 
parts of the earth is the great value of the opium obtained 
from it. This is gathered in the following curious way. As 
soon as the dew has dried off the plant, the cultivator goes 
round the beds and scratches every poppy-head with a tool 
made up of three knives tied together. That is the time re- 
commended by Theophrastus, and it is apparently still the 
usual time to choose. In the late afternoon, from four to 
seven, he comes round again and scrapes off the congealed milk, 
which is then worked up into cakes and taken to the factory. 

It is prepared by being kneaded, dried, and rubbed until 
it is of a pale golden colour.^ Finally, it is enclosed in a 
mass of poppy petals, sometimes mixed with the fruits of 
a kind of dock, and is then ready for export. 

It is cultivated in a great many parts of the world — 
Turkey, Syria, Persia, France, China, the United States, 
Germany, Queensland, but especially in British India, where 
the immense plains at Malwa used to furnish opium worth 
about sixty million rupees annually (after deducting all 
expenses). This was mostly exported to China, and 
amounted to a tax of about threepence per head on 
every Chinaman ; it was also sufficient to defray about 

^ This is not quite certain. 

2 Rudyard Kipling has a most interesting account of the great opium 
factory at Malwa. 


Stereo Copyright, Lndtrwood &• Undtriiood 

Loiiaon and New York 

Gathering Rubber in Tehuantepec 

Incisions may be seen in the bark of the tree. The rubber milk runs out from these 
into the vessel held in the man's hand. 




one-sixteenth part of the expenses of our Indian Empire. 
The story of how Great Britain forced China to take our 
opium is not a creditable one nor agreeable to read. The 
plant was known in ancient Egypt, Persia, and Rome, and 
was used in China for at least two hundi'ed years before 
our times. 

What is supposed to be the original wild plant from which 
the opium poppy was derived seems to have been cultivated 
in the ancient Swiss lake dwellings, for the seeds of Papaver 
setigerum occur there in abundance. The price of the crop 
may amount to £90 or £120 per acre. 

Another very ancient plant is the Hemp, Cannabis saliva. 
It was known to Herodotus, who says that " in the country 
of the Massagetae there is a tree bearing a strange produce 
which they casting into a fire inhale its fumes on which they 
straightway become drunk." It is a tall, rather handsome 
annual, with stems from three to fifteen feet high. It is 
cultivated all over the world, from the Equator to 60° north 
latitude, but for different purposes. In India it is chiefly 
for the resin, " haschisch, churrus, bhang." (That was the 
drug used by the Count of Mc«ite Cristo.) In Russia it is 
for the seed and the fibre that the plant is cultivated, and 
in France, Italy, and Austria the fibre seems to be the most 
important product. 

Some of the plants produce only stamens or male flowers. 
The fibre given by these is stronger and more tenacious than 
that of the female plant, which, however, is finer and more 
supple. The fibre obtained from the cold northern districts 
of Russia is said to be the strongest of all. 

The preparation of the fibre is a long, tedious, and 
laborious operation. It is also unhealthy, for the fibre 
has to be " retted " (steeped in water so that the soft parts 
o 305 


decay), " scotched " (that is the hard wood must be broken 
and removed), and " heckled." 

This last process is familiar to all who are interested in 
political matters. It consists of being drawn on hard points 
difficult to traverse and of a very fine and sharp character ! 
Hemp is the commonest fibre for string, rope, etc. ; it used 
to be employed for sailmaking by the Romans. Catherine 
de' Medici is said to have had two chemises made of hemp. 

Hempseed is much appreciated by poultry and birds of all 
kinds (which makes both harvesting and sowing rather diffi- 
cult) ; but the chief use of the seed is to furnish a fatty oil 
used for soft soap, lighting, and painting. The remains, 
after taking the oil, are employed as a cattle food, but it 
does not form a satisfactory cake. 

The chief interest of hemp is, however, the drug that is 
made from the resinous juice. No doubt this has the effect 
of keeping off dangerous insects, for it is said that plants of 
hemp even keep off insects from other plants planted close 
beside them. 

Sometimes the leaves and stalks are dried in order to 
make the drug " bhang."" Many allusions to this substance 
are found in Eastern poetry, where it is called the " Leaf of 
Delusion,'' "Increaser of Pleasure,'' and "Cementer of Friend- 
ship," but madness is the result of addiction to its use. 

The resin is collected by making the labourers put on 
leather aprons, and then run up and down vigorously 
through the hempfields. The resin is then scraped off the 
leather, or off their skins if they prefer to do without 
leather. It is either eaten or smoked. Burton describes 
how at every cottage door in East Africa the Arabs may be 
seen smoking bhang with or without tobacco. " It produces 
a violent cough ending in a kind of scream after a few long 



pufFs." In small doses haschisch (resin) has pleasant effects, 
for people experience pleasant illusions, good appetite, ex- 
citement, and laughter, followed, however, after an interval 
by stupor and sleep. 

People addicted to the use of haschisch roll their eyes 
violently, and have a wild, startled appearance. 

Naturally so dangerous a drug cannot be recommended 
unless under the most exceptional circumstances, but it is 
employed in cases of asthma and insomnia. Haschisch and 
opium are the two great curses of the Chinese, Malays, and 
the inhabitants of British India and the East. They may 
be compared to "drink" in this country, but they are 
important medicines. 

Among the most curious and interesting facts in Nature 
is the extraordinary variety of the ways in which at present 
gutta-percha and india-rubber are employed. We should 
not be able to ride bicycles, or in motor-cars ; we could not 
use Atlantic cables and many electrical apparatus ; our 
railway carriages would be most uncomfortable ; golf would 
be impossible ; we should have no waterproof coats and no 
goloshes, if it were not for these valuable and extraordinary 
substances, india-rubber or caoutchouc, and gutta-percha. 

Their history is full of romance, but perhaps the most 
striking part of it is just this fact. Because a few (only a 
very few) plants found it necessary to protect their wood from 
burrowing beetles by a specially poisonous and elastic sub- 
stance, therefore we can play golf and enjoy free-wheel 

The rubber is derived from the resinous latex or milky 
juice, which pours out from any wound in the bark of certain 
trees and creeping plants. This milk must be poisonous 
enough to kill the rash and intrusive mother beetle, who 



wishes to lay her eggs in the wood. It must be elastic, because 
the branches and stems swaying to and fro in the wind require 
a yielding, springy substance, but resin is contained in it, so 
that it promptly hardens and closes up the scar. The 
traveller Belt, in his Naturalist in Nicaragua^ mentions that 
those trees which had been entirely drained of their rubber 
by the Indian gatherers were riddled by beetles, and in an 
unhealthy, dying condition. 

Almost all the important rubber plants are found in wet, 
unhealthy, tropical forests ; they are by far the most import- 
ant jungle product in West Africa, as well as on the Congo 
River and in the Amazcm valley. 

It is quite impossible to describe the various rubber trees, 
and the different methods of gathering rubber, but it may be 
interesting to quote from an account of the method of its 
collection in Nicaragua, by Mr. Rowland W. Cater. ^ 

The best season for tapping the trees of Castilloa ehstica 
is from August to February. It is best also to perform the 
operation early in the morning before the daily rain, " or in 
the evening after the rain has fallen. The milk ... is 
white and of the consistency of cream. The tree thrives best 
in moist but not marshy forests. 

" It seeds in the tenth year, and ought not to be tapped 
before its eighth year, or its growth may be much retarded. 

" On reaching the group of trees, which numbered seventeen 
of various sizes, my Carib friends first cut away the twining 
creepers that almost hid the trunks, and then carefully re- 
moved a couple of buruchas, natural ropes of rubber, formed 
in the following manner : From incisions in the bark, possibly 
caused by woodpeckers or some insect, the juice often exudes, 
trickling down the trunk, in and out of the encircling creep- 

^ Chambers's Journal, Oct. 24th, 1896. 


ers, and sometimes reaching the ground. The milky stream 
coagulates and turns black as it runs, forming a long strip or 
cord, with which the huleros often tie up their bales. 

" The parasites removed, Pete and Jose strapped on their 
espuelas (climbing spurs), fastened at the knee and ankle, 
and having dug a small pit or basin at the foot of each of a 
couple of trees, passed a ring of stout rope round the trunks 
and their own waists, and walked up with their machetes 
between their teeth. By lifting the rope at every step they 
were enabled to stand almost erect, and when lying back in 
the ring both hands were at liberty. 

" Jose, whom I watched closely, commenced operations im- 
mediately below the first branch. With his broad-bladed 
sword he cut in the bark a horizontal canal which almost 
encircled the trunk and terminated in a V-shaped angle. 
From the point of the V downwards he next cut a perpen- 
dicular canal about two feet in length, which joined another 
horizontal channel ending in a V, and so on to the ground. 
In the last cut he inserted a large green leaf to serve as a 
funnel and guide the milk into the basin. 

" The Brazilian rubber collectors always place a receptacle 
of tin or earthenware in the hole at the foot of the tree to 
prevent the admixture of grit or other foreign matters ; they 
also strain the milk through coarse muslin ; hence the 
greater value of Para rubber. But Nicaraguan methods are 

In the Congo Free State the taxes are paid by the 
collection of rubber. It is alleged that " if the demands for 
rubber or other produce were not satisfied, the people at 
fault were flogged often most barbarously with a thong of 
twisted hippopotamus hide, called the chicotta. Or else the 
natives were told to catch the women from the offending 


villages, who were brought to the Chef de Poste and imprisoned 
by him as hostages for the industry of their husbands. Or 
else the sentries shot some of the defaulters as examples to 
the rest. Frequently there were armed expeditions into 
refractory districts and widespread promiscuous slaughter. 
The cannibal soldiers of the State or of the Company some- 
times feasting on the bodies of the slain." ^ 

The supply of rubber has of recent years shown signs of 
becoming exhausted. As time goes on the Indians of the 
Amazon and Orinoco must every year travel deeper into the 
inaccessible forests of the Amazon, Orinoco, or in Nicaragua. 
Every year also makes it more difficult for the Malagasy in 
Madagascar, or the Negroes in West Africa and the Congo, 
to gather sufficient rubber for the world's ever-growing 
needs. Liberia, the Negro Republic, is said still to possess 
plenty of rubber; but it is probable that the true solution of 
the difficulty will be found in the plantation of rubber trees. 
The exports from Madagascar in 1903 were valued at 
2,585,000 francs ; from Brazil, £9,700,000 ; from Nicaragua, 
400,000 gold pesos (twelve pesos to the £) ; from the 
Congo, 47,000,000 francs; but even then about 85,000 
rupees worth of rubber was exported from plantations in 
Ceylon. Unfortunately the trees do not begin to yield until 
they are eight years old, but the estimated profit per acre 
is very high, at least according to some authorities, who 
give a yield of £88 per acre (in Nicaragua). 

One cannot help hoping that this will be the case. 
When one thinks, e.g., of the Uachins in the forests at the 
head of Namkong, who spend forty days in carrying their 
rubber on men's shoulders across the mountains to Assam, or 
of the horrible stories of the Congo Free State, plantation 

^ Contemporary/ Revimv, Dec., 1905. Mr. Herbert Samuel, m.p. 



seems decidedly a more satisfactory method of supplying us 
with golf balls and bicycle tyres. 

The first account of india-rubber is found in Herrera 
(Columbus's second voyage), who describes the way in which 
the natives play "with great dexterity and nimbleness." 
" They struck balls with any part of their bodies."" 

Juan de Torquemada in 1615 gives quite a good description 
of the Castilloa rubber : — 

" The tree is held in great estimation, and grows in a hot 
country. It is not a very high tree : the leaves are round 
and of an ashy colour : it yields a white milky substance, 
thick and gummy and in great abundance. It is wounded 
with axe or cutlass, and from the wound the liquid drops 
into calabashes : Indians who have got no calabashes smear 
their bodies over with it (for nature is never without a re- 
source), and when it becomes dry remove the whole incrus- 
tation." ^ 

The first patent for waterproofing seems to have been 
granted in 1791. A Charles Macintosh invented the gar- 
ment named after him in 1823. 

Very little of the commercial rubber is obtained from the 
common Indiarubber Fig {Ficus elasticus) which we com- 
monly grow indoors. This is one of those species of the 
Fig family which are generally found growing on the 
branches or trunks of other trees, though their own roots 
crawl down the trunk of the support to the ground. Once 
these roots have reached the ground, they take firm hold and 
grow so large and thick that they may be able to hold up the 
Fig tree even if the original support decays and crumbles 

The gutta-percha which we use comes chiefly from Singa- 

^ Collins, Guiia-pei'cJui and Irulia-rtibber, 


pore, which is a sort of world's market for rubber. There 
are a great many different varieties and substitutes of this 
substance, but the best kinds come [from Malaysia, Singa- 
pore, Sumatra, Java, and Borneo. The uses of gutta-percha 
and of vulcanite, which is manufactured from it, are very 
varied. Thus, it is employed for the soles of boots, door- 
handles, pipes, ear-trumpets, buckets, submarine cables, etc. 
It is indestructible in sea-water, and does not conduct 

A very extraordinary exception to the general rule that 
latex is highly poisonous, is found in the famous Cow Tree of 
Venezuela. This tall tree (it is often 100 feet high) is found 
in large forests near Cariaco, on the coast of that country. 
Its milk is said to closely resemble ordinary milk in taste, 
and to be perfectly wholesome and nutritious, but it is 
rather sticky. This tree was responsible for all sorts of 
curious and extraordinary legends in the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries. 



Robin-run-the-Hedge — Bramble bushes — Climbing roses — Spiny, wiry- 
stems of smilax — The weak young stem of a liane — The way in which 
stems revolve — The hop and its Kttle harpoons — A climbing palm 
— Rapidity of turners — The effect of American life on them — Living 
bridges — R<^>e bridges in India — The common sUtchwort — Tendrils — 
Their behaviour when stroked or tickled — Their sensibility — Their 
grasping power — The quickness with which they curve and their sense 
of weight — Charles Darwin— Reasonableness of plants — Corkscrew 
spirals — The pads of the Virginian Creeper — The ivy — Does it do 
harm ? — Embracing roots — Tree ivy. 

THERE are many plants which depend upon and cling 
to other more sturdy kinds, and which would be quite 
unable to live upon the earth at all if they had not 
developed the most beautiful methods of doing so. 

In autumn, as soon as the leaves of the Hawthorn have 
fallen off, one is sure to find upon the hedges the common 
Robin-run-the-Hedge (Goosegrass, Cleavers, or Sticky Willie, 
for it is known by all these nicknames as well as by its 
proper name, Galium aparhie). 

Its stem is exceedingly weak, but it will be found sometimes 
to be six or seven feet long. It does not support itself, but 
is resting amongst and entangled in the outer twigs of the 
hedge in such a manner that it cannot be blown away by the 
wind or indeed picked out without its being broken. The 
young stems grow upright and are vigorous at first, but soon 



they cannot bear their own weight, and fall back upon a 
branch of the hedge. There are small curved little rough- 
nesses along the stem and on the under side of the leaves of 
the Galium ; these hitch on to the twig. Up to this point then 
the stem is supported, and the young part above grows until 
it also gets a lodgment, and so it goes on until it sometimes 
reaches right over the top of the hedge. 

Its young flowering branches grow out towards the light 
away from the main stem, and the yellow withered stem in 
autumn rests upon the hedge just as a piece of string laid 
upon it might do. 

The Bramble and Rose manage to get a support in very 
much the same way, but in Great Britain the Bramble 
generally grows in open ground and its branches take 

The peculiar, curved-back prickles of the Bramble and its 
arching sideways growth would of course hang it on to any 
horizontal branches in the neighbourhood. Kerner measured 
the length of the stem of a Bramble which had interwoven 
itself into the boughs of a tree, and found that it was over 
twenty feet long, although it was only one-third of an inch 
thick. In Chile one often finds hedges of Brambles ten to 
fifteen feet in height, which have been formed by the aid of 
other plants, and also by the way in which the branches 
become entangled with one another. 

Some Climbing Roses act in a very similar way, especially 
if grown on trellis, but the flower shoots always turn to the 
light like those of the Galium. 

But it is the creepers and lianes of the tropical forests 
that are the most remarkable of all climbing plants. They 
twine round the stems and hang in great loops and grotesque 
folds from the branches. Sometimes in the dense shade it 



may be difficult to see the main stem, for it is quite thin, 
though as strong as a piece of steel wire. It often happens, 
when hurrying through a rather open part of the forest 
after game, that one's leg suddenly catches in a thin, spiny, 
wiry stem of Smilax or some such creeper. The first that 
one knows of the creeper is when a quarter of an inch of the 
spine is buried in one's flesh. 

Away up amongst the branches and foliage far above one's 
head, leaves and flowers are developed on numerous branches 
which have vigorously pushed out as soon as they got near 
the sunlight, this tough, spiny, thread-like stem being 
their only connexion with the ground. 

The development of these climbing plants is probably 
connected with the dense shade of forests. In such places 
a young stem growing up will become long and drawn out ; 
its tip will droop over and hang downwards. But there is a 
curious peculiarity in the growth of all stems. The stem 
generally grows more rapidly at any one time on one side, 
say on the north, and therefore bends over to the opposite 
side. After a time it will be growing most rapidly on the 
eastern side and then its head points westwards, and so on. 
The result is that the tip of the stem swings in an irregular 
circle round the stem itself. Its head turns to every point 
of the compass in succession. Supposing a stone is tied to 
the end of a piece of string, and one swings the stone 
horizontally in a circle, then, if an upright stick is put in 
the ground and the string comes against it, the string will 
coil itself round the stick because the stone goes on swinging 

Our young climbing plant in the shade of the forest acts 
in exactly the same way. If there is any trunk of a suitable 
size, it will in the course of its revolving or sweeping round 



first touch and then coil itself round and round the trunk.^ 
Of these twining stems, one of the most interesting and 
beautiful is the common Hop. The young shoots or suckers 
which come from the ground may be seen waving their 
stems helplessly round in the air. If they cannot find some- 
thing to cling to, then they form weak limp curves, but if 
one such shoot touches a pole it very soon obtains a hold, 
wraps itself round the support, and easily climbs up to 
a height of many feet. But the Hop is worth examining 
closely. If one passes the fingers along the stem, it feels 
rough and prickly. With the aid of a hand-lens, a whole 
series of most exquisite little hooks will be discovered. They 
are like small pimples with two or three very fine and minute, 
sharp grappling-hooks on the top. These prevent the stem 
from slipping off. It is also helped in climbing by its 
leaves, which curve outwards, and are also provided with 
grappling prickles on the under side. At the top of the 
stem the young leaves are close together, and folded near the 
point, so as not to interfere with the tip finding its way in 
and out of a trellis- work or amongst branches. 

These grappling-hooks on the Hop are as perfect in their 
way, though by no means so beautiful and elegant as those 
which are found in the climbing palm, Desmoncus, so well 
described by Kerner in his Natural History of Plants. It is 
one of the rotang palms which reach lengths of 600 feet, 
though their stem may be no more than IJ to 2 inches 
thick. The leaflets towards the end of the leaf are trans- 
formed into strong spiny barbs which are exquisitely adapted 
to hang on to other plants. In many places, thickets in 
which these rotang palms have developed are so matted and 

^ Henslow, Origin of Plant Structures ; Warming, Beo. Gen. de Bot., 
torn. 5, p. 213. 



tangled together that it is quite impossible even to cut into 
them, and they are practically impenetrable. 

Some of our common British twiners climb very quickly. 
A complete turn round the supporting pole was made in 
England, at Charles Darwin's home, in the following times. 
The Hop took 2 hrs. 8 mins., Wistaria 2 hrs. 5 mins., Con- 
vohoilus 1 hr. 42 mins., and Phaseolus 1 hr. 54 mins. A 
Honeysuckle took 7 hrs. 30 mins. to make one complete turn 
round the support. 

Recently Miss Elizabeth A. Simons timed the rate of 
growth of the same plants at the University of Pennsylvania. 
They seem to have been stimulated by the exhilarating 
atmosphere of the United States, for they were all growing 
faster. The Hop did its turn in 1 hr. 5 mins., Phaseolus 
took from 1 hr. to 1 hr. 20 mins., Convolvulus 57 mins. 
only, Lonicera from 1 hr. 43 mins. to 2 hrs. 48 mins., and 
Wistaria 2 hrs.^ But there are curious variations in the 
rate at which these plants revolve. 

Thus when coming towards the light they go as fast as 
they can, but revolve more slowly, and as it were reluc- 
tantly, away from it. It has been found in one case that 
the shoot took thirty-five minutes to do the semicircle 
towards the light, and an hour and fifteen to twenty minutes 
going away from it, but this is not always the case, for 
sometimes the reverse takes place - (Baranetzki). 

These twining plants are not very common in Great 
Britain, and indeed in Europe. Some of them move or 
twine to the right (in the same direction as the hands of 
a watch or of the sun), such as Convolvulus (Bindweed), 
Phaseolus, Ipomcea, and Aristolochia. Others, like the Hop, 

1 Trans, and Proc. Bot. Soc. Pennsylvania, Session 1397-8, vol. 1, No. 1. 
' Pfeffer, Pjlanzen-Physiologie, voi. -2, p. ^12. 




Polygonum, Convolvulus, Honeysuckle, and Elephant's Foot, 
move in the opposite way from right to left, or " widder- 
shins." But there is nothing very important in this dis- 
tinction, for the Bittersweet may be found twining in either 
direction, and in some plants part of a stem may be twining 
one way and the other in the opposite direction. 

It is in the tropics, and especially in the rank, dark, 
moisture-laden atmosphere of the coast jungle forests, that 
these twiners attain their greatest development. 

They show the most extraordinary variety. Sometimes 
a twiner hangs in elegant festoons from branch to branch, 
forming a convenient suspension bridge for monkeys. Some- 
times four or five are wound round one another or twisted 
together, so that they look like some gigantic cable. In 
other cases they are knotted, looped, tangled, and twisted in 
the most inextricable manner. 

Some creepers are flat, like green ribbons or broad 
bands. In others the dense mass of old, thick creepers and 
twiners round some sturdy trunk becomes so thick and so 
fused together that when the trunk dies the lattice-like 
arrangement of these creepers may keep them upright 
although the original supporting trunk is quite rotten and 
decayed away. 

More usually, a tree will become unhealthy because its 
branches are overladen with the dense foliage and flowers of 
heavy lianes, and because both trunk and branches are so 
strangled in the embrace of great creepers that thfy cannot 
expand and develop in the proper way. Then a storm will 
overthrow the dead giant of the forest, and these creepers, 
entangled with all the surrounding trees, will produce ruin 
and destruction all around. 

A regular duty of the foresters in India is to cut the stems 



of climbing plants. These twining, trailing, rope-like creepers 
are, in fact, natural ropes, and are used as such in India, 
Burma, and other places. Sometimes they form natural 
bridges of living plants extending across a stream. The 
great suspension bridges in the valleys of the Himalayas are 
sometimes made without a single nail or plank. They are 
just three ropes (one for the feet and two to hold on by) 
made of jungle creepers. Crossing one of these swinging, 
swaying creeper-bridges is not an easy matter for those whose 
heads are unaccustomed to depths of hundreds of feet below 
them, especially if combined with a motion of the creeper- 
bridge sufficient in itself to produce violent seasickness. Yet 
the natives run across them with loads on their heads ! 

But it is not necessary to go to the tropics to find 
interesting and ingenious climbing plants. 

There is a very common little British plant, SteUaria 
hohstea (the Star of Bethlehem, Great Starwort, or Stitch- 
wort), which is common in shady places, light woods, and by 
hedges. In the spring it grows very quickly, and the pairs 
of leaves are shut together over the growing point, so that 
the end of the stem is narrow and can insert itself between 
the leaves and twigs of the neighbouring plants. As soon 
as such a growing end gets out of the foliage into the light, 
each pair of leaves opens out and curves backwards, making 
a pair of broad, curved hooks excellently suited to hang the 
stem on to the leaves or twigs. Then another period of 
growth follows, and again a new pair of hook-like leaves 
opens out. The stem may be five or six feet long. 

In a rather rare Speedwell {Veronica scutellata) a very 
similar method is used, but the leaves have special little 
backward-pointing teeth on their edges which assist in the 
attachment process. 



But these leaves are not to be compared as regards perfec- 
tion of mechanism with the tendrils by means of which plants 
climb. These tendrils are thin, flexible, twining threads, 
which may be formed by the modification of whole leaves, 
in other cases of leaflets, or sometimes of branches. Sweet 
Peas, Vetches, Passion-flowers, Vines, and many other plants 
possess them. 

They are like twining plants in the way in which they 
revolve or twine so as to wrap themselves round anything 
which they touch. They move much faster than twining 
plants. A Cobaea tendril only takes twenty-five minutes to 
make a complete turn, Passion-flowers take from half to 
three-quarters of an hour, and the Vine tendril takes a little 
over an hour to make one complete turn. 

But in one way they diff'er altogether, for they are sensitive 
to contact. If tickled, they contract and embrace closely 
the object which is touching them. They show a most 
extraordinary sensibility and sensitiveness. 

As a matter of fact, these tendrils have a finer sense of 
touch and a much more delicate feeling of weight than any 
human being. They detect the weight of twenty-seven 
inches of a spider^s thread. 

It is, however, best to explain what happens. A half- 
grown curved tendril of the Passion-flower is perhaps the 
most interesting to experiment with, but any sort of tendril 
does quite well. If one very gently rubs the inner or concave 
side of its little hook, then in a very few minutes, or even 
seconds, the tendril distinctly curves. If this has happened 
naturally, as when for instance it has been rubbing upon a 
pea-stick, this curve makes it curl round the stick, and the 
more it touches the more it curls, until the whole tendril is 
wrapped round the support. 



It is, of course, quite impossible to explain it all exactly : 
the sensitive part on the inside of the curve differs from the 
outside or convex part of the tendril ; the former has a layer 
of elongated, thin-walled cells, full of the living matter, pro- 
toplasm, which are absent on the outer side. Immediately 
the tendril touches the stick, the outer convex surface begins 
to grow rapidly. It grows from forty to 200 times as fast as 
the inner side which touches the stick ! Very soon after it 
has clasped the stick the tendril becomes woody and forms a 
strong, woody, spiral coil. 

These tendrils can be made to curve by a weight exceed- 
ingly small. The most sensitive part of our own skins is 
quite unable to distinguish so small a weight as is perceived 
by these tendrils. Even the sensation of taste can only be 
produced by a weight eight times as great as that shown by 
some of them. Tendrils curve very quickly after they have 
been touched. In twenty seconds some tendrils curve 
{Cyclanthera\ others (Passiflora) take thirty seconds, and 
some of them require four to five minutes or even longer 
before they make up their minds to coil. 

Even more remarkable, however, is the fact that they do 
not coil when raindrops fall on them, giving a much harder 
blow than small weights. If one tendril touches or rubs 
against another, it is said not to curve. They are persever- 
ing little things also, for Darwin got a passion-flower tendril 
to curve when struck or rubbed no less than twenty-one 
times during fifty-four hours. 

If one reflects on all these curious facts, it is diflicult to 
help feeling that these plants behave very much in the way 
that a reasonable animal would do. There are many other 
cases in which some vegetable does exactly what we should 
expect of reasonable beings under the circumstances. The tip 
X 321 


of the root (see p. 89), the Sensitive Plant, the Monkey 
and Barberry flowers, are all well-known cases. 

So that it is difficult to find anything in science to con- 
tradict the comfortable belief that wide-open flowers and 
stretched-out leaves of plants as they drink in the warm rays 
of the sunlight are really enjoying themselves, whilst they 
are doing their day**s work. 

All these interesting facts are so beautifully described and 
so carefully summed up by Charles Darwin, that we shall 
only earnestly recommend our readers to get first that fas- 
cinating book The Power of Movement in Plants^ and then 
read all the rest of his works.^ 

There are an extraordinary number of these plants and 
the tendrils are formed exactly where they will be most 
useful. Every part of a leaf may become a tendril. The 
whole leaf is changed into one in some kinds of Lathyrus. 
In a very beautiful creeper which is not so often grown in 
greenhouses as it might be (Ghriosa superba), the tip of the 
leaf only acts as a tendril. Leaflets are often made into 
tendrils. The Clematis is the most economical of them all, 
for the leaf-stalk coils round and forms little woody rings 
which hold up the plant. 

Before leaving the subject of tendrils, it may be interest- 
ing to notice the queer corkscrew spirals in which they roll 
themselves up. These spirals are formed after the end of the 
tendril has tied itself to the support and become woody. 
The free part between the end and its own stem goes on 
revolving ; now if you tie a piece of string at both ends and 
make it revolve, you will see at once that it must coil itself 

1 For the above facts : Pfeffer, Pjlanzen-Physiologie, vol. 2, pp. 423-8 ; 
Green, Vegetable Physiology, p. 3S9 ; Kerner, I.e., p. 697; Bonnier, I.e., 
p. 305. 



into a double spiral, one part in one direction and the other 
in the opposite way, with a flat piece between them. 

One might be disposed to think no more about these 
double coils ; but here comes in one of the curious, inex- 
plicable coincidences which happen so often in plant life. Such 
a coil is much stronger than a straight bit of wire or string 
would be, because if pulled out it yields and is springy. 
That of course makes it less probable that the tendril will 
be broken. Attached by a series of wiry springs, the plant 
yields and sways to the wind, and it is not likely that it will 
be torn away. Besides this, the coiling of the tendril pulls 
the stem closer to its support, which is also a great ad- 

Certain Virginian Creepers and Vines behave in quite a 
different manner. The tendrils grow away from the light 
and so seek the shadow of the leaves. They are also divided 
into little branches. At the tip of each little branch is a 
small knob ; if this should touch the wall or the trunk of a 
tree, etc., it immediately secretes a drop of cement and glues 
itself firmly to the wall. There is a curious difference in 
different sorts of Ampelopsis in this respect. There is no 
adhesive pad in one of them {Ampelopsis hederacea) until it 
touches, whilst A, Veitchii has them more or less ready for 
gluing before they touch (though they become much 
larger and better developed as soon as they rub against the 

One of the most interesting of our common climbers, "that 
rare old plant the Ivy green," has not yet been mentioned. 
It is exceedingly decorative on walls, especially on ruins and 
on old tree-trunks in winter time, where its dark, brilliant 
green is most effective. 

1 Henslow, Origin of Plant Structures^ p. 223. 


A violent controversy rages as to whether it does good or 
harm. Unhappily it does not do any good to trees. It 
does not suck their sap, for its roots do not get through the 
bark, but it does choke, with its clinging branches, young 
tree-stems, and prevents their growing properly. 

Also, in winter storms an ivy-covered tree is much more 
likely to be blown down. But on walls the ivy certainly 
does good, for it sucks up the moisture, and ivy-covered 
walls are much more dry inside than those which are exposed 
to rain. 

Its method of climbing is very curious. All along the 
stem quantities of little roots are produced. They dislike 
light, like most roots, and creep into crevices and cracks, 
where they wedge themselves in by growing thicker. Thus 
the stem is anchored all along its length. It is curious to 
find that these roots are formed before a twig is actually 
touching the wall, so as to be ready for any emergencies.^ 

One interesting little point in the growth of the ivy on a 
tree is perhaps worth mentioning. The main stem runs 
nearly straight up the trunk, and when young is pulled 
down into the crevices or cracks in the bark. But its 
branches leave the main stem at an angle of forty-five 
degrees or so to it ; these latter may often grow in this 
direction for a foot or eighteen inches, but then they 
gradually begin to turn more and more distinctly up the 
tree. Still these branches firmly clasp the trunk like arms 
spread out on either side of it, and make it almost impossible 
to dislodge the main stem. 

Old plants of ivy entirely surround the trunk. The 
flowering branches grow straight out into the air, and have 
no tendency to cling to the bark. Their leaves are also 
different. ^ Henslow, I.e. 



The ivy may be considered as a root-climber, although the 
branches assist by growing round the stem. 

A curious instance has been given me of the longevity oi 
ivy and its power of clinging to life. A correspondent 
mentions the case of a Scotch fir whose life was threatened 
by an ivy. The trunk of the ivy was sawn through. That 
did not kill it, at any rate immediately ! 

Probably the rain soaked up by the leaves, and by the roots 
in the crevices of the bark, kept it sufficiently fresh to cling 
to life. As it refused to die, a ladder was brought, and it 
was dragged off the tree. No doubt it would have died if 
the weather had been at all dry. 

There are some very beautiful tropical plants which also 
climb by means of their roots. These roots, the so-called 
girdle roots, grow right round the stem and embrace it, so 
that the climber is perfectly supported. 

It is impossible not to be impressed with the extra- 
ordinary variety of all these contrivances by which plants 
are able to escape the trouble of supporting themselves. 
But such ways of life involve certain disadvantages. Sup- 
posing there is nothing on which to climb, the stems trail 
feebly on the ground, and are probably soon choked by the 
surrounding grasses. Curiously enough, there are varieties 
of the Ivy, Wistaria, and the French Bean which are up- 
right, and do not climb at all. The Tree Ivy has all its 
leaves like the leaves of the flowering shoot in the common 
form. In America, Wistaria sinensis is often grown as a 
standard tree, and does not send out the long shoots, some- 
times thirty feet in length, which are common when it grows 
on walls. The dwarf French Bean has a thick stem and 
requires no support, yet it often puts out a long slender 
shoot which tries to twine round something. 



In a tropical forest also, the creepers, though they damage 
the trees, yet manage to find space for their leaves and 
flowers : more vegetable matter is formed per square yard of 
ground than would be the case if there were no climbing 




The kinds of cannibals — Bacteria — Spring flowers — Pale, ghostly Wood- 
flowers — Their alliance with fungi — Gooseberries growing on trees — 
Orchid-hunting — The life of an orchid — The mistletoe — Balder the 
Beautiful — Druids — Mistletoe as a remedy— Its parasitic roots — The 
trees it prefers — The Cactus Loranthus — Yellow Rattle and Eyebright, 
or Milk-thief, and their root-suckers— Broomrape and toothwort — 
Their colour and tastes — The scales of the toothwort which catch 
animalcula — Sir Stamford Raffles — A flower a yard across — The 
Dodder — Its twining stem and sucker-roots — Parasites rare, degenerate 
and dangerously situated. 

THE word cannibal is often used in a very loose and 
unscientific way. Amongst some savage tribes it is 
the custom to eat old people and young children ; but 
this is only in seasons of famine and scarcity, when there is 
no other food available, and not because they are specially 
fond of them. But amongst other tribes wars are made for 
the special purpose of capturing fat young people to cook. 
Sometimes they have become so accustomed to such deli- 
cacies that they are unable to get their food in any other 
way. Of course, when tribes become "pure cannibals" of 
this last type they have to be destroyed like wild beasts. 

Among plants we find all sorts of transitions and degrees 
of cannibalism. There are plants which sometimes, and, as 
it were, accidentally, attack others. But there are also real 
cannibal plants which live entirely on the life-juices and 



sap of other plants, and cannot exist by their own labours 
at all. Moreover, we can find almost every conceivable state 
of transition. These can be clearly and definitely traced from 
those plants which depend on the labour of their own roots 
and leaves to others which have no leaves, and which con- 
sist merely of one large flower and a large adhesive sucker 
fixed on some one else's root. 

The difficulty is very often to know where to draw the 
line. Probably no flowering plant is quite independent of 
the labour and work of its neighbours. As we have tried to 
show in another chapter, a long preliminary cultivation 
by bacteria, lichens, and mosses is required before flowering 
plants can develop on bare rock. That is also necessary in 
all cases where the soil is mineral or iiiorganic, without any 
organic dust or fragments of vegetable or animal matter. 
Bacteria must always begin the work by preparing nitrates 
and other salts. 

So that only those bacteria which weather rocks can be 
called really free and independent. But other bacteria, such 
as those which cause typhoid, anthrax, hydrophobia, etc., 
are the best possible examples of pure cannibals, or, as they 
are usually described, parasites. 

This last word is derived from a peculiar class of people 
in ancient classical times, who used to appear whenever a 
meal was going to begin, and received food without giving 
anything in return. They are represented by our tramps or 
by the " sundowners " in Australia, who appear as soon as the 
evening meal is ready and when there is no possibility of 
going any further on their journey. 

The way in which plants became parasites or cannibals is 
a very interesting part of plant life, and we shall try to 
trace some of the various stages. 



To begin with, if one looks out for them in spring one is 
sure to find a whole series of beautiful spring flowers. 
There is the Primrose, with its bright, hardy, yellow flowers ; 
the Violet, whose strong perfume much annoys the hunts- 
man, for it spoils the " scent " and shows him that the end of 
winter has come ; the delicate little Moschatel, the Lesser 
Celandine, the Bluebell or Hyacinth, Dog's Mercury, the 
Male and the Lady Fern, and many others. 

Most of these begin to grow and are in flower early in the 
season. That is because they are living on the dead kaves 
of the last year, or rather of two or three years ago. Their 
roots are breaking up and devouring, with the help of 
worms, beetles, and insects, the leaf-mould of past seasons. 

They are quite dependent on the trees ; they cannot exist 
except where such leaf-mould is formed. 

But it is very difficult to tell whether these humble little 
herbs which live on the scraps that fall from the tall trees 
are either parasites or clients, which last do some good in 
return for their share. 

Probably they are distinctly useful and good for the forest 
if this is considered as a whole establishment. They use 
light which would otherwise be wasted, and their own dead 
leaves increase the annual deposit of leaf-mould. 

There are other plants, such as the Bird's-nest {Neottia) and 
Coralroot^ Orchids, as well as Monotropa and others, which 
also live on the rich, decaying leaf-mould of forests, but 
these are generally pale in colour, for they possess but little 
green chlorophyll. They are more directly dependent on 
the mould and have ceased to do much work for themselves. 

^ In the first, the entangled underground stems and roots resemble 
a bird's nest ; in the second, the peculiar red rhizomes are rather hke 



Most of them in fact have entered into an alliance with 
fungi, and use these fungi to get their food material from 
the dead leaves. 

Such fungi are always abundant in good, well-grown 
forests (see p. 86). These Orchids and Monotropa have 
their roots and underground stems covered and wrapped 
round by the fungus threads, which extend from them in 
every direction, breaking up and decomposing the dead 

The colour of Monotropa is a pale waxen yellow, that of 
the others is usually a ghostly pale, opalescent, steel-blue or 
coral-like hue, which makes them very distinct in the dim, 
mysterious shades of the forest. 

These plants are undoubtedly of use, for they break up 
and decompose the leaf-mould. 

Another very interesting group are not well represented 
in this country. Sometimes one may see on an old tree a 
Gooseberry bush in full foliage quite high up the trunk in 
the fork of the branches. In sheltered woody ravines. Poly- 
pody ferns are often established on old moss-clad branches, 
where their green fronds hang over to catch as much as they 
can of the sunlight. But Orchids, Bromeliads, and Ferns 
which grow upon the branches of great trees are one of the 
most conspicuous and beautiful features of tropical woods. 
It is for these tree-orchids that the orchid-hunter braves the 
head-hunters of Borneo or traverses the precipices and 
rugged forests of Guatemala and Brazil. It is often neces- 
sary to cut down a tall tree in order to get the orchids in its 
higher branches. Often, however, this is unsuccessful, for the 
tree is so held up by creepers and other giants of the forest 
that it never reaches the ground ! 

Then, after being stripped from the branches, in some 


Cinnamon Peeling in Ceylon 

Sietn and Co. 


out-of-the-way forest-clad range of Burma, Celebes, South 
America, or Madagascar, these orchids are dried, put up in 
crates and packed off to London, where they are carefully 
cultivated in hot-houses and persuaded to flower. They 
may be worth sixpence or they may be worth £500 each, 
but no one can tell until they have flowered in London. 

But the romance of the orchid-hunter is not exactly what 
we have to describe here. It is rather the romance of the 
life of the orchid itself. 

It is perched high up on the branches of the tallest trees 
in the forest, exposed to sun, exposed to wind, and quite 
unable to gather either salts or rain from the soil. How, 
then, does it manage to live ? 

These orchids, it must be remembered, are only found in 
out-of-the-way and feverish, unhealthy places, where the 
aboriginal savages still lurk and endure a dreadful existence 
of hunger and starvation in dense tropical forests. 

Now the word " dense "" explains the whole story. Those 
forests are so thick, so full of giant trees and exuberant 
growth, that civilized man even to-day in 1906 can make 
nothing of them, and leaves them to the savage. The 
reason why vegetation is so luxuriant is simply that there 
are both plentiful moisture and a hot, tropical sun. That 
makes the life of the orchid possible, and also ensures 
malaria for the hunter. 

It hangs out into the moist air long pendulous roots 
which act as so many sponges absorbing and soaking in 
moisture. The tremendous energy of growth covers bark 
and branches with creeping plants innumerable, with a pro- 
fusion of moss, liverworts, and ferns such as we cannot 
imagine from our own experiences in this country. So the 
roots of our orchid find on the branches rich leaf-mould, 



and it lives happily and contentedly on the salts and 
moisture accumulated by the mosses and other plants. Its 
leaves are fleshy and succulent, rather like those of a desert 
plant, so that it can store up water against a season of 

These plants which grow in this way on other plants, do 
not, as a rule, greatly injure them, but many have not 
stopped at this stage. Take, for instance, the Gooseberry 
growing in the fork of an old tree. Some bird has been 
eating gooseberries and dropped the seed there. The roots 
of the gooseberry will grow down into the rotten part of the 
trunk. Earth and leaf-mould will accumulate there, and it 
is quite probable that the whole inside of the tree will 
decay away. The roots of the gooseberry will, if only in- 
directly, help in this decay. 

But it is far otherwise with another set of plants — the 
Mistletoe and its allies. There is plenty of romance con- 
nected with the mistletoe. Dr. M. T. Masters says as 
follows : " The origin of the modern custom connected with 
mistletoe is not very clear. Like many other customs, its 
original significance is only guessed at. If known, perhaps, 
the innocent merriment now associated with the plant would 
be exchanged for a feeling of stern disapproval, and the 
mistletoe would be banished from our homes. In such a 
case ignorance is bliss.''"' 

It will be remembered that all the gods of Iceland were 
once gathered together so that a general oath might be 
exacted of every plant "that grew upon the earth," that 
they would do no harm to Balder the Beautiful. The 
Mistletoe did not take the oath, because it does not grow 
upon the earth but upon a tree. Then the enemy 
fashioned an arrow out of the mistletoe, and killed Balder. 



There is a modern idea that the story is a myth repre- 
senting the death of Spring, for a great many similar 
stories occur in widely distant places. 

However, it seems pretty certain that the plant was a 
sacred one to the Druids in the time of the Romans. 

Ovid speaks of this in the line, "Ad Viscima Druidae 
can tare solebant." At their solemn meetings, which were 
held in remote sacred groves, a Druid clad in white robes 
cut the mistletoe with a golden sickle. Then, apparently, 
human sacrifices were offered and a general festival took 

Some remnant of this custom seems to have persisted in 
Herefordshire until recent times, for the tune "Hey derry 
down, down down derry '' (which means in a circle move we 
round the oak) is supposed to be a relic of the hymn chanted 
by the Druids when they had found mistletoe on the oak. 

It was said in the Middle Ages to be a useful cure for 
apoplexy, madness, and giddiness. That is not at present 
the general view. Indeed, under present conditions it might 
conceivably promote the last and even the second of these 
disorders, though in an agreeable way ! 

The Mistletoe and its allies, Loranthus and Arceutho- 
bium, grow upon the branches of trees like the orchids and 
gooseberries already mentioned, but they differ altogether in 
having a special kind of absorbing root which sinks down 
into the bark until it reaches the wood of the " host " tree. 
The sap running up the tree is then tapped by this root, 
and goes to supply the mistletoe with water and salts in 
solution. It has, however, its own green leaves. Thrushes 
eat the berries of the mistletoe ; they will be left upon a 
branch with the guano ; as the latter dries up, the seed is 
drawn to the underside of the branch, and sticks in a crack 



or crevice ; it then sends the sinker-root mentioned above 
into the branch. 

Every year afterwards new mistletoe " roots " are formed 
which grow through the soft part of the bark and send down 
sinkers into the wood. Cases *of Mistletoes forty years old 
have been recorded. The trees which they prefer are the 
Apple, and after that Black Poplar, though mistletoe may 
be found on Silver Fir, various Pines, and others. It is 
more difficult to get it to grow on the Oak than on any 
other tree. Indeed, only seven cases of mistletoe growing on 
oak have been recorded in this country.^ It is quite a valu- 
able crop in some places, and is sent in tons to the London 

There are many species of Mistletoe, and at least one kind 
attacks, and is parasitic upon, another species of Mistletoe. 

Most Mistletoes and Loranthus have their own green 
leaves, and only take from the plant to which they are 
attached sap and mineral salts. But in Chile there is a 
beautiful Loranthus that has practically no green leaves at 
all. Its blood-red flowers grow in dense masses upon the 
giant Cactus, which is common on the drier hills, and these 
are always mistaken for the Cactus's own flowers, which are 
quite different. These almost leafless Loranthus, and the 
curious Arceuthobium are more parasitic than ordinary 
mistletoes, for they obviously take other food material 
(probably sugar and albuminoids) from their " host.**' 

Another series of parasites or cannibals are quite common 
in Great Britain. One often sees in some meadow that the 
grasses are growing in a scanty and unhealthy manner ; one 
then notices amongst them numbers of the Yellow Rattle or 
the Eyebright (which the Germans call Milkthief). These 
^ Dr. Bull, Journal of Botany t vol. 2, p. 273. 


plants are not very remarkable in any way, but if one 
examines them closely one sees that the leaves and stems are 
more purplish-red than is at all usual with our ordinary 
flowering plants. But if you dig up some specimens very 
carefully, then the wickedness of the Yellow Rattle and 
Eyebright becomes apparent ; every here and there upon 
their roots are little whitish swellings which are firmly 
attached to the roots of other plants (generally of grasses). 
These two robber plants send from these swellings minute 
sucker-roots which pierce into the grass-root and intercept 
the water which the grass has been absorbing for itself. 

They are therefore parasites, and indeed they may cause a 
considerable loss of forage in a meadow. 

A good many other British plants are root thieves. 
Besides these two, there are the Cow-wheat, Red Rattles, 
Toadflax, Broomrapes, and Toothwort. 

A curious point about them is that they differ amongst 
themselves in the degree in which they are dependent on the 
work of others. Some are able to grow quite well without any 
such extraneous help, but the Broomrape and Toothwort are 
entirely dependent on others' labours. They have extremely 
little chlorophyll and very small leaves, and are clearly 
parasites " pure and simple." 

There are about 180 species of Broomrape (Orobanche). 
All of them attack roots, and most confine their attentions 
to one particular flowering plant. Their colours are 
generally very striking and unusual. Our British species 
are reddish, flesh-coloured, or dirty white, but some of the 
foreign kinds are blue or violet, yellow, or yellowish to dark 
brown. Generally the seedling Broomrape worms its way 
down into the earth till its root-tip touches the root of its 
special favouiite host, then the root of the Broomrape fixes 



itself for life ; its suckers grow into the host and absorb all 
the food material which it requires. Those kinds which 
attack Tobacco and Hemp are dangerous pests and do con- 
siderable damage. 

The Toothwort {Lathraed) is so called because its scales 
have a sort of resemblance to human teeth. With the 
curious superstition which prevailed in medieval times, it was 
supposed that the plant must be a remedy for toothache 
because it resembled teeth. Unfortunately this is not the 

It is, generally, quite like the Broomrape in its method of 
growth, but it sends out long thread-like branching roots 
with suckers on the ends, which become fastened on the 
Hazel roots. For several years the plant remains under- 
ground and forms very odd-looking, white, scaly branches. 
These scales are rolled back in such a way as to form peculiar 
and irregular cavities which open to the outside near the 
tip of the leaf. There is no doubt that animalcula of sorts 
get into these cavities and probably die there. In that case, 
their remains will form a useful supplement to the diet of 
the plant. The following remarks, however, taken from 
Kerner have been disputed by other botanists. 

Certain of the cells lining these cavities " appear to send 
out delicate filaments. 

"When small animals penetrate into the labyrinthine 
chambers of a Lathraea leaf and touch the organs just 
described, the protoplasmic filaments are protruded and lay 
themselves upon the intruders. They act as prehensile arms 
in holding the smaller prey, chiefly Infusoria, and impede the 
motion of larger animals so as to cut off their retreat. No 
special secretion has been observed to be exuded in the foliar 
chambers of Lathraea. But seeing that some time after the 



creatures have entered the chambers, the only remains of 
them that one meets with are claws, legs, bristles, and little 
amorphous lumps, their sarcode-tlesh and blood having van- 
ished and left no trace, we must suppose that the absorption 
of nutriment from the dead prey here ensues. . . ." ^ 

But strange as these Broomrapes and Toothworts may be, 
they are quite inconspicuous as compared with the gigantic 
parasites found in Sumatra and Java. 

In 1818, when Sir Stamford Raffles was making a tour in 
the interior of Sumatra, his party came across one of those 
extraordinary plants which have been called after him. 

Imagine a gigantic flower in shape resembling a very fleshy 
forget-me-not, but more than a yard across ! The colour is 
a livid, fleshy tint, and the smell is like that of a charnel- 
house. This extraordinary Rafflesia Arnoldii is the biggest 
flower in the world. It has no proper stems or leaves, but 
consists merely of this huge flower-bud attached to the 
roots of Figs, etc., which traverse the ground in these 
forests. It is said to be only found in places frequented by 
elephants, which are supposed to carry its seeds on their feet. 

There are four other kinds known : all of them occur in 
Sumatra, Java, and other neighbouring islands. R. Padma 
for example, has a flower about eighteen inches across. The 
central part is a dirty blood-red, while the lobes have almost 
the colour of the human skin. This also has a " cadaverous 
smell, anything but pleasant." 

These weird Rafflesias seated on the roots " which wind 
about on the dark forest ground" have impressed every 

Yet if one glances back, it is interesting to see how 
insensible are the transitional steps which lead from indepen- 
^ Kerner and Oliver, Natwral History of Plants^ vol. 1, p. 136. 
Y 337 


dent life by the plant's own exertions to these last " pure 
parasites,*" which are entirely dependent on other plants for 
everything that they require. 

The only other flowering plant which we shall mention in 
this chapter is now fortunately very rare in Great Britain. 
This is the Dodder, Cuscuta, It belongs to the Convolvulus 
or Bindweed order, but is entirely different from the rest of 
the family. Some climbing plants do throttle or choke the 
trunks of young trees if they twine round them too closely, 
but the Dodder has an entirely special and peculiar way of 
supporting itself to the detriment of others. It has no 
roots, no leaves, and scarcely any green chlorophyll ; the 
Dodder is just a twining, thread-like, yellowish stem which 
caiTies here and there small round clusters of little convol- 
vulus-like flowers. Wherever the Dodder thread twines 
round a hop or other plant, it puts out small suckers which 
drive their way into the stem of the hop and take from it 
all the food which the Dodder requires. When well de- 
veloped it forms dense yellowish tangles of intricately en- 
twined threads, which may cover whole bushes and entirely 
destroy the supporting plants. The Flax, Clover, and Hop 
Dodders are perhaps the worst of them all. 

There are some rather interesting points in the history of 
the tiny dodder-seedling. It remains, quietly waiting, for 
about a month after most other plants have germinated. 

Then it begins to grow rapidly : its tip pierces the soil 
and becomes fixed in it ; then the rest of the little thread- 
like seedling begins to curve round or revolve. If it touches 
a grass or even a nettle stem, it twines itself or coils round 
it, drives in its suckers, and, on the strength of the nourish- 
ment which it extracts, it goes on revolving or turning until 
it forms the dense tangled masses referred to. 



Then an eruption of flowers appears, from which later on 
hundreds of tiny seeds are let loose which will become 
Dodders in their turn. 

The series of parasitic plants which have now been 
mentioned form a very interesting set. It must be pointed 
out that those which live merely on dead vegetable matter 
are " good " plants. They help on the quick and thorough 
employment of worn-out material. 

Nor can we say off-hand that other parasites are " bad."*' 
They do kill other plants and do them harm, but then, are 
they not like a cattle-breeder who sends his inferior cattle 
to the butcher, keeping only those which are the very best of 
their kind ? Perhaps these plants, by destroying the weak 
and unhealthy kinds, are doing a great deal of good. 

Another interesting point about such parasites is that 
they are generally rare. They must be less common than 
their " host." Yet another is that they are all " degenerates."" 
They show distinct traces of decay and bad development in 
their flowers and seed. That is also true in the case of 
parasitic animals. 

Whether they do good or harm to the world of plants is 
doubtful, but there is no doubt that they are doing harm to 
their own chances ! 



Brittle Star v. algae— Fungus v. meal-worm— Stag-headed caterpillars- 
Liverwort V. small insects — Natural flower-pots — Watercups of Brome- 
liads — Sarracenia and inquiring insects — An unfortunate centipede — 
Pitcher-plants : their crafty contrivances— Blowflies defy them and 
spiders rob them — Bladderwort's traps which catch small fry — Hairs 
and their uses — Plants used as fly-papers — Butterwort v. midges — 
Its use as rennet — Sundew and its sensitive tentacles — Pinning down 
an insect — Suffocating and chloroforming the sundew — Venus' fly-trap 
which acts like a rat-trap — Have plants a nervous system ? 

ON the whole the animal world preys upon the veget- 
able world, and is in a way parasitic upon it. In- 
deed, the connexion between the two is very inti- 
mate — that of the diner and his dinner. One can scarcely 
imagine a more intimate connexion than this ! 

There are, however, a great many cases in which plants 
have turned the tables on their enemies and deliberately laid 
themselves out to catch and to destroy, to feed upon and to 
devour insects and small animals. One finds a few examples 
in almost every group of plants. 

Thus there are certain green seaweeds or algae which are 
said to attack and prey upon those peculiar sea-urchins 
known as Brittle Stars. The fungus which forms loops, 
acting exactly like a poacher's rabbit-snare,' in order to catch 
mealworms, has been already mentioned. 
; Sometimes in the summer one may notice a little red club 



about two to three inches long sticking out of short grass. 
If one carefully pulls this up it is found to be growing out 
of a dead chrysalis or grub. It is a fungus whose spores 
have attacked the caterpillar ; they have developed inside its 
body, and eventually, having completely eaten up the insect, 
form the red club, which is producing hundreds of thousands 
of spores intended to attack other caterpillars. 

The branches like stag's horns are the fruit of a fungus, Cordyceps Taylori, 
which lived inside and killed the caterpillar. 

An allied fungus forms a peculiar branched fruit rather 
like a minute stag's horn, and the caterpillar may be seen 
for some time crawling about with this extraordinary fungus 
sticking out of its head. Of course the bacteria are, some 
of them, by far the most dangerous foes of animals (see 
page 328). 

Then there is a small Liverwort, a little red, moss-like 
plant (Frullania tamarisci), which may be found growing on 
the bark of trees, which is said to catch animalcula in the 
small sack-like leaves which are underneath the ordinary 



But it is amongst the higher flowering plants that one 
discovers the most extraordinary and purposeful arrange- 
ments for capturing and digesting insects and other creatures. 

In the case of many of these insectivorous plants, traps or 
pitfalls are prepared for the insect to fall into. 

There are many plants in which the rain is intended to 
run in one particular direction, and it is not at all un- 
common to find hollows at the base of the leaf where dust, 
dirt, and dead insects accumulate. One very curious plant 
of this sort is Dischidia Raffiesiana, in which the leaves 
have become quite like a pitcher, and have been compared 
to "natural flower-pots" intended to hold rain and leaf- 

Then there is the Bromelia or Pineapple family, which 
consists for the most part of plants which live on the 
branches of trees. In very many of these a small cup is 
formed in the middle of the rosette or tuft of leaves, and 
water collects in this central cup. 

The water smells abominably, and contains the bodies of 
dead insects, and rubbish of all kinds (see also p. 298). The 
remnants of these drowned insects are probably of use, 
because any valuable nitrogenous or other material may be 
absorbed with the water by the plant and help, to nourish 
it, but in such a rough contrivance as this there is nothing 
comparable to the Side-saddle plant. Pitcher plant, and 

The former, Sarracenia (or Side-saddle plant), is a common 
and rather widespread North American plant, which is 
especially abundant in Florida. It is cultivated in most 
botanical gardens, but can only be grown in greenhouses. 
The leaves are about six inches to a foot long, and are 
1 Groom, Ann. Bot., 1903, p. 223, 


hollow, funnel-shaped tubes with a short, flat wing along 
one edge. They may be an inch or two in diameter at the 
top or wider end, where there is also a sort of half-open lid 
which keeps rain from getting into the inside of the leaf. 
The colour of these tube-like or vase-like leaves varies. It is 
often variegated with brown, red, and yellow, and is con- 
spicuous enough even at a distance. Thus insects fly to 
these vases and alight on the little cap or lid, where they 
find honey and enjoy themselves. Other insects crawl up 
along the rim or wing of the vase, finding honey here and 
there along their road. Having got to the lid, the insect, 
being of an inquiring or inquisitive disposition, will look 
inside the tube and endeavour to find more honey therein. 

It reaches the rim of the vase and finds that there is 
honey inside ; it can easily crawl down, and fails to notice 
that the inside of the vase is lined with long stiff" points 
which all point downwards. These points or hairs do not at 
all interfere with its passage down, and it proceeds to the 
honey which forms a smooth, slippery coating. Then, after 
greedily absorbing the honey, it tries to get out again. 
But that is quite a different matter. Each one of these 
points or hairs is facing it, and the whole inside is smooth 
and slippery. It struggles, slips, and falls into a pool of 
water which fills the lower part of the vase. That is what 
the plant has developed these pitchers for. The body of the 
insect after a time decays away, and only its empty shell 
remains. An extraordinary number of insects are caught by 
these Sarracenia vases. Sometimes in one which is only ten 
inches long, three or four inches will be full of the corpses 
of blackbeetles and other drowned insects, and it is said 
that birds occasionally visit these vases in order to pick 
them out. There is probably some sort of secretion in the 



water. "A centipede If inches long having fallen into a 
vase of Sarracenia purpurea in the night was found only 
half-immersed in the water. The upper half of the creature 
projected above the liquid, and made violent attempts to 
escape ; but the lower part had not only become motionless, 
but had turned white from the effect of the surrounding 
liquid ; it appeared to be macerated, and exhibited altera- 
tions which are not produced in so short a time in centipedes 
immersed in ordinary rain-water.''^ 

In some Sarracenias the vase is brought up into a sort of 
hood or dome with the entrance at one side and below. 
There are thin patches on this dome or cupola, and small 
insects, attracted by the light which comes through these 
bare places, remain dashing themselves against them or 
crawling over them just as flies do on a window-pane, until 
they become tired and fall down into the water below. 

There is something horrible in the cold and careful way 
in which this plant arranges its baits for " confiding insects. 
The latter are fed with honey, even on the very border of 
the assassin's den, but after this farewell revel they generally 
slip upon the smooth edge, and are hurled, like lost souls, 
down into the abyss." ^ 

In another plant, the Pitcher Plant {Nepenthes, so 
called from the drug which produces the sleep of death), 
we find an even more beautifully arranged pitcher which 
acts in very much the same way. It is, however, only the 
end of a rather long leaf, or rather of its midrib, that is 
turned up to act as a pitcher. There are similar stiff hairs 
pointing downwards, and honey is plentifully secreted. But, 
in Nepenthes, there is also a distinct secretion which digests 

1 Kerner, Natural History of Plants. Many details are taken from 
this work in the present chapter. ^ Dennett. 



the bodies of the drowning insects. The ferment resembles 
the active principle of the gastric and pancreatic juices of the 
human body, and, as acids are also present, the insect's body 
becomes changed into nutritious juices which readily diffuse 
into the plant.^ Dr. Macfarlane found that when the 
pitchers were stimulated by being given insects, the liquid 
inside them could digest fibrin to jelly in from three-quarters 
to one hour'*s time.^ But certain insects have somehow 
managed to educate their larvae to resist the gastric juices of 

Near Fort Dauphin, in Madagascar, I found great quanti- 
ties of Nepentlies madagascariensis. Almost every pitcher was 
one-third to two-thirds full of corpses, but in some of them 
large, fat, white maggots, of a very unprepossessing appear- 
ance, were quite alive and apparently thriving. These must 
have been the larvae of a blowfly similar to that which has 
been mentioned by others as inhabiting Sarracenia. At the 
same place a white spider was very often to be seen. Its 
web was spun across the mouth of a pitcher, and its body 
was quite invisible against the bleached remains inside. 

It had suited its colour to the corpses within, in order that 
it might steal from the Nepenthes the due reward of all its 
ingenious contrivances ! 

A totally different arrangement is found in an incon- 
spicuous and ugly little marsh and ditch plant called Utri- 
cularia or Bladderwort. It is very difficult to see, for unless 
it happens to be in flower it is entirely submerged in the 
water. The flowers, which are purple, are conspicuous and 
easily seen even at a distance. On these submerged leaves 
there are hundreds of small bladders. They are about the 

^ Green, Vegetable Physiology, p. 203. 

2 Annals Botany, vol. 3, p. 253, and vol. 6, p. 401. 



size of a pea, and are most ingeniously contrived to catch 
small water-animalcula. The general idea of the bladder- 
wort is exactly that of the eel-pots so common in some parts 
of the Thames. There is a small flap which acts as a trap- 
door. Small creatures probably take refuge in the bladders 
when pursued by the larger water-fleas, etc., for it must seem 
to them to be a safe and secure retreat. 

But once within the door, they are imprisoned and cannot 
find their way out again. They perish inside and their 
bodies are digested by the plant ; on the inside of the bladder 
there are gland hairs which also secrete a digestive fluid. 

The bladderwort is dangerous to fish, for the little fry, 
when quite small, run their heads and gills into the bladders 
and are suffocated. 

There are a great many kinds of Utricularia, and they 
occur in most of the great floral regions. 

One of them has chosen a very extraordinary and curious 
situation. It lives inside the little cups of water which, as 
we have already mentioned, are formed by the leaves of some 
Bromeliads. The insects in the water which ought to 
nourish the Bromeliad (Tillandsia) are really used by the 
Utricularia. Other Utricularias live in damp earth, moss, etc. 

It is not only by traps and pitfalls that plants catch 
insects : many have specially modified hairs which are quite 
efficient insect-catchers. 

Hairs are used by plants for many different purposes, and 
it is rather interesting to see how quite a simple organ like 
a hair can be altered. The stinging hair of the nettle has 
already been mentioned ; many grasses possess minute, rough, 
flinty hairs, which probably prevent snails from eating them. 
That also is probably the reason of the strong, rough, coarse 
hairs which cover the Borage and the Comfrey. 



Then on the Chickweed and the Bird's-eye Speedwell 
there are lines of rather long, flexible hairs which at first 
sight appear to be of no use at all. But if you take either 
of these plants, and, holding it upright, place a large drop 
of water on the leaves, you will see that these hairs are 
intended to carry the water down the stem. The water runs 
along them. It is a very pretty little experiment, especially 
if done in artificial light, so that these hairs are, like the 
root hairs, intended to absorb or suck up water as it passes 
over them. Then the Edelweiss and the Lammie's Lug 
{Stachys lanatd) are entirely covered with white cotton-woolly 
hairs : these are intended to keep the water in the plant, 
and do so as effectually as a rough woollen coat will keep 
out rain and mist. Silky hairs, downy hairs, and others are 
found wrapping up the tiny baby leaves in the bud: they 
probably keep them warm, and perplex and ward off objec- 
tionable insects. 

But, perhaps, the sticky or glutinous hairs are the most 
wonderful of all. They are found on many plants, such as 
Salvia glutinosa^ Plumbago, and Catchfly. One can see 
insects stuck on them and vainly struggling to be free, and 
the hairs undoubtedly prevent green-fly and other such pests 
from interfering with the honey of the flower. In some of 
these cases it has been shown that the body of the insect is 
actually used as food, but that is more obvious with two 
interesting plants which specially devote themselves to the 
capture of insect prey. One of these is very often kept in 
the Boer farmhouses near Tulbagh, in South Africa, simply 
to attract the flies, which are a perfect pest in those dry 
valleys. Another Drosophyllum, the Fly-Catcher, grows on 
sandy and rocky ground in Portugal and Morocco. This is 
^ Macchiati, Botan. CentralblaU, 41, 190. 


also used by the peasants near Oporto as a convenient fly- 

In both of these plants large drops of a sticky, glistening 
liquid are secreted by the hairs which cover the leaves. 
Any small insect alighting on the latter is sure to get 
covered by the liquid, and in trying to get away will become 
hopelessly involved in it. It is probably soon suffocated, for 
the gummy matter will choke the small air-holes by which it 
breathes. Both these plants are said to secrete both an acid 
and a digestive secretion. 

But we have two plants which are even more interesting 
in this country. 

Walking over the rough marshy pastures or moors of 
Scotland one is sure to notice, generally on wet peaty and 
barren soil, a little rosette of bright, yellow -green, glistening 
leaves. If it is the right season there will be a handsome 
purple flower whose stalk springs from them. This is the 
Butterwort {Pinguicula), and it is not a bad name, for the 
leaves remind one of butter. The whole upper surface of 
the leaves is covered with tiny glands secreting a sticky, 
glistening matter. It is said that there will be as many as 
fifty thousand of these glands on a square inch of the upper 

Now in such places every one knows that there are 
quantities of midges, and also that these insects are always 
exceedingly thirsty. They prefer blood, it is true, but when 
they see these bright yellowish leaves they naturally go to 
them. When, however, the midge touches the leaf, the 
sticky liquid clings to its wings and legs, and it cannot 

So far this does not diff'er from the Fly Catchers men- 
tioned above, but another very curious action then begins. 



If the midge or fly is near the margin of the leaf, the 
edge of the latter begins to curl or roll inwards over it. 
It does so very slowly, and may not finish rolling over the 
insect for some hours. Whilst this is going on acids and 
" gastric juice," or ferments which act in the same way, are 
being poured over the body of the midge, which is finally 
completely digested. Next day, having finished the midge, 
the leaf majestically unrolls itself again and waits for 

The juice contains rennet, and is used by the Lapps in 
making a horrible delicacy called Tatmiolk. It has also 
been used by the Swiss shepherds for at least two hundred 
years, to cure sores on cows' udders. 

The other British plant is the Sundew (Drosera). Every 
one who has been on peat-mosses and moors probably knows 
its little reddish rosettes of small rounded or spoon-shaped 
leaves lying on bare peat or wet mossy ground. Each leaf 
seems to be covered by hundreds of glittering little dewdrops 
(whence the name). 

The hairs or tentacles which cover the leaf secrete this 
glistening, sticky fluid. There must be about two hundred 
of them on a single leaf. 

An insect flying about near the Sundew is sure to be 
attracted by the conspicuous glittering, reddish leaves, and 
probably alights upon it. Then it finds itself caught and 
begins to struggle, but this simply brings it against more 

Now happens the most wonderfiil part of the whole per- 
formance. All the neighbouring tentacles, although they 
have not been touched, bend over towards the struggling 
insect and pin it down in the middle of the leaf. They do 
not bend over very quickly. In two or three minutes they 



will bend over towards it through an angle of forty-five 
degrees, and it takes them ten minutes to bend over ninety 

There is something rather horrible in the sight of a large 
insect struggling with these slow, remorseless, well-aimed 
tentacles ; most people free the insect unless, at least, it hap- 
pens to be a midge. The point which is so difficult to 
understand is to know how those untouched tentacles know 
that the insect is there and exactly where it is. There is no 
doubt that they do know, for they behave exactly as if they 
were the arms of a spider. 

If you put two insects on either side of the middle of the 
leaf, half the tentacles will pin down one and the other half 
will deal with the other insect. 

At the same time acids and ferments are poured out which 
digest the insect. It takes about two days for a leaf to 
finish off an insect, and then the tentacles again unclose. 

Moreover it is difficult to deceive those tentacles. They 
will bend in for the tiniest piece of useful substance; for 
instance, a length of one-seventy-fifth of an inch of woman''s 
hair will make them secrete digestive fluid. One millionth 
part of a pound of ammonium phosphate will also produce 
secretion. But a shower of heavy rain, grains of sand, or 
other useless material, will not cause any secretion, and even 
if they do bend in a little, they soon discover their mistake 
and stand out again. If you try the same experiment under 
a bell-glass from which the oxygen has been withdrawn by an 
air-pump, nothing happens ; or if you chloroform the Sundew 
it will pay no attention to small pieces of meat until it re- 
covers from the effects of the chloroform. 

When these Droseras are taken to a greenhouse and ex- 
periments are made on them, they run into very great 



danger. They are almost certain to die of overfeeding or 
indigestion. It is impossible to keep people from giving 
them too much to eat. 

This wonderful little plant shows quite distinctly that 
there must be some way of sending messages in its leaves. 
Somehow the message travels from the tentacle which the fly 
has touched, down the stalk into the leaf, and up into the 
other tentacles, and tells them that there is something worth 
stooping for. 

No one has explained this, and probably no one will ever 
do so. 

The last, and in some ways the most interesting, of all 
these carnivorous plants is Venus' Fly-trap {Dioncea rmcsci- 
pula\ which grows in North America from Rhode Island 
to Florida. 

It is a quite small herb with a small circle of leaves which 
lie flat on the ground. Each leaf ends in a nearly circular 
piece which is divided by a very marked midrib. The two 
semicircular halves have a series of teeth along their edges ; 
these margin teeth are stiff* and a little bent upwards. In 
the centre of each half there are three small hairs. On look- 
ing closely at these hairs one finds that each has a joint near 
the base ; all over the centre of these leaf halves there are 
scattered glands which secrete ferments intended to digest 
any animal matter. 

The really interesting point is connected with these central 
jointed or trigger hairs ; they are extremely sensitive. But 
when they are touched it is not they themselves that are 
aff*ected, but the entire circular end of the leaf ! 

Suppose an insect wanders on to the leaf and reaches one 
of these semicircular halves, nothing happens until it touches 
one of these hairs, but then both halves suddenly close 



together, exactly like an ordinary rat-trap ! The teeth on 
the edges of the halves interlock like the teeth of a trap, and 
the insect is caught and imprisoned. 

Its body is slowly digested away and goes to nourish the 
plant. The use of the joint in the sensitive hairs can be 
easily perceived, for when the two halves shut up together, 
the hairs fold down exactly like the funnel of a river steam- 
boat when it passes under a bridge. 

The closing of the two halves, which has been well com- 
pared to shutting up a half-open book, is very quick, as it 
does not take more than ten to thirty seconds. There is an 
abundant flow of "gastric juice,""* but the leaf takes a long time 
to digest its food. It may require three weeks to finish one 
insect. Moreover, if overfed, it may turn a bilious or dys- 
peptic yellow colour, and wither or even die. It only shuts 
for a short time if a grain of sand touches the sensitive hair, 
and, like Drosera, is not deceived in its food. 

The Dionsea, Drosera, the Sensitive Plant, Mimulus, Bar- 
berry, and others, all show us clearly that plants somehow or 
other act as if they were conscious of what they ought to do. 
In fact, in all these cases, it is scarcely possible to help 
believing in some sort of rudimentary nervous system. At 
any rate Wordsworth comes near this belief, for he has 

written : — 

" It is my faith, that every flower that blows 
Enjoys the air it breathes. " 



Peat-mosses and their birds— Moorlands— Cotton-grass— Scotch whisky 
— Growth of peat-moss — A vegetable pump — Low-lying and moorland 
mosses— Eruptions and floods of peat— Colonizing by heather and 
Scotch fir — Peat-mosses as museums — Remains of children and 
troopers — Irish elk — Story of the plants in Denmark — Rhododendrons 
and peat — Uses of peat— Reclaiming the mosses near Glasgow. 

IN Great Britain in this present year one finds exceedingly 
few places where the influence of man cannot be traced. 
Over most of the country, indeed, it is impossible to 
discover a single acre of land where Nature has been allowed 
to go on working at her own sweet will without interference 
or restraint. 

But near Stirling, between the Lake of Monteith and the 
sea, there is a wide, desolate valley which is probably in 
exactly the same condition as it was when the Roman 
legions halted to reconnoitre before Agricola passed on- 
wards to Perth and Aberdeen. 

Indeed, this great peat-moss has been probably in very 
much the same condition for some 200,000 years, which is a 
nice round number to represent the ages that have passed 
since the Great Ice Age. 

Now, as then, it is inexpressibly dreary and desolate ; 
everywhere saturated with water, and only to be traversed 
in dry seasons and with much agility. Even with the 
z 353 


greatest care the pedestrian may sink to the waist in a hole 
of black, slimy, peaty water. Moss, Heather clumps. Sedges, 
Rushes, and occasionally Cotton-grass, almost at one dead 
level, stretch right across from the one side of the huge valley 
to the other. 

Even grouse are not common. In summer great numbers 
of gulls lay their eggs upon the moss. This also is one of 
the few places in Britain where great flocks of wild geese can 
be heard and seen, but only at a distance. 

It is almost impossible to get near them, for the upright 
neck of the sentinel cannot be seen by the stalker as he 
wriggles towards the flock on his face, until long after the 
stalker himself has been plainly visible to the bird. 

Of all useless stretches of barren waste, such a moss as this 
seems one of the worst. It would, of course, be possible to 
reclaim it; probably, fertile fields and rich meadows could 
be formed over the whole valley, but it would not pay 
nowadays. There is so much good land available in Canada, 
the United States, and Australia, that this great stretch of 
our native country will probably remain as useless as it was 
in Agricola's days. 

In the Scottish Lowlands and Highlands the moorlands 
are almost as desolate. At a height of 1500 to 1600 feet 
in Southern Scotland there is nothing to be seen but the 
undulating lines of hills, all dark purple with heather or 
with the peculiar scorched reddish green of Deer's Hair and 
dried sedges. 

Perhaps on the nearer hills small streams may have cut a 
whole series of intersecting ravines in the black peat. They 
may be six to ten feet deep, and here and there the bleached 
white stones which underlie them are exposed. Now and 
then the " kuk-kuk-kuk " of an irate cock grouse, and much 


An Arctic Alpine Plant 

This is Draba Alpina from Cape Tscheljuskin, and it is drawn the 
natural size. The stunted, closely set leaves show the inclement character 
of the climate. 


too frequently the melancholy squawking of the curlew, irri- 
tates the pedestrian as he stumbles over clumps of heather, 
plunges in and out of the mossy holes, or circumvents im- 
possible peat-haggs. 

It is indeed a remarkable fact that though these islands 
support 44,000,000 of inhabitants, including at least 
1,000,000 paupers and unemployed, one-seventh of Ireland 
and many square miles in Scotland are still useless peat-bogs ! 

The Bog of Allen alone covers 238,500 acres, emd the peat 
is twenty-five feet deep. 

In some few places the peat is still used for fuel, and there 
is a theory to the effect that peat reek is necessary for the 
best kinds of Scotch whisky, but neither grouse nor black- 
faced sheep, which live on the young shoots of the heather, 
employ in at all a satisfactory way these great stretches of 

Many attempts have been made to spin the silky threads 
of the Cotton-grass which grows abundantly on the Scotch 
lowlands. It is neither a grass, nor does it supply cotton, 
but is called Eriophorum. It is perhaps the one really 
beautiful plant to be found on them, for its waving heads 
of fine silky- white hairs are exceedingly pretty. 

The heather itself gives a splendid red and purple shade, 
which in summer and autumn is always changing colour, but 
it is monotonous. Neither the little Bog Asphodel with its 
yellowish flowers, nor red Drosera, or butter-coloured But- 
terwort, are particularly beautiful. 

After seeing such a country one understands something 
of the Cameronian Covenanters who held their conventicles 
and took refuge therein. 

The manner in which these mosses and moors have de- 
veloped is most interesting, and yet difficult to explain. 



There are two kinds of peat-mosses, which, although there 
are many intermediate types, may be kept apart. 

The first, like the one near Stirling, Lochar and Solway 
Moss, near Dumfries, and Linwood, near Glasgow, have been 
formed in low-lying flat estuarine marshes. 

If one refers back to page 210, it will be seen how reeds 
and rushes and marsh plants may gradually fill up river 
backwaters. Eventually a saturated, marshy meadow is pro- 

Then comes the chance of that wonderful moss the peat- 
moss, or Sphagnum. It is scarcely possible to appreciate its 
structure without the help of a microscope and a good deal 
of trouble in the way of imagination. 

It is in a small way a sort of vegetable pump which raises 
water a few inches or so. Stem and leaves and branches 
possess little cistern cells, which act both as capillary tubes 
raising the water and also retain it. The stems are upright 
and develop many branches, so that they become a close- 
ranked or serried carpet of upright moss-stems squeezed 
together, which floats on the surface of the water. Each 
moss-stem is growing upwards and dying off* below. In con- 
sequence, the bottom gets filled up by dead mossy pieces, 
which accumulate there, while the live moss-carpet remains 
floating on the surface of the loathly, black, peaty water. 

In many peat-mosses the water gets entirely filled up, but 
that does not stop the formation of the peat-moss. It is 
now resting on the water-saturated remains of its forefathers, 
and if water is abundantly supplied it goes on developing. 

Thus in these lowland or estuarine peat-mosses the moss 
eventually occupies the water, and goes on growing. After 
this it develops like the moorland mosses which cover most 
of the Lowlands and Highlands of Scotland. They cover the 



hills, and it looks exactly as if some giant had plastered all 
those hills with a layer of six to ten feet of black peat from 
1250 feet upwards. 

The soil would at first be covered by a saturated moss- 
carpet of Sphagnum and other mosses. Rain-water falling 
upon it was all retained, and very little could get away, 
for the Sphagnum carpet is just like a huge sponge soaking 
up and retaining the water. 

But it sometimes happens in these great upland mosses 
that there are enormous falls of rain which continue for days. 
Then the water collects under the living moss-carpet and 
over the dead peat. It may be gathered together in such 
quantities that the carpet of living peat above it bursts, and 
a deluge of peaty water overflows the surrounding country, 
destroying and spoiling everything that it encounters. 

The worst of these inundations of black mud that has 
happened in recent years was in December, 1896, near 
Rathmore, where 200 acres of bog burst and a horrible river 
of mud overflowed the country for ten miles. Nine people 
perished, and enormous destruction was caused. 

There have been many other cases. In 1824 Crowbill 
Bog, near Keighley, burst ; and in 1745, in Lancashire, a 
space a mile long and half a mile broad was covered by peaty 
mud. There was also a case in 1697, where forty acres of 
bog at Charleville burst in the same way.^ 

Attempts have often been made to calculate the rate of 
growth of such peat-mosses. A great many of them began 
to develop on the mud left by the ice-sheet when the 
glaciers retreated at the end of the Ice Age. Those mosses 
are therefore probably 200,000 years old. Some of our 
Scotch mosses are twenty to twenty-five feet in depth, which 
1 Miall, Nature, Aug., 1898, p. 377. 


gives a foot in 10,000 years. By calculation of the weight 
of the peat formed, Aigner made out that a certain moss 
was 20,600 years old, and was growing at the rate of two 
inches in a century. 

But in Denmark ten feet has been formed in 250 to 300 
years, and in Switzerland three to four feet of peat-moss has 
been formed in twenty-four years. 

This shows quite distinctly that there is no regular rate of 
growth, and indeed it is obvious that much must depend on 
the climate, on the rainfall, on the drainage, and other 

Sooner or later, however, a limit comes to the growth of 
the moss. The surface then becomes gently curved : it is 
highest in the centre, and slopes very gently down in every 
direction to the edges. 

What happens next? The first sign is that the surface 
begins to dry up, and Heather, with grey Cladonia lichens, 
begins to grow on the projecting tufts and tussocks. 

Occasionally, if gulls build their nests on such drying-up 
mosses, patches of bright green grass appear wherever the 
gulls are in the habit of resting. That is due to the lime in 
their guano. 

But under quite natural conditions a much more important 
and interesting change begins. 

Here and there scattered over the moss, miserable little 
seedling Birches and Scotch Firs begin to struggle for life. 
Of course, if there are hares and rabbits, or if sheep and 
cattle are allowed to graze upon the moss, those firs have no 
chance whatever. They are eaten down to the ground. 

But if allowed to go on growing they would no doubt 
cover the whole moss with a wood of Birch and Scotch Fir. 
In time that wood would by its roots and its formation of 


Lake Dwellings in Early Britain 

The Irish elk is the result of the day's sport of these prehistoric Britons, who lived in houses 
built on piles actually in the water, or in peat mosses. Their only boats were rough dug-out 


fine leaf-mould so radically alter the ground that a forest of 
Oaks might be possible. 

It is in fact quite likely that most of our Highland and 
Scotch hills were at one time covered by fine forests of 
Scotch Fir, of which the Silva Caledonica spoken of by 
Tacitus was an example. 

There is, moreover, evidence to show that this was the 
case. There is one strange peculiarity of peat which renders 
it a most useful substance to antiquarians. 

Anything lost in a peat-moss does not decay away, but 
remains in a blackened but still recognizable condition for 
hundreds of years. Not long ago a basket containing the 
bones of a child was found in a Scotch peat-moss. There is 
also a story that an English trooper of the fourteenth or 
fifteenth century, and his horse, were discovered in Lochar 
Moss, near Dumfries. The man's features were traceable at 
first, but fell into powder when exposed to the air ; but the 
weapons, stirrups, etc., were all perfectly preserved. Bones 
of the extinct Irish elk have often been found. Not merely 
so, but the piles of lake dwellings and the rough dug-out 
canoes which were used by the early inhabitants of Britain 
have been discovered in a great many places. Coins of 
Roman, medieval, and modern times have been unearthed, 
and indeed there is no doubt that if Britain is still inhabited 
two thousand years hence, boots, sardine tins, brass cart- 
ridges, clay pipes, and other characteristic products of our 
own days, will be disentombed from the peat by enthusiastic 
antiquarians, and displayed in museums to admiring crowds 
of our descendants. 

The reason is quite simple : in peat neither those bacteria 
which cause ordinary decomposition, nor worms of any kind, 
are able to exist, so that the material does not decay but 



accumulates, though it may be blackened by peat, water, and 
humic acid. It is for this reason that a peat-moss is such a 
bad or rather an impossible soil. Neither roots nor bacteria 
can thrive in saturated peat ; therefore the flora of a peat- 
moss is generally confined to the upper surface, where air and 
bacteria can reach the roots. Peat-mosses are also the home 
of insectivorous plants, which get their nitrogenous food 
from the insects which they catch. 

In consequence of this preserving effect of peat, it is 
possible to trace the entire history of a peat-moss from the 
very beginning. Remains of the Dwarf Willow or Polar 
Birch have been found in England, showing that those now 
Arctic plants were then flourishing in Norfolk. These are 
generally in the lowest layers of peat-mosses. Next follow 
remains of the Birch and Aspen, which would be growing, 
as they do in places to-day, on mossy soil where the peat was 
still thin. Higher up in the peat one finds remains of 
Scotch Fir, showing that at that time regular forests of Scotch 
Fir existed, e.g. in Sutherlandshire and on Lochar Moss, 
where they do not grow at present. 

Some hold that the goats, black cattle, and ponies which 
have been kept since the Roman occupation at any rate, are 
responsible for the destruction of these forests. Others 
hold that they were killed by a change of climate. But 
they certainly existed. 

Trunks of Scotch Fir have even been found in peat at 
2400 feet in Yorkshire, and at heights in Scotland which are 
above all the present plantations. About this time it seems 
that the newer Stone Age men must have been in Switzerland 
and Denmark, for their remains and characteristic weapons 
occur in those countries at the same level in the mosses as 
the Scotch Fir. 



Still higher in the peat comes the Bog Oak. With it 
are in Denmark remains of the Bronze, Iron, and Roman 

In Denmark the uppermost layers of the peat contain 
remains of Beech trees. As this last tree only entered the 
country in the historic period, it is not found except in the 
highest layers of all. 

Unfortunately we have not yet obtained in our own 
country the same evidence from the peat-bogs as to the 
history of the flora of Britain. It is at least probable that 
it was on very much the same lines. 

Would it be possible to again cover our peat-mosses and 
moorlands with forests of Conifers, Pines, Larches, and 
Spruces ? There can scarcely be any doubt about it : it 
would be possible, and according to the best authorities it 
would even pay to change all land which is not yielding 
more than 7s. 6d. an acre into forests of Pines. 

One of the curious facts about peat is that though a 
peat-moss is one of the worst natural soils, yet broken-up 
and dried peat is excellent for Rhododendrons, for Orchids 
in stoves and greenhouses, and a great many other plants. 

Peat consists of very much the same substances as those 
that go to form leaf-mould. But the presence of humic 
and other acids, and the saturation with water and con- 
sequently the absence of worms, bacteria, and also of air, 
make it impossible for plants to grow in a peat-moss. 

Peat-moss due specially to the Cotton-grass rather than 
the Sphagnum moss is imported in great quantity from 
Holland, for use as litter for horses. We have in this 
country plenty of peat quite good for this purpose, but 
labour is too expensive for our home-grown peat to compete 
with the produce of Dutch moors. 



But that is by no means all the uses to which peat can be 
put. It is interesting to mention a few of them. 

1. Peat is used as fuel. 

2. Growing Orchids, etc. 

3. Litter for poultry, cattle, and horses. 

4. Food for cattle, etc., is made by rubbing the peat into 
small pieces and saturating with molasses. 

5. Paper and a kind of felt can be made of peat. 

6. Rugs and carpets can be made of peat-fibre. 

7. String and twine. 

8. Rough sacks and mats can be made of peat-fibre. 

Unfortunately, though all these things can be produced 
out of peat-fibre, it has never paid to manufacture them, 
and there are very few of the British peat-mosses nowa- 
days where peat is even cut for fuel. 

It seems much more likely that the end of these peat- 
mosses will be to become either agricultural land or forest. 

Near Glasgow a large area of a useless peat-moss has been 
reclaimed and made to yield excellent crops, by using the 
refuse of the city. The disposal of such refuse used to be a 
most troublesome and expensive process, but now it is turned 
to good effect. 

It was suggested a few years ago that peat, which is not 
worth conveyance, should be burnt on the spot, and the 
energy transmitted by wires. 

That would be quite impossible, in at least four years out 
of five, over most of Scotland. 




Giving names the first amusement — Curious and odd names — A spiteful 
naturalist — The melancholy Bartzia — Common names — British orchids 
— Dancing girls and columbines — Susans — Biblical names — Almond, 
apple, locust — Spikenard — Tares — Effects of darnel — Daffodil — 
Acanthus leaf — Ghost-disturbing branches — Elder or hour tree — Its 
powers and medicinal advantage — Danewort — Mandrake — How to 
pull it up — The insane root — Its properties — Plants which make 
bones pink — The betel nut — Henna — Egyptian and Persian uses — 
Castor oil — Leeks, onions, and garlic — Ancient use of them. 


AN has always taken a certain pleasure in giving 
names to both plants and animals. It was, of 
course, a necessity to do this, but it is probable that 
people enjoyed the process as they do now. 

At the present moment there must be at least 200,000 
plants named and described by botanists. So that the 
number of ecstatic moments enjoyed by humanity has been 
undoubtedly increased. 

The Egyptians, the Babylonians, and the Arabs named a 
great many plants, but for the most part those names are 
quite lost. Most of the knowledge of the Egyptians and 
Babylonians remained a close secret confined to their priestly 
colleges or universities, and has entirely perished. 

For centuries those fragments of the knowledge of Greece 
and Egypt which were preserved seem to have been translated 
and taught in Latin. Long after the Roman Empire had 



passed away, all knowledge, including that of medicine, of 
botany, and of law, was imparted in Latin, which indeed was 
supposed to be learnt by every educated person almost until 
the present century. 

Even now descriptions of new plants have to be given in 
Latin, and the name must have a classical appearance. Of 
course, nowadays, it would be much more convenient and 
much more generally useful if every person learnt English, 
German, French, and Japanese, but in this case of naming 
plants, the Holy Roman Empire still exercises its sway over 
the whole world. 

Very often the names given to plants are of the most 
extraordinary character. The I^tin is curious and the 
Greek remarkable, yet sometimes they are both pleasant to 
the ear and have a pretty and poetical meaning. 

Poggeophyton^ on the other hand, for example, means the 
plant discovered by Dr. Pogge, a German botanical explorer. 
Wormskioldia, ZahlbrucJcnera, Krascheninikowia, Acantho- 
sicyos^ Chickrassia^ Orychophragmus^ Warczewiczia^ Lychno- 
phoriopsis, Krombholtzia, Pseudorhachicallis, Sczegleewia^ 
Zschokkia, are all names that sound harsh and look odd to 
us. Yet most of them are just called after those who dis- 
covered them, or their friends. In many of the smaller 
microscopic plants the names are really much longer than 
the plants themselves. Thus Pseudocerataulus Kinkeri is a 
diatom which cannot possibly be seen without the use of a 

Names are and were given in the most extraordinary way. 
Not merely great botanists, but Themistocles, Aristides, 
Aristobulus, Virgil, and even Gyas and Clianthes, have plants 
named after them. 

Yet that is not inexcusable, if people had not sufficient 



inventive power to do better. There was a naturalist who 
quarrelled with the great French scientist Buffon. There- 
fore he baptized as Buffonia a group of ugly, unimportant 
little plants which had an unpleasant smell. In other cases 
people have named plants after their sweethearts or friends. 

A British plant called Bartzia has a rather melancholy, 
desolate appearance. It was named when the author had 
just received the news of the death of his friend Dr. Bartsch. 

One of the most usual complaints which one hears from 
those who are beginning to study flowers is that the Latin 
names are so difficult and hard to remember. But they are 
not really more difficult than the common popular names, 
and especially those of foreign plants. Cheirostemon, for 
instance, which means stamens like a hand, is much easier to 
speak and to remember than Macpalxochitlquahuitl^ which is 
its soft, meandering, Spanish-American name. Asperula 
(little rough one) is quite as good as Squinancywort, which 
means a herb good for quinsy (it is moreover of no good in 
quinsy). Perhaps, however, Woodruff (which is really " wood 
rowel,"" from the resemblance of the leaves to an old- 
fashioned spur), or Waldmeister (master of the woods), are 
as good names as Asperula. Then Erigeron, which means 
" soon growing old,'' is an excellent description of the faded 
appearance of this little weed, for which the popular name is 
Fleabane (it has no effect upon these creatures whatsoever). 

How popular names came to be associated with particular 
flowers is generally quite imknown. A fair number are called 
from the diseases which they are supposed to cure. Lung- 
wort, however, was so called because the lichen Pulmonaria 
has a resemblance to lungs. Then in course of time people 
began to suppose it was a cure for diseases of the lungs, 
which it is not. 



The British Orchids are called Bee, Spider, Fly, and Hang- 
ing-man Orchids, because of a fancied resemblance to their 
namesakes. Dancing-girls {Mantisid) was so called from a 
certain resemblance of the flower to a columbine. The true 
Columbine (Aquilegia) was so called because of a resemblance 
which some one saw to a circle of little doves with wings 
seated on a circular well. 

The greatest objection to popular names, however, lies in 
their being so indefinite. Entirely different plants are 
known by the same name, and also in different parts of the 
country totally different names are given to the same plant. 
All such difficulties disappear if one takes the trouble to 
learn the Latin names. 

These also are often quite pretty. Luzula, Veronica (with 
its pretty legend), Mimulus (the little monkey), Circaea 
(Enchanter's Nightshade), Senecio {the old man, from its 
woolly head of fruits), Nymphea, Naias, Carlina {the old idtch\ 
and so on, are quite as pretty and as nice as Mugwort, Devil- 
in-a-bush. Hairy Rock Cress, and the rest. One curious 
result of the use of popular names is seen in the Biblical 
names of plants. The Rose of Sharon seems most probably 
to have been Narcissus Tarzetta, and not a rose at all. As 
regards the IJlies of the Field, Mr. Ridley has the following 
remarks. The Hebrew word Shushan was a generic name 
given to a mixture of flowers, exactly as we now talk of 
ferns, herbs, or grass. The Sermon on the Mount was 
preached near the plain of Gennesaret, and there flourish 
the Anemone {Anemone coronaria), Ranunctdus asiaticus, and 
Adonis aestivalis and Jlammea, which are exactly of the 
same colour and follow each other in close succession. This 
word Shushan is the original of the Christian name Susannah 
or Susan. The Arabic name for Anemone coronaria is Susan. 



The Almond of the Bible is the common almond which is 
wild in Syria and Palestine. " Aaron's rod that budded was 
a branch of an almond tree ; the bowls of the Golden 
Candlestick were designed from the almond blossom. Even 
at the present time English workmen call the glass drops for 
ornamenting candlesticks almonds.'"* The Apple of the Bible 
was more probably an Apricot. The husks of the prodigal 
son were probably the Locust-beans, sometimes called St. 
John's bread, but it is quite probable that the "locusts" 
eaten by St. John were the insects. At any rate, locusts are 
regularly eaten in the East. The Locust Tree (Ceratonia 
siliqtui), or Algaroba or Carob, has large, dark-purple pods ; 
there is a pulpy material between the seeds which forms 
a valuable cattle food. The seeds are said to have been the 
original "carat" weight of jewellers. 

The Spikenard {Nardostachys jatamansi) belongs to the 
natural order Valerianacece, It is a wild plant of Bhutan 
found near Rangasnati, in India, and in ancient times it was 
transported on camels by the regular caravan route to Syria, 
Greece, and Rome. It was then worth about £3. 10s. per 
lb. The essence is obtained from the roots, but one hundred 
pounds of roots will furnish only half a pound of essence. 
Now it has but little value.^ 

The Tares sown amongst the wheat were probably the 
seed of the Darnel. When growing, this grass is very like 
wheat, and it would be quite possible to mistake one for 
the other until the flowers and fruit are formed. Darnel is 
one of the very few poisonous grasses. It is said that the 
poison is produced by a fungus which is found in the grain. 
When darnel seed is ground up with wheat the bread 
becomes dangerous, for the poison produces severe headache, 
^ Heuz^, Les Plantes Industrielles. 


vertigo, and giddiness. Other authorities say that it causes 
in man and rabbits eruptions, fits of trembling, and con- 
fusion of sight. It seems not to affect horned cattle, swine, 
and ducks. 

As regards those plants which were specially beloved and 
venerated by the Greeks, there is not very much to say. 
Moly seems to have been Allium moli/, one of the onion or 
garlic family. It is not very remarkable in any way. 
Amaranth was apparently the garden Love-lies-bleeding, 
called in France Queue -de-Renard and Discipline -de - 
Religieuse. The Asphodel which covered the Elysian fields 
seems to be Asphodelics ramosus.^ This grows in quantities 
in Apulia, and is said to afford good nourishment for 

The Myrtle, with which the Athenian magistrates and 
victors in the Olympic games were crowned, is not really 
a European plant, though it has a wide range from Asia 
Minor to Afghanistan. It was sacred to Venus, and had 
some importance as a medicinal plant and for perfumes. It 
was even used in cookery and for making myrtle wine, which 
last is said to be still prepared in some parts of Tuscany. 

"Narcissus, son of the river Cephisus and of Liriope, 

daughter of the Ocean, was a young man of great beauty 

who scorned all the Nymphs of the country, and made to 

die of languor Echo, because he would not respond to her 

passion. But one day returning from the chase weary and 

fatigued, he stopped at the side of a fountain to refresh 

himself. There having seen his own face in the water, he 

was so smitten with it and so greatly loved himself that he 

died of grief. The Gods, touched by his death, changed him 

into a Daffodil, according to the fable.*" 

* Figured in Kerner's Natural History of Plants. 


Such is the account in M. TAbbe Ladvocat's Dictionnaire 
Historique-Portatif^ Paris, 1760. Daffodil means appearing 
early in the year. The number of races, varieties, and forms 
of Daffodil, Jonquil, etc., has become innumerable ; yet it is 
doubtful if any are quite so graceful and absolutely charming 
as the Narcissus poeticus, supposed to be the original of the 
above legend. 

The Acanthus leaf which was so much used in sculpture 
seems to have been that of Acanthus spinosus. It can still 
be traced in modern carving, though, of course, it is very 
much altered and in a rather degenerate form. 

It is often very difficult to say why certain plants have 
received so much attention and veneration in ancient times. 
In some cases it is clearly because they are poisonous, and 
therefore become dreadful and awe-inspiring. Why, how- 
ever, should a twig of Rowan {Pyrus Aucuparid) be so often 
placed above the door of a Highland cottage ? In some way 
it was supposed to keep off evil spirits, but there is no 
special reason why it should have been chosen. 

The "Bour Tree'" or Elder {Sambacus) has been the 
centre of a whole series of extraordinary and remarkable 
superstitions. Of the Ellhorn (Low Saxon), or Samhucus 
nigra^ Arnkiel gives the following account : " Our fore- 
fathers also held the Ellhorn holy, wherefore whosoever 
need to hew it down must first make his request, 'Lady 
Ellhorn, give me some of thy wood, and I will give thee 
some of mine when it grows in the forest' — the which, 
with bended knees, bare head, and folded arms, was ordinarily 

The flowers are an eye-wash and cosmetic, or they may be 
taken as tea or used as a fomentation. The berries are used 
for " elderberry wine." 

2 A 369 


A certain cure for rheumatism is to carry about a small 
piece of elder cut after the fashion of a rude cross. 

Evelyn speaking of it says : " If the medicinal properties 
of the leaves, bark, berries, etc., were thoroughly known, 
I cannot tell what our countrymen could ail for which he 
might not fetch a remedy from every hedge, either for sick- 
ness or wound." 

The other species {Sambitcus ebulus, or Banewort) has had 
its name explained as follows by Sir J. E. Smith : " Our 
ancestors evinced a just hatred of their brutal enemies the 
Danes in supposing the nauseous, fetid, and noxious plant 
before us to have sprung from their blood." 

Of all these, however, the Mandrake (Mandragora) is 
connected with the most extraordinary and remarkable 
superstitions. The plant is distinctly poisonous, and has 
peculiar divided roots which sometimes have a very rough 
resemblance to the human body. It was supposed to be 
alive, and to utter the most piercing shrieks when it was 
pulled out of the ground. In those accounts, which are 
based on that given by Josephus, it is the person who pulls 
out the root, and not the plant, that shrieks, subsequently 
rolls on the ground, and finally dies in torments. There- 
fore, if you wish to pull up a mandrake, the correct course to 
pursue is as follows : Tie a dog to the plant by its tail, and 
then whip the dog. It will pull up the mandrake, and then 
die in frightful agony ! 

This is the " insane root " of Macbeth, but its various uses, 
real or pi-etended, are too numerous to explain in detail. 

Thus it was used for the following purposes : as a poison, 
an emetic, a narcotic like chloroform, in love-philtres and 
love-charms, as well as to dispel demons, who cannot bear its 
smell or its presence. 



There are many of these relics of medieval times which 
are difficult to explain or to find a reason for. 

Why, for instance, should old women always carry a sprig 
of Southernwood to the kirk in their Bibles? The leaves 
are, however, said to be disagreeable to insects. The 
Lavender stalks usually placed in linen both keep away 
insects and have a pleasant old-world scent. 

A great many of the properties possessed by plants are of 
the most extraordinary and unsuspected nature. The roots 
of the Madder (Ruhia tinctorum)^ for instance, when they are 
eaten by swine or other animals, change the colour of their 
bones, which become pink. This curious property has 
actually been made useful, for physiologists have employed 
madder in the study of the growth and development of 

In India and other eastern countries one is often shocked 
and surprised to find an apparently quite healthy native 
expectorating blood in a most lavish manner. 

But the native is only chewing Betel nuts, which have the 
power of turning the saliva red. The fruit is that of Areca 
Catechu^ a fine palm which is cultivated, for this purpose only, 
in many parts of India and the East. The nuts are cut in 
pieces and rolled up with a little lime in leaves of the Betel 
pepper. It is said to turn the teeth red and sometimes to 
produce intoxication ; at any rate, people become slaves to 
this disgusting habit, and they do not seem to be at all 
injured by indulgence in it. 

Another extraordinary plant is Henna {Lawsonia inermis). 
The Egyptian mummies are found to have the soles of the 
feet, as well as the palms and finger- and toe-nails, dyed a 
reddish-orange colour by the use of henna. But the practice is 
continued to-day in most parts of the East, and no odalisque's 



toilet would be considered complete without the use of 
henna. It is even said that men dye their beards with it. 

The white horse used in processions by the Shah of Persia 
has its legs, tail, and body dyed with henna. 

The powdered leaves are used : they are made into a paste 
with hot water, and then spread upon the place. It is grown 
in Syria, Egypt, Algeria, China, Morocco, Nubia, Guinea, 
and the East Indies. 

In China women dye their eyebrows with an extract of the 
petals of Hibiscus Rosa-sinensis. 

One of the first plants to be utilized by man was the 
Castor-oil {Ricinus communis). It was used by the Indians 
from time immemorial ; it is mentioned by Herodotus (under 
the name Kiki); seeds have been found in mummy-cases, 
showing the careful preparations which were made for the 
dead when starting on their travels in the other world ! 

It is one of the very commonest plants in the tropics and 
in sub-tropical or warm, temperate countries. It is rather 
handsome, and has large reddish-green leaves and handsome 
spikes of flowers. It is said to be sometimes twelve feet 
high, but is usually only six or seven feet. The seeds are 
mottled or marbled, and have a distinct resemblance to a 
beetle when seen from above. It has been suggested that 
this protects them from birds, or enables the latter to 
recognize the seed, which is strongly medicinal. That, how- 
ever, is at least doubtful, and certainly pigeons are exceed- 
ingly fond of the seeds and eat them in quantity. The oil 
is used for lighting, in making soap, and also in painting. 

Another characteristic Egyptian plant was the Leek, which 
with the onion and garlic seems to have been one of the 
very first to be brought into cultivation. Herodotus says 
that on the Great Pyramid there was an inscription saying 



that 1600 talents had been paid for onions, radishes, and 
garlic used by the workmen during its erection. 

The Jewish priests were forbidden to eat garlic, which 
(with cucumber) formed the dishes most regretted by the 
Israelites during their wanderings in the wilderness. The 
Shallot comes from Ascalon, where it will be remembered 
Richard the First defeated Saladin the Sultan, and where 
also Sir Sidney Smith defeated the Emperor Napoleon and 
made him miss his destiny. It was not brought to this 
country till 1548. Probably, therefore, Tennyson's Lady 
of Shalott lived somewhere else. Onions and leeks are of 
course popular in this country, and especially in Wales, 
where the latter has been the badge of the Welsh since they 
gained a victory over the Saxons in the sixth century. 
They wore it as a badge on that occasion by an order of 
St. David. 

But in warmer countries onions and garlic are much more 
important, where they have flavoured almost every dish since 
the days of Nestor's banquet to Machaon in Asia, and of the 
Emperor Nero in Italy, until our own days. 

But the subject is so inexhaustible, depending as it does 
upon man's powers of invention and his tendency to weird 
superstitions, that we must close this chapter and also the 

And we will end by asking the reader to think sometimes 
of all these many and various ways in which plants help and 
interest man. 

It is not merely because our life depends upon them. 
Everything that we eat has been produced by plant life and 
plant work. 

Tea, coffee, cocoa, and wine are pleasant because plants 
have produced some essence which is found useful and agree- 



able by mankind. Even water would be tasteless and un- 
wholesome were it not for the minute diatoms and other 
microscopic vegetables in it. 

But those who take an interest in flowers and leaves for 
themselves^ find that they need never spend a dull hour in 
the country. There is so much to see and to find out, even 
in the commonest weed or the tiniest floweret. 

But it is necessary to sympathize with them, to try to 
look at things from their point of view, and not merely from 
an artistic or collector's standpoint. 

The romance of plant life then becomes a fascinating and 
engrossing pursuit. But however long one studies it, the 
knowledge that the wisest naturalist can ever attain to must 
remain a negligible quantity compared with what he does 
not know. 

Suppose a mouse happened to stray into the ofiice of the 
editor of the Times, he might boast to his fellow-mice of 
his knowledge of the " higher journalism," but his opinions 
would not really be of very great value on the subject. 

However hard we study, and however much we observe and 
reflect upon the working of this great world of Nature, we 
really cannot expect to know more relatively than that little 

In fact, the more we think, the more humble men of heart 
we become, and the greater also should be our reverence for 
the Creator of this wonderful universe. 



Acacia, io8, no, in, 140, i79i 

Associations, 26 


Autumn crocus, 94 

Acanthus, 369 

Aztecs, 126 

Aconite, 231 

Acorn, 256 

Baboons, 247 

Adansonia, 48 

Babylonian botanists, 37 

Adaptations (desert), 134 

Bacteria, 21, 85, 86, 95, 282, 328, 

Afterglow, 132 


Age of trees, 48 

Balm of Gilead, n4 

Agriculture (primitive), 149 

Banana, 248, 249 

Akocanthera, 229 

Barberry, 78, 183 

Alder, 71 

Barley, 90, 272 

Alfred, 150 

Bartsia, 365 

Algae, 200, 202 

Bats, 246 

„ and Brittle Stars, 340 

Bean, 277 

Alluvial flats, 210 

Bears, 247 

Almond, 367 

Becquerel rays, 21 

Alpine flowers, 103 

Bees, 74, 77 

,, garden, 106 

Bees and poppy, 303 

Ancient forests, 53 

Beetroot, 278, 280 

Angraecum, 79 

Berries and winter, 245 

Animals and poisons, 237 

Betel nut, 371 

Animals and fruits, 241 

Bhang, 306 

Ants, 284-6 
„ and Centaury, 288 

Bible plants, 366 
Big Bad Landfs, 133 

Antiaris, 230 

Big trees, 58, 67 

Ant rice, 284 

Birch, 60 

Aphanizomenon, 201 

Birch bark, 51 

Aphis, 293 

Birds, 85, 281 

Apple, 248 

„ and fruits, 245, 246, 256 

Apple-blossom weevil, 294 

„ and insects, 297 

Apple-sucker, 295 

Arctic plants, 102, 104, 360 

Bird's nest orchid, 329 

Arctic times, 104 

Bishopsweed, 91 
Bladderwort, 345 

Aristolochia, 78 

Arrow poisons, 227, 229 

Blooming of weeds, 1 00 

Araucaria, 56 

Bluebeard salvia, 74 

Arum, 78 

Boers, 223 

Asclepiads, 78 

Boulger, 59 

Ash, 66 

Box, 60 

Asphodel, 368 

Bracken, 288 

Asses, 179 

Bramble, 93, 183, 184. 248, 314 



Brazil, 309 
Breadfruit, 249 
Breaking of meres, 201 
Bridges of creepers, 319 
Brigalow scrub, 112 
Brier, 184 

Britain (prehistoric), 144 
British agriculture, 16 
Britons, 150 
Bromelia, 342 
Broom, 256 
Broomrape, 335 
Brown, Dr. Horace, 18 
Buds, 294 
Buffonia, 365 
Bulbs, 138 
Burning bush, 115 
Bushmen, 226 
Buttercups, 233, 296 
Butterflies, 192 
Butterwort, 348 

Cabbage, 23, 277 
Cacti, 134, 179 
Calabar bean, 232 
Caledonian forest, 66 
Calthrops, 185 
Camargue, 161 
Canadian forests, 62 
Cannibals, 327 
Canoes, 51 
Caiions, 176 
Carbon atom, 22 
Carbonic acid gas, 16, 21 
Carboniferous period, 55, 56 
Carline thistle, 184 
Cassier, 118 
Castor oil, 245, 372 
Catapult fruits, 263 
Catchfly, 347 
Cattle, 52 

Cattle poisoning, 238 
Caustic creeper, 235 
Cedar, 59 
Charlock, 275 
Cherry, 97 
Chickweed, 100, 346 
Chicory, 125 
Chinese botanists, 37 
Chocolate, 125 
Cinnamon, 35 
Clematis, 265 
Climate (effect of), 108 
Chmbing plants, 313 
Clover, 86 

Cloves, 30 

Club-mosses, 55 

Coal period, 55-70 

Coca, 125 

Cocoa, 125 

Cocoanut, 259 

Cockchafer, 292 

Cockspur thorn, 183 

CodUn moth, 295 

Coffee, 123 

Coffee disease, 124 

Colocynth, 137 

Colonizing of lavas, 171 
,, of shale, 173 

Colorado desert, 139 

Colour of birds, 81 

„ butterflies, 81 
„ flowers, 72-4 
,, fruits, 240 

Coltsfoot, 18, 86 

Congo, 309 
Cooke, Dr., 201 
Coral-root orchid, 329 
Cotton, 265 

„ grass, 355 
„ tree, 59 
Country life, 155 
Cow tree, 312 
Cretaceous period, 70 
Crocus, 19 

Crows and acorns, 256 
Cucumber, 86 
Cultivated plants, 269, 273 
Curare, 228 

Currents and seeds, 255, 259 
Cypress, 59 

Daffodil, 368 

Dahlia, 265 

Daisy, 218 

DandeHon, 19, 93, 264 

Danewort, 370 

Dariing pea, 237 

Darnel, 234, 367 

Date palm, 141, 251 

Datura, 232 

Deer, 178 

Deodar, 60 / 

Depopulation of country, 154, 155 

Depth of water (plants), 205 

Desert, 132 

Desmids, 206 

Desmoncus, 316 

Destruction of plants, 61-5 

Diatoms, 206 



Dioscorides, 37 
Dischidia, 342 
Distribution of seeds, 254 
Dixon, Dr., 25 
Doctors, 28 
Dodder, 338 
Dorynicum, 263 
Dragon tree, 49 
Dropwort, 234 
Drosera, 349 
Drosophyllum, 347 
Dundonald, Earl of, 151 
E>warf plants, 102 

Egyptian botany, 37 
Elder, 369 

Electrical phenomena, 197-9 
Elephant grass, 178 
Esparto grass, 136 
Eucalyptus, 47 
Euphorbia, no 
Evening flowers, 74 
Exploded pollen, 71 

Fairy rings, 86 

Fermentation, 242 

Ferns, 172 

Fig, 79, 251 

Fig wasp, 79 

Fires, 50, 148 

Fish, 165, 206 

Fish poison, 227 

Flag, 203 

Flies, 74, 80 

Floating islands, 204 

Floral clock, 76 

Florida hyacinth, 209 

Flowers, 68 

Fly catcher, 348 

Fly mushroom, 31 

Fog, 203 

Forestry, 43, 55 

Forests, 63, 64, 220, 358, 361 

Foxglove, 19, 79 

Frankincense, 113 

Fruits, 240 

Fuegians, 51 

Fungi, 80, 330 

„ and caterpillar, 341 
„ and eelworms, 289 

Galbanum, 114 
Garlic, 373 
Giant sawfly, 44 
Ginkgo, 57 

Girdleroots, 325 

Goats, 52, 109, 179, 181, 184 

Gooseberry, 182, 247 

Goosegrass, 259 

Gorse, 100, 181, 182 

Gory dew, 202 

Grass, 177, 185, 215, 218 

Grasslands, 213, 330, 332 

Grazing animals, iii, 177 

Green of plants, 72 

Greenfly, 293 

Guanaco, 222 

Gums, III 

Gutta-percha, 311 

Hairs of plants, 136, 346 
Hair (remedies), 30, 235 
Hatasu, 113 
Hawthorn, 182, 183 
Hedgehog, 135 
Heer, 55 

Height of trees, 47 
Hellebore, 231 
Hemp, 305 
Henna, 371 
Henry, Dr., 52, 53 
Holly, 186, 189, 190 
Honeydew, 293 
Hop, 316 
Hornwort, 208 
Hot springs, 200 
Humming-birds, 75 
Hyacinth, 278 
Hybridizing, 249, 273 
Hydrophobia cures, 29 
Hygroscopic grasses, 266 

Ibn Sena, 37 
Ice and seeds, 257 
Ice plant, 136 
Ice sheet, 147 
Imbauba, 287 
Incense, 113 
India-rubber, 307,311 
Indigo, 35 
Insects, 69, 73, 168 
Ipecacuanha, 34 
Iris, 203 
Ironwood, 58 
Ivy, 79, 323 

Jarrah, 60 
Johnson, Dr., 151 

Kangaroo, 75 



Karoo, 138 
Kite, 265 
Kola, 127 

Laburnum, 235 

Lake dwellings, 52 

Landes, 45 

Land-forming plants, 161, 162 

Larch, 181 

Latex, 307 

Lathrsea, 336 

Lava, 171 

Lavender, 371 

Lawns, 218 

Leaf-cutting ants, 286 

Leaf-miners, 297 

Leaf-mould plants, 329 

Leaves and light, 20 

Lecanora, 167 

Lecidea, 167 

Leek, 372 

Lewis, 54 

Lianes, 314, 318 

Lichens, 133, 166-71, 261 

Life of flowers, 76 

Lilienfeldt, 89 

Lily order, 234 

Lions and fruits, 258 

Liverworts and animalcula, 341 

Locoweed, 235 

Locust tree, 367 

Logwood, 35 

Loranthus, 334 

Madder, 371 
Maidenhair tree, 57 
Mallee scrub, 112 
Mammoth trees, 47 
Man, 247, 281, 300 

„ and flowers, 81 

,, and forests, 67 
Manchineel, 228 
Mandrake, 370 
Mangroves, 156 
Manna, 115, 261 
Marshes, 211 
Meadows, 213 
Medicines, 27, 28 
Mimulus, 70 
Mistletoe, 245, 332 
Mites, 299 
Moats, 298 
Mohammed, 119 
Moly, 368 
Monkey-puzzles, 56 

Monotropa, 329 
Moors, 353 
Mosquitoes, 159 
Mosses, 170, 353 
Movement in plants, 14 
Mud and seeds, 258 
Mud rivers, 357 
Mustard, 30 
Myrrh, 114 
Myrtle, 116, 368 

Names of plants, 363 
Narcissus, 368 
Nepenthes, 344 
Nettle, 71, 191 
Nicotine, 130 
Nile desert, 139 
Nipa, 260 
Nitrates, 84 

Nomadic agriculture, 57 
Number of plants, 38 

Oak, 24 
Oak forest, 53 
Oat, 270 
Obi, 232 
Oil shales, 207 
Olive, 48, 116, 251 
Onions, 373 
Opening of flowers, 76 
Opium, 301 
Opopanax, 114 
Orange, 116, 243 
Orchards, 252 
Orchids, 78, 81, 330 
OxaUs, 196 

Painters and poets (botanists), 39 
Palms, 69, 180 
Pampas, 221 
Paper (wood), 61, 62 
Papyrus, 211 
Parasitic insects, 294 
plants, 338 
Pear, 188 

,, midge, 296 
Peat, 170, 353 
Peat-mosses, 353, 361 
Pepper, 36 

Perfumes, 73, 115, 119, 241 
Petals, 98 
Pfeffer, 88 
Phragmites, 209 
Phylloxera, 291 
Pine forests, 40, 71, 148 



Pine seeds, 41 
Pineapple, 251, 277 
Pink snow, 72 
Pistacio, 69 
Pitcher plant, 344 
Plantain, 219 
Plantations, 154 
Plover, 298 
Poisons, 226 
Polar regions, 197 
Pollen, 70 
Polluted rivers, 208 
Pomades, 119 
Pondweeds, 205 
Poppy, 263, 302 
Potato, 279 
Prairie, 220 

Pressure inside plants, 25 
Prickly pear, 243 
Primula, 193 
Protoplasm, 195 

Quinine, 33 

Rabbits, 50, 178, 182, 239 

Radium rays, 21 

Rafflesia, 337 

Railway plants, 174 

Rain of blood, 252 

Rainwater (absorbed), 298 

Raspberry, 92 

Rattan, 47 

Rat's-tail plantain, 93 

Reeds, 163, 204, 209 

Resin, 44, 45 

Restharrow, 189 

Retama, 137 

Rhubarb, 36 

Rimbach, 92 

Roadside plants, 214 

Robin-run-the- hedge, 313 

Rock plants, 166, 169, 175 

Rooks, 292 

Roots, 86, 88, 89, 90, 137, 157, 180 

Rose, 127, 182, 314 

Rowan, 369 

Rubber, 301, 310 

Rushes, 203 

Rye, 46, 272 

Safflower, 34 
Sago palm, 58 
Saltwort, 161 
Salvia, 78 
Sandbox tree, 266 

j Sap, 23, 24 
Sarracenia, 342 
SatcheU, 64 

Savages and plants, 27 
Scale insect, 288 
Scenery and plants, 166 
Schimper, 99 
Scotch fir, 54, 71, 86, 360 
Screes, 172 
Scrub, 107 
Scythian lamb, 32 
Scythians, 224 
Seagrass, 162 
Sea meadows, 162 
Seaweeds, 163, 164, 171, 172 
Season of flowers, 77 
Sedges, 260 
Selaginella, 56 

Selection (principle of), 248, 277 
Semaphore plant, 196 
Senecio, 174 
Sensitive plant, 14, 194 
Sequoia, 47, 58 
Shale, 173 

Sheep-kiUing grasses, 267 
Shelley, 79 
Sherwood Forest, 53 
Silvia Caledonica, 53 
Silver fir, 58 
Silurian times, 70 
Smell (of flowers), 80 
Smith, Dr., 54 
Snow, 103 
Soil, 82, 84 
Solanaceae, 234 
Soldanella, 103 
Solomon's seal, 94 
Southernwood, 371 
Speedwell, 319 
Sphagnum, 357 
Spice trade, 34 
Spikenard, 367 
Spines, 179, 186, 188, 190 
Sprengel, 69 
Spring, 98, 101 
Squiers, 198 
Squirrel, 178, 257 
Stapeha, 80 
Starch, 18 
Starwort, 319 
Steppes, 223 
Sticky fruits, 255, 258 
Sticky hairs, 347 
Stimulus (effect of a), 14 
Stomata, 23 



Stones, 1 66 
Storms, 46, 164 
Strength of roots, 96 

,, seeds, 244 

,, trees, 46 
Strophanthus, 229 
Strychnos, 228 
Subsoil, 147 
Succulents, 134 
Sugar (fruits), 241 
Sugar-cane, 279 
Sunbirds, 75 
Sundew, 349 
Sunlight, 19, 20 
Sunshine, 17 

Tanghinia, 231 

Tartars, 224 

Taru Desert, 110 

Tea, 120 

Teak, 60 

Telegraph plant, 196 

Temperature (flowers), 73, 103 

Tendrils, 320, 321 

Tennyson, 153 

Theophrastus, 37, 69, 161, 184 

Thistles, 91 

Thorns, 179, 190 

Timber, 58, 66 

Tobacco, 127 

Toothwort, 33.S 

Tragacanth, 185 

Trap, 146 

Traveller's tree, 24 

Tumble weeds, 262 

Turnip, 277 

Twining stems, 317 

United States (forests), 62 
Underground hfe, 94 
Upas tree, 230 
Utricularia, 345 

Vaucheria, 163 
Vegetable demons, 177 
Venus' fly-trap, 351 
Vestal virgins, 51 
Vetch, 19 
Victoria regia, 205 
Vine, 248, 272, 291, 323 
Virginian creeper, 323 

Wait-a-bit thorn, 180 
Wall plants, 166 
Warning colours, 238 
Water-carried pollen, 162, 200 

,, circulation of, 16, 
25, 84, 95 

,, level, 217 

„ lily, 204 
Weeds, 215, 274 
Wheat, 271 
Whin, 100, 181 
White flowers, 74 
Wild garlic, 92 
Wild tamarind, 235 
Willows, 165, 208 
Wind (effect), 71 

,, and seeds, 255, 
260, 264 
Winged fruits, 266 
Wood, 58, 59, 62, 146 
Wood pigeon, 246 
Woodsorrel, 19 
Work of sunshine, 18 
Worms, 85, 359 

Xanthium, 259 
X-rays, 21 

Yam, 180 
Yeast fungus, 243 
Yew, 66, 67, 239 
Yucca, 79 

Zostera, 162 


New York Botanical Garden Library 

QK45 .E44 gen 

Elliot, George Fran/The romance of plant 

3 5185 00101 2572