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into it, is water. Without water there is is useless or might be injurious, for plants, no vegetation. The deserts of Arabia, like animals, may be poisoned, is thrown the west coast of Bolivia, and similar re out again at night in the form of manna gions are barren, not because they are or resin ; and thus restores the plant rocky and sandy, but because it only again to health. rains there once in twelve years, and that All these features in the life of plants, not always, and they have neither dew however, are visible to the microscope nor watery deposits.—This water, with only. What we see with the unarmed all the materials it may contain, is sucked eye, is not less wonderful. The tiny seed up by the delicate fibres at the end of once intrusted to the bosom of mother roots; thence it rises by capillary attrac earth, as soon as the sunlight falls upon tion upwards, transuding through the it, and its genial beams warm the light cells by apertures invisible to the highest crust under which it is buried, begins to microscopic power, and filling cell after move and to change. Its starch is concell. Here it mingles with the fluid which verted into sugar and guni, upon which they already contain, produces new com the young plant is to feed during the first binations, and is then called sap. Hence days of its existence. The tiny root pecps these little cells, when searched with the forth from the husk, and by a mystemicroscope, are found to be filled with an riously-directed power, plunges downward almost incredible variety of good things. into the fertile soil, whilst the slender Some, it is true, contain apparently no plumule pushes upwards towards the light. thing but a watery juice, but its virtues The soil cracks and heaves, and at last may yet be discovered; others are little the infant vegetable being emerges fresh vials filled with gum or sugar; in many
and moist into the world of air and sunplants they are found to hold just one shine with the unfolding of its first pair drop of oil, in others sugar, to inclose of leaves, and with the first lighting of a beautiful crystals of every possible shape. sunbeam on their tender tissues, comThrough these cells the sap ascends, until mences that series of incessant and as yet it reaches the main workshop of plants secret chemical operations, to which we the leaves. These bring it in contact have before alluded. And the marvel is still . with the air, which they in their turn increased, when we consider how strangesuck in by minute openings and exhale ly alike thousands of seeds are one to again, after it has combined with parts another, how slight the difference even beof the ascended water. It is this con tween the most unlike. And yet, two such tinued exhalation of the leaves, and ab tiny seeds, planted in the same soil and sorption by the roots, which constitutes living apparently on the same food, prothe circulation, the Life of Plants. They duce the one an humble herb, the other a produce a constant interchange between mighty tree. Well may we ask, what soil and air, and stand in direct proportion wondrous formative power resides there to each other. This sap rises with a ra in these little cells, tending exactly in one pidity corresponding to the exhalation of direction, as though an ideal figure, gradthe leaves. Hence, in winter, when there ually to be realized, floated already before are no leaves, there is no sap ascending. their infant eyes ? Hence, also, in spring the earth sometimes The first business, then, of the young opens sooner than the leaves appear; the plant seems to be, to settle firmly down sap ascends, finds no outlet, and gorges
in the home which is to see it grow, prosthe tree with fluid. Man comes to its per and die. It sends its roots down into the aid, taps the dropsical plant, and draws ground, in a hundred various forms. Somefrom the maple its sugar and from the times it is divided into a number of slenpalm its sweet wine. That part of the der threads, to penetrate into loose, sandy sap which is not absorbed in its way up soil, as e. g. in the grasses, that bind the ward, and not given out to the air through arid sands of the sea-coast together with the leaves, returns again on its mysterious their long, articulated roots, and thus proerrand, depositing here and there the ma tect the dykes of Holland against the fury terial most needed, and hoarding up, at of the ocean. Others are in the form of a sin. intervals, large quantities that are not gle, straight and powerful taproot, to pierce immediately required for future wants. firm, solid ground—or even in long flat Such provisions, carefully stowed away, scales, which adhere and fasten themselves are found in the potato, which is little to bare rocks. Tender, delicate fibres else than a magazine of nutritive matter, though they be, these roots possess an inor in the sage of palm trees and the credible power. Even in the tall, slender caoutchouc of South America. Lastly, grass they are so firmly interlaced with that part of the material imbibed, which the soil, that they cannot be torn out
without a large mass of earth, and there
Thus the roots of a plant pump up fore compel us to cut or saw off the straw nearly all the nutriment that is required, of our grain. With large trees they serve and at least ninety-nine per cent. of all as gigantic anchors, chaining the mighty the water which the plant needs, the only monarch to the earth by their powerful other part needed being brought by the and wide-spreading arms, and firmly sup vapors of the atmosphere and absorbed porting it thus against the immense me through the humus. They perform this chanical force of wind beating above duty with a vigor little suspected by the against the large surface presented by its inattentive; but if we cut a vine and fashuge branches, covered with dense foliage. ten a bladder to the wound at the time In their downward progress they turn when the sap is rising, it will in a short aside from no obstacle. The roots of the time be filled and finally burst; and it colossal chestnut-tree on Mt. Etna, under has been stated that the root of an elmwhose deep shade a hundred horsemen tree which was by accident badly woundhave easily found shelter, penetrate ed, poured forth, in a few hours, several through rock and lava to the springs at the gallons of water. very foot of the mountain. Massive blocks Not all roots, however, have to perform are lifted up by roots as if with irresisti this difficult and responsible task of exble force. The beautiful trees that flour tracting food from the earth around them; ish amid the ruined temples of Central those of aquatic plants draw it directly America, upheave huge fragments of those from the water itself, as in our common enormous structures, high into the air, duckweed, where each little leaf has its and hold them there as if in derision. In own tiny root, a single fibre, which fact, the latent energy and slowly accu hangs from the lower surface. In the inulated force of these slender fibres in mangrove, on the contrary, they form a the process of forcing their way through kind of enormous network in the water, walls and rocks of vast size, is only which intercepts all solid matter, that equalled by the grace of their movement floats down rivers and estuaries, until the and form; and this union of power and tbus arrested and decomposing substances beauty, the one latent, the other obvious, form fever-breeding swamps. When the explains, in part at least, the singular flood recedes the roots are left uncovered, charm that the vegetable world exercises and often found filled with shellfish-a over so many strong but susceptible fact which explains the wonderful tales minds.
of early travellers in the Tropics, that But roots serve not only as fastenings: there were trees found in the East and they are, as has already been mentioned, West Indies on whose branches oysters the principal avenues for the introduction were growing of food into the plant. They operate by
Other roots have no home on land or means of most delicate fibres at the end, water; they must ever be content to called spongioles, endowed with so minute hang, all their lifetime, high and dry in openings, that all nutriment to be taken the air. Some, it is true, accomplish a in must be liquid. Nor is it the least of firmer settlement, late in life, as those of the mysteries of plant life, that these fine, the screwpine, which grow not only at slender roots do not absorb all that is the foot of the tree, but for a considerable presented to them in a liquid form, but height from all parts of the trunk, to proevidently have a power of discrimination. tect the plant from the violent winds. They open or close their minute apertures From thence they hang down into the air at will, admitting only fluids of a certain, and furnish us with a beautiful evidence consistency, and thus select those sub of creative design in the structures of stances which are best adapted to the the vegetable world. They are, name growth and welfare of the plant. The ly, at this stage of their growth, provided finer, suitable material is taken in, the with a kind of cup at each extremity, coarser rejected. Repeated, careful expe which catches every stray drop of rain riments have proved this beyond doubt. and dew, and thus enables them, both to A grain of wheat and a pea, raised in the grow themselves and to furnish nutriment same soil and under absolutely the same to the parent plant. In the course of circumstances, draw entirely different sub time, however, they reach the surface of stances from the earth. The wheat con the water, and instantly these cups fall sumes all the silica or flinty matter, that off, as the roots now need such extraordiwater can absorb, while the pea takes up nary assistance no longer. Others spend no flint, consuming, on the other hand, their lives, literally, in building castles in whatever lime or calcareous matter the the air. Almost all the Orchids of the water of the soil may contain.
Tropics use a tree, a block of wood, or a
stone, merely as a support on which to settle down, and over which to spread their aerial roots. These, however, do not penetrate into the substance, and have no other source of nutriment, than the vapor of the damp, heated atmosphere, which constantly surrounds them, and thus serve the double purpose of claspers and feeders. Even law-defying squatters are found among the plants, like the mistletoe of sacred memory. It fastens upon some strong, healthy tree, and having no power of forming true roots for itself, it sends out branches which creep through crevices in the bark, into the wood, so that the roots of the parent stem must supply it with food, and the parasitical plant lives, in truth, upon the very life blood of the tree on which it has fastened itself. Even the stately palm is frequently seen in the murderous embrace of a plant, which is emphatically called the Parricide tree. It commences, like every thing vicious, with a small and rather pleasing growth on the trunk or among the branches, then rapidly extends its graceful tendrils in every direction, and increases in bulk and strength, until at last it winds its serpent folds in deadly embrace around the parent tree. The conflict lasts sometimes for years, but the parricide is sure to be victorious in the end, and to strangle the noble palm in its beautiful but deadly coils. The prosperity of the Parasite thus becomes an almost infallible sign of the decay of its victim, and a most affecting image of life crushed by a subtle, brute force. And yet it has its redeeming feature in the remarkable fact that these parasites never attack firs or evergreens, but only cover with their foliage those which winter deprives of their glory. The ivy, which often wraps the largest giants of the forest in its dark green mantle, thus appeared to older nations as the symbol of generous friendship, attaching itself only to the unfortunate, and making its early protector, even after death, the pride of the forests in which he lives no longer,—it gives him new life, covering his lofty trunk and broad branches with festoons of eternal verdure.
Still, wherever roots may be lodged in the dark, still earth, or under the restless waves, in the damp air of the Tropics, or the bark of a foreign tree-they labor without ceasing, night and day, summer and winter. For the life of plants, and the work of their roots, does not cease in winter as is commonly believed, and deeprooted trees, especially, enjoy the benefit of the warmth which is laid up during summer, in the crust of the earth, and
that at the very time when their branahes groan under a load of snow, or stand encased with ice and fantastic glittering pendants. Far under ground, they continue to work indefatigably, until the bright sunshine returns once more, and they feel that the fruit of their industry can again safely ascend through the dark, gloomy passages of the tree, to pass at last into the merry green leaves, and there to mingle with the balmy air of spring. For they are a hardy class of laborers, these roots, and neither cold nor ill treatment checks their activity. It is well known, that the common maple tree may be completely inverted; its branches being buried under ground and its roots spread into the air, without being destroyed. The finest orange trees in Europe, in the superb collection at Dresden, were brought as ballast, in the shape of mere blocks of timber, without roots or branches, in the hold of a German vessel, and found their way to Saxony. Some curious gardener, anxious to know what plant furnished this new wood, planted them, but unfortunately, mistook the upper end for the lower, and thus actually turned the poor, mutilated trees upside down. Yet, in spite of all this, they have grown and flourished beyond all other orange trees on the continent.
The next step in the life of a plant, after it has thus riveted itself firmly and for ever to its mother earth, is to send its stem or trunk upwards. In doing this, it is evidently infiuenced by a desire to approach the light of day. This has been proved by experiments as cruel as those that used to shock our sensibilities in the days of early anatomy. Seeds have been so placed, that the light reflected from a mirror should fall upon them from below, and lo! the so-called natural direction of the growth of plants was completely changed; the stem was sent down and the roots grew up! When Nature, however, is allowed to have her own waywhich we humbly surmise to be the best-stems grow towards the light, to support the plant in its proper position and to raise it to the requisite height above ground, to enjoy air, light and heat. At a certain point, moreover, it spreads out into branches, as the best mode of presenting the largest surface, covered with leaves, to those necessaries of life. They are thus enabled to receive the fullest action of light and air, and the branches are, besides, so arranged that they yield readily to the fitful impulses of winds, and return, by their elasticity, to their natural position.
In similar beautiful adaptation to out their bark deeply furrowed with numerous ward circumstances, we find that the channels, to lead the moisture of rain and stem of the graceful palm tree is high dew down to the rocky home of their and slender, but built up of unusually deep buried roots. Dark colored and tough, woody fibres, so that it sways soft in tropic climes, to resist the heat, it gently to and fro in the breeze, and yet is white as snow in the Arctic regions, resists the fiercest storms, while the lofty and in northern trees, as birches and wilbare trunk gives free passage to every
lows, in order to reflect what little heat breath of air, and the broad flat top is found in such high latitudes. The tempers the burning sun and shades the bark is, moreover, the last part of a plant fruit hanging down in rich clusters. The that decays, and in some trees may be solemn and imposing fir tree, on the called almost indestructible. Thus Pluother hand, branches low, but just high tarch and Pliny both tell us, that when, enough to let man pass beneath, and four hundred years after the death of the then drops its branches at the extremities, great lawgiver Numa Pompilius, his grave like a roof, exposing on terrace after ter was opened, the body of the king was a race, its small fruit to all aspects of the handful of dust, but the delicate bark, on sun, and, in winter, letting the heavy which his laws had been written, was snow glide down on the smooth polished found uninjured by his side. leaves. If the palm were a pyramid like Not all stems, however, are of the same the pine, it would fall before the first firm, upright structure. Nature shows storm of the tropics; if the pine were tall beauty not only in the forms themselves, and shaped like a broad parasol, the snow but perhaps still more in their endless vaand ice of the north would break it by riety. In the cactus family they are repretheir heavy weight.
sented by what we commonly, though erIt is this part of the plant which gives roneously, call their leaves, viz., fleshy it, in common lise, its proper rank and expansions, tumid with watery juice, and name in the vegetable kingdom. When clothed with a leathery cuticle, instead the stem is not woody and dies after the of bark. Of all cactuses, but one has flowering season, we speak of it as an real leaves: all others possess little more herb, while a shrub has already a greater than miserable substitutes in the form of size and a stem that branches at the base. tusts of hair, thorns and spines. These The tree lists its head high into the air, only, as far as they go, are their true and divides mostly above. The stems of leaves. The stems, it is well known, disclimbers and creepers are long, thin and play in this same family an unusual vawinding, whilst runners crawl along the riety of odd, outlandish-looking shapes. ground or beneath it, and produce new Now they rise, under the name of torchplants at their termination.
thistle, in a single branchless column to The stem has frequently a decided ten the height of forty feet; and now they dency to grow spirally; in creepers it is spread their ghastly, fleshless arms in all twisted from the root to the end, the bet directions, like gigantic funercal candeter to enable them to lay hold of and to labras. The melon-cactus imitates in embrace the objects around which they shape and bristling spines the hedgehog twine. So it is in all climbing plants and to perfection, whilst the so-called mamtheir tendrils, which derive from this pe milearia are smooth or ribbed globes of culiar structure such strength, that they all sizes. Others, at last, grow longiserve in South America to form long, tudinally, like the long whip-like serpent slender, but perfectly safe bridges over cactus, which swings ominously from the broad rivers. Even large trees have fre trees on which it lives a parasite. Naquently the same spiral tendency, as we ture, however, has made them ample comsee in many a blasted trunk in our forests, pensation for their uncouth appearance or when we attempt to remove the bark and gloomy, wretched aspect, by giving from a cherry tree, which will not tear them a profusion of flowers of unsurstraight and must be torn off in a spiral. passed brilliancy.
In the stem, also, we see the main dif The snake-like form of the last menferences of the growth of various kinds tioned cactus is still more strikingly preof wood in a beautiful variety of grain sented in the stem of the lianes of South and wavy lines. Its outside is protected by America. They are almost entirely stem. bark, sometimes smooth as if polished, Stretched out like the strong cordage of a in others, as in the pine, carved in huge vessel, on which tiger-cats run up and sqnare pieces; hard and invulnerable as down with wonderful agility, or winding stone in the cypress, but cut and cracked serpent-like in and out, now as cords and in the elm. Most mountain trees have now like flat straps, they extend frequent
ly more than a hundred feet, without ture of that little tube alone would I infer leaves and without branches. In the pri with certainty the existence of a wise meval forests of the tropics they may be Creator !" seen hanging from tree to tree, often as Other stems grow under ground, like cending one, circling it until they choke our bulbs, whose scales are the real leaves his life's blood in him—then wantonly of the plants, where they alone, well proleaping over to another-next falling in tected from cold and tempest, live through graceful festoons and then climbing up the dreary winter season. Or they are again to the topmost summit of a palm, hid by the water in which they live, and where, at last, they wave perhaps their then frequently reach an almost incredible bunch of splendid flowers in the highest, length. Some marine Algae have been purest air. Repulsive in themselves, these found more than fifteen hundred feet lianes also grow beautiful by the con long; they branch off as they approach trast they present with the sturdy monarch the surface, until they form a floating of the forest, around which they twine, a mass of foliage, hundreds of yards square. contrast which yet, as every thing in na
These stems resemble cords in every ture, produces harmony. How different variety of form and twist, and are used are these stems again from the beautiful by the natives of the north-west coast, structure of the various grasses. Here a where they are most frequently found, slender column rises, sometimes to the as fishing lines—while others of the same height of a few inches only, as in our kind are dried to serve as siphons, or are common mountain grasses, and then again, formed by the natives into trumpets, in the bamboo, to a towering height, wav with which they collect their roving cating their wide-spread tops in the evening tle at nightfall. The most remarkable breeze, or growing like the gigantic grasses stem, however, of all more common plants, on the banks of the Orinoco, to a height is probably that of the Valisneria, an of more than thirty feet, where they have aquatic plant which grows at the bottom joints that measure over eighteen feet of rivers. It consists of long, elastic from knot to knot, and serve the Indians cords, twisted like a corkscrew, and sends of that country as blowpipes, with which some branches up to the surface, while they kill even large animals. And yet others remain below and are completely the delicate graceful tissue of all these submerged. When the flowering season grasses resists by their wondrous struc approaches, the plant shows an instinct ture the storm that would break columns so closely approaching conscious action as of granite, of the same height and thick to startle the careful observer. Some ness! Nature knows full well that a flowers also are produced below, where slender, hollow tube, with well strength they cannot exhibit the beauty of their ened walls, the most solid parts being frail blossoms; these begin to stretch and placed outside, is the best form to give to twist, as if they longed for the bright firmness and solidity to such structures. sunshine above, and at last they succeed Hence it is that these delicate walls are in breaking loose from their dark, gloomy hardened by a copious deposition of silica, home. In an instant, they rise to the so that e. g. a kind of rattan has solid surface, being lighter than water, expand lumps of it in joints and hollows, and there under the benign influence of light will readily strike fire, with steel; and the and air, and mingle their dust with other so-called Dutch rush, a horsetail moss, is flowers, which are already floating there. largely imported from Holland for its use This “high” life continues until the seeds fulness in polishing furniture and pewter are beginning to ripen, when the elastic utensils. The grass which grows on less stems contract once more, and, with like than half an acre of land is said to con wonderful instinct, carry the seed vessels tain flint enough to produce, when mixed down and bury them in the watery bed with sand and by the aid of the blow of the stream, where alone they can hope pipe, glass-bead of considerable size; to find all the requisites for their future and after a number of haystacks, set up growth and welfare. by the river side, had once been struck The stems or trunks, finally, indicate by lightning and burned, large lumps of in all long-lived plants the age with unglass were found in their place, Won erring accuracy. Their growth being drous indeed are the works of the Al limited only by external causes, years mighty, and well can'we understand the of trees are seen in their size, and this deep pathos with which Galileo, when union of age with the manifestation of questioned as to his belief in a Supreme constantly renewed vigor, is a charm peBeing, pointed at a straw on the floor of culiar to the Life of Plants. Animals, his dungeon and said: “From the struc however curious, beautiful or imposing,