Page images

that battle with the world which the Wesleys began at Oxford, and which it is now needful to prosecute with tenfold energy.

It would seem that our forces are strengthened to this very end. Time has been given for reflection, and the opportunity is not altogether lost. Congregations have grown larger, and are multiplied. Much wealth has been latterly expended in providing accommodation in the great towns of England for multitudes that are gathering together to hear the word of life. Persecution ceases. The world almost begins to love us; and if its speaking well of us either does not betoken an agreement which would be our worst calamity, it indicates a readiness, in what are called “the masses,” to welcome the message of salvation, if it can be proclaimed among them yet more widely.

Are our young men sufficiently occupied in those labours of intelligent and simple-hearted aggression for which they are specially adapted ? Are our old men willing to stand by them, while they hasten “ to the help of the Lord against the mighty ?" No questions can be more important than these at the present juncture; for there can be little hope that the infidel multitudes of Great Britain, and of Europe, will ever be reasoned out of their infidelity. Nothing but the Holy Spirit of God gives faith, creates a true hatred of sin and falsehood, imparts a cordial and rational conviction of revealed truth, and brings the heart and mind into willing captivity to Christ. Leave society under the influence of evil, and its myriads will rush down the steeps of perdition so that none can stop them ; but give society a determinative influence of goodness, (and, as to instrumentality, this cannot be better done than by a church working with one accord just as our fathers before us did,) and society itself will rise up in resistless reaction against unbelief. Just now, artful men may bewitch the people with their sorceries ; but let apostolic messengers go forth among the very same people, and speak words of truth and soberness, and a multitude will readily give heed to the things which are spoken.

The religious world, so called, is distracted with controversies ; and if the prince of this world were permitted to marshal every adverse power against the Lord, and against His Christ, perhaps he could not proceed more cunningly than by raising up heresies without end to divert the servants of the living God from their chief duty of preaching Christ to sinners, in order to resist in detail heresy after heresy, errors of which each one has in itself poison enough to corrupt the very fountain of salvation, if that fountain could be indeed corrupted. But here is a church which has no need of combating these heresies within her own pale, but is free to consecrate her collective energies to the one service for which it pleased God to raise her up. She has but one work to do. This alone is enough to indicate her calling ; and to obey the Author of this high vocation may well satisfy the hardest student, the most eloquent preacher, the wealthiest member. We have one mind. Have we not ope heart? We are unanimous as to the fundamental doctrines of saving truth ; and just in so far as this unanimity is expressed

in action, and no farther, the vocation of our communion approaches its accomplishinent.

** The world cannot withstand

Its ancient Conqueror;
The world must sink beneath the hand
Which arms us for the war."



NO. XVIII.-PLANT COLONIZATION. It is winter. The trees, with the exception of the hardy race of evergreens, (such as the pine, fir, cedar, ivy, holly, and laurustinus,) have dropped their leaves. Every day the field of white snow.drift, which caps the northern portion of our globe, is extending at its circumference. Only here and there a solitary late-blooming flower may be seen in the garden or the field ; and this at last disappears under the white snow-covering. Nature appears to be devoid of life, as though her pulse had ceased to beat; and we are almost ready to imagine, with the poet, that the snowy mantle is a pall or winding-sheet thrown over her inanimate and motionless form. But never was there an idea more erroneous.

The winter life of plants is one of slumber and inactivity. How deeply interesting the mode of its preservation! The flowers are all safely sheltered in their winter's home beneath that snow-covering, either in underground buds or seeds; and they will come up again in their old haunts, delicate, beautiful as ever, and uninjured. Reader, may you live to welcome the spring flowers, to see once more the snowdrop and crocus, the violet, anemone, and primrose!

The dispersion and preservation of the germs of vegetable life form one of the most interesting chapters in the volume of creation, illustrating, as it most certainly does, the care of the great Creator over flowers, and therefore over ourselves. The seed which a plant produces may be truly regarded as only a retreat, into which its exhausted vitality retires for protection, repose, and recuperation, during the winter months. When a plant approaches the close of its allotted period, it is really surprising with how much care provision has been made for the continuation of the species. Hence the beautiful contrivance to effect the removal of the seed to spots favourable to its germination, and also the immense quantity of seed which the dying plant produces.

Now, although the dispersion of the seeds of plants becomes more abundant as the year draws to its close, yet the reader must not suppose that this is exclusively an autumnal phenomenon. For, throughout the whole of the vegetative season, from the time when the whitlow grass sheds its innumerable seeds in the month of March, and the feathered seeds (or, more correctly speaking, the pericarps) of the dandelion are wafted abroad by the breezes of May, even to the fall of the first snows of winter, this process of seed-dispersion has been carried on ; blossom after blossom has appeared and disappeared, only to be followed by its seed-vessels, the contents of which have been scattered by the peculiar means of distribution which have been assigned by Providence to each plant.

It is not possible in this paper to mention all these contrivances; but a few of the most interesting cases may be adduced.

Sometimes the seed-vessel of the plant opens with a spring-like mechanism. The seeds of the garden balsam, and of the common furze or whinbush, are separated in this manner, being discharged from the seed-vessel to a considerable distance from the pods by their elastic bursting or opening. In Hura crepitans, a plant belonging to the natural order Euphorbiaceve, or the Spurge Family, which grows in the West Indies and in South America, the seeds are projected from the strong bony envelope of the seedvessels as soon as it opens, which it does with immense force, and with a report as loud as a pistol. Hence the odd name often given to this species, “ Monkey's dinner-bell.” The bursting of seed-vessels in this manner can scarcely be regarded as a vital phenomenon, being due entirely to mechanical causes, and attributable to the state of the tissues, which, possessing unequal power of imbibition and elasticity, are torn apart. It is a case of what is called, in common language, “ warping."

When the pericarp, or seed-vessel, does not open elastically, the atmosphere not unfrequently effects its removal from the plant. For this purpose, the pericarps* of the thistle, dandelion, and common groundsel, have attached to them a beautiful stellate down : a contrivance this, which is evidently intended to catch the wind, and by means of which they are removed when fully ripe, and wafted away. All must have marked these winged travellers through the atmosphere. In the thistle and the groundsel, this down projects directly from the surface of the pericarp, like the feathers of a shuttlecock ; in the dandelion and the goatsbeard, it is supported upon a stalk, which elevates it above that surface. In the last plant, each fine hair of the tuft is itself a feather; the whole forming one of the most elegant and perfect of objects. Neither is there any mistaking of the reason why the pericarps of some plants—burdock, for example—are furnished with barbs and books, by means of which they cling to the bodies of animals and men, who thus unconsciously become instruments in effecting their removal. It is impossible to traverse the woods or marshes in autumn without having such seed-vessels forced upon our notice, by the attachment which they have effected to our clothing. How little are ramblers aware, when they have brushed off these troublesome intruders, in some distant locality to which they have unwillingly carried them, (it may be, in a way

* Pericarp, from the Greek. This term is equivalent, in meaning, with "seedvessel.” The so-called seeds of the dandelion and the thistle are not seeds, but pericarps, or seed-vessels, each containing a solitary seed. This remark may be easily verified by examination.

very convenient for their germination,) that they have fulfilled the grand and secret purpose of the Creator!

Occasionally, as in the willow-herb, the seeds themselves are furnished with the coma, or tufts of hair, hy means of which, on the opening of the pericarp, they are lifted by the wind out of its cavity, and carried away sometimes to a great distance from the parent plant.

Birds, too, are important agents in this dissemination. It is well known that the seeds of numerous berries and small fruits will grow, though they may have passed through the bodies of birds. Many of the omnivorous birds—for instance, the thrushes—migrate from north or south in autumn, at the time when berries and similar fruits are ripe ; and they often void the seeds of these fruits, little altered. In this manner we can account for a fact which every observer of nature must have noted,—the sudden appearance of a single plant in a place where its species was entirely unknown before.

The mistletoe bears & small white berry, with an extremely viscid pulp. Birds fond of this fruit encumber their bills with its glutinous substance ; and, for cleansing, rub them on the branches of the trees on which they may chance to alight; thus depositing the seeds in the very place where Providence intended that they should grow.

The heavy seeds of the oak, walnut, and chestnut, too large for distribution by the feathered tribes, are buried by squirrels, which love to make their home upon them. One day, taking a walk in the woods, the writer had his attention attracted to a squirrel which sat very composedly upon the ground. He stopped to observe the animal for a few minutes. Almost immediately he darted to the top of a noble oak; in an instant he was down again with an acorn in his mouth; and, after finding a soft spot, he quickly dug a small hole, and deposited his charge, the germ of a future oak, covered it, and then darted up the tree again. In a moment he was down with another, which he buried in the same manner, and in this way he continued to labour as long as he was watched. The instinct of this squirrel, doubtless, induced him to bury these acorns as a provision for his future wants ; but such is his activity and untiring industry, that he buries more than he can eat, and the surplus will rise as trees to adorn and enrich the earth.

Some pericarps are conveyed by the rivers into which they fall, or by the waves of the ocean, many hundreds and even thousands of miles away from the countries which originally produced them. In this manner, many of the native plants of France, Spain, and other adjacent countries, have been naturalized in England ; and the pericarps of tropical climates are conveyed to the coasts of Norway and Scotland. The foreign pericarps which are annually left on the Norway coast are, principally, cashew-nuts, bottlegourds, cocoa-nuts, and the fruit of the dog wood tree. These are often in 80 recent a state, that they would unquestionably vegetate, were the climate favourable to their growth and existence. When carried to countries better suited to their nature, they germinate, and colonize with a new race of


vegetables the land on which the ocean has cast them. In this manner it is that the coral islands, as they appear above the waves of the Pacific, are speedily covered with a crop of luxuriant vegetation. The cocoa-nut is well adapted for this purpose, as it grows luxuriantly in salt water; and it is, probably, the first tree that vegetates on these newly-formed lands.

Most of the seeds thus carried abroad never germinate at all, as they fall either into situations unfavourable for their growth, or upon a soil which is already pre-occupied by other plants. The seeds which have been thus unfavourably located retain their vitality for a longer or shorter period. Such as have very thin and delicate envelopes will die after a few weeks' exposure ; so, likewise, oleaginous seeds will, in general, decay much sooner than such as contain albumen. Other seeds, on the contrary, will retain their vitality for an indefinite length of time. Pease, taken from the Herbarium of Tournefort, where they had remained for more than one hundred years, were made to germinate in the Botanical Gardens at Paris. Dr. Lindley mentions the germination of raspberry-seeds, found in 1834 in an ancient barrow, (tumulus,) near Maiden-Castle, along with coins of the Emperor Hadrian. The seeds were found in a coffin thirty feet below the surface, and may have been from 1,600 to 1,700 years old.

The organization of the seed appears to be so constructed as to preserve its latent vitality from injury by adverse external circumstances, and with an especial reference to those mishaps which may befall it when separated from the parent plant.

The repetition, from year to year, of the same beautiful and evanescent forms, is rendered additionally certain by the immense quantity of seed which is produced by the dying plant. On a specimen of the castor oil plant, cultivated by the writer, ten clusters of pericarps were counted ; each cluster produced upwards of fifty pericarps, and each pericarp contained three seeds. The total number of seeds produced by this single plant was therefore 10 x 50 x 3 = 1,500. Suppose each seed to germinate, and the plants to arrive at maturity, the product of the next season would be 1,500 x 1,500 = 2,250,000. In other plants, the first crop of seeds is still greater. It has been calculated that the sunflower produces 4,000 seeds, and a single thistle 24,000, the first year ; therefore the second year's crop would amount to 16,000,000 of seeds in the former, and 576,000,000 of seeds in the latter. How immense the amount of vegetable life which may spring from a single seed! Happily for mankind, every vegetable embryo is not destined to give rise to a future progeny. Millions of seeds, or vegetable embryos, are annually called into existence ; but by a variety of causes their incipient life is destroyed. Many seeds are used as food by animals, and many more decay. Were it not for the operation of these causes, by which the species are kept within prescribed limits, such is the fecundity of nature, that there can be no doubt the seed from a single thistle or dandelion would, in the course of a few years, be sufficient to cover with plants not only every square inch of our own globe, but the entire surface of every other planet in the solar systein.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »