« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
T. The leaves, you see; of all the kinds are very long and narrow, tapering to a point at their ends. Those of corn, you know, are the same.
H. Yes--they are so like grass at first, that I can never tell the difference.
T, Next observe the ears, or heads. Some of these, you see, are thick, and close, exactly like those of wheat or barley; others are more loose and open, like oats.
The first are generally called spikes ; the second, panicles. If you examine them closely, you will find that they all consist of a number of distinct husky bodies, which are properly the flowers ; each of which is succeeded by a single' seed. I dare say you have picked ears of wheat.
H. O yes--I am very fond of them. ,
T. Well then-you found that the grains all lay single, contained in a scaly husk making a part of the ear, or head. Before the seed was formed, there was
a flower in its place. I do not mean a gay fine-coloured flower, but a few scales with threads coming out among them, each crowned with a white tip. And soon after the ears of corn appear, you will find their flowers open, and these white tips coming out of them. This is the structure of the flowers and flowering heads of every one of the grass tribe.
G. But what are the beards of corn ?
T. The beards are bristles or points running out from the ends of the husks. They are properly called awns. Most of the grass tribe have something of these, but they are much longer in some kinds than in others. In barley, you know, they are very long, and give the whole field a sort of downy or silky appearance, especially when waved by the wind.
H. Are there the same kinds of corn and grass
in all countries?
T. No. With respect to corn, that is in all countries the product of cultivation : and different sorts are found best to suit different climates. Thus in the northern parts of the temperate zone, oats and rye are chiefly grown. In the middle and southern, barley and wheat. Wheat is universally the species preferred for bread-corn; but there are various kinds of it, differing from each other in size of grain, firmness, colour, and other qualities.
H. Does not the best wheat of all grow in England ? T. By no means.
Wheat is better suited to the warmer climates, and it is only by great attention and upon particular soils that it is made to succeed well here. On the other hand, the torrid zone is too hot for wheat and our other grains; and they chiefly cultivate rice there, and Indian corn. G. I have seen heads of Indian corn
as thick as my wrist, but they do not look at all like our corn.
T. Yes—the seeds all grow single in a sort of chaffy head; and the stalk and leaves resemble those of the grass tribe, but of a gigantic size. But there are other plants of this family, which perhaps you have not thought of.
G. What are they?
sugar canes and bamboo of the tropics, to the common reed of our ditches, of which you make arrows. All these have the general character of the grasses.
H. I know that reeds have very fine feathery heads, like the tops of grass.
T. They have so. And the stalks are composed of many joints; as are also those of the sugar-cane, and the bamboo, of which fishing rods and walking sticks are often made. Some of these are very tall plants, but the seeds of them are small in proportion,
and not useful for food. But there is yet another kind of grass-like plants common among us.
G. What is that ?
T. Have you not observed in the marshes, and on the sides of ditches, a coarse broader leaved sort of grass with large dark coloured spikes? This is sedge, in Latin carer, and there are many sorts of it.
H. What is that good for ?
T. It is eaten by cattle, both fresh and dry, but is inferior in quality to good grass.
G. What is it that makes one kind of grass better than another?
T. There are various properties which give value to grasses. Some spread more than others, resist frost and drought better ; yield a greater crop of leaves, and are therefore better for pasturage and hay. The juices of some are more nourishing and sweet than