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roots, leaves, and capsula, without admiration. Can that Being, thought I, who planted, watered, and brought to perfection, in this obscure part of the world, a thing which appears of so small importance, look with unconcern upon the situation and sufferings of creatures formed after His own image ? Surely not. Reflections like these would not allow me to despair. I started up, and disregarding both hunger and fatigue, travelled forwards, assured that relief was at hand; and I was not disappointed.”
That is the story, and I like it so much, that I do not think I shall ever see a moss again without thinking of Mungo Park, and how much comfort he derived from one.
M. It is indeed a delightful and instructive story. “ And little did Mungo Park, at the time he acted the part of the playful and thoughtless school-boy, with satchel in his hand, and gaily tripping across the lawn on his way to school, unmindful of the beauties of Nature that sprung up beneath his feet, or courted his notice on every side,-little did he then think that ever he would stand in need of consolation from, and be so much benefited by one of the meanest of Nature's silent preachers; that he would be inspired with hope, when on the brink of despair, by one of the lowest in the scale of Nature's vegetable productions." Yet we see it was so.
There is not one of God's works teaches this truth, “ Trust in God,” more clearly than the humble moss and lichen. You will believe this when I tell you that they are the chief comfort and support of a whole nation.
Francis. The chief support of a whole nation! I am quite astonished ; I only know one use for them.
“ Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord ; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass.”—Psalm xxxvii. 3-5.
M. You say you only know one use for moss,—tell me what that is.
John. Some birds build their nests with it; and my aunt uses it to hide all that is ugly about the roots of her flowers in the drawing-room; and we use both mosses and lichens to put in our museum; but that is only to look at. The only real use, I think, is for birds to build their nests with.
M. And a most important use it is; but I think we shall be able to find out a few more. They belong to one of the lowest orders of the vegetable kingdom. Can you name them? Charlie. Yes: Fungi, liverworts, lichens, mosses,
. ferns, and sea-weed.
M. We shall try and find out the uses of the very lowest,-fungi and liverworts, and then go on to the others. All fungi, from the blue mould on cheese, bread, fruit, and other things, grow on some decayed substance.
Annie. Is blue mould a plant ?
M. Yes; and one which shows the power, wisdom, and goodness of God, as clearly as the magnificent oak, and is as useful in its place. From all decayed bodies there are constantly fumes rising into the air, which would very soon putrify, and the air would become so tainted, we could not live; but all plants are formed to absorb this poisonous air by means of their leaves ; and this is the chief use of the fungi and liverworts. They absorb the poisonous air which comes from the decayed substances they grow on, drawing nourishment from them by means of their roots, converting these substances into wholesome soil, and so changing the putrid mass, as it were, into a garden of flowers.
David. That is very wonderful. Then, if there were no plants we could not live ?
M. No. And the reason why a warm mild winter is so much more unhealthy than a cold frosty one is, that in winter there are very few trees and plants with any leaves, so that there is little to absorb the poisonous air. Frost keeps decayed bodies from putrifying, and prevents the particles rising into the air; but when there is no frost, there is nothing to prevent this; and there being no leaves, much of it does putrify, and causes an epidemic; that is, a great deal of sickness in consequence of inhaling the impure air. Wind is likewise a great purifier of the atmosphere; and it is very wonderful, that when the cold of winter is passing away, and there are still no leaves, there are usually very high winds, as in the months of March and April. Thunder and lightning is also a purifier. In very hot climates, where every substance, animal or vegetable, putrifies as soon as dies, and the vapours which rise from these bodies are much greater than they are here, in consequence of the intense heat, there is a great deal of thunder and lightning. Sometimes the rain falls as if it were pouring out of buckets, and the wind blows in hurricanes. The trees are always in full leaf, because all these are necessary to preserve the life of man by keeping the air pure.
James. How very wonderful all this is ! and thank you for telling us. I shall always like fungi, although they are among the lowest of God's works, they are so useful.
George. How are fungi produced ? and how does the blue mould get upon bread and cheese? They do not seem to have flowers and seeds; and if they had, how does the seed get into the pantry?
M. Fungi have both flowers and seeds. In the mushroom kind, these grow on what are called the gills, that is, the red part underneath. They are not easily seen till the mushroom begins to decay, and even then we require a microscope. Blue mould has all its parts as perfect as the oak. It yields a small black seed, which can only be seen with a very powerful microscope. Every plant has its particular climate-some spot where it can only grow, and nowhere else. Some plants will only grow in hot climates, others in cold; some in sand, others in rich soil ; some in rocks, others beneath the snow. Some kinds of blue mould will only grow on cheese, and others on fruit. The seeds are so very small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye. The least motion blows them about in different directions, and there are always some floating in the air; but not one will grow unless it reaches its native soil.
“ In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him : God is a refuge for us.”—Psalm lxii. 7, 8.
M. We shall now proceed to the mosses, and find out some of their uses.
Robert. I have found out one; that is, they assist in keeping the air pure.
M. Quite right. All plants have that property, moss as well as others. Mosses and lichens always grow most abundant and luxuriant in winter, and in cold climates. There are about five hundred different kinds known, and every one of them is beautifully formed. Indeed, nothing can be more beautiful than some of the varieties, both in their leaves and flowers. They are formed to grow anywhere,—on a bare rock, on decayed trees, on living trees, or on the ground, especially in woods and marshes. The seeds of the moss are very small, and constantly floating in the air. One single seed will cling to a bare rock, flourish and decay. Other seeds spring up from this, and, by degrees, a soil is formed by means of the decayed moss,
if you pull some off a rock or a stone wall. The soil underneath is all decayed moss, and gradually as the soil increases, it makes room for larger seeds, as grass; so that, by degrees, a bare rock may become a fruitful field. Those which grow in bogs and marshes, by continual increase and decay, convert them into peat-bogs; so, by this means, the