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Some Wonders of Plant Life

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



WE are accustomed to noisy outbursts when we are in the neighborhood of certain juvenile representatives of the animal kingdom. Such out-bursts we attribute to "animal spirits"—and, unfortunately, we know too frequently many noisy results to proceed from the use of "vegetable spirits," or spirits extracted from certain plants ; but we are wholly unprepared for noisy and obstreperous conduct on the part of the plants themselves.

Trees and their allies behave themselves in a becoming manner. To us they are models of steady, decorous conduct.

This exemplary behavior, which is the general rule at home, leads one to the deceptive idea that the trees of other parts of the world are endowed with the same self-respect. But this is far from being the case.

Certain trees of the West Indies and of the tropical parts of South America instead of being circumspect, at certain seasons of the year seem to revel in playing pranks not only upon the natives, but also upon the monkeys that honor them with denizenship.

When trees are given to frivolity an allowance must be made for the comic antics of the monkeys of the New World.

It will be seen from the following that some idea of the natural laws prevailing among certain species of trees in the west may be obtained without journeying across the Atlantic.

A few winters ago a gentleman received a consignment of vegetable curiosities from a relative in British Guiana. Among the number was a sand-box nut, botanically known as Hura crepitans.

Not a word was said about the proclivities of these nuts. Perhaps it was just as well. It may have been bet-ter for his education that he was left in ignorance. The nut itself would educate him. But education ought to be a gradual process. If the nuts thought at all, they thought otherwise.

This beautiful nut specimen, with fourteen compartments comprising its periphery, and with radiations forming an excellent design in geometry, was placed under a glass shade on the mantelpiece. It was frequently taken out, handled, admired, and its fourteen kernels rattled. It was then replaced side by side with other ornaments,

The owner was proud of his possession, for no one else in the town had one. The museum authorities could not boast of a single specimen.

I commend the curator for his respect for his glass cases, and for his care of the eyes of his clients.

For several months the nut was in high favor and was prized beyond most of the specimens in the collection of curios. There was no need, however, to prize it, for it had a peculiar way of prizing itself.

It was a harmless custom of the possessor to go round each night to fasten the windows and doors, and to see that everything was safe.

One night, while he was thus occupied, without any warning whatever, a loud report, quite up to that of any pistol, startled the whole house. He naturally thought he had been fired at through the window, and this surmise gained support owing to the shower of broken glass that followed the report.

The window was not broken, but the glass case was gone from the mantelpiece, and alas ! the beautiful sand-box nut was gone as well.

He found the fourteen kernels and the various pieces that made up the lovely device, but "not all the king's horses, nor all the king's men" could build up the box-nut as it was, again.

At first the owner was sorry for his loss, but he had gained information. The experience opened up in a moment the why and the wherefore of this startling explosion.

He could get more box-nuts from Guiana, and he re-solved to take good care to prevent their apparent suicide.

It appears that the explosion is necessary for the protection of the trees.

Owing to this effort the kernels are scattered several yards away, and do not fall immediately under the trees, as would be the case if the pods opened gradually.

It requires no great stretch of imagination to see that if the seeds fell under the tree they would take root in the decayed tropical vegetation, would grow up, and would ultimately impoverish the parent tree. This, in time, would tend to the degeneracy of the species.

A general, who has spent several years in Jamaica, informs me that one of these trees, growing immediately in front of his quarters, was the source of some lively scenes during the ripening season.

Repeatedly were the fragments of the exploded nuts sent in through the windows.

The monkeys in the branches of Hura crepitans never seem to become reconciled to these explosions, for as soon as a report takes place they scamper away to the other side of the tree, only to be met with more reports and consequent terror. For this reason the nuts are called "The Monkey's Dinner-Bell."

If these trees could be influenced to grow here it might be an advantage to the farmers. One or two trees in a field would produce sufficient nuts to act as scarecrows.

It is worth notice that under favorable conditions all the compartments of each nut explode simultaneously. This arises from the equal drying up and contraction of the layers of the cell walls.

Sometimes the fragments and kernels are scattered to a distance of fifteen or sixteen yards away from the outermost limits of the tree.

In the largest of the museums in Kew Gardens the curator is well aware of the love of liberty inherent in the box-nut. One bottleful of specimens is preserved in a solution, thus preventing the drying and contracting process. Close by is a glass jar containing dried specimens. These can scarcely burst asunder, because several strands of stout copper wire have been passed around the circumference, and several times across the nut.

We can form some idea of the pent-up force in each little nut when we see them bound with copper wire sufficiently strong to bind a man to a post.

With patience and care it is possible to remove all the kernels and to fill in all the cavities with lead. In this form they are used as paper weights.

Hura crepitans is a branching tree that attains to a height of forty feet. It is often planted in the neighborhood of houses, notwithstanding its surprising powers. This is owing to the abundance of its glossy, poplar-like leaves, which afford a splendid protection from the rays of a tropical sun.

Some of the violets explode, so do members of the balsam family, and a cress as well as a spurge. One plant allied to the mistletoe is able to throw its seeds right on to another tree. The squirting cucumber, if touched by an unwary person, is apt to discharge the contents right in the face. None of these, however, proceeds with such vigor and regularity of division as "The Monkey's Dinner-Bell." When we think of the hurry and decision with which the Hura gets rid of its offspring, we fall into a spirit of "philosophy," and wonder how it is that the cocoanut palm not only provides its seeds with an almost impenetrable covering, but drops them gently at its very own feet. This instance is exactly the opposite of the one already quoted, and affords a good example of the diverse plans and methods of nature.

The Lecythus and Anagallis also explode in order to liberate their clusters of seeds.

THE LACE-PLANT

There comes to every one who really loves Nature a feeling of almost ecstatic delight when he sees for the first time one of her attractive products.

The lace-plant is one of these products which give rise in a very marked degree to these pleasant sensations. A piece of bark is stripped off the branch, one end is opened out and opened out until you wonder how many more foliations are coming. You arrive at a stage when you find you have a layer or layers as thin as a sheet of note-paper; but it is still capable of division until it approaches the texture of very fine muslin.

The thin piece of bark can be separated into twenty or more layers, and then you have a light object that would do well for dusting furniture, but it would be a sacrilegious act to turn, it to such a degrading purpose. It deserves a place with your most costly treasures, al-though its price in Jamaica was less than sixpence.

The native women of the island are expert in carrying the opening process a step or two farther. They take out strand after strand of the fibre and dexterously work them into various articles for wear and for household ornamentation. The spinning of the thread that is necessary in other branches of lace manufacture is not required here, for nature produces the thread ready for use when once it is taken out from its fellow threads that conjointly make up the bark.

This lace-plant, to which botanists have given the name Lagetta lintearia, as we have seen, is covered with a bark that consists of concentric layers of fibres which inter-lace so wonderfully, that without any great effort each layer comes off like a piece of lace from a number of pieces of lace pressed together, as it were. It facilitates the removal of the thin foliations to soak the bark in water.

There is authority for saying that King Charles II. received as a present from the Governor of Jamaica a cravat, a frill, and a pair of ruffles made by the natives of this material ; and, to this day, it is made into nets for the hair, caps, bonnets, veils, collars, and other articles of apparel. In fact, samples of several of these articles may be seen in the largest of the museums.

It must not be imagined that the lace-bark fibre is delicate and fragile, for it really possesses great strength, and is more durable than several fabrics produced from spun thread. Sloane says that complete dresses for ladies have been made from this very bark, and that Legatta cloth has been imported under the name of Guava.

Of course, the number of laminae into which the bark is capable of division depends on the age of the tree, probably each foliation corresponds with a single year's growth.

With ordinary care all the manufactured products we have enumerated may be washed and bleached.

Unfortunately there was a time when this natural lace was turned to an ignoble purpose. It was used in the manufacture of thongs for whips, with which the negroes were beaten by their cruel taskmasters.

The lace-plant is often cultivated as an object of interest and curiosity. We must not leave the subject at this point without a few particulars as to its botanical qualifications. It is a small tree of the Spurge Laurel kind. The name given to the family is not much of an improvement upon any of the other names in favor with botanists—viz., the Thymelaeceae. It is known by its "perfect flowers," so we are told. For my part, I thought all flowers were perfect, for even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of them. It has a tubular perianth beautifully colored, eight stamens, and a small, round, hairy fruit enclosed in the persistent base of the perianth. It grows on limestone rocks, and inserts its roots into the fissures. It has broad, rounded leaves, and its flowers are like those of the lily-of-the-valley.

This property of splitting up into leaves, resembling the leaves of a book, is not confined to the lace-bark, Lagetta. Quite a large number of trees produce bark which can be made into clothing. In tropical countries the natives frequently take advantage of this, and pro-duce materials that have all the appearance of having passed through the loom.

Nowadays several kinds of bark are made into ropes, paper, etc. Any museum with a fair collection representing economic botany is bound to have specimens of bark used in such manufactures.

Beautiful lace work has been made by Irish women from the fibres of the nettle and of the convolvulus. But this opens up a wide domain of trees and small plants, cocoanuts, the flax-plant, and a host of other members of the vegetable kingdom, which by their fibres, husks, pods, or even their stems, contribute to man's comfort by supplying the raw materials in a lavish and yet mysterious manner for the purposes of manufacture.

Among the strikingly beautiful things of the earth must be classed in a very prominent position the bark of the lace-plant, Lagetta lintearia.

THE TEASEL OR TEAZEL ( DIPSACUS )

The teazel can perform a duty which no machine, how-ever delicate or accurate, can do half so well. The genius of the nineteenth century produced appliances innumerable and wonderful, both in time and labor-saving; but, so far, the teazel defies imitation and is incomparably superior to any machinery, whether American, German, or English. No machine has yet been invented to sup-plant it. If any man can make artificial teazels, having the same elasticity, flexibility, and other qualities as the fruit-heads of this plant and at a trifling cost, he can win a name and a fortune.

The dried, thorny fruit-heads of the teazel are in demand wherever cloth is manufactured. It is apparent, therefore, that enormous numbers are required. Many millions of them are used annually in England alone. The demand is so great that over twenty million teazel-heads have to be imported from the south of Europe, France, and Germany, to supplement those grown in the West of England.

In the factories the teazel-heads are methodically arranged upon cylinders which revolve over the cloth so that the hooks of the teazels come in contact with the cloth and raise a nap which is subsequently cut level.

Wire cards and various other toothed contrivances have been tried, but they are more or less unyielding when the slightest obstruction occurs in the cloth, and a rent is the result.

The teazel is more yielding and, if it could bring reasoning powers into play, we should say it is more considerate, and rather than wound the susceptibilities of the beautiful material it sacrifices one of its awns or hooks so that the cloth should not be torn. Self-sacrifice, if not always appreciated, has in the case of the teazel a high commercial value. It will be no easy task for man to make a machine, however automatic, that will be endowed with this additional quality of self-abnegation.

When the purple flowers wither, the heads with portions of the stems attached are dried and assorted into sizes to suit customers. According to their quality and sizes, they are known as "kings," "queens," "buttons," etc.

The teazel grows in the south and west of England by the hedge-rows and on waste ground. The plant requires two years for perfect growth. Its whole surface is covered with prickles. The leaves grow in pairs, and are so united at their bases as to form a deep receptacle for holding water. It was owing to this cup-like structure that it was considered a thirsty plant. Hence its generic name, Dipsacus, from a Greek word signifying to be thirsty.

The Dipsacus fullonum, the Fuller's Teazel, is thought by botanists to be a variety of D. sylvestris, the Common Teazel, which grows in the south of England, Ireland, Central and South Europe, and parts of Asia. And the only apparent difference from D. sylvestris lies in the fact that the scales or thorns of the fruit-heads of D. fullonum are hooked instead of straight

The teazel reminds us that we must not despise the unattractive in nature. There is hardly a plant more uninviting. Leaves, stems, and fruit-heads are all covered with sharp thorns, like so many fixed bayonets which appear to mean both defence and defiance; yet, in its usefulness to the manufacturer and consequently to almost everybody, for most of us require cloth, it stands unrivalled.

THE PITCHER-PLANT

The insect-catching plants are among the most wonderful representatives of the vegetable kingdom. They are not by any means limited to the use of pitchers in their modes of capturing insects. The Dionaea and the Drosera have no pitchers.

There are at least thirty species of Nepenthes, all of which have pitchers. Each pitcher has a lid, but- the function of the lid is not to act like a trap by falling over the mouth of the pitcher. It acts as an attractive surface, both by its color and its honey secretion. The lip is covered with large glands which also secrete honey, so that insects are led from the lid to the lip. The lip is curved inwards at the edge and downwards, thus pre-venting the return of any insect that enters the pitcher. The inner surface of the pitcher below the lip is slippery, and in some pitchers, as that of the Sarracenia, it is covered with hairs pointing downwards, presenting an impassable barrier to any insect's return.

A digestive fluid is always present in the pitcher. It is a secretion from the glands of the inner surface, and contains a gastric ferment analogous to that of the members of the animal kingdom. The plant thus captures insects, and digests and assimilates them. Analyses of this liquid and of that of the stomach of the animal show no appreciable difference. On this question of digestion a line of demarcation cannot be drawn between the animal and the plant, but it rather serves as a bridge connecting the two kingdoms.

The question naturally arises, in what manner does the accumulation of putrid matter arising from the dead bodies of insects arrive at the roots for nutritive purposes? I believe it was Lord Avebury who found in the Dioncea of North Carolina and in other plants, a channel leading directly from the leaf to a point over the roots, along which the products of digestion pass; and that this same great authority was further rewarded in his re-searches with the Pitcher-Plant, Sarracenia, to which I have just referred, in discovering the actual constructor of this remarkable channel.

Large numbers of flies are drowned in these pitchers, and form a putrescent mass, in which the grub of an insect finds abundant food for itself while it is furthering the digestive processes of the plant. The grub in time is ready for changing into the pupa stage, and sets about boring a hole through the plant, along which it is to escape to the earth. This channel remains, and when-ever it rains, the accumulated products in the pitcher be-come sufficiently liquid to pass along it and on to the roots. It is worth noting that the insect makes the pass-age just before the flowering time of the plant arrives, when the plant most needs nourishment.

It is evident that the duty of the pitchers is to supply extra nourishment for the growth of the flower and fruit. In tropical climates they also help to reduce the number of insects.

VENUS'S FLY-TRAP

A plant which the great Charles Darwin says "is one of the most wonderful in the world" must be well worthy of our notice. Unfortunately it is not easy to obtain specimens for observation, as its home is limited, so far as we know, to the eastern part of North Carolina. But Canby in America, and Hooker, Darwin, Lord Avebury, and Burdon Sanderson in England, have given a great deal of time and attention to the study of this plant—with exhaustive experiments—and they have placed within our reach a vast amount of information about the Dionća, all of which is intensely interesting and invaluable. One can hardly imagine that such a tiny plant should absorb the special attention of such great and learned authorities. Therefore while appreciating their work, we ought to learn the main particulars, at least, of this important member of the vegetable king-dom. "The rapidity and force of its movements" place it in its unique position among other plants.

In the case of the Drosera, the captured insect, in the first instance, is held by a glutinous secretion and is gradually embraced by the tentacles or arms of the plant. But the behavior of the Dionća contrasts with this, in that its movements are more like that of a rat-trap. At the end of each footstalk there is a two-lobed leaf, the lobes standing at rather less than a right angle to each other. It is between these lobes that the insects are captured. The edges of the lobes are prolonged into spines. "Three minute, pointed processes or filaments, placed triangularly, are projected from the upper surfaces of both lobes." These have been proved to be sensitive points, contact with which causes the lobes to close rapidly. These little pointed processes stand in such a position that, when the lobes close, they interlock. "The upper surface of the leaf is thickly covered, excepting towards the margins, with minute glands of a reddish or purplish color, the rest of the leaf being green. They secrete, but only when excited by the absorption of certain matters."

When an insect touches the sensitive hairs, the lobes press quickly and closely together, the glands are brought into contact with the insect, and secretion commences. This secretion is acid, and contains a digestive ferment. The leaves remain closely shut for many days, and after expanding again are torpid. The power of digestion is limited; the leaves cannot digest more than two or three times in their life.

"Dionaea is looked upon as the most highly specialized of Insectivorous Plants, its sensitive hairs serving as organs of touch, its lobes for capture, and its glands for the consumption of its prey, while in the Drosera the tentacles effect all these ends."

THE HOP-PLANT

There are several curious and interesting particulars connected with the hop-plant which are well worth mentioning. Nature has not provided all plants with thick, rigid stems capable of giving them sufficient support to stand alone in the battle of life. A great number of them, not having inherent strength to be independent, require external support, and are known as climbing plants.

In dense forests and jungles plants with weak stems would fare badly as regards sunshine, were it not that they are endowed with special facilities for attaining to great heights. This is accomplished, too, by the expenditure of very little in the way of material and in a variety of ways.

Some are twining plants. The whole of the plant twines round the supporting agent. One of the most graceful of all twining plants is the Hop. This plant in climbing round its support takes the same direction as the hands of a clock—describing a right-handed helix. It is provided with longitudinal rows of tiny hooks, which give support to the plant. These hooks render a great service, be-cause, as the foliage increases and hop-heads appear, the upper parts of the plant becomes heavy, so that some-thing more than the delicate stem is required to enable the plant to reach the sunshine, and to attain to its full maturity and prolific condition. The important function, therefore, of those little hooks becomes apparent.

The growth movement of a climbing plant is called its nutation. Wherever the plant or its tendril touches the object on which it is climbing, the stimulus of contact causes the side away from the object to grow more rap-idly than the other, and in this way the plant or its tendril commences to curve round its support. It appears from this that plants are sensitive to continued contact, and that they move in response to such stimulus. This constantly brings new surfaces into contact, and causes the twining of the plant or of its tendril. We cannot fail to notice at this point how very closely the plants approach by their sensitiveness the members of the animal king-dom. The sense of touch seems to be very much of the same nature in both kingdoms.

But to return to the hop. The hop has a perennial root and annual stems. The male and female flowers are generally on separate plants. The male flowers are in loose tufts, but those of the female are in dense catkins with membranous, irregularly developed leaves or bracts. The hops of commerce consist of the female flowers and seeds. Numerous little, yellow, shining, resinous grains are to be seen on the bracts, which give out an aromatic odor. They are known as lupulinic glands, and are believed to be the most active parts of the hops.

The hop possesses both tonic and hypnotic properties (that is, power of inducing sleep). Pillows stuffed with hops are sometimes used with success in cases of sleeplessness. From the brewer's point of view the plant possesses several qualities which make it valuable to him in the manufacture of beer. First, in malt liquors, hops exert a chemical influence that preserves them from turning sour by checking acetous fermentation. This quality renders the beer capable of being kept. Secondly, the tannin of the hops by precipitating the albumen of the barley clarifies the beer. Thirdly, they give an aromatic flavor to the beer. Then, fourthly, comes in the question of headiness. Owing to this property the brewer need not use so much of his malt. But apart from the purposes of brewing, hops are often prescribed as a tonic. John Gerarde, a botanist, surgeon, and quaint writer of Queen Elizabeth's reign, says of this plant :

"The hop joyeth in a fat and fruitfull ground, also it groweth amongst briers and thornes about the borders of fields. The flowers are used to season beere or ale with, and too many do cause bitternesse thereof, and are ill for the head. The manifold vertues of hops do manifest argue the wholesomenesse of beere, for the hops rather make it a physicall drink to keep the body in health, than an ordinary drink for the quenching of our thirst."

We are not all likely to accept his statement that hops make the beer "a physicall drinke to keep the body in health," but we must agree with him that "too many do cause bitternesse thereof, and are ill for the head."

In the time of the Romans the hop was a garden plant, and the young shoots were eaten as we eat asparagus. It was first used in England for brewing purposes in the reign of Henry VIII. Its introduction quite supplanted the use of the tender shoots of the broom that were used to give the bitterness so much desired.

In the third year from the date of planting, the hop-plants grown from root sets come to perfection. The young shoots appear towards the end of April, and the plants are in full bloom and ready for picking towards the end of August. The hops are spread out in the oast houses, and dried on a strong hempen or hair network, which allows the free passage of hot air. The process of drying takes from twelve to twenty-four hours. When dried they are placed in the stove-room, where they are fumigated with the fumes of flowers of sulphur. They are then ready for packing in bales. This is accomplished by a screw-press.

Hop-poles varying in height from ten to twenty feet are used for supporting the hops. When the hops are ready for picking, the stems are cut through about a yard from the ground, and the poles are pulled up so that the hops may be readily picked off by hand.

Nature, he chooses the hop-plant for a wonderfully graceful design, set in two overlapping equilateral triangles, in which he makes a number of hop-heads fit into three angles, alternately with hop-leaves occupying the three angles between. For purposes of ornamentation, either in wood, stone, or plaster, its adaptability is all that could. be desired. He mentions that the capitals of Southwell Minster afford a practical example of what may be done in this direction.

With regard to the way in which a plant climbs around a support, we say the hop twines in the direction taken by the hands of a watch, and the convolvulus twines in an opposite direction. These statements are not so convincing as they may appear at first sight. What right and left twining means often gives rise to a great deal of argument. But the matter can be easily settled in the following manner : Place a watch on its back on the table, then put a walking-stick standing upright also on the table. Begin at the lower end to twine a piece of cord round the stick in the same direction as that taken by the hands of the watch. The cord will exactly represent the twining of the hop.

SCHUBERTIA GRANDIFLORA

The original home of this remarkable plant is Central America. It thrives, however, in our own country. It is a climbing plant and may be purchased for a few pence at any of the large nurseries. Its lovely white blossoms appear in July, and they depend so gracefully on their stalks that they remind one of bursting rockets. Every person who examines the details of the flower expresses astonishment as they are unfolded.

The plant is nearly four feet high, and its long twining stalk is covered with very fine hairs. Its white blossoms are quite two inches in diameter, and are frequently mistaken for those of the Syringa. They yield a delicious perfume. But to come to the point of greatest interest for my purpose and one which might be looked upon as trivial and superficial by the learned botanist : Take a blossom and remove the five petals that form the corolla, and you will now have a bulb-shaped calyx attached to its stalk. Proceed to fold back each sepal, and, on looking straight down upon the inner portion, a regular five-sided device appears with a raised centre, having a close resemblance to a tiny ball of ivory not quite so large as a pea. To use an architect's phrase, we have so far been examining the plan. Let us look at its elevation. Hold it up and look at each corner of the pentagon, and at once the exact counterpart of the features of a venerable gentleman will be seen. Rotate it, and five similar faces will appear, the left eye of one face acting also as right eye for the next face. The top of the head is as smooth as the proverbial billiard ball, the forehead is wrinkled, the eye-brows are projecting, the eyes piercing from their sunken orbits, the nose prominent, the cheeks receding and lined, the long white beard is perfect, and the proportions of the head are apparently correct.

"Wonderful!" "lifelike!" and "startling!" are some of the exclamations of those who see this object for the first time.

The form of the human face is fairly well shown on the carapace of the "mask" crab and on other objects in nature, but this is not merely a case of one or two points of resemblance to a human head. It has all the appearance of a head proportionally reduced to very small dimensions.

Some one may say: "Explain the reason for all this." This is too much to expect. It is easier to ask questions about nature than to answer them. The aim in view in putting together brief descriptions of a series of curious products of nature is to draw attention to them and to cause an interest to be taken in them, in the hope that our readers may see that nature is stranger than fiction, and that they may find in nature ample material for absorbing research.

BIELLA

The Riella is a graceful little water plant, spiral in form, and only two inches long. It is one of the mosses.

The mosses are not generally looked upon as yielding any particular benefit to man. One writer says: "They perhaps yield fewer objects of utility to man than any other division of plants, except those of the same alliance. In agriculture and in the garden, though of small size, they are often noxious weeds."

Surely the mosses make the landscape more beautiful, by affording a rich covering for old ruins and walls and trunks of trees. And do they not add largely to the material required for the formation of peat, and cannot peat be used in more than a hundred serviceable ways? Do they not collect and hold water in large quantities? This is to me a striking point in their favor, especially in warm climates. They seem to fulfil an unusually import-ant office in the economy of nature. Mosses are to be found in all parts of the world, even on mountains, at heights where all other vegetation ceases, and in the depth of the forest where vegetation is most prolific. One of their functions is to collect the rainfall like so many sponges, and as they form a thick covering on the trees, they retain for them that moisture which would otherwise rush away in torrents.

Then again the disintegration of many rocks and the consequent formation of humus, or mould, is brought about by the action of mosses. The seeds of the higher plants by taking root in this congenial mould are thereby indebted to the despised mosses.

To the microscopist the mosses are always attractive for their marvellous structure and beauty.

The Riella, although one of the mosses, is classed low down among the liverworts. In most liverworts the plant has a definite leafy structure, but in the Riella we have an exception. Instead of leaves, it is endowed with a beautiful membranous wing about the fifth of an inch wide. This wing is of a pure green color and of extreme delicacy. It turns spirally on a central axis, forming a winding screw, and reminding one of the staircase up the tower of Exeter Cathedral. The central pillar in the staircase corresponds to the ribs or axis of the water-plant. As the membranous wing turns round it has the form of a cone inverted. Although the plant Is only two inches high it is looked upon as one of the most remark-able in the whole of the vegetable kingdom.

All the mosses, with this single exception, grow horizontally, but the Riella grows upright, and is one of the few that grow in water. In fact, it comes to perfection completely under water.

It is attached to the ground by clasping roots known as rhizoids.

A distinguished soldier and botanist, Durieu de Maisonneuve, was the first to discover and describe this plant. He found it in Algiers.

The shape assumed by the plant is what is termed a right-handed helix. There are many instances of the spiral in Nature.



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