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FIRST DIVISION OF VEGETABLE PHYSIOLOGY,
(THIS SUBJECT IS CONTINUED IN THE FIFTH READER.)
THE VEGETABLE KINGDOM.
1. THE first notice we have of that part of the world around us which bears the name of the vegetable kingdom, is in the first chapter of the Bible, where we are told that on the third day of the creation God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself upon the earth."
*The science of BOTANY, so called from the Greek word botane (Boravn), a plant, has been divided by botanists into three parts: 1st. ORGANOGRAPHY, which treats of the structure or anatomy of plants; 2d. VEGETABLE PHYSIOLOGY, which treats of the functions of their several parts-the way a plant lives and grows, etc.; and, 3d. DESCRIPTIVE BOTANY, which treats of the classification of plants, their geographical distribution, and the general characteristics of the most important vegetable productions.
2. At the command of the Almighty the mysteries of vegetable life began to start into being; shrubs and flowers adorned the fields, lofty trees waved in the forests, and herbs and grasses covered the ground with verdure. It was only after the earth had thus been robed in beauty that it brought forth abundantly "cattle and creeping things," and "every living creature after its kind." Thus vegetables rank first in order in the scale of creation. Being designed for the support of animal life, they are universally diffused2 over our globe— throughout the extremes of heat and cold—even in the waters of the sea as well as on the land.
3. Wherever the eye is directed it encounters an infinite multitude of the most dissimilar forms of vegetation. Some are cast ashore by the waters of the sea in the shape of leathery straps or thongs, or are collected in ocean meadows of vast extent; others crawl out of the crevices of dank3 and loathsome mines, where the light of day never penetrates; in rivers and tranquil waters are found living threads of green; mud throws up its jelly-like scum; filthy dregs of all kinds bring forth their living brood of microscopic1 plants; corn crops change to fetid3 soot; rust and mildew blight our grains; and all matter in decay is seen to teems with mouldy life. All these forms belong to the lower orders of the vegetable world.
4. If we rise higher in the scale, this never-ending diversity opens a world of beauty to our view. The bark of ancient trees is covered with velvet; their branches are hung with a gray-beard tapestry; and grandeur and gloom overspread the forest world. The scene changes in the more open landscape. There heaths and moors wave with a tough and wiry herbage; meadows are clothed with an emeralds mantle, amid which spring up flowers of all hues and forms; bushes throw abroad their many-fashioned foliage, and twining vines scramble over and choke them.
5. The individual forms of vegetation also change at every step. With every altered condition and circumstance new plants start up. The mountain side has its own races of vegetable inhabitants, and the valleys have theirs; the tribes of the sand, the granite, and the limestone are all different; and
the sun does not shine upon two degrees on the surface of this globe, the vegetation of which is identical, for every latitude has a flora10 of its own. In short, the forms of seas, lakes, and rivers, islands and peninsulas, hills, valleys, plains, and mountains, are not so infinitely diversified11 as the vege tation which adorns them.
6. In all ages of the world, flowers, the crowning glory of plants, have been especially regarded as things of beauty, and emblems of innocence and virtue. Many of the finest poetical images in all languages are drawn from them. Our Lord alludes to the "lilies of the field," to convince his people of God's care for them. He says, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you that Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?"
7. That eminent American botanist, Professor Gray, in quoting this passage, remarks, "When Christ himself directs us to consider with attention the plants around us-to notice how they grow-how varied, how numerous, and how elegant they are, and with what exquisite skill they are fashioned and adorned, we shall surely find it profitable and pleasant to learn the lessons which they teach."
"Thou wert not, Solomon! in all thy glory,
"Whate'er man finds Of flavor or of scent in fruit or flower, Or what he views of beautiful or grand
In nature, from the broad majestic oak
To the green blade that twinkles in the sun,
Prompts13 with remembrance of a present God."-Cowper.
1 VERD'-URE, greenness; vegetation.
2 DIF-FUSED', spread abroad.
3 DANK, damp; moist.
4 MI-CRO-SCOP'-I€, very small.
5 FET-ID, rank; offensive to the smell. 6 TEEM, abound.
7 TAP'-ES-TRY, woven hangings for walls.
8 EM'-E-RALD, bright green.
9 I-DEN'-TI-CAL, the same; not different.
10 FLO-RA, a collection of trees and plants of a particular country.
11 DI-VER-SI-FIED, varied.
12 TRAN'-SI-TO-RY, passing away quickly.
13 PROMPTS, suggests; reminds.
1. "How can children gain a knowledge of botany'? Can not the difficulties which are said to accompany the study of this branch of science be, by some little contrivance, either removed altogether or very much diminished'? Allow me, in answer to this question, to repeat a fable which I remember to have read in some French author.
2. "A lady, observing some ants traveling across a table, dropped a lump of sugar in the midst of them; but, to her surprise, although ants are noted sugar-eaters, they all retreated in terror from the spot, nor could any of them afterward find courage to return to examine the object of their dread; on the contrary, they chose another track, and carefully avoided that which would have proved a treasure had they known its value.
3. "Struck by this occurrence, the lady placed the same piece of sugar on a part of the table near which the ants were in the habit of crossing, and, when she saw one of them approaching it, she gently placed her finger in his way, so as to obstruct his passage without alarming him. The ant paused, looked around him, and then took a new direction, not exactly toward the sugar, but near it.
4. "The lady again opposed his passage gently, and at last, by making him take a sort of zigzag1 direction, as it were, at every few steps, the ant was unconsciously brought to the sugar without being frightened. Once there, he examined the glittering rock attentively, touched it cautiously, broke off a morsel, and hastened away with it to the ant-hill, whence he presently returned at the head of a host of his comrades, by whom the rest of the sugar was quickly carried off.
5. "So it is with the science of Botany, and the young who have to acquire a knowledge of it. Let them be once alarmed at the aspect3 of their new pursuit, and it is almost impossible to restore their confidence; but there are few who, if led to it insensibly, will not persevere until they have made themselves masters of the subject."
6. Such are the remarks by which an eminent English botanist, Dr. Lindley, introduces one of his valuable works to the beginner in botanical studies. Like him, we would imitate the discretion of the lady in the fable; and, as we would not wish to frighten our youthful readers at the outset, we shall not build up a hedge of technical terms for them to climb over before they can enter the field to which we invite them.
7. At the beginning of this lesson we have given an engraving of an oak-tree, the pride of American forests, and a date-palm, a native of tropical climes, each surrounded by its kindred species of vegetation. The contrasts of the widelydifferent forms of the oak and the palm, and of the seeds from which they sprung, shall serve as the basis on which to construct our first lesson in botany, and for pointing out the two great divisions of the vegetable world. In the following language Mrs. Howitt has very prettily described the "sprouting oak-tree:"