« PreviousContinue »
WITH REFERENCES TO THE WORKS
DE CANDOLLE, LINDLEY, ETC.
PHIL AD EL PHIA :
If a person whose life, from infancy to manhood, had been passed in some volcanic island, where scarcely a lichen covered the rock, should be suddenly removed into a region of luxuriant vegetation, his wonder and admiration could not fail to be excited by the scene around him. The return of spring would indeed appear to him as an “annual miracle,” and he would probably inquire earnestly into the causes by which the vernal leaves and flowers were produced. Habit has so familiarized us with these beautiful objects, that many of us forget to bestow a thought upon them; and we eat our bread, wear our linen, or sail the ocean in our majestic vessels, without a recollection of the growth of the corn, the flax, or the oak. In this, as in many other matters, King Solomon has set us a wiser example. Monarch, statesman, and philosopher as he was, he nevertheless found leisure to make himself acquainted with “every plant,” “from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop on the wall;” and “a greater than Solomon” vindicated the claim of this exquisite part of the creation to be studied and admired, when he declared that the Monarch of Israel, “in all his glory,” was not arrayed like one of the lilies of the field; while at the same time he instructed us how to draw from the study its most consoling and important inference, that “if God so clothe the grass,” his fostering love will assuredly be bestowed in full measure on us, his rational creatures.
There is one point of view from which the ac
quaintance with any of the works of creation assumes its highest moral aspect, God is Truth ; the one only source from which no error ever flows; and whenever we have arrived at the undoubted knowledge of any facts in nature, we have made a fresh approach to truth, and to the “Fountain of Truth.” Let the subject of inquiry be what it may, this assertion will be found to hold good. What God has not disdained to make, we may surely think it time well bestowed to examine, and coming to that examination in a right spirit, we may indeed find “tongues in trees,” and even in what man, in his insolence, has called the meanest weeds.
In one of the former “Small Books,” some insight has been afforded into the wonderful chemistry perpetually going on in the vegetable as well as in the animal department of the great laboratory of nature. It is the object of the present little treatise to give a general idea of the structure, nourishment, and reproduction of the plants themselves, of Vegetable Physiology in short;-and although the compass of this work is too small to admit of much technical detail, it is hoped that enough information may be conveyed to increase the interest with which its readers will henceforth view the vegetable world around them, and to excite a wish, in those who may have leisure, to pursue the subject at some future day.
†he following Treatise makes no pretension to originality, being a compilation chiefly from the works of M. de Candolle, Alphonse de Candollersometimes almost literally translated,—Professor Lindley, &c., carefully put together with a view to afford an enlarged idea of the general nature of the subject, and to justify the assertion of the first named physiologist, that from the apparently humble func
tions of vegetable life, we may raise our thoughts to the contemplation of the universal order that exists in the natural world.* Let us now return to our imaginary personage, who has inhabited a volcanic island destitute of vegetation, and has been supplied with food for both man and beast from elsewhere. He has seen rocks, and locomotive, sentient beings, and nothing else. He quits his island, and lo! the earth is covered with grass, and trees, and flowers, and fruit, whose use soon becomes apparent from the myriads of living creatures which find their food there, but what is this new appearance? Is it the rock shooting up into crystals under the influence of the sun and rain, as salt crystalizes from sea water But the rock, when broken, retains its characteristic forms and substance unchanged: our islander pulls a herb, or cuts a branch, he finds moisture exuding from it, like blood from the flesh of an animal; and the uprooted, or cut portion withers and decays. It has, then, in common with the animal, some interior mechanism for the transmission of fluids, and some principle by which this mechanism is regulated: for though not one particle of the severed portion be injured by the cutting off from the tree, it can exist no longer than while it forms part of an individual; and the mechanism which nourished it is useless when removed from the influence of that individual principle : this principle is something distinct from mere tubes and fibres, and its operation appears closely to resemble what is called life in animals. Our inquirer therefore will soon resolve that the vegetable
* To the recent works of Dr. Carpenter on Animal and Wegetable Physiology, and to Professor Henslowe’s “Principles of Descriptive and Physiological Botany,” the writer thankfully acknowledges much obligation.