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with the idea of rootless, free, independent
vegetables, swimming loose in their liquid
medium. But once let the mind conceive a
class of completely unattached plants, and
the addition of some power of movement to
their other properties becomes less difficult
to admit. We have familiar evidence of some
degree of motion in plants. The geranium in
the cottage window turns its leaves to the
light, perseveringly and unfailingly, in whatever
position it may be placed. Several
plants and parts of plants, as the sensitive-
plant, the fly-catch, the stamens of the
berberry, and others, shrink when touched.
The leaves of that whimsical vegetable, the
Hedysarum gyrans indulge in unaccountable
fits of twitching and turning which strongly
resemble the movements of the Oscillatorias.

There is a class of microscopic bodies, now
marched off to the plant side of the frontier;
which, in death, are extremely valuable as
test-objects, and are greatly sought after for
the beauty of the markings on their silicious
shields. In life they are remarkable for the
spontaneous motions which caused them to be
regarded as true animalcules, and to be long
held in the clutches of the zoological party.
These are the Diatomaceæ generally, and the
Naviculas and Bacillarias in particular. They
move, I think, in apparent obedience to a
will; but it is extraordinary that the means
of their motion have not been discovered, any
more than the mode of their nutrition. One
savant thinks that he has detected a ciliary
action at certain parts of the diatom; another
savant, aided by glasses which he says have
never been surpassed for clearness and definition,
questions whether the discovery be
anything beyond optical illusion. He (the latter)
has never been able to detect the slightest
semblance of a motile organ. For those who
wish to judge for themselves, Naviculas are
easily found in a living state, and their freaks
may be observed with a student's microscope
of good quality and moderate power.

Beside these puzzles, there are also
microscopic animalcules, gifted with vivacious
motion, which, in reality, are neither plants
nor animals, but are derivatives from one
or the other of these. It suffices to follow
the development of these pretended living
creatures, to be convinced, for good and
all, that they are not beings endowed with
individual life, and capable of reproducing
individuals similar to themselves, but are
simply particles detached from the organism
which furnished them, still preserving a
remnant of vitality, in the same way as
happens to vibratile cilia when carefully
removed from mucous membranes. They are
analogous to the dispersing portions of a
large animalcule, such as a Stentor, while it
is perishing by diffluence.

It is easy to understand the wisdom and the
utility of minute vegetables like the Volvoxes
and Oscillatorias being rendered capable of
locomotion. As certain animals are fixed to
one spot,—the barnacle on its rock, and the
madrepore and coral-insect on its polypidom
with advantage to themselves, because the
action of the medium in which they live, the
currents and the tides, is continually bringing
everything they require to their hand
and mouth; so, when the case is reversed,
when the medium to be purified is stagnant
and currentless, it then must be the purifying
agent which moves about, in order to absorb,
as materials for its own growth and nutrition,
the gases and other insalubrious elements,
pervading the whole mass of the motionless
waters. Motion in the vegetable itself
is also an obvious means of dispersion,
analogous to those possessed by higher plants in
the downy parachutes, the hooks, and the
wings, by which their seeds are carried from
place to place. Were microscopic plants
motionless, at the same time increasing as
rapidly as they do, they would swarm,
destroy each other, and rot at one end of a
pool or a lake, while the other end might be
utterly deprived of their presence. As it is,
they are equally distributed throughout the
habitats suitable for their reception, and
uniformly fulfil their office of fixing noxious
elements, of serving for pasture to the
multitudes of tiny animals that graze on their
substance, and of supplying the first
commencement of a stratum of vegetable mould
on barren spots.


THE softest turf of English green,
With sloping walks and trees between,
And then a bed of flowers half-seen.

Here, daffodils in early Spring
And violets, their off'rings bring,
And sweetest birds their hymns outsing.

The hawthorn hedge but partly hides
The solitude where she abides:
An ancient wall protects two sides.

An ancient wall, with parapet,
And strong, with many a buttress set,
Where lichens spread their work of net.

Oh, what a sight, in May's soft days,
Those trees with blossoms all a-blaze,
And shining in the sun's last rays!

Those prodigals so rich in store,
Scatter their wealth upon the floor,
And whiten what was green before.

Then comes she forth; so calm, so high,
Though light plays in her pale blue eye,
As catching beams from her own sky.

Though solitary, no unrest
Ruffles the peace of that pure breast:
In her own panoply she's drest.

Then sings the nightingale his hymn,
All in that gloaming time so dim,
An echo from the seraphim.