D. S. (David Samuel) Margoliouth.

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respect to good taste, if Thorwaldsen's dictum holds good, that the
most becoming garments are those which adapt themselves to the
natural outlines of the human form. A jacket should be loose, with
wide but rather short sleeves, loose trousers, no waistcoat or drawers
in the summer season ; for small boys, short trousers without pockets,
but with broad leather braids along the seams. The comparative
advantages of waistbands or braces have been frequently controverted ;
at best it is only a question of choosing the lesser evil. A tight belt
is almost as injurious as a corset, while non-elastic suspenders may inter-
fere with the functions of the respiratory organs, and even occasion
stooping. For boys and slender-built men, with well-developed hips,
an elastic waistband is, on the whole, preferable ; corpulent persons can
not dispense with braces, for the plan of buttoning the breeches to the
jacket or waistband would amount to the same, by making the shoul-
ders support the weight of the lower garments. Tight breeches have,
fortunately, gone out of fashion ; likewise tight kid-gloves, which
were once de rigueur on every public promenade.

But we all sin against our feet ; not one white man in ten thousand
wears shoes that are not more or less of a hindrance in walking, and
often a source of wretched discomfort. In the United States, England,
and Central Europe, it is wholly impossible to find a ready-made pair of
shoes to fit a normal human foot ; they are all too tight in proportion
to their length, every pair of them, even the United States army shoes
and the English " fast-walking brogans." Heels are nonsense ; there
is no excrescence on the sole of a well-formed human being. A man
can walk faster, more easily, and more gracefully, with level shoes,
Avith soles shaped like those of a slipper or an Indian moccasin. An
easy shoe should be heelless ; the upper leather soft and pliable ;
the sole of a No. 9 shoe at least four inches wide. But you can not
persuade a shoemaker to commit such heresies against the tenets of his
craft. Dio Lewis recommends paper patterns, corresponding to the
exact shape of the natural sole, but it is all in vain ; a compromise
between i-eason and dogma is the best you can attain by such means.
The only practicable plan is to get one pair of shoes made under your
personal supervision, and then stipulate for the necessary number of
T^recise facsimiles. The disciple of St. Crispin shrinks from the guilt
of the original sin, but connives at a copy ; a precedent will reconcile
his conscience.

For children there is a shorter expedient : let them go barefoot, at
least in-doors and all summer ; it will make them hardier and healthier.
Abernethy, Schrodt, Dr. Adair, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Claude
Bernard, agree on this point ; Dr. Cadogan thinks shoes and stockings
wholly useless, and John G. Whittier seems to shai-e his opinion that a
barefoot boy is the happiest representative of the human species. " I


can see no reason why my pupil should always have a piece of ox-hide
under his foot," says the author of " Eniile. " , . . " Let hir;i run bare-
foot wherever he pleases. . . . Far from growling about it, I shall
imitate his example." *

Refusing to buy tight shoes might bring easy ones into fashion ;
but boys are better off without them, especially in the years of rapid
growth, when their measure changes from month to month, for too
wide shoes are as uncomfortable as tight ones. Out-doors, children's
stockings are almost sure to get wet, and keep the feet clammy and cold ;
while a young gypsy or a Scotchman, inured to wind and weather, treads
with his bare feet the swampiest valleys and the roughest hill roads
without the least discomfort. Nature produces a better sole-leather
than any shoemaker ; the tegument of a raccoon's foot or a monkey's
hind-hand can give us an idea of the marvels of her workmanship. The
sole of a plantigrade animal is not hard ; on the contrary, quite pliable
and soft to the touch, but withal tougher than any caoutchouc, imper-
vious alike to water, sand, and thorns. A camel, too, has a foot of that
sort — pads that resist the burning gravel of the desert for years, where
a horse's hoof would wear out in a few weeks ; for the same reason
that a *' sand-blast " destroys tanned sole-leather and horn, but hardly
affects the elastic skin of the human hand. Millions of unshod Hin-
doos, negroes, and South American savages, brave the jungles of the
tropical virgin woods ; and in Nicaragua I saw two Indian mail-
carriers trot barefoot over the lava-beds of Amilpas, over fields of
obsidian and scoria, where a dandy in patent-leather gaiters would
have feared to tread. Three or four seasons of barefoot rambles over
the fields and hills will develop such soles — natural shoe-leather that
improves from year to year, till it can be warranted to protect the
wearer against the roughest roads, and, as the experience of our half-
wild frontiersmen attests, also against colds and rheumatism. A mere
moccasin secures such hardy feet against frost-bites ; for here, too, the
rule holds good that those who keep themselves too warm in the sum-
mer season deprive themselves of the advantage to be derived from
additional clothing in cold weather and in old age.

Herr Teufelsdrockh devoted a voluminous work to the " Philosophy
of Clothing," but the practical part of the science may be summed up
in a few words. Our dress ought to be adapted to the changes of
the seasons, and should be in quality durable, cleanly, and, above all,
eas}- : in quantity, the least amount compatible with decency and

* '* Pourquoi faut-il que mon 61feve soit force d'avoir toji jours sous les pieds unc peau
dc boeuf ? Quel mal y aurait-il que la sienne propre put au besoin lui servir dc semelle ?
II c?t clair qu'en cette partie la delicatcsse dc la peau ne pcut jamais etrc utile k rien et
peut souvent bcaucoup nuire. Que Einile coure Ics matins a pieda nas, en toute saison,
par Ic ehambrc, par I'escalier, par le jardin ; loin de Ten grondir je rimitirai." — (Rous-
seau : " Emile, ou de L'education," p. 143.)




OUR eloquent countryman, Mr. Raskin, commences his work on
" Flowers " by a somewhat severe criticism of his predecessors.
He reproduces a page from a valuable but somewhat antiquated work,
" Curtis's Magazine," which he alleges to be " chai-acteristic of botani-
cal books and botanical science, not to say all science," and complains
bitterly that it is a string of names and technical terms. No doubt
that unfortunate page does contain a list of synonyms and long Avords.
But, in order to identify a plant, you must have synonyms and tech-
nical terms, just as to learn a language you must have a dictionary.
To complain of this would be to resemble the man who said that
Johnson's " Dictionary " was dry and disjointed reading. But no one
would attempt to judge the literature of a country by reading a dic-
tionary. So also we can not estimate the interest of a science by read-
ing technical descriptions. On the other hand, it is impossible to give
a satisfactory description of an animal or plant except in strict techni-
cal language. Let me reproduce a description which Mr. Ruskin has
given of the swallow, and which, indeed, he says in his lecture on that
bird, is the only true description that could be given. His lecture was
delivered before the University of Oxford, and is, I need hardly say,
most interesting.

Now, how does he describe a swallow ? " You can," he says, " only
rightly describe the bird by the resemblances and images of what it
seems to have changed from, then adding the fantastic and beautiful
contrast of the unimaginable change. It is an owl that has been
trained by the Graces. It is a bat that loves the morning light. It
is the aerial reflection of a <lolphin. It is the tender domestication of
a trout." That is, no doubt, very poetical, but it would be absolutely
useless as a- scientific description, and, I must confess, would never
have suggested, to me at least, the idea of a swallow.

But, though technical terms are very necessary in science, I shall
endeavor, as far as I can, to avoid them here. As, however, it will be
impossible for me to do so altogether, I will do my best at the com-
mencement to make them as clear as possible, and I must therefore ask
those who have already looked into the subject to pardon me if, for a
few moments, I go into very elementary facts. In order to understand
the structure of the seed, we must commence with the flower, to which
the seed owes its origin'. Now, if you take such a flower as, say, a ge-
ranium, you will find that it consists of the following parts : firstly,
there is a whorl of green leaves, known as the sepals, and together
forming the calyx ; secondly, a whorl of colored leaves, or petals, gen-
erally forming the most conspicuous part of the flower, and called the


corolla ; thirdly, a whorl of organs, more or less like pins, which are
called stamens ; and in the heads, or anthers, of which the pollen is
j)roduced. These anthers are in reality, as Goethe showed, modified
leaves ; in the so-called double flowers, as, for instance, in our garden
roses, they are developed into colored leaves like those of the corolla,
and monstrous flowers are not unfrequently met with in which the
stamens are green leaves, more or less resembling the ordinary leaves
of the plant. Lastly, in the center of the flower is the pistil, which
also is theoretically to be considered as constituted of one or more
leaves, each of which is folded on itself and called a carpel. Some-
times there is only one carpel. Generally the carpels have so com-
pletely lost the appearance of leaves that this explanation of their true
nature requires a considerable amount of faith. The base of the pis-
til is the ovary, composed, as I have just mentioned, of one or more
carpels, in which the seeds are developed. I need hardly say that many
so-called seeds are really fruits ; that is to say, they are seeds with
juore or less complex envelopes.

We all know that seeds and fruits differ greatly in different spe-
cies. Some are large, some small ; some ai'e sweet, some bitter ; some
are brightly colored ; some are good to eat, some poisonous, some
spherical, some winged, some covered with bristles, some with haii's,
some are smooth, some very sticky.

We may be sure that there are good reasons for these differences.
In the case of flowers much light has been thrown on their various in-
tei-esting peculiarities by the researches of Sprengel, Darwin, Miiller,
and other naturalists. As regards seeds also, besides Gartner's great
work, Hildebrand, Krause, Steinbrinck, Kerner, Grant Allen, Wallace,
Darwin, and others, have published valuable researches, especially with
reference to the hairs and hooks with which so many seeds are pro-
vided, and the other means of dispersion they possess. Xobbe also
has contributed an important work on seeds, principally from an agri-
cultural point of view, but the subject as a whole offers a most promis-
ing field for investigation. It is rather with a view of suggesting this
branch of science to you, than of attempting to supply the want my-
self, that I now propose to call your attention to it. In doing so I
must, in the first place, express my acknowledgments to Mr. Baker,
^Ir. Carruthers, Mr. Hemsley, and especially to Mr. Thiselton Dyer
and Sir Joseph Hooker, for their kind and most valuable assistance.

It is said that one of our best botanists once observed to another
that he never could understand what was the use of the teeth on the
capsules of mosses. " Oh," replied his friend, " I see no difliculty in
that, because, if it were not for the teeth, how could we distinguish the
species ? "

We may, however, no doubt, safely consider that the peculiarities
of seeds have reference to the plant itself, and not to the convenience
of botanists.


In the first place, then, during growth, seeds in many cases require
protection. This is especially the case with those of an albuminous
character. It is curious that so many of those which are luscious when
ripe, as the peach, strawberry, cherry, apple, etc., are stringy and al-
most inedible till ripe. Moreover, in these cases, the fleshy portion is
not the seed itself, but only the envelope, so that even if the sweet
part is eaten the seed itself remains uninjured.

On the other hand, such seeds as the hazel, beech, Spanish chestnut,
and innumerable others, are protected by a thick, impervious shell,
which is especially developed in many ProteacecB, the Brazil-nut, the
so-called monkey-pot, the cocoanut, and other palms.

In other cases the envelopes protect the seeds, not only by their
thickness and toughness, but also by their bitter taste, as, for instance,
in the walnut. The genus Mucuna, one of the Zeguminosce, is re-
markable in having the pods covered with stinging hairs.

In many cases the calyx, which is closed when the flower is in bud,
opens when the flower expands, and then after the petals have fallen
closes again until the seeds are ripe, when it opens for the second time.
This is, for instance, the case with the common herb-robert ( Gerani-
um Bobertianum). In Atractylis cancellata, a South European plant,
allied to the thistles, the outer envelopes form an exquisite little cage.
Another case, perhaps, is that of Nigella, the " Devil-in-a-bush," or, as
it is sometimes more prettily called, " Love-in-a-mist," of old English

Again, the protection of the seed is in many cases attained by curi-
ous movements of the plant itself. In fact, plants move much more
than is generally supposed. So far from being motionless, they may
almost be said to be in perpetual movement, though the changes of
position are generally so slow that they do not attract attention. This
is not, however, always the case. We are all familiar with the sensi-
tive-plant, which droops its leaves when touched. Another species
(Averrhoa hilimhi) has leaves like those of an acacia, and all day the
leaflets go slowly up and down. Desmodium gyrans, a sort of pea
living in India, has trifoliate leaves, the lateral leaflets being small and
narrow ; and these leaflets, as was first observed by Lady Monson, are
perpetually moving round and round, whence the si^ecific name gyrans.
In these two cases the object of the movement is quite unknown to us.
In Dionoea, on the other hand, the leaves form a regular fly-trap.
Directly an insect alights on them they shut up with a snap.

In a great many cases leaves are said to sleep ; that is to say, at
the approach of night they change their position, and sometimes fold
themselves up, thus presenting a smaller surface for radiation, and being
in consequence less exposed to cold. Mr. Darwin has proved experi-
mentally that leaves which were prevented from moving suffered more
from cold than those which were allowed to assume their natural posi-
tion. He has observed with reference to one plant, Maranta arundi-


nacea, the arrow-root, a West Indian species allied to Canna, that if
the plant has had a severe shock it can not get to sleep for the next
two or three nights.

The sleep of flowers is also probably a case of the same kind,
though, as I have elsewhere attempted to show, it has now, I believe,
special reference to the visits of insects ; those flowers which are fer-
tilized by bees, butterflies, and other day insects, sleep by night, if at
all ; while those which are dependent on moths rouse themselves tow-
ard evening, as already mentioned, and sleep by day. These motions,
indeed, have but an indirect reference to our present subject. On the
other hand, in the dandelion [Leontodoyi), the flower-stalk is upright
while the flower is expanded, a period which lasts for three or four
days ; it then lowers itself and lies close to the ground for about
twelve days, while the fruits are ripening, and then rises again when
they are mature. In the Cyclamen the stalk curls itself up into a
beautiful spiral after the flower has faded.

The flower of the little Linaria of our walls (X. cymhalaria) pushes
out into the light and sunshine, but as soon as it is fertilized it turns
round and endeavors to find some hole or cranny in which it may
remain safely ensconced until the seed is ripe.

In some water-plants the flower expands at the surface, but after it
is faded retreats again to the bottom. This is the case, for instance,
with the water-lilies, some species of the Potamogeton {Trapa natans).
In VaUsiieria, again, the female flowers (Fig. 1, a) are borne on long
stalks, which reach to the surface of the water, on which the flowers
float. The male flowers (Fig. 1, b), on the contrary, have short, straight
stalks, from which, when mature, the pollen (Fig. 1, c) detaches itself,
rises to the surface, and, floating freely on it, is wafted about, so that
it comes in contact with the female flowers. After fertilization, how-
ever, the long stalk coils up spirally, and thus carries the ovary down
to the bottom, where the seeds can ripen in greater safety.

The next points to which I will direct your attention are the means
of dispersion possessed by many seeds. Farmers have found by expe-
rience that it is not desirable to grow the same crop in the same field
year after year, because the soil becomes more or less exhausted. In
this respect, therefore, the powers of dispersion possessed by many
seeds are a great advantage to the species. Moreover, they are also
advantageous in giving the seed a chance of germinating in new local-
ities suitable to the requirements of the species. Thus a common
European species, Xanthium spinosum, has rapidly spread over the
whole of South Africa, the seeds being carried in the wool of sheep.
From various considerations, however, it seems probable that in most
cases the provision does not contemplate a dispersion for more than a
short distance.

There are a great many cases in which plants possess powers of
movement directed to the dissemination of the seed. Thus, in Geas-



trum hijgroinetricxim^ a kind of fungus which grows underground,
the outer envelope — which is hard, tough, and hygrometric — divides,
when mature, in strips from the crown to the base ; these strips spread
horizontally, raising the plant above its former position in the ground ;
on rain or damp weather supervening the strips return to their former

Fig. 1.— Valisneria spiralis. «, female flower ; 6, male flower ; c, floating pollen.

position ; on the return of the drought this process is repeated, until
the fungus reaches the surface and spreads out there ; then the mem-
brane of the conceptacle opens and emits the spores in the form of

I have already referred to the case of the common dandelion.
Here the flower-stalk stands more or less upright while the flower is
expanded, a period which generally lasts for three or four days. It
then lowers itself, and lies more or less horizontally and concealed
during the time the seeds are maturing, which in our summers occupies
about twelve days. It then again rises, and, becoming almost erect,
facilitates the dispersion of the seeds, or, speaking botanically, the
fruits, by the wind. Some plants, as we shall see, even sow their
seeds in the ground, but these cases wall be referred to later on.



In other cases the plant throws its own seeds to some little dis-
tance. .This is the ease with the common Cardamine hirsuta, a little
plant, I do not like to call ^„,^

it a weed, six or eight inches r

liigli,which comes up of itself /^ . y \
abundantly on any vacant \: ,

spot in our kitchen-garden^
or shrubberies, and which
much resembles that repre-
sented in Fig. 17, but Avith-
out the subterranean pods h.
The seeds are contained in a
pod which consists of three
parts, a central membrane,
and two lateral walls. "When
the pod is ripe the walls are
in a state of tension. The
seeds are loosely attached
to the central piece by short
stalks. Now, when the prop-
er moment has arrived, the
outer walls are kept in place
by a delicate membrane, only
just strong enough to resist
the tension. The least touch,
for instance a puff of wind
blowing the plant against a neighbor, detaches the outer wall, which
suddenly rolls itself up, generally with such force as to fly from the
plant, thus jerking the seeds to a distance of several feet.

In the common violets, besides the colored flowers, there are others
in which the corolla is either absent or imperfectly developed. The
stamens also are small, but contain pollen, though less than in the
colored flowers. In the autumn large numbers of these curious flowers
are produced. When very young they look like an ordinary flower-
bud (Figs. 2 and 3, a), the central part of the flower being entirely
covered by the sepals, and the whole having a triangular form. When
older (Figs. 2 and 3, h) they look at first sight like an ordinary seed-
capsule, so that the bud seems to pass into the capsule without the
flower-stage. The pansy violets do not possess these interesting flowers.
In the sweet-violet ( Viola odorata and Viola hirta, Fig. 2) they may
easily be found by searching among the leaves nestling close to the
ground. It is often said, for instance by Vaucher, that the plants act-
ually force these capsules into the ground, and thus sow their own
seeds. I have not, however, found this to be the case, though, as the
stalk elongates, and the point of the capsule turns downward, if the
earth be loose and uneven, it will no doubt sometimes so happen.

VOL. XIX. — 11

Fio. 2.— Viola hikta. a. yoang bud ; 6, ripe seed-



When the seeds are fully ripe, the capsule opens by three valves and
allows them to escape.

In the dog-violet ( Viola canina, Fig. 3) the case is very different.
The capsules are less fleshy, and, though pendent when young, at

Fig. 3.— Viola canix.'

a, bud ; 6, bud more advanced :
already thrown.

c, capsule open, some of the seeds are

maturity they erect themselves (Fig. 3, c), stand up boldly above the
rest of the plant, and open by the three equal valves (Fig. 4) resem-
bling an inverted tripod. Each valve contains a row of three, four, or
five brown, smooth, pear-shaped seeds, slightly flattened at the upper,

Fie. 5.— Viola canina; seed-vessel


wider end. Xow the two walls of each valve, as they become drier,
contract, and thus approach one another, thus tending to squeeze out
the seeds. These resist some time, but at length the attachment of



the seed to its base gives way, and it is ejected several feet, this being
no doubt much facilitated by its form and smoothness. I have known
even a gathered specimen throw a seed nearly ten feet. Fig. 5 repre-
sents a capsule after the seeds have been ejected.

Now, we naturally ask ourselves what is the reason for this difference
between the species of violets ; why do Viola odorata and Viola Jdrta
conceal their capsules among the moss and leaves on the ground, while
Viola canina and others raise theirs boldly above their heads, and throw
the seeds to seek their fortune in the world ? If this arrangement be
best for Viola canina^ why has not Viola odorata also adopted it ?
The reason is, I believe, to be found in the different mode of growth
of these two species. Viola canina is a plant with an elongated stalk,
and it is easy, therefore, for the capsule to raise itself above the grass
and other low herbage among which violets grow.

Fig. r,.— Tire Herb-robert {Geranium Hoherlianum,^ a, bud ; b. flower : c, flower after the petals
have fallen ; a, flower with seeds nearly ripe: e, flower with ripe seeds;/, flower after throw-
ing seeds. J I- ' 1 f

Viola odorata and Viola hirta, on the contrary, have, in ordinary
parlance, no stalk, and the leaves are radical, i. e., rising from the root.
This is at least the case in appearance, for, botanically speaking, they
rise at the end of a short stalk. Now, under these circumstances, if



the sweet violet attempted to shoot its seeds, the capsules not being
sufficiently elevated, the seeds would merely strike against some neigh-
boring leaf, and immediately fall to the ground. Hence, I think, we

Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthThe Popular science monthly (Volume 19) → online text (page 21 of 110)