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TALKS ABOUT PLANTS.
WORKS ON BOTANY.
"Trees, Plants, and Flowers, their Beauties, Uses, and
Influences. By Mrs. R. LEE. With Coloured Groups of
Flowers, from Drawings by JAMES ANDREWS. Second
Thousand. 8vo, cloth, gilt edges, ros. 6d.
The Four Seasons: A Short Account of the Structure
of Plants, being Four Lectures written for the Working
Men's Institute, Paris. With Illustrations. Imperial
i6mo, 3s. 6d.
'Distinguished by extreme clearness, and teems with informa-
tion of a useful and popular character.'-Guardian.
Every-Day Things; or, Useful Knowledge respecting
the Principal Animal, Vegetable, and Mineral Substances
in Common Use. Second Edition, revised. 18mo, cloth,
'A little encyclopaedia of useful knowledge, deserving a
place in every juvenile library.'--Evangelical Magazine.
GRIFFITH & FARRAN,
WEST CORNER OF ST. PAUL'S CHURCHYARD, LONDON.
The Baldwin Library
JANUARY AND FIBRUARY
TALKS ABOUT PLANTS,
EARLY LESSONS IN BOTANY.
AUTHOR OF 'WILD FLOWERS WORTH NOTICE,2 'A PLAIN AND EASY ACCOUNT OF
BRITISH FERNS,' AND OF THE POPULAR PORTION OF SOWERBY'S
ENGLISH BOTANY, ETC. ETC.
WITH SIX COLOURED PLATES AND TWENTY-SIX WOOD ENGRAVINGS
GRIFFITH AND FARRAN,
SUCCESSORS TO NEWBERY AND HARRIS,
WEST CORNER OF ST. PAUL'S CHURCHYARD, LONDON.
The rigc ts of translation and of reproduction are reserved.
gnt^rp Athinson ant alice Varkart,
MY DEAR LITTLE FRIENDS,
I DEDICATE THESE PAGES.
THIS little book was suggested to me by the many
pleasant rambles I have had with little folks of
all ages in country lanes and fields, and -the desire
I have noticed even in the youngest mind to
know something more about the pretty flowers
which they loved to gather than the bare names
by which they are called. I cannot think, as
some say they do, that a further acquaintance
with the s ructure and habits of a plant destroys
its poetical associations or detracts from the love
of its beauty. Each part of a flower is in itself
beautiful and curious; and those who know how
skilfully and wonderfully these parts are adapted
to the purposes for which they are made, surely
add to the sense of beauty, to which every child
with a healthy mind is alive, an intelligent under-
standing of the reasons for this perfect adaptation
and beauty, which rather increases than diminishes
the pleasure with which every flower is regarded
and cherished by the lover of nature. I do not
desire or pretend to teach botany in these pages;
but I wish to excite so much interest in what is
to be learnt about plants in the minds of my little
8 Preface and Dedication.
readers, that they may, as they grow older, study
botany for themselves, with the aid of any one of
the many good elementary guides that now exist.
I have, however, endeavoured to avoid stating
anything as to botanical facts which is incorrect,
or would have to be unlearned as the inquiry and
study which I hope to excite progresses. I have
only ventured to suggest much that is very inter-
esting in the study of plants, leaving the details
to future time and better guidance than mine. I
am greatly indebted to my friend, Professor
Lawson, of the University of Oxford, for many
kindly hints during the preparation of these pages.
I may congratulate myself and my little friends
on the assistance of one so well able to maintain a
high place for our favourite pursuit in the studies
of advanced students, who were once little boys
themselves, perhaps asking simple questions and
wanting familiar and easy answers such as I have
tried to give to my little friends Henry and Alice,
both of whom live in country homes, where the
flowers grow, the birds sing, and where they will
find it pleasant and good to try and learn all they
can about the beautiful things which are around
them, be they flowers, trees, insects, or birds.
68 BELSIZE PARK, LONDON, N.W.,
No sunny gleam awakes the trees,
Nor dare the tender flow'rets show
Their bosoms to th' uncertain glow.'
Ch ristian Yeajr
SOME 7ANUAR Y FLO WERS.
TALKS ABOUT PLANTS.
HOW TO KNOW A PLANT.
IH ENRY.-No more walks in the fields
now, dear Granny, for they are covered
with snow, and only little bits of grass peep
up, which are so cold and wet that Nurse
doesn't like me to fill my basket with them, as
I used to do with the pretty flowers when
you were here before. So now we can't have
our 'talks' about them as we did then. What
shall we do ?
GRANNY.-I think we can find plenty to talk
about, Harry, even without fresh living flowers;
for see, I have brought with me a portfolio
14 Talks about Plants.
full of the flowers you and I found together
last summer, dried and named, and ready to
remind us of our nice walks in the summer
that is past. Then there is yet a great deal
left for us that is not covered with snow about
which you want to learn. There are many
leaves of different kinds about which I can
tell you something. Then there are those
pretty little mosses that grow on the old walls;
and see on this bit of stick which you brought
me to-day, there are growing two tiny living
plants called lichens. With my large magni-
fying glass you can see how beautiful they
are, though so tiny; you may fancy they are
only grey or greenish dust till you examine
them. Then, Harry, I want to be sure that
you have not forgotten what I told you in
the summer about the names and the parts of
plants, so we will go over it all again; and
if we can't find a real live flower to explain,
we will use one of these dried ones out of the
portfolio. I want you very much to learn to
know a flower when you see it growing, to be
Families of Plants. 15
able to call it by its right name, and to know,
if possible, what family it belongs to,
HENRY. Family! Grandmamma? Why,
plants don't belong to families, do they ? Only
children do that.
GRANNY. Oh, yes, my boy; plants, and
animals too, are divided into families or
groups, of kinds or sorts that most resemble
each other in some one or more of their parts.
These families are again divided into those
that are most alike in many respects, and
these again into such as are almost exactly
the same. I think I can make it plain to you.
There are people called Smith or Jones all
over England; these are the family of Smith
or Jones. But there are some of this large
family who call themselves Dewsmiths or Fitz-
jones, and have all of them funny snub noses
or frizzy hair. These form a genus of the
family of Jones or Smith. Then in this genus
we find some who are called Henry, and have
red frizzy hair and blue eyes; and others who
are called Mary, and have brown eyes and
16 Talks about Plants.
dark frizzy hair, and so on. These are species
of the genus Fitzjones or Dewsmith, of the
family Smith or Jones. If we divided people
into groups as we do plants and animals, this
is the way we might go to work. Persons
who study plants and their parts and habits
are called Botanists, and it is very convenient
that all botanists should know the same plant
by the same name all over the world, so that
there have been several attempts to arrange
the whole Vegetable Kingdom into classes
and families; and in order that Englishmen,
Germans, Frenchmen, and all other nations
may understand each other, and talk and
write about any plants they like without
confusion, the names given to them are
chiefly in Latin.
HENRY.-But, Granny, when I bring you a
flower to ask its name, you don't tell me it in
Latin. You call it crowfoot, or bluebell, or
whatever it is.
GRANNY. -Yes, Henry, because you have
not yet learned anything more than the
Families of Plants. 17
common English names of flowers, just as a
little French boy learns the common French
names; but I want you now to begin to learn
something more, so that by and by, when you
read about plants found in other countries,
you may know to what families they belong,
and how they are related to the common little
flowers that grow by your own hedgeside.
You would hardly believe that the enormous
locust trees which grow in the South American
forests, and are so large that fifteen Indians
with outstretched arms can only just reach
round the trunk of one of them, belong to
the same family as the peas and beans of our
garden; though they are of a very different
genus and species, and it requires a great deal
of thought and study to see exactly where
they are alike. In order to understand it
at all, you must know exactly what each part
of a plant is called, and how the same part
looks quite different in some flowers, and then
I will see if I can explain to you how botanists
have now decided to arrange all plants by
18 Talks about Plazts.
what is called the Natural System. At one
time there was an artificial system of classing
plants, invented and carried out by Linnaus,
a great Swedish botanist. He divided all
plants into twenty-four classes, and these again
into orders, and named them according to the
number and position of their stamens and
pistils;-you will learn what these are presently.
This manner of arranging plants is called the
Linnaean or Artificial System, and is not now
used so much as one that was invented after
his death by a Frenchman named Jussieu, and
which is called the Natural System. This was
improved by another Frenchman named De
Candolle, and as nearly all botanists use this
plan now in arranging plants, I will try and
explain it to you, so that when you really
study botany and want to read the writings of
great men, you may know how to begin, and
not have to unlearn anything I may have
taught you as a little boy. I think you will
see how Linnaeus invented the artificial system
of classing plants, if you imagine that a number
Natural System of Class/fication. 19
of words are put together, as they are in a
dictionary, merely because they all begin with
the same letter of the alphabet, without any
thought about their meaning or length, or
anything else; or suppose a number of animals
all put together in a class because all their
tails were of a certain length, no matter what
were their habits or general appearance. This
is something like the artificial system which
the old botanists used. The natural system of
Jussieu proceeds quite differently to arrange
plants. It tells us to put together all those
that in their general appearance and uses are
most alike, and seem to be related to each
other, not from the size of any one organ, or
the number of its parts, but from their relation-
ship to each other; so that in order to do this,
botanists have to search into the habits and
ways and uses of each plant, and put those
together which are really and truly alike.
You will see that if we were to put all animals
together that had tails of the same length only,
we might put a tiger and a dog, a cow and a
20 Talks about Plants.
lion, together, whereas they are very different
indeed, and only those should be classed to-
gether that are alike in their habits and general
appearance, such as the wolf and the dog, the
tiger and the cat, the cow, the horse, and the
sheep. So it is with plants. We find in one
family plants that look different in some
respects, but have the same habits and uses
and ways, so that even plants which look so
unlike as the buttercup and the larkspur
really belong to the same natural order of
HENRY.-But, Grandmamma, I don't think
I shall be able to find out much about
the Latin names or relations of plants for
a long time. I want to know what the parts
of the flowers are called, and something about
them as they grow. Let me fetch Alice, who
loves flowers so much that I am sure she
will like our talks. Here is a piece of wall-
flower that grew under the greenhouse wall,
and so has come into flower much sooner than
usual. I pulled it up by its root, as you said
Parts of a Flower. 21
plants were always best so for studying botany.
Will it do ?
GRANNY.-Yes, Henry, very nicely, for its
parts are very easily seen; and it belongs to
a very common family of plants, called the
Cruciferae or cross-bearing family, because the
four petals are placed in such a way as to
resemble a Maltese cross. Perhaps, however,
as it is winter time now, and we cannot
find many plants even in sheltered places,
we had better content ourselves to-day with
examining this large root of buttercups,
which I kept and dried in the summer,
thinking we might like it in the winter. I
am glad I pulled up the root too, though it
was hard work to do so, for now here it is
for us to talk about.
ALICE.-It is well, Grandmamma, that you
dried a great many buttercup plants, for
Henry says we must pull the flowers to
pieces to learn the names of the little things
GRANNY.--In most plants we find there
22 Talks about Plants.
is a root, a stem, leaves, flowers, and then
fruit, and the forms of each are often very
different. See, these two
roots are not the same
at all. The root of the
Swallflower is all covered
with little branches or
S\f fibres, which grow down
Pt into the ground and
suck up moisture for the plant above, whilst
the root of the buttercup is like a number
of little taper divisions with delicate points,
sending out tender fibres. You may run
Poots of Plants. 23
out, Henry, and pull up one snowdrop
from the ground, and you will see another
sort of root, a bulb,
almost like a chest-
nut, from which a
great many little
fibres grow when it is
placed in the ground.
ii 1 The bulb is really
Iii part of the stem, out
of which the fibres or
rootlets grow. There
are a great many
instances of simple
roots, which you will
recollect, of different
/ kinds: there is the
| potato, which is a
tuber; the carrot and
turnip, both of which are called tuberous roots,
and perform the same offices for the plants
which grow from them. These tuberous
roots live in the ground all the winter, filled
24 Talks about Plants.
with stores of nourishing food, and when
the first spring sun warms the earth, the little
feeding fibres begin to grow and feel about
for moisture, and the young leaves begin to
push their way into the light, and to form a
stem. Some roots die away entirely in the
winter, and then we have to put new plants
into the ground, or seeds, and let them
grow up into fresh plants, sending down new
HENRY.-But, Grandmamma, those plants
that live for many years, like big trees and
bushes, their roots must be very large to keep
them safely in the ground! I recollect when
the large tree was blown down last week in
the avenue, and its roots were pulled out of
the ground, the men who took it away said
they couldn't make it stand firm again if we
paid them anything, for its roots had twined
in and out the earth so curiously that they
held it down, and now that their network was
broken, the tree could never stand upright
again. So, you see, I have found out another
How Plants grow. 25
use of roots, besides sucking up food for the
leaves and branches.
ALICE.-I once tried to grow a bean-stalk
for myself, like Jack's in the fairy tale, and I
put some beans cook gave to me in a flower-
pot full of earth, and kept watering them; but
they were so long coming to the light that I
dug them up to see, and there were the beans
split open, and some long threads had grown
down out of them, and a little white stem was
coming up, with two curious little round leaves
on it. I think if I had left it alone I should
have had a bean-stalk.
HIENRY.-Why, Alice, how foolish you
were! Of course you would; that is just the
way Jack's bean-stalk grew when he upset
his hat full of the beans he had sold his
mother's cow for; some fell into the ground
and he never picked them up, and they grew
in that manner as high as the clouds.
GRANNY.-You can try the experiment,
and see how the seeds burst open and begin
to grow, without making your hands dirty by
26 Talks abouz Plants.
digging them out of the earth. See, I have a
little packet of different sorts of seeds, beans,
and peas, and wheat, and other things. If
we put them into a saucer and cover them
with a damp cloth, and then set the saucer in
a warm room, they will
soon begin to grow, and
N\ 4J91 you can watch the pro-
i- cess of growth going
on as it does when the
beans are hidden in the
earth; and there are the
two large fleshy leaves
i covering up and keep-
ing warm the little baby
plant, that is waiting to grow out of its
coverings and start into life. These two
leaves are called cotyledons.
HENRY.-And does this little stem, which
Alice saw coming out of her bean, grow into
a thick stalk, such as flowers live upon and
branches hang from ?
GRANNY.-Yes, every seed has a tendency
Leaves and Stems. 27
to send up this stem, just as it also sends down
its root; and stems produce buds. Stems have
different habits : some grow straight up, like
the wallflower and rose; others run along the
ground, like the ivy and the strawberry and
others. There are several different sorts of
stems, but you may always know stems
from roots, even when covered over with
earth, by their having buds on them.
These little buds make leaves, which are
sent out on each side of the stem. There
are many kinds of leaves, as you know, but
we will talk of them by and by, when the
winter has gone, and they are peeping forth
again from their stems. Here we have the
dried buttercup leaf, however, and the wall-
flower leaf; see how different they are. But
we must not stay now to examine them, for I
want you to know the parts of a flower before
the spring comes, and we find more flowers
than we can carry in our walks.
HENRY.-See, Granny! Alfred has been
over the common on his way from school, and
28 Talks about Plands.
has brought in a branch of that beautiful
golden gorse which we saw long ago; and I
recollect you said that it was always there,
and Nurse laughed and said, When gorse is
out of bloom, kissing's out of season.' And
here, too, is a daisy; so now we can throw
away the dried buttercup, and talk about these
nice, fresh, living flowers.
GRANNY. Not so fast, Henry. The
flowers we get in the winter are so few that it
is well to know how to preserve those we find
in the summer; and we may yet be glad of
the dried buttercup to show us something,
and indeed its parts are easier to understand
and to see than those of the flower we have
just got. However, we will take the flower
of the gorse to begin with.
ALICE.-But here is the snowdrop, Grand-
mamma, that we had for its bulb. The
flower is so pretty, I should like to talk
GRANNY.-Well, now, we will have both.
Here is a snowdrop for each of you, and a
Exogens and Endlogens. 29
bit of yellow gorse. Now look at the flower
of each, and see how different they are. The
snowdrop, too, reminds me to tell you that
there are two first great divisions in all plants.
A very large number, and those that we see
chiefly in our own country, are called Exogens.
They all have veined or netted leaves,and stems
or trunks that are usually filled up and not
hollow in the middle, like the stem of the gorse
or the trunk of an oak tree. The rest of the
plants are called Endogens; and they all have
leaves like this snowdrop, with threads or
veins which run by the side of each other, and
you can easily tear them down into long shreds,
because the veins do not cross over the leaves.
Their stems are mostly hollow, or filled up
with soft pith, and grow from the inside, whilst
the exogens grow from the outside round
and round. All grasses and palms are like
this snowdrop, and like all lilies having hollow
stems, however big they are, and leaves with-
out network, but with straight veins. So
you see that in some points you can even
30 Talks about Plants.
now understand why the little snowdrop and
the big palm in the large house at Kew are
alike. They belong to the same first great
division of the Vegetable Kingdom,-they are
both endogens; whilst the gorse and that oak
tree in the avenue alike belong to the other,--
they are both exogens.
ALICE.-I think I see a likeness between the
flower of the gorse and the flower of peas and
beans. Do they belong to the same family ?
GRANNY.--Yes, dear, they do; and you are
right in seeing the likeness in their flowers.
Most flowers have a more regular shape, and
their coloured part is round and easy to pull
away from the rest of the parts. See, in the
snowdrop we can easily pull off the little white
parts of the flower, which are the same really
as the yellow part of the gorse. Both are
called the corolla, or little crown of the flower.
Outside this little crown are some tiny green
leaves, which, as they grow round outside the
coloured part, are called the calyr, or little
cup. Both these rings of the flower are of use
Parts of a Flower. 31
to take care of what is inside, for their beauty
is not all they are made for.
HENRY.-Mamma says nothing is useless
in nature, and things may be beautiful and
GRANNY.-These showy parts of the blos-
som of a plant cover and take care of these
tiny little threads inside, which are called
stamens; and this one in the middle with a
big head is called a pistil. These are the
most precious parts of a flower, for without
them no more seeds would be formed, and
32 Talks about Plants.
when the little plant died there would be
no more to come after it. So now, you see,
the coloured corolla of a flower may have
separate parts, as in the snowdrop and the
buttercup, and these parts are each called
petals, or corolla leaves, and the calyx or little
cup has parts too, which are called sepals;
but the flower of the gorse is not made of little
leaves all following each other regularly, but
of one curious large yellow bit, and four others,
two of which are joined together,-the two
that stand out are called wings in this family
of plants. The daisy is not at all really like
either of these other flowers in the way it is
made. The little white bits you can pull out
are not petals like the snowdrop, but are, each
one, a little perfect flower of itself, and can
only be well studied with a microscope, so we
will not talk of it yet. Suppose we take our
dried buttercup, and look at its parts. Begin
from the outside. There is first the calyx, a
ring of greenish leaves or sepals; then the
shining yellow corolla, quite regularly set
Parts of a Flower. 33
round, each little petal in its place. This
makes two rows or rings of the flower.
Then inside we see the little threads or
stamens, each with a little rush or ball for a
head, which is called an another. Inside this
anther, when the flower is fully grown, we find
some coloured dust; and the anther is the little
case or box in which it is kept, so the anthers
are like so many snuff-boxes. Then in the
middle of all is a little green spike, which is
called the pistil. It is made up of several
pieces joined together at their edges. The
top swells, and is called the stigma; and at
the bottom it forms a case for the young
seeds, which we can often find lying there
packed together, if we pick it open carefully.
The part in which these little seeds lie is
called the germen or ovary, and the thread or
stem which joins the stigma to the germen
is called the style. Now I think I have done
with troublesome names for the parts of a
plant, and can tell you what the parts do, if
you will try to remember what they are called.
Now the glad earth her frozen zone unbinds,
And o'er her bosom breathe the western winds;
Already now the snowdrop dare appear
The first pale blossom of the unripened year.'
SOME FEBRUARY FLOW ERS.
SNAO WDR OP.
DEAD NE TITLE.
COMMON YE fW.
G RANNY.-Let us see to-day what
flowers each of you have found since
the snow melted and the sun began to show
HENRY.-Here is the snowdrop, Grand-
mamma, again, and the gorse. Aunty says
that the snowdrops are called the Fair maids
of February.' We found this bunch at the
foot of the large oak tree in the copse, in a
little bed of moss, growing quite wild. Is it
to be found everywhere ?
GRANNY.-No; it is now considered to be
a real British plant, but there are but few
places where it grows wild. We found it at
38 Talks about Plants.
Malvern in the fields in great numbers, and
also in Wales. Many plants are said to be
wild that have only escaped from gardens in
rubbish that has been thrown away. So
botanists who try to find only true British
native plants often get confused. But in all
books on botany the snowdrop is now men-
tioned as a British plant. Its botanical name,
Galanthus, comes from two Greek words
which mean milk and a flower; so we might
call it the milk flower, but I think snowdrop,
its common name, prettier and more appropri-
ate. The Germans call it 'snowbell;' and
one poet says that Flora, the goddess of
flowers, 'changed an icicle into a flower.' I
must tell you that the snowdrop belongs to
the same family as the daffodil and the nar-
cissus, which come later, but to a different
genus. The family name is Amaryllads, and
you will see that all the plants of that family
have leaves with veins that run by the
side of each other, and not across; therefore
they are endogens, as I told you before.
The genus of plants to which the snow-
drop belongs have all six divisions to the
flower, and there seems to be no difference
between the outer ring or calyx (little cup)
which I described to you, and the inner ring
or corolla (little crown), only the three outer
little white leaves spread out and the inner
ones stand up. They are all streaked with
green, and you will find six stamens with very
short filaments or stalks, on which the little
anthers or little dust-bags are fixed.
AJIcE.-I am holding this piece of gorse
till it pricks my fingers. I want to hear some
more about it.
GRANNY.-Well, the family name of the
gorse is the same as that of the pea, the
bean, the clover, and many others, and is
Leguminosxe, or, as I once heard a little
girl say who called the wizgs legs, 'Leg you
may now see,' and by this rather silly joke
she recollected the natural order to which all
these winged or legged flowers belong. No
wonder, Alice, that you complain of the
40 Talks about Plants.
prickles, for the name of the genus to which
the gorse or furze belongs is Ulex, and signi-
fies a prickly branch. The two names of the
gorse are Ulex Europeus. There are several
other kinds, but they flower at different times
of the year. The flowers of all the plants
that belong to this order, Leguminosae, remind
us of the shape of butterflies, and all those
that are found in Great Britain are classed in
a group called Papilionaceae, from the French
word for a butterfly, so I think you will remem-
ber the name when you find a butterfly-shaped
flower again. Recollect that the seeds of all
these plants are formed in pods like the pea-
pods, which are called 'legumes;' hence the
name of the order.
HENRY.-I once saw our common almost
like a field of gold when the gorse was in full
GRANNY.-Although it grows so well in
England and in some parts of Scotland, it is
not so common everywhere as it is here,
Henry. Linnaeus, the great botanist, had
7he Gorse. 41
never seen it in Sweden, his own country;
and when he first saw it here in full golden
blossom, he knelt down and thanked God
for making anything so beautiful. Then its
delicious scent, like pleasant cocoa-nuts, is
very refreshing and nice, is it not ? Linnaus
is said to have lamented that he could not keep
this beautiful plant alive in Sweden, even in a
greenhouse. Severe frosts even in England
are apt to kill it. In many places the furze
is used to make fires, and is cut down and
kept as fuel, especially to heat bakers' ovens.
Cattle also will eat it, and in some parts of
Wales it is grown expressly to feed the horses
during the winter.
ALICE.-But, Granny, how the thorns must
prick the horses' mouths and throats!
GRANNY.-Ah, Alice, the Welsh people are
wiser than you think. They cut the gorse
when very young, and bruise it in a mill so
as to break all the thorns. So, you see, the
golden furze is useful as well as beautiful.
HENRY.-Now I have another flower ready
42 Talks abozl Plants.
to talk about,-one which I think we can find
nearly always if we look carefully; don't you ?
GRANNY.-I see; the daisy, the commonest
and prettiest of wild flowers; and there is a
great deal to say about it, for it is not what it
seems to be at first sight. Now is an oppor-
tunity for using the magnifying glass which
lies on the library table. Run and fetch it,
and as you have several daisies, we can afford
to pull one or two to pieces to examine them.
But before we do this, I must tell you that
the daisy belongs to the Composite family of
plants, and that it is the only British species
of the genus Bellis, which meanspretty. Its
own private name, or specific name, as the
botanists say, is Pereznnis, which means always,
from spring to autumn. So its name, as
botanists know it, is Bellis perennis, and we
call it the day's eye or daisy. The old Eng-
lish poet Chaucer delighted in this name,
and constantly mentioned it. The French
name for the daisy is Marguerite, or a pearl,
like our name Margaret.
The Daisy. 43
HENRY.-I am trying to count the little
white petals in my daisy, Grandmamma, and
the yellow stamens, but there are so many,
I cannot count them.
GRANNY.-These are not petals and stamens
at all, Henry, for, as I told you, the daisy is
not the simple flower it looks to be, but is
really a great many flowers put together in
one large head. The little green cup which
holds all these flowers looks like a calyx, but
it is not really one at all. It is a number of
little leaves or bracts which grow together,
and form a case for the little flowers inside,
like a calyx to a single flower, and is called an
invozlcre. Now, Alice, very gently pull one
of the tiny white leaves from the flower, and
let us look at it through the magnifying glass.
At first you will think it is flat from one end
to the other, but look carefully at the end by
which it was fastened to the flat disc from
which you pulled it.
ALICE.-Why, Harry, only see! it is really
a little tiny tube, not flat at all, and out of one
44 Talk/s about Plants.
end comes a little thread ending in two
GRANNY.-Each one of these tiny white
leaves which look like petals is really a true
flower, and the little thread is the forked
style, dividing into two stigmas. With the
help of the glass you can see in these tiny
yellow things .the little pistil which they en-
close, just as in the centre of the buttercup,
and at the top of the pistil is the little stigma
which I have described to you before, and the
little stamens with their anthers all round,
growing together; so, you see, the daisy is a
composite flower, and the head, which we call
the flower, really contains a great many flowers
of two different sorts and colours. The ray
or outside rows are white tinted with pink, as
you see, and the inside are yellow and very
closely packed together. The whole, both
white and yellow flowers, are enclosed in the
green case or involucre, just like a bouquet-
holder, such as Mamma uses for her flowers in
the evening, only these tiny flowers all grow
Parts of a Daisy. 45
on a broad, flat disc which is really a piece
of flattened stem. All flowers which belong
to this Composite family are formed much in
the same way as the daisy, and if you find
some that look as if they had a family likeness,
try and find out by the aid of the magnifying
glass whether they have these curious heads
of little flowers. The outside flowers, which
are white in the daisy, and are said to form
the ray of the flower, are called strap-skapcd,
and all turn one way; and at the base of many
of them you will find a number of hairs or
scales, which are really the true calyx, only
withered and stunted. In the dandelion, which
belongs to this family, they become quite large
and feathery, and grow on to the little fruit at
the bottom of the strap-shaped flowers; so when
the flower dies, the aluiLs, as this feathery part
is called, becomes white and very pretty, and is
so light that it floats about in the air and carries
the fruit which contains the seed with it.
HENRY.-Oh, Granny, is it the stuff we blow
off old dandelions to see what o'clock it is ?
46 Talks about Plants.
GRANNY.-Yes, Harry, that is the pappus
of the dandelion, but in the daisy it is absent.
There is another family of plants very like the
Composite family, and easily mistaken for it,
called the Umbel family, to which the carrot,
the sea holly, the samphire, and many others
belong. The great difference between the
two families is in the way the centre little
flowers are made ; but I think you can scarcely
understand that at present.
ALICE.-Tell us more about the nice things
people have thought of the daisy, Granny. It
is almost my favourite flower, and I think
daisy chains prettier than any other necklace.
GRANNY.-I think I can tell you a pretty
little old fable about the daisy, Alice, which
you will like. A fairy once lost her dear
little baby by death, and was very unhappy
and sorrowful, till some other kind attendant
fairies came to her, and said, 'Be comforted,
O Malvina! We have seen thy dear baby
boy floating on a clear white mist, and gently
scattering on our fields some lovely new
Daisy Legend. 47
flowers. Here are some of them,--gold
surrounded by silver leaves with a tinge of
pink, like his sweet cheeks on the delicate
rays. It is the flower of innocence and beauty.
Take comfort, O Malvina! and believe that
the flower of thy heart has given a new flower
to our fairy fields.' So the poor mother took
comfort; and ever since then the daisy has
been the flower of childhood and happiness.
HENRY.-And so it is, Granny; for all
little children love to pick daisies and fill
their baskets with them as soon as they can
toddle. Don't they ?
GRANNY.-Yes, Harry; the daisy is one of
the few British wild plants that always is to
be found wherever there is a bit of green
grass. But we must use some of the dull
time this afternoon, when we cannot go out
and find fresh flowers, in showing you how
to dry and preserve plants when you do find
them in the summer, to look at and examine
in the winter. Last February I found in the
woods near Gloucester a rather rare little
48 Talks about Plants.
plant, or rather shrub, a piece of which I dried.
See, here it is. I don't think we have any of
it in our woods near London, but it grows
in some English counties, and is called the
mezereon,-Daphne mezereon. It is often
planted in gardens, and looks very lovely,
when there are no other flowers in the early
spring, with its beautiful pale red or purple
flowers and bright scarlet berries. These
berries are poisonous to men and animals, but
not so to birds. Six such berries are said to
have killed a wolf. It is sometimes called the
'spurge olive,' or 'dwarf bay.' Here, too, is
a spray of the yew tree, which is in blossom
just now, and very pretty. The flowers on
the tree from which this bit was pulled con-
tain only the pistils or seed-bearing part of
the plant; the stamens or dust-bearing little
portions are on another tree, crowded to-
gether, looking like little catkins, though they
are not now called so by botanists.
HENRY.-What are catkins, Granny ?
GRANNY.-Don't you recollect the catkins
of the willow trees we picked up last summer
as they fell from the trees ? Those pretty,
silky sort of long spikes,
which look almost like
S caterpillars as they lie on
the ground. See, here
is the catkin of the
hazel tree which grows
in the park. What the
. villagers call palms, and
gather on Palm Sunday,
are really the catkins of the willow tree,
and bear the stamens with their golden
dust separately from the pistils, which are
on another part of the tree, as in the
yew, or on another tree altogether. I
could amuse you for a long time about the
yew tree, Harry, but I am afraid we shall
not have time for everything to-day. How-
ever, I must tell you that before gunpowder
was invented, the wood of the yew tree was
very valuable for making bows; and its
scientific name, Taxus, comes from a Greek
50 Talks about Plants.
word which signifies a bow, so we call our
archery grounds now in the Regent's Park
' the Toxop/holite grounds.' The leaves of the
yew are poisonous, and cattle get killed some-
times by eating them. You know there is a
yew tree in our churchyard, and we often see
them in churchyards, it is difficult to say why;
but I think it must be because they are sombre-
looking and evergreen, and seem to remind
us of the unfading life we hope for when our
bodies are laid in the grave.
ALICE.-I recollect seeing a tree shaped
like a bird in the garden of Nurse's mother.
She said it was a yew tree, Granny.
GRANNY.-Yew trees are very hardy, Alice,
and at one time it was the fashion to cut trees
in gardens into queer shapes, and keep them
clipped so. In the College garden at Oxford,
where Uncle Forbes lives, there are several
such funny-looking trees; but I don't think
them nearly so pretty as trees allowed to grow
naturally. The yew tree grows so slowly that
it is a favourite one to cut into these fanciful
T e Jew Tree. 51
shapes. Another advantage of its slow growth
is that its wood is very firm and hard, and
that is why it was used so much for making
bows. The men who used to carry bows
ready to fight used to be called yeo men in
olden times, or yew men, from the yew wood
of their bows. There are many celebrated yew
trees in England, Harry, which I have seen.
The large yew trees in the grounds of Foun-
tains Abbey in Yorkshire gave shelter to the
old monks whilst they were building their
monastery, and there they lived, and slept,
and prayed. When I was a little girl, in
1837, I saw one of these old yew trees, which
was then eight hundred years old.
HENRY.-One more little flower you must
tell us about to-day before we go to tea.
Here it is.
GRANNY.-Oh yes, Harry! I am glad you
found this little early flower, which requires
some searching for after the cold weather.
It is the common red dead nettle, and, like
the daisy, may be found blossoming nearly all
52 Talks about Plants.
the year. It will give you an idea of a very
large family of plants, the Labiate family or
lizped family, so called because the flower
always has a sort of under lip standing out.
See how differently the little crown or corolla
of this nettle is formed to the corolla of the
snowdrop or buttercup! It is not quite unlike
that of the gorse, but then the dead nettle
has no wings, but an irregular flower with a
lip, and four stamens which are underneath
another part of the flower, called the hood.
Two of them are always longer than the
others, and here is the style with all its
parts. The calyx, or flower cup, is green,
and also irregular in shape, and encloses the
little seed-vessel with its four little cells. It
is quite a pretty little plant, and I think its
deep crimson colour very beautiful.
ALICE.-You said you would tell us how to
preserve the plants we find, Granny. Will
you do so ?
GRANNY.-Well, we will not try to preserve
any of the plants we have yet found, because
How to dry Plants. 53
we shall find much better specimens by and by.
But we will be quite ready to dry the nice
plants when we do get them, and I will show
you just how I used to make my collection
of dried plants. I began to make my collection
long ago, when I was quite young; and it
gave me so much pleasure that I always tried
to encourage your papa and aunties when they
were children to do the same, and whenever
we went into the country they used to take all
their preparations for collecting with them.
First of all, we bought for each of them a little
tin box like a sandwich-case, only larger, with a
strap fastened to it to go over their shoulders.
Into this box they put all the plants they found
in a walk, and they kept fresh and moist in the
tin. We also got several quires of very good
thick blotting-paper. There is paper made
on purpose called Bentham's drying-paper;'
it is coarse and brown, and very porous. Two
boards, about eighteen inches long and eleven
broad, we got the carpenter to make for us
very smoothly, and between them we put
54 Talks aboz Plants.
about a dozen sheets of the blotting-paper.
We then took any of the plants we wished to
preserve, and laid it down on a sheet of paper
with the root towards us, and the leaves and
flowers nicely spread out above. It is covered
with another sheet of paper, and then several
more sheets were placed over it, and then
another plant, and so on, till we got a layer
of paper thick enough to press between the
boards. One board we placed under the
paper to begin with, and now we put the other
at the top. There are two ways of pressing
the plants in the paper,-one is by putting
heavy weights on the top of the board, and
the other is by having two thick leather straps,
like shawl straps, and binding them very
tightly round the boards. I like this plan
best, because the boards can be more easily
carried about; but if you can let yours always
remain on the side table in the schoolroom, I
think the weights would be very nice to use.
Alice can make them by getting the gardener
to give her two bricks, and then covering
Howv to ,reserve Plants. 55
them with red baize or glazed calico to look
neat. These weights are easily removed
when you want to attend to your plants.
ALIcE.-What attention do the plants want
whilst they are drying, Granny ?
GRANNY. Nothing can be done without
a little trouble, Alice, and I have seen many
very pretty specimens spoiled for want of the
attention I speak of. If they are left long in
the paper, which gets damp whilst pressing
them, they often go quite mouldy, and are
never nice again. The plants should be care-
fully taken out of the paper at least twice a
week, and put into fresh, dry paper, until they
seem quite dry and hard. The damp paper
should be dried before the fire, and then it
does over and over again. Some plants are
more juicy than others, and take longer to
dry, so you must learn to dry them with care.
When they seem quite dry, then lay each
plant on a large sheet of white paper, and with
bits of gummed paper cut into strips, fasten
the parts into their place on the paper. Then
56 Talks about Plants.
write the name of the plant underneath, and the
place where you found it, with the date. All
this will be very nice to see in years to come,
and will often remind you, as my collection
reminds me, dear children, of pleasant walks,
and dear friends who were with me then, long
since past and gone. Be sure to get your
plants for drying well up out of the ground if
you can, for the stem and even the root is
important to keep, so as tp know the family it
belongs to. You may bend the stem up and
down once or twice on the blotting paper if it
be very long, so as to make it the right size
for your collection, which should be mounted
on sheets of white paper of one size, and
very neatly arranged. Auntie Minnie used to
have cardboard folios for each family of plants
to be kept in, with the name of each family
written outside, and very orderly and nice
they looked. Often in a winter evening, when
there were no fresh flowers to dry, she used
to look over her summer's flowers, and talk
about the places where they grew.
SWhen earth exulting from her wintry tomb
Breaks forth with flowers.'
SOME MARCH FLO VWERS.
WIND FLO WER (ANEMONE).
GR 0 UND I VY.
.. ;l. .
%'q "~ ..c-
M AR C H ND APRIL
LEAVES BEGINNING TO GROW.
H ENRY.-We went out this morning,
Granny, with our baskets to get flowers
to talk about, and found so few that we thought
you would be disappointed if we didn't bring
home something, so here are pieces of trees
which are just sprouting out. Tell us about
GRANNY.-These little branches, which I am
so glad to see, Harry, tell us quite plainly
that the winter is over and gone, and that
spring is coming; for although we may have
cold, sharp east winds to keep the tender
leaves still in their winter case, we know and
can see that they are there, and will soon
60 Talks about Plants.
clothe all the trees again in mantles of lovely,
delicate green. Here is a bit of willow, I see,
with its silky catkins; a twig of the ash, which
seldom shows any signs of leaves before May;
a nice piece of elm ; a sprig of the Scotch fir,
with its young shoots just sprouting; and
better still, two fine fat horse-chestnut buds.
We will put one of these into water, and see
it grow and expand from day to day, just
as it would have done on its native tree, and
we shall learn something from it about the
leaves of plants. I think a walk through
a wood on an early spring morning is
delicious, and I am glad you went there
ALICE.-Oh, Granny, the trees seem tired
of-being without leaves, and everywhere little
bits of green were peeping out. The moss
round the roots of the oaks, where we used to
play in the summer, is quite fresh and green,
and new ferns are coming up like shepherds'
crooks instead of the brown and withered
stalks of the old ones that are dead. Every-
Leaf Bzds. 61
thing seemed to make me long for the real
GRANNY.-Perhaps when you are as old as
I am, Harry, you may love the spring as dearly
as I do, and not wish for the heat and bright-
ness of summer, which is like the fulness of
manhood, whilst the spring always reminds
me of the joyousness and innocence of child-
hood, and fills me with hope and expectation
of what is to come. But come, let us talk
about the leaves, which are now coming fast
on to the trees.
ALIcE.-Are all leaves green, Granny ?
GRANNY.-Yes, Alice, when exposed to the
sun's light all leaves are green, for they have
in them a substance which is called chlorophyll,
which is made green by the light. When we
keep a plant in the dark it loses its green
colour and becomes white, as you may see;
when celery is closely covered up with earth it
gets white, where before it was green. The
leaf of a plant is one of its most important
organs. If we stripped all the leaves off a
62 Talks about Plais.
plant it would soon die, for the leaves are like
its lungs, and it seems as if the plant breathed
through them. The leaf acts also as a
stomach to the plants, for all the juices which
nourish it and keep it alive pass through the
leaves, and there the light acts on them, and
makes the juice which is passing through
them into food for the plant. The leaves
have the power of taking out of the air all
that is good for the plant to live on. They
use up what is proper for them by daylight
when the sun shines on them, for without his
cheerful rays their food does not nourish them;
then they throw off at night, when it is dark,
all that is bad for plants, and not fit for their
food. It is important, too, for you to recollect
that the very same gas which plants live upon,
and which the sun turns into food for them,
is the gas which man ought not to breathe in,
and is cast out by our own lungs; and the gas
which plants cannot use as food, and throw
out from their leaves, is the same that we all
want, and the more we get of it the better.
Light necessary to Plan ts. 63
HIENRY.-Then, Granny, it must be very
good to live in a forest of trees, where they
give out plenty of the good gas for men to
GRANNY.-There are several reasons why it
is not good to live in a forest of trees, Harry;
one is that they shade the sunlight from us,
and the leaves decay and become unwhole-
some, and no one can be well without plenty
of air and sunshine. But if we had no vegeta-
tion, no great forests of gigantic trees on the
globe, our atmosphere would be quite different,
and I suppose men could not exist on it at all.
The vegetables and the animals in the world
are necessary to each other, and life could not
continue without both. You see in the air,
one uses up what the other does not want,
and gives back what the other needs; and so
all things in the air we breathe and the plants
live upon are as they should be for the use of
ALICE.-It seems to me that leaves are as
different from each other as flowers; when
64 Talks about Plants.
you come to look at them, though they are
nearly all green, they have not the same shape.
GRANNY.-Exactly so, Alice. We ought to
know a plant by its leaves as well as by its
flowers; and, indeed, we can only know trees
by their general form and the shape of their
leaves, so it is very necessary to learn some-
thing about leaves. We will begin with the
horse-chestnut. Here is the leaf-bud, which is
the beginning of all those great and beautiful
leaves that cover us with their shadow as we
stroll or sit under them in the summer time.
Do you not recollect the avenue of chestnuts
in Bushy Park, where we had our picnic on
your birthday ?
HENRY.-Yes! to be sure, Granny; not one
of those great divided leaves looked like this
sticky, shiny, woolly bud I have in my hand.
GRANNY.-The whole of the outside of this
curious-looking leaf-bud is planned so as to
protect the part inside, which grows into the
large, beautiful leaves we so much admire.
See, the scales outside are arranged like the
Ilorse-chestnut Bua's. 65
tiles of a house, overlapping each other, and
are rough and leathery; and in order to prevent
the rain and moisture from soaking through,
and getting at the tender little bud inside, they
are covered over with a sort of resin, like we
cover a roof with tar. So the tiny little young
leaves which nestle in the middle of the bud
are kept safe and dry and warm through the
winter, for they could not stand any frost; and
lest they should get any cold at all, see in the
centre of the bud there is some stuff just like
wool in which they are tenderly wrapped,
until the spring sun comes and warms them,
and melts the resin outside, and encourages
them to throw off their coverings and peep out
at the world which they are to beautify in their
ALICE.-What name do botanists give to
the shape of the horse-chestnut leaf, Granny ?
It is like several leaves joined together.
GRANNY.-It is a compound leaf, Harry,
of a peculiar kind; but I ought to tell you that
the horse-chestnut is not a native of Great
66 Talks about Plants.
Britain, though it is so common in all our
parks and forests. Leaves are generally
known as being round or oval, and are
either simple or compound. A simple leaf,
you see, is a leaf perfect
by itself, like an oak leaf
or a willow leaf or a violet
leaf. A compound leaf is one
'mPpZ. which is made up of several
smaller leaves joined together, like the leaf of
A the chestnut, the rose, the
laburnum, and many others.
-- Then the edges of the
/" leaves are worth noticing.
Sy Some are quite smooth,
simple. others are edged, like saws,
with little teeth. The veins of the leaves
also differ greatly in the
Sway they run. The large
centre line in a leaf is
called the midrib, and this
Serrated, in many leaves gives off
the chief veins, though in some leaves the
Diferent-shapeid Leaves. 67
veins arise from the leaf-stalk, and not from
the midrib. All these small differences
are noticed by botanists, and when they
wish to find a family for a plant, or to tell
which it belongs to, these characters are
sp m,ro important to observe.
: I have here a little
.drawing of a simply
"compound leaf, and also
of one doubly and trebly
compound, which will make you understand
what I mean. Then leaves are called heart-
rC ly Cemp s
shaped, or shield-shaped, kidney-shaped, and
68 Talks about Plants.
cleft; and we have arrow shaped leaves,
as well as spear-shaped and lanced. There
are many other features in leaves, almost too
many to tell you of now, lest you get confused;
but try and recollect that a leaf is simple,
however much it is cut and divided, if the
Growth of Leaves. 69
blade of the leaf is all in one piece; and a com-
pound leaf always is made up of distinct portions,
5ypear s1 j5cd
which seem quite perfect by themselves, and
are like little leaves joined on to one stalk.
ALICE.-In the winter, when all the leaves
are gone, and the branches look like bare
sticks, it is hard to recollect what they are like
when covered with leaves,
GRANNY.-Yes; the growth of a leaf is
indeed a study. It first appears on the
stem as a bud, which may be seen even
in autumn before the old leaf has fallen off,
like a little lump or tumour, and this is pushed
forward by the growth of a substance under-
70 Talks about Plants.
neath it. Whilst the weather is cold, and the
sun does not shine, the growth is very slow;
but as the days get warmer the little bits of
green gradually peep out, and, with the help of
the warm showers and sunshine of spring, the
naked branches are soon clothed in brilliant,
lovely, soft green leaves. Under a micro-
scope such as Uncle Alfred has, I can show
you the tiny little cells that make up a leaf.
They are arranged side by side, just as we
might place a number of balls or eggs together,
leaving little spaces between each which are
filled with air. The cells at the back of a
leaf are not packed so tightly as on the front
part, and therefore there is more air at the
back, and the colour of the leaf is lighter; just
as ice, when pounded up small, and so mixed
with air, looks white like snow, and not dark
and almost black, as it does when there is no
air in it.
HENRY.-Is it to keep these air-cells and
breathing-places free and clean that you wash
the leaves in the conservatory so often, Granny ?
Functions of Leaves. 71
GRANNY.-Yes, Henry. When plants are
not in their natural state, and exposed to the
good, cleansing showers that wash all the
trees, but are liable to get dirty in rooms and
conservatories, where fires are burning and
dust is flying about, it is very necessary to
wash their leaves often; and I find that if I
neglect to sponge the india-rubber tree, and
the little palms that stand in my rooms, they
soon wither and die, whilst by being very care-
ful to keep them fresh and clean, they live for
a very long time, for their breathing and feeding
organs are thus kept healthy.
HENRY. -But what about the bit of willow
I brought in? Nurse says she has seen
baskets made of willow twigs.
GRANNY.-There are many kinds of willows
in England, and a very useful tree it is. Bas-
kets are made from its twigs in every country.
They are often called osiers, and are so elastic
and pliable that they can easily be woven into
anything. The Romans found that the ancient
Britons had made shields out of this sort of
72 Talks about Plants.
basket-work, when they fought them with their
spears and arrows; and very good shields they
were, covered with the skins of animals. They
also made boats of the willow twigs, covered
in the same way, which were so light that they
could easily carry them about from river to
river. We are also told that the old Druids
made huge baskets of wicker-work, and put
human beings into them to sacrifice to their
idols; so, you see, the use of the willow twigs
is a very old one indeed. The pretty silky
flowers or catkins are, as I told you before,
the 'palms,' as they are called, which are
carried on the Sunday before Easter,-Palm
ALICE.-But I thought willows were always
melancholy trees. I've seen a weeping willow,
and there is a song about wearing a willow
and being forsaken.
GRANNY.-Yes, Alice, willows have always
been chosen by poets to signify sorrow and
mourning. The weeping willow is not a
native of England, but was first planted here
The Wil low Tree. 73
by the poet Pope in his garden at Twickenham,
and grew and thrived there so well that it
became a great favourite in every garden
where its roots could get sufficient water, for
it should always be near a stream or a pond
of water. Don't you recollect hearing Des-
demona's song, when Auntie was reading a
piece from Shakespeare the other day, and
you asked who sang such a sad ditty ?
'The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree,
Sing all a green willow ;
Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee,
Sing llow w, willow, willow.
The fresh streams ran by her and murmured her moans,
Her salt tears ran from her and softened the stones ;
Sing willow, willow, willow,
Sing all a green willow must be my garland.'
HENRY.-Our bit of ash has no leaves on it
yet, and I'm glad of it, for gardener told us
If the ash leafs before the oak,
Then woe old England for a soak;'
'If the oak's before the ash,
There will be but little splash.'
74 Talks about Plants.
So, as I like fine dry weather, I am glad there
are no leaves yet on the ash.
GRANNY.-I don't believe much in that,
Harry; but it is very interesting to know all
about the common trees of our parks and
meadows and woods, and to learn all the
curious things people have said and thought
about them in olden times., I don't think any
description I could give you of different trees
would help you much to know them when you
see them; it would be almost as difficult to
describe people, and expect you to recognize
them. The best way is to get some one who
does know them well to take walks with you,
and introduce them to you, a few at a time,
and you must try to remember their form and
appearance. The ash has been called the
'Venus of the woods;' and it is indeed a
graceful tree, and contrasts well with the
heavier and more massive appearance of the
old oak tree, as it comes slowly and deliberately
out with its leaves, being in no hurry to expose
them to the east winds of our early spring-time.
The Ask Tree. 75
The ash tree was at one time held in reverence
for the cure of disease. Children who were
deformed or weakly used to be passed through
an ash tree three times before the sun had
risen. The tree was split open sufficiently to
let the body of the child be pushed through
without its clothes, and after this was done
three times the tree was carefully bound up;
and as the tree healed and grew together
again, it was supposed that the child recovered,
but if the tree did not unite, the operation was
unsuccessful. The elm is one of the first trees
of spring, and when allowed to grow naturally,
and not cut about and its branches lopped off,
as is so common, is really a beautiful tree.
The beautiful, graceful birch, too, is easily
distinguished by its feathery branches. And
then the beech tree, which is known by its
light-green silky leaves when they are out,
and by the very graceful sweep of its branches
even before they appear. But we must not
go on chatting about all the forest trees, which
I know so well, and love like old familiar
76 Talks about Plants.
friends, who come to greet me with their fresh
bright coats year after year.
ALICE.-Well, then, Granny, when the
weather is warmer, and the east winds go,
you will take us into the woods and show us
these friends of yours, and we will try and
recollect them when we see them in other
HENRY.-I recollect last summer we used
to fill our baskets with things we used to call
pines, which we found under the fir trees in
the woods. What were they ?
GRANNY.-Those were the cones of the
Scotch fir, which grow very large and hard;
and as they contain some resin, they are good
for lighting fires. The fir or pine tree is, I
think, the most useful tree next to the oak;
but it does not grow well everywhere, and
before planting trees, I think people should
think whether the soil will suit them. I know
one foolish old man who planted a whole row
of Scotch firs in a heavy clay soil, because he
got them cheap, and then wondered why they
The Fir Tree. 77
did not grow, and was surprised that his
neighbour, who planted at the same time some
elms and chestnut trees, got a nice shade for
his house long before the Scotch firs had made
a single branch. But where the Scotch fir
grows well, in sandy and dry situations, it is
a valuable tree. Its sap yields turpentine and
resin, also tar and pitch; and the wood is
called deal when made into boards, and is
used for floors and other things. Then it
will grow on rocky places where no other tree
could find food, and it does not die and wither
up with the cold blasts of the north, but will
also grow in the warmer south. Tennyson
writes of the
Dark tall pines that plumed the craggy ledge,
High over the blue gorge.'
But now, dears, run away. We have talked
enough for to-day, and to-morrow see if you
cannot find at least a few spring flowers for
"When daisies pied, and violets blue,
And lady smocks all silver white,
And cuckoo buds of yellow hue,
Do paint the meadows with delight.'
SOME APRIL FLOWERS.
CUCKOO FLO WER.
WHITE DEAD NETTLE.
EARLY PURLPE ORCHIS.
SARRY.-Now you will be glad, Grand-
mamma! We have been out for two
hours in the fields, and as we passed through
the wood I found these violets. Do not they
smell sweetly ? Can you teach us some bot-
any from them, before we look at the other
things we have in the basket ?
ALICE.-Oh! but we must begin with the
primrose, it looks so easy to learn about, and
is not such a curious shape as the violet;
besides, it looked so lovely in its green leaves,
just peeping out on the bank amidst the
violets. I want to know all about it, Granny.
GRANNY.-Gently, dear children. We will
82 Talks about Plants.
take one at a time. Suppose we begin with
this lovely violet,-' The violet blue that on
the moss bank grows.' See, the corolla is
divided into five parts, which are distinct from
each other, and of a different shape; the lower
part of one is called in botany a spur. There
are five sepals and five stamiens,-see, count
them,-and two of them have curious little
spurs on them. On the flower stem we
find two little green shreds of leaves, and
these are called bracts. This pretty little
scented violet is not so large or so handsome
as the dog violet, which comes soon after it,
but I love the deep purple, sweet-smelling
flower the best; don't you?
ALICE.-Yes, Granny. Mamma always says
that beauty is not everything, that we must
try to find out goodness in things that we
love as well as beauty; so you love the violet
not only because it is pretty, but because it has
a sweet smell, which is its goodness.
GRANNY.- The violet has always been
thought to be the emblem of modesty, Alice.
The Sweet Violet. 83
Its appearance would never attract any notice,
were it not for its sweet perfume, that is shed
all around and pleases every one. The family
name of the violet is like its own name; it is
Violaceae, and the botanical name of the violet
is Viola. Sometimes the flowers are white
instead of purple, but equally scented. The
dog violet, Viola canine, has no perfume.
We call the violet an irregular flower. The
two flowers I see in your hands now are good
examples of regular flowers. Do you know
their common names ?
HENRY. -Yes; this is the primrose, and
this the wind flower. Mamma calls it
GRANNY.-We will begin by examining the
primrose, Harry. It is an excellent example
of a plant with a regular corolla, all in one
piece, or, as botanists say, monopetalous, one
petalled. Observe the difference between the
petals of the primrose and those of the wall-
flower, which you can pull away quite separately,
and notice also that the flower is quite different
84 Talks about Plants.
to that of the violet, the foxglove, or the dead
nettle; the two last have corollas all in one
piece, but of an irregular shape, whilst both
the primrose and the wind flower have regular
corollas, though you see the coloured parts of
the wind flower are not all in one piece, but can
be pulled off separately. The primrose and
the wind flower belong to different families
of plants, though they are alike in respect to
their regular flowers.
HENRY.-I have gently pulled off the corolla
of the primrose, Granny, and I see five little
stamens, and a pistil standing up in the middle
with the little stigma at the top, and around
them all is the green calyx still left.
GRANNY.-Yes, Harry; and now I will cut
one primrose across, and you will see that the
stamens rest inside the tube of the yellow
corolla; and at the bottom, just above the
flower stalk, is the seed-vessel, out of which
grows the style or pistil, with its curious little
stigma at the top.
ALICE.-The cowslip is very like the prim-
Prizmroses. 8 5
rose, only there are several flowers on a stalk,
and they are smaller.
GRANNY.-Yes, Alice, the cowslip belongs
to the same family. The polyanthus of the
garden is, too, a sort of primrose, with many
blossoms raised on one stalk. Botanists tell
us that the primrose has one stalk under
ground, and that the many stalks we see
amongst the leaves, each supporting a pretty
yellow flower, are just like the stalks of the
cowslip; and when cultivated in the garden
like the polyanthus, the lower stalk grows
taller, and then all the flowers are seen to
grow in bunches. There is a great tendency
in the primrose and the cowslip to grow like
each other, and I have found primroses
becoming small and growing two or three
together on one stalk on a plant bearing other
single-stalked primroses; and also cowslip
flowers on single short stalks, amidst tiny
clusters of cups generally found on cowslip
stalks. I love the primrose almost better
than any other wild flower, for I always
86 Talks about Plants.
recollect the joy of finding it in the early
spring in the Isle of Wight, when I was a little
girl. There it flourishes to perfection, and the
sheltered banks are covered with its beautiful
sulphur-coloured blossoms and bright green
leaves as soon as ever the spring begins to be
felt. It is the flower of every English country
home, and we know that so dearly do English
people love it when they are far away from
home, that a sailor who took a plant of bright-
growing primroses in a pot with him to
Australia, made quite a pocketful of money
by exhibiting it to admiring thousands, who
loved it not only for its own beauty, but for
the days it brought back to their minds when
they were at home in the old country. Cattle
will not eat the primrose, and I suppose it
does not taste nice, though I once saw a
recipe for making 'primrose pudding.'
HENRY.-I have just bitten a little bit off
the stalk of this anemone, Granny, and my
tongue quite smarts. It is hot and bitter,
and very disagreeable.
Poisonous Plaznts. 87
GRANNY.-I know that, Harry, for all the
plants of its family-Ranunculaceae, it is called
-have the same property. Many of them are
very poisonous, and all are sharp and biting.
It is better not to taste flowers at all until
you are quite sure what they are; and one
use of botany is to warn you against those
which are likely to be poisonous, by knowing
what family they belong to, and recollecting
the habits of the family. Though these
sweet little wind flowers look so innocent
and pretty, they retain the bad qualities of
their relations. How lovely they are! The
poet calls it
'The coy anemone, that ne'er uncloses
Her leaves until they're blown on by the wind.'
When clouds and rain come, the tiny flowers
shut themselves up, and only keep open on
bright, unclouded days.
ALIcE.-What lovely dark-green leaves, all
cut and divided, the pretty white flowers have
to lie down upon!
88 Talks about Plants.
GRANNY.-You may well say that, Alice.
Nothing can be more lovely than a mass of
these tender flowers, wide open, showing the
delicate purple veins on the white petals re-
posing on a bed of their own beautiful leaves.
I have often had such an offering made to
me on my birthday by dear little hands that
gathered baskets full of the flowers in the
fields, and then carefully arranged them thus
in a soup plate or dish filled with wet sand,
and I never admired any birthday gift more
than this one. You see the coloured part of
this wind flower is quite different to that of the
primrose; it does not come away when pulled
all in one piece, and inside it are a great many
little seed vessels surrounded with many
stamens. The sepals or divisions of the calyx
are six in number, and there are no petals;
but the calyx is coloured like a corolla.
HENRY.-Have all the plants that belong to
the wind-flower family the same bad qualities ?
GRANNY.-Yes, Harry; the common butter-
cup belongs to the Ranunculus family, as it is
called, and if bitten or chewed is as sharp
and biting as possible. Once I knew a silly
school-girl who nearly poisoned herself by
eating buttercups. The celandine or pilewort
is a pretty yellow flower belonging to this
family, which ought to be in blossom just
now, covering the banks with its bright golden
flowers and brilliant green leaves. I daresay
you will find it to-morrow, as well as several
other plants that I do not see in to-day's
basket. Here is the wild daffodil, which is
often found very early in March in full
blossom. The old name of Lent lilies tells
us of the time of year they are usually to be
'When the vales are decked with daffodils,
I hail the new reviving year,
And soothing hope my bosom fills.'
The daffodil belongs to the Narcissus family
of plants, and there are several very lovely
members of the family, both in the fields and
gardens, that we all know well.
HENRY.-I brought some of these beautiful
90 Talks abozt Plants.
blue-bell hyacinths, Granny, but I could not
tear up their roots as you told me to do, and I
had not my trowel with me.
GRANNY.-It is very necessary, Harry, to
take your trowel when you collect wild plants,
so as to bring the whole plant home with you;
for often the chief features of the plant are
not in the flower, but in the root. This blue-
bell or wild hyacinth is called by botanists a
squill. It has a deeply buried stem, which forms
a bulb, like our garden hyacinths that grow in
glasses, but much smaller. The leaves come
up in the early spring before the flowers, but
when they do come they are most lovely,-not
perhaps alone, but in masses amidst the fresh
green grass, as I have seen them growing on
a fine, bright day in the early spring; so
lovely were they, and their colour so charming
to the eye, that I think I can now see the
little maiden of six summers full of delight
and joy as she sprang into the midst of a
meadow full of this beauty, shaded by the fine
old trees of Kew Park, burying herself in their
Wild Hyacintk. 91
sweet blossoms, and crying out, 'Oh, this is
really where the fairies live !'
ALICE.-Will you take us there too, that
we may see where the fairies live ?
GRANNY.-I think the fairies live in all the
flowers, Alice; and I don't fancy, as some
people do, that we drive them away by trying
to find out what their houses are like, and by
admiring the skill with which they are made.
We all know the hyacinth of the garden, with
its delicious perfume, and I think the delicate
scent of a bunch of the wild hyacinth is even
pleasanter. The white bulb is full of a clammy
kind of juice, which at one time was used as
starch or gum, and the high ruffs worn by
ladies of the olden time were stiffened by its
use. The nearest relations to the hyacinth
are the lilies and the tulips. They all belong
to the natural order Liliacea. The flowers,
you see, grow all along a stalk, making what
is called a raceme from three to eight inches
long. When the flowers are in bud, the stems
stand up erect, but as the flowers expand,
92 Talks about Plants.
they droop downwards and hang their heads;
and when the fruit comes on after the flowers
they stand up again, and we often find them
with their little black seeds quite hard and
ALICE.-I love blue flowers, Granny, for
you always say blue is my colour, and so I
brought some of this pretty periwinkle for
you to tell us about. See how bright and
dark its green leaves are! and then it twines
about and looks so tender and sweet, and as
if the delicate flowers wanted strength from
the stronger leaves.
GRANNY.--This, Alice, is the lesser peri-
winkle, and its botanical name is Vinca minor,
or Vinca the less. But few British plants
belong to the same family; I think only the
two periwinkles, the great and the less. You
see, Alice, the corolla of this flower is all in
one piece, like the primrose, and the calyx too;
but it is divided into five deeply-cut narrow
bits. There are five stamens inside the tube
of the corolla, with the anthers curved some-
Periwink le. 93
thing like a note of interrogation, thus (?). A
curious sort of film bends over the top, and
keeps all things that could injure them from
getting in. The style, or stalk that holds up
the stigma, is very thin, and carries an odd-
looking flat piece at the top, on which the
stigma is seated. The whole forms a very
beautiful and curious object under the micro-
scope. The periwinkle is one of the old-
fashioned flowers that we read of in old poems.
It used to be called the 'little laurel,'-I sup-
pose because its leaves are evergreen. The
old English poet, Chaucer, writes of the peri-
winkle, and calls it
"The fresh pervinke, riche of leave.'
The family name of the plant is Vinca, as
I told you, and it comes from a Latin word
which means to bind, for its long trailing
stems bind themselves round everything they
are near or can reach. The old lovers of
flowers and herbs found a use for almost every
plant, and believed they were good as a medi-
94 Talks about Plants.
cine in various diseases. This little periwinkle
was said to be excellent as a medicinee for
HENRY.- But, Granny, you tell us never
to bite any plants, or to eat even the leaves.
Why may we not eat them if they are good as
GRANNY.-Because, Harry, I think the old
folks who used to say so were much mistaken;
and even were they good for some complaints,
I do not approve of taking medicine at random,
and the less we get of it the better. Besides,
as you do not know exactly the properties of
every plant, you may be eating poison when
you do not expect it, so I am sure it is safest
never to put things into your mouth of which
you are not quite certain. One great use of a
knowledge of plants is to distinguish readily
between the good and the bad. Why, the
wholesome and nice watercress, which is so
good to eat, is sometimes confused with another
plant very like it, which is called fool's cress,
and which often grows with the watercress,
Plains that may be eaten. 95
the chief difference between the two being that
the leaves of the watercress do not form a
sheath round the stem, as those of the fool's
cress do. Of course, there may be times in
one's life when to know what plants may be
eaten safely is most important. Suppose we
were wrecked on a desert island like Robinson
Crusoe, or were far away from any place where
such vegetables as are usually eaten could be
found, it would be well to know that plants
belonging to certain families may always be
eaten without danger, whilst others are sure
to do harm. Thus, if you brought me a
plant which I saw belonged to the Cruciferae
family,-to which belong the watercress, cab-
bage, mustard, turnips, and many others,-I
should say, 'We will boil it, and eat it safely;'
because I know none of its family are ever
poisonous, and it is very important to be able
to eat some sort of vegetables with our food
every day. But if you offered me a plant
which I knew to be of the Ranunculus family,
or the Poppy family, for instance, I should say,
96 Talks about Plants.
'Throw them away, and do not let us eat them
on any account.' Thus you see, Harry, it is
not only pleasant and interesting to know
about plants, but very useful too.
ALICE.-It seems to me that it will be a
long time before we get to know what plants
belong to different families by their looks; and
there is so little difference in many of them,
that I shall never recollect why they are not
GRANNY.-All things that are worth learn-
ing, Alice, are difficult at the very first; but if
our talks about plants make you wish to learn
more, you will find it easier than you imagine,
when once you have learned the names of the
different orders, and are quite sure of the parts
of every plant. You will then read what
botanists have made out about them, and will
get accustomed to find out the likeness between
them for yourself.
ALICE.-But Aunty says she never ceases
learning something about plants, though she
is quite grown up now. Is there so mrtch
Plants in Medicine. 97
more to know than the names and orders and
classes to which they belong ?
GRANNY.-Why, Alice, that is only the
beginning of botany, just the scaffold on which
the building is placed, brick by brick. Think
how much there is to know about the habits
and ways of plants; how they are affected by
different climates and ways of treating; then
the changes that the different parts undergo,-
how in some flowers we find sepals changed
into petals, and petals into stamens, and so
on; the action of light on the colours of flowers,
and even on what they produce, their juices
and seeds, etc. This is called the chemistry
of botany. To be a good botanist one must
know something of other sciences, and so we
are led on to study nature in her many forms.
HENRY.--I should like to know something
about the uses of plants, Granny. Do not
real doctors use many of them in medicine ?
GRANNY.-Yes, Harry; very many valuable
medicines are taken from plants, and a good
knowledge of the properties and appearances
98 Talks about Plants.
of plants helps a doctor very much in choosing
what medicines to use. Not many of our
British plants are medicinal; chiefly, I think,
because we have not in this climate heat or
light enough from the sun to bring them to
perfection, and to perfect the principles they
contain. It is where the sun shines constantly,
and the atmosphere is full of heat and light,
that we find the most powerful qualities in
plants. Take, for instance, the castor-oil
plant, which grows in Asia and Africa, and
whose seeds yield the castor oil you know so
well; it seldom produces its seeds at all in our
cold English climate, and only grows a few
feet in height. Then there is the rhubarb
plant. The species which grows in Asia has
roots which are largely used in medicine, and
are very valuable; whilst the species of the
same genus which grows in England is only
valued for its leaf-stalks, which, as you know,
are cut up and made into tarts. Its roots are
of no use at all. Thus, you see, a knowledge
of botany includes many things more than learn-