+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

????? for ???????, ???? for ?????, ???? for
?.?.?., though there appears to be an
inclination now-a-days to use the old word ?????
instead of ????. Bearing this in mind, we
venture to say that any Englishman with a good
knowledge of ancient Greek might, in three
months, not only make himself understood by a
modern Hellene, but (which is not so easy) also
understand him, supposing him to belong to the
educated class.

                 THE GREAT SOWER.

LINNÆUS, investigating the causes of the
dissemination of the plants of one locality over the
whole inhabitable earth, says "the first cause is
the force or power of the air." "We must
admire," he continues, "the providence of the
Creator who sends his winds, especially in the
autumn, to shake the trees and make their
leaves and seeds fly like flakes of snow; these
winds sweep also the surface of the earth, lift
again and again the fallen seeds, and disperse
them on every side until at last they may have
been sent even to remote regions propitious to
germination. It is scarcely a hundred years ago
that a plant, indigenous to America, was brought
to the Garden of Plants in Paris, from which its
seeds have been dispersed by the winds over
France, Italy, Sicily, Belgium, and Germany.
The snapdragon (Antirrhinum) has been widely
disseminated in the neighbourhood of Upsal,
from a few plants sent to the Botanic Garden.
It is to facilitate this dissemination by the air,
that when the fruit has become ripe it is elevated
on stalks or stems. For the same purpose most
seed-vessels are open only at the top. The seeds
do not fall on the ground at the foot of the
mother plant; they can get out only when the
seed-vessel, beaten by a very strong wind, is
turned upside down, and they are dispersed on
every side. The seed-vessel of henbane
(Hyoscyamus) has a horizontal opening when the
seeds become ripe, but this opening does not
permit their egress unless the seed-vessel is
violently shaken by the wind."

Other seeds when ripe are provided with hooks
made to catch hold of passing animals, which,
after a time, get rid of them by rolling on the
ground. Those seeds which are surrounded by
a succulent pulp, and are swallowed by birds and
quadrupeds, are generally favourably consigned
to the earth. Most seeds pass uninjured through
the stomach and intestines of all animals, with
the exception of gallinaceous fowls. Currant
seeds, after having been eaten by man, can
germinate. Foxes sow the seeds of the cranberry
(Vaccinum) after eating its red berries. Apple
and pear trees are often found in ditches and
under hedges, proceeding, it is said, from fruit
which has been devoured by peasants. Farmers
are often astonished when, after having, as they
think, perfectly prepared their fields, and sown
excellent corn, on reaping they find some places
covered only with useless oats.

In other cases, mammiferes and birds devour
only a portion of seeds, while the rest fall
and become productive. When the squirrel
shakes the cones of the pine-tree to obtain the
seeds, a great number fall to the ground and are
lost to him. The inhabitants of Iceland call a
particular sort of nut "rats' nut," from the
circumstance that the rats gather them in great
numbers, and hide them in the ground. But as
the rats are very often killed by one or other
of their numerous enemies, the nuts are left to
germinate. Seeds falling into worm-holes are
sure to germinate, as well as seeds which drop
into the subterraneous passages made by the
moles to ensnare worms and insects. The hog,
by tearing up the earth as with a ploughshare,
prepares it for the reception of seeds; the
hedgehog passes his life in doing the same

Linnæus says that in Lapony the power of
rivers in dispersing seeds is seen very plainly.
"I have found," he says, "on the banks of the
rivers of that country, alpine plants, often at
the distance of thirty leagues from their native
soil. The ripe seeds ot these alpine plants,
swept away by the waters, after being carried
longer or shorter distances along the course of
these rivers, are at last thrown upon their
banks, where they strike root."

Seas, also, have a great share in the
transmission of seeds. It is generally believed that
seeds, when steeped in water, become corrupt
and unfruitful, but this is a mistake. The water
of the sea has seldom sufficient heat to destroy
seeds. For the same reason, fields are
sometimes covered with water during a whole winter,
and yet the seeds with which they were sown
remain in good condition.

Linnæus thus describes the dissemination of
the rose of Jericho. "Nature has wonderfully
endowed the anastatica: while its seeds are
being ripened, the branches which surround the
fruit contract and seize it as in a fist, so putting
the seeds beyond the reach of birds. This plant
growing upon the sandy shores of the Red Sea,
is exposed to the fury of the autumnal storms,
when the sea beating violently upon the plant,
seizes its fruit and hurls it into the deep; but
the following tides throw it back upon the
sandy beach. Now, this fruit has the property
of remaining uninjured by cold sea water, but
when this last has become lukewarm (which
takes place when the fruit is left on the sand),
the fruit swells, the branches which unfold it
relax, the seeds are poured out, and, finding all
that is necessary for germination, send forth
their roots, and soon cover the whole coast with
their verdure."

Some seeds when put into the earth germinate
quickly, others more slowly; some even stay
there a long and very variable time before they
appear on the surface.

Linnæus says: "When but a boy, my father
had given me a little garden within his own,
where I reared all sorts of plants in great
numbers. Among others, I remember very well a
particular thistle, which for many years my
father had in vain made every effort to destroy