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THE Vegetable World bears inscribed upon
its glorious front, a threefold purpose. The
first, implies that which Emerson would
delight to call the culinary use of plants. Under
this aspect we regard the plant as ministering
to the sustenance of the whole animal world,
and above all, of mankind: not alone furnishing
the basis of the existence of the human
race, but affording the materials for boundless
appliances of comfort and convenience.
This material relation of the vegetable world,
although most important, socially considered,
aesthetically must be regarded as the meanest;
since it ultimately concerns the animal
requirements of each individual, however much
these may be glossed over by refinement.
Far more lofty is the part which the plant
world plays in the regulation of the all-
embracing operations of the universe. The
scorched and rainless desolation of the
Sahara, and the overflowing wealth of vitality
in the humid forests of the gorgeously clothed
tropics, partly owe their characteristic
peculiarities to the action of the plant creation.
Varying states of climate, dry or humid
atmosphere, parched or moist soil, scanty or
abundant development of animal, and
especially of human, life, in the mass, find their
mastering conditions in the nature and extent
of local vegetation. Herein the vegetable
world is related to the well-being and actual
existence of whole races, and the great physical
features of entire regions.

But the most sublime and exalted mission
of the vegetable creation is as the material
interpreter of the spiritual; the veil which
conceals but yet declares the mighty Author
and Sustainerthe gorgeous tapestry of God's
great temple; the emblem of the Eternal,
teaching us to look for the permanent through
the mutable and fleeting. The spiritual
ordinance of eternal being is nobly symbolised to
us in the immutable law of vegetable nature,
which decrees that death shall proceed out of
life, and life out of death; that the living animal
shall feed its vitality upon the dead plant,
and the living plant upon the dead animal;
that decomposition shall be but the
commencement of recomposition; and
putrefaction but the symbol of renewed

"For though to every draught of vital breath,
Renewed throughout the bounds of earth or ocean,
The melancholy gates of death
Respond with sympathetic motion;
Though all that feeds on nether air,
Howe'er magnificent or fair,
Grows but to perish and entrust
Its ruins to their kindred dust;
Yet, by the Almighty's ever-during care
Her procreant vigils nature keeps
Amid the unfathomable deeps,
And saves the peopled fields of earth
From dread of emptiness or dearth."

The inexhaustible fertility of the vegetable
world affords matter for profound wonder
and admiration to the naturalist. Does a
volcanic island rise from the ocean, bare and
devoid of aught that can allure man to take
up his habitation on its soil, or that can
furnish food for his sustenance or implements
for his use, yet when years have rolled on, it
will be covered by a peculiar form of
vegetation, to which will succeed others more
perfect; and the sun that glared upon a
smoking rocky mass may smile upon an
earthly paradise. What have been the
weapons which nature has here employed to
battle against want and desolation, to cast
out death and implant the germs of life?
The waves have wafted the seeds of
vegetation, and the winds have carried them on
their wings. Strangely fashioned insects and
brilliantly plumed birds have paused in their
flight to wonder or to rest, and, pursuing
their careless way, have left precious traces
of their visitthe seeds of a teeming host
of plants.

"Thus in the earth, in water, and in air,
In moisture and in drought, in heat and cold,
Thousands of germs their energies unfold."

To us, then, it is of the deepest interest to
investigate the means by which the limits of
the vegetable kingdom are extended, and the
multiplication of plants is effected. And even
if the relation which this all-important process
bears to the life of the universe were less
lofty than we have seen it to be, the phenomena
accompanying it might well arrest our
attention. The function of reproduction is
performed in all flowering plants, by the aid
of the blossom. In nature everything has a
meaning and a purpose: nothing which is