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INTRODUCTION OF FOREIGN WEEDS.
“Queries in Local Topographical Botany," published in the * Transactions of the Plymouth Institution and Devon and Cornwall Natural History Society,' writes: “I have endeavoured to show that the investigation of local phenomena may be undertaken with a view to the solution of scientific questions of the utmost importance and greatest magnitude; that evidence supplied by local facts may be used to support or weaken-possibly to prove or disprove—some of the startling theories of the age.”
These two quotations afford much guidance and encouragement for the Members of the Selborne Society, who, without any very prolonged special training, are endeavouring to substitute systematic study of natural objects for mere haphazard observations without any connecting link. The special subject which I would suggest in this present paper, as a means by which those principles may be applied, is the systematic observation of the establishment and subsequent increase or decrease of aliens in the shape of foreign weeds. When it is remembered that a very large number of exotic plants from similar climates to our own are continually being introduced into this country, and when one remembers also that our own ne'erdo-weels” have often spread with tremendous rapidity after transportation to foreign climes, one might be inclined to dread lest the foreign element might in many instances overcome and supplant our own natives. These patriotic fears may be safely set aside ; the instances in which the immigrants eradicate the home-dwellers are comparatively few in number.
Kew Gardens, perhaps, afford the best means of deciding this question. Did the immense number of plants introduced there, from places with similar climatic conditions to our own, establish themselves in the neighbourhood with the audacity which is sometimes ascribed to them, Kew would be a sort of centre of contagion from which would be disseminated all manner of foreign weeds, supplanting and disturbing our native flora. But hardly anything of the sort ever occurs. Few, very few, of the exotics in the vicinity have held their own against the rightful owners of the soil for many successive years. Most of them— some prolific enough and apparently well-fitted to survivescarcely appear a second season. It is very interesting to watch the more or less rapid crowding-out of these strangers by the hardier and more persistent natives. Probably the whole of the thoroughly-naturalised foreigners in the flora of the neighbourhood could be counted on the fingers. One plant-a Composite (Galinsoga parviflora), introduced to Kew from Peru some forty years ago-has, however, proved its ability to hold its own in cultivated ground, and even to oust, to a great extent, our native ubiquitous groundsel. In Germany, too, particularly in some of the great seed-growing districts, it has become such a perfect pest that laws have been made to prevent its further spread, and if possible to destroy it. The magistrates of Hanover, in 1865,
issued a series of regulations, and appointed commissions to visit waste and cultivated lands in their respective districts. The dates of the various visits were to be made known eight days beforehand, and those on whose land the objectionable weed was found were ordered to remove and destroy it at once. If this was found undone at a succeeding visit, the commission had power to fine the offender, and to have the weed destroyed at his expense. The name Franzosenkraut, or French weed, by which this troublesome annual is known in Germany, would seem to point the inference that it had found its way first to Germany
of France; but I believe there is no evidence to back this view.
(To be continued.)
PROTECTION OF BIRDS ON THE CONTINENT.
BY A VICE-PRESIDENT.
HE belief that nothing is done on the Continent for the
preservation of wild birds is so generally entertained that it may be useful at the commencement of the
year to place before our readers the opinions of M. Oustalet, Doctor of Science and Assistant Naturalist to the Museum of Paris, submitted to the Agricultural Department of the French Republic after his return from Vienna in 1884.
The Agricultural Department sent M. Oustalet as delegate to the Ornithological Congress and Exhibition, requesting him to present a succinct report of the discussions, resolutions and measures proposed for the protection of wild birds, and improvements in the methods of raising poultry.
The Report, which is not sold to the public, was issued in the year 1885, and contains an account of the origin of the Ornithological Union of Vienna, through whose instrumentality the Congress was convoked ; also a list of the representatives of the chief nations of the world and delegates of scientific societies, and a carefully written précis of the business of the Congress, which was opened with an address by the Archduke Rudolf.
The Congress was divided into three sections, open to all members, for the consideration of the following subjects :-(1) The protection of birds by an international law. (2) An examination into the origin of the domestic fowl and the means to be taken with a view to an improvement in the method of raising poultry. (3) The establishment of a system of stations for ornithological observations all over the inhabited globe. Priority was unanimously given to the question concerning the protection of birds as being of international interest, and on account of the position already occupied by it in the measures taken by
PROTECTION OF BIRDS ON THE CONTINENT. 7
most governments. Everybody sees that it is high time to stop the mania for destruction raging at various parts of the globe and threatening to completely annihilate some species. As for indigenous birds their condition has latterly become more critical, as the demands of fashion made on them raises them almost to the same value as the birds of paradise, glossy starlings, humming birds and other exotic species of brilliant piumage.
To protect all these birds by an international law appeared to be most desirable, but in the course of a very long discussion many difficulties presented themselves.
Approaching the subject of protection from various aspects, the members of the assembly, although in favour of protecting useful rds, were more or less influenced by laws and customs already existing in various countries.
“I know well enough,” said M. Fatio, the representative of the Swiss Confederation, ** that the authorities in northern countries would not hesitate about preventing destruction and illegal trade in birds, if it were an easy matter.
“In the name of agriculture, as well as forestry, in the name of justice and humanity, on behalf of Switzerland, of the Société des Chasseurs,' and in the name of the Swiss Society for the Protection of Animals, I ask various governing bodies to do their utmost to obtain :--(1) The prevention, during the second part of winter and in spring, of all pursuit of migratory and useful birds and of all gibier de passage. (2) The prohibition of all trade during the same seasons in such birds, dead or alive and their eggs. (3) The prohibition of the use of all engines, at all times, for taking birds en masse. (4) The prevention of all trade, except for stated reasons, in birds generally admitted to be useful.
Lastly, a second proposal which, whilst affecting private property in different countries, cannot fail, by reciprocity, to be efficacious in checking poaching, always encouraged by the increasing facilities for international commerce. This proposal would consist in the prohibition of all dealing in game during the close season without special permission.
Abuses cannot be removed at the first attempt, but with time and decision I think that a general and legal protection of birds, so desirable in every respect, may be obtained.
“Of course, every state would reserve to itself the right of destroying rapacious birds, and birds becoming temporarily injurious from their too great abundance.
“ As it is not possible in a numerous assembly such as this Congress is to draft a law for the international protection of birds, therefore, I propose that a committee be appointed for obtaining as quickly and as completely as possible the opinions of various European States with regard to the best ways and means for arriving at a general understanding. All questions of detail or exceptional bye-laws may be left to the consideration of the chief authorities in each country.”
(To be continued.)
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF BRITISH PLANTS.
BY JAMES BRITTEN, F.L.S.
British Association last year, and was reprinted in the
the attention of Selbornians to the conclusions arrived at, which are in themselves of interest.
As might be supposed, such showy plants as attract the attention of dealers are in especial danger. One such person had removed and sold almost all the plants of White Water-lily from the lochs of the Dumfries district; but he was at last discovered, and is now forbidden access to any estate in the district. The Thames and its tributaries are almost stripped of the blossoms of this beautiful plant during the early summer, but the roots are less frequently interfered with. Ferns are, of course, in special danger; and the Report gives a long list of places from which the rarer Aspleniums, the Cetrach, Hart's tongue, Holly Fern, Osmunda, Limestone Polypody and others, have nearly or quite disappeared, owing to the rapacity of dealers and collectors. Tourists should not encourage these men by buying from them ; if there were no demand the supply would cease, and the ferns would be left alone. In the Killarney district, the rare Killarney Fern owes its safety in some measure to the ignorance of tourists, who buy the Hymenophyllum Wilsoni which is offered them under the former name, under the impression that they are obtaining the genuine article,
The especial rarities of the Highlands—such as the two species of Oxytropis, Lathyrus niger, Phyllodoce taxifolia and others
are always in more or less danger, and botanical collectors are occasionally wanting in discretion in their zeal for obtaining these rare plants. The Phyllodoce might easily be protected, if the Duke of Athol, who owns the Sow of Athol—the only British locality for the plant—would give orders to that effect,
the habitat is within sight of a gamekeeper's house.' appeal to the proprietor” of the Pass of Killiecrankie might save Lathyrus niger from extirpation.
A large number of extinctions are due to the grazing of cattle, drainage, cultivation of various kinds, building and similar unavoidable contingencies. In the first of these cases, the plant destroyed is likely to reappear under more favourable circumstances. The little Musk Orchis (Herminium) has more than once almost entirely disappeared from Keep Hill near High Wycombe, which is, I think, its only Buckinghamshire locality ; but it has asserted itself when the sheep which cropped it have been removed.
The interesting but insignificant Scheuchzeria has been lost from Methven bog, “probably from the settlement there of a large colony of about three thousand black-headed gulls, the result being the destruction of all but the rankest vegetation." Certain plants named in the Report are well-known to be erratic in their appearance, such as Henbane; others can hardly owe their disappearance to the rapacity of collectors, or to the causes above-named; of these the Agrimony, which is becoming very scarce in its Inverness-shire station, is a type.
Coming nearer home, a word of warning may be addressed to the enthusiastic supporters of a certain well-known political organisation, and more especially to the “Dames," to whom
CURIOUS EXPERIENCE WITH A SLUG.
it owes so much of its power. A little sketch just issued of the Flora of Maidstone contains this warning: “If the sale of the roots of the Primrose is carried on to the extent it is now, in about twenty years it will have become comparatively scarce.” The literary style is open to criticism, but the meaning of the writer is only too plain. Not only Primrose Leaguers, but church decorators, are doing their best to banish the Primrose from our woods and hedge-rows. In each case ladies are the chief offenders-a fact which, however sad, ceases to be surprising, when we see how deaf many of them are to the entreaties of those who beg them to spare the little birds, sacrificed by thousands to their insane desire for personal decoration, however inappropriate and at whatever cost.
It may be well to add a note of caution to those who find the Limestone Polypody in a new and isolated locality. This pretty fern is in many districts extremely rare, and collectors should abstain from seizing the first specimens found until they have assured themselves of the existence of others. More than twenty years ago, a friend, a true Selbornian in spirit, found two specimens of Limestone Polypody in a wood near High Wycombe. Not doubting but that there were plenty more, he collected them; but a most careful and diligent search on numerous after occasions failed detect another example. The existence of the fern as a Buckinghamshire plant rests upon the evidence of the two specimens still preserved in his herbarium.
CURIOUS EXPERIENCE WITH A SLUG.
By Miss A. M. BUCKTON.
BEATE one evening last summer, walking up and down
a drive covered by larches and firs, I noticed a fine specimen of Arion ater (or land-sole, as some call him)
come forth from a crevice among the stones and proceed to cross the road. Wishing to test the focus of the small eyes at the end of the black tentacles, and discover the distance at which they could appreciate objects, I drew my forefinger, that looked white and ghost-like in the dusk, along the road about half an inch before him. His attention was immediately attracted, and he began following my movements implicitly along the fantastic path I traced for about the space of two feet.
At length I paused and allowed him to overtake me. The cold slimy touch sent an involuntary shiver up my arm, but not to be daunted in the cause of science, I restrained the impulse