Imagens das páginas

chrysolité fades of its green; and Oriental sapphire, from a deep blue, becomes so brilliant, that they are frequently taken for diamonds. At Ancliff, in Lancashire, there is a well, the vapour of which is se impregnated with sulphur, that, by applying a light to it, it burns like the flame of spirits. In the Grotto del Cane, on the road from Naples to Puzzuoli, carbonic acid gas exists in a state of purity, unmixed with the atmosphere. It rises, however, only three feet from the bottom of the grotto; so that a man may enter the cave without danger. But if an animal is held to the floor, for a short space of time, it loses all appearance of life; a state, however, from which it soon recovers if it be thrown into the adjoining lake.' A torch, taken into this cave, blazes with brilliancy; but if held within three feet of the floor, it becomes immediately extinguished. In Germany there is an odoriferous plant, belonging to the Decandria monogynia class and order, which blossoms 'in June and July; and which, when approached of a calm night, with a candle, becomes luminous: this arises from the finer parts of its essential oil dissolving in the atmospherical air ; and impregnating it.

Kircher relates, thạt, near the village of Pietra Mala, in Tuscany, he observed the air frequently to sparkle in the night time. This fire was called Fuogo del legno : and probably proceeded, like the ignis fatuus, from phosphorated hydrogen gas : since that combination fires spontaneously at any temperature of the atmosphere. Salt produced from


The Earth Worm-The Polypus.

a solution of copper in nitric acid, if sprinkled with water over tin foil, and wrapt up suddenly, will elicit sparks of fire from the tin foil : and filings of zinc, mixed with gunpowder, produce those stars and spangles, in artificial fireworks, which it is impossible not to admire.

VI. i


If some vegetables exist without roots, there are animated beings, in return, which are propagated after the manner of plants. The earthworm may be divided into two parts; upon which each part becomes a perfect worm. The head portion acquires a tail ; and the tail portion acquires a head. The starfish may be divided into many parts with similar effects : but the polypus may be divided and subdivided into 500; and thus by compulsion become the parent of 500 others. Indeed polypi exhibit the most wonderful phenomena, in respect to propagation, of any objects in nature; for they propagate like quadrupeds; like insects; like fishes; and like plants. Some are viviparous, and some issue from an egg ; some are multiplied by cuttings, and others grow out of the bodies of their parent like buds out of trees : and from which they fall, much after the manner of the testuca ovina of northern latitudes. It may here be remarked, that, though in general plants are extremely regular in producing their relative and respective number of males and females, they do not do so always. In the flower called the Turk's cap

I have observed corollas containing seven, and even eight stamens, growing on the same branch with corollas having only their usual number of six.

Lizards, serpents, lobsters, and some insects, have no apparent organs of generation : they are, therefore, supposed to have the wonderful faculty of impregnating themselves. In this they bear some affinity with the attica-tree of Ceylon, which produces fruit from the trunk and branches without flowering. The cryptogamia class of plants, also, entirely conceal their fructification. Indeed it is impossible to determine where the separate species of life and being begin and terminate. I am persuaded that even the hairs of the head, and other parts of the frame, are animals distinct from, though growing out of the body. They have roots like the bulbs of plants; and, being nourished by the blood vessels, as vegetables are nourished by the earth, they have sometimes grown, as Malpighi confesses, so thick and strong as to exude blood. The hair of the tails of horses even acquire voluntary motion, after being for some time emerged in water. I am persuaded, also, that every stamen, every pistyl, every petal, and every leaf, however small, and however large, are distinct beings from each other : though of the same nature. The corolla of a flower is a collection of petals, forming a house for the males and the females : they all rise and have their being from one seed; but the seed, from which they rise, contains in its embryo the rudiments of every portion of the future plant.



Sexual Properties of Minerals.


Whether minerals grow and propagate has not been 'ascertained, either in the negative of in the affirmative. Signor di Gimbernat has discovered lately in the thermal waters of Baden and Ischia, à substance, similar to skin and flesh: he calls it 200gene; being a species of mineral animal matter. Future investigation will lead to some important results, in respect to the connection, which this substance has with the kingdom of nature. Indeed, wonderful discoveries are yet in store for learned men : since potash has been discovered in geħlente, needle stone, and datolite; all of which yield a transparent jelly, when acted upon by acids. Tournefort believed that minerals emanated from seeds, as plants do : and the 'Otaheitans once were so extravagant as to think, that rocks were male and female, and begat soil. Milton, in the range of his vivid imagination, imparts the sexual properties even to the particles of light'. Globes, also, have been said to be animated bodies; whence have emanated planets and satellites, as stars issue out of rockets, when let off in a serene atmosphere. Upon this principle the sun itself is an animal. These ideas, however, must, for the present, be esteemed poetical. If minerals grow, they grow differently from plants; as well as from all other organized bodies.

If nature has her resemblances, she has also her anomalies. The naked eye can discern in truffles

I B. viii. 1. 150.

neither root, stem, leaves, flower, nor fruit. The osyris japonica' has flowers upon the middle of its leaves : club-moss has two kinds of seeds growing on the same plant : and the same has been supposed to be the case in the genera fucus and conferva. These are wonderful phenomena ! They were first observed by Dilleneius; and their separate germinations were afterwards described by Brotero. The parasitical epidendrum monile" lives years with only the imbibings of rain and dew. It does not fasten its roots in the ground; and is, therefore, frequently hung upon pegs. Some plants of the desert have been taken up, and kept without moisture even for three years; and yet have vegetated. The phoket of the Caubul deserts has flowers, but no leaves; its branches are green, and run into twigs, terminating in branches ; soft and full of sap. Camels are partial to it. It is remarkable, that in Asia and Africa, where grass will not grow, the most beautiful flowers and shrubs flourish luxuriantly. In Australia, where vegetable and mineral productions run in veins nearly north and south", timber degenerates as the land improves ; and the most nourishings of all vegetables in the range of the Arctic circle grows best in sterile places. The king of Candia” has red clusters of flowers, which grow close to the ground. Before these clusters unfold, the leaves wither, and do not

* Thunberg, vol. iii. 161. 2 Ibid. p. 212. 3 Ibid. vol. iv. 269.

4 Elphinstone, p. 4, 4to. 5 Oxley, p. 268, 4to.

6 Lichen rangeferinus, Flor. Jap. 332 7 Hemanthus Coccineus.

« AnteriorContinuar »